cover image At Home on the Range

At Home on the Range

Margaret Yardley Potter, intro. by Elizabeth Gilbert. McSweeney’s, $24 (240p) ISBN 978-1-936365-89-0

Author Elizabeth Gilbert (A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage) does a wonderful service by bringing back the opinionated, modern-for-its-time cookbook of her eccentric great-grandmother “Gima” Yardley Potter, first published in 1947. A woman who came from a wealthy Main Line Philadelphia family, married a profligate lawyer in the plentiful 1920s, and gradually had to come down in the world, Gima discarded the cook within the first three years of her marriage and energetically took charge of her own kitchen, learning from trial and error the art of entertaining myriad surprise guests her husband brought home and generally making-do while keeping everybody happy and well fed. Her upbeat tone that so impressed Gilbert when she finally read the cookbook braces the reader delightfully, from Gima’s merry use of calf’s brains and cockscombs (“with wine”) to relaying how to make what was then a rather curious, palate-wowing ethnic find called pizza. Chapters are devoted lovingly to what foods best to bring hospitalized friends, mastering cocktails, and organizing emergency meals and effortless entertaining. In her bright, determined tone (“Is your cigarette finished? Let’s go”), Yardley Potter assures us a generation before Julia Child that we can tackle bouillabaisse, preserves, bread, and grandmother’s sacred sponge cake. (May)