The Christmas Cook: Three Centuries of American Yuletide Sweets

William Woys Weaver, Author Harper Perennial $35 (267p) ISBN 978-0-06-055212-1
While Weaver ( America Eats ) deserves thanks for his determined research, a limp handshake may be in order for his use of it. Lengthy, sometimes diffuse historical scene-setting, effected in a labored style, introduces a rather confusing melange of chapters (``Beware of Camels,'' ``Humbug Pie''). The author's ``general overview of Christmas feasting in terms of the ideas that shaped the days and the customs that encouraged such monumental efforts in the kitchen'' consists of a hodgepodge survey followed by a chapter on how the poor celebrated the holiday, then another on the culinary impact of the Christmas tree--a trilogy neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive. The next chapters (save for the last, on arranging ``the Christmas table'') are more logically devoted to specific genres of sweets--cakes, cookies, puddings and candies. Despite perfectly acceptable recipes for sand tarts, almond macaroons and Saint Nicholas pudding, the book's greatest interest may be as a curiosity. Very few home cooks will have the equipment needed for making ``clear toy candies,'' the patience for ``oranges filled with jelly,'' the time for fruit pound cake--or the stomach for suet pudding. Photographs and illustrations. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1990
Release date: 11/01/1990
Paperback - 267 pages - 978-0-06-096552-5
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