Known to many as the stars of the reality show “The Fabulous Beekman Boys” on Cooking Channel and The Amazing Race on CBS, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge gave us the “Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook” that is heirloom in every way despite being published just this past year. There are recipes handed down, there are culinary traditions that are handed down, there are places for the reader to slide in their own recipes that have been handed down, and of course, there is the great chance that this book will be handed down. (Just don’t let Josh and Brent know I mentioned that part, their publisher would prefer you buy an additional copy to give as a gift!)
The Beekman in the title refers to their farmstead in Sharon Springs NY and its original owners. And that’s where some of the understanding of heirloom really comes to be. In the modern context we think of heirlooms as things we’ve inherited through the family, but a closer definition of the word shows that it is something that is passed down. Throughout the book we see evidence of “heirloom” in each photograph and recipe, vintage china and silver, some passed along by friends and family, some “inherited” after exchanging some cash with the owners of an antique store, it all conveys a sense of tradition and passing along. If you’re one of those foodies who doesn’t cook, the text and pictures make this book worth covetting.
The first few pages are enveloped, and remind me a bit of the Trapper, and Trapper Keeper from Junior High School. Lined cardstock pages are held in place, but are easily removed. Brilliant! In the opening pages the Beekman Boys are already encouraging their readers to include their own recipes with this volume. Each recipe page in the book includes an entire lined column titled “notes” so, let’s say you tried Portobello mushrooms in the mac and cheese here’s where you can note “tasted great, looked grey.” (Yup, I experimented). That’s the other feature of many of the recipes, many include notes and suggestions from the authors about how to switch up the dish with the addition or switch of a few ingredients.
The Beekman Boys also include on many of the ingredients. Roasted Garlic Yogurt Cheese Crostini now only takes us through the steps of making yogurt cheese by draining yogurt in a sieve, and then making the crostini, but there is an entire section dedicated to the adventurous among us who wish to make our own yogurt. As intense as this may sound, it’s really quite easy. You know how “Mint Jelly” in the supermarket is nothing more than Apple Jelly with some mint flavoring? The mint sauce that is alongside the roast leg of lamb recipe uses fresh mint, which is easily grown in a contained spot in the garden, parsley, cider vinegar and some other things that are probably already in your pantry. I find it to be a great addition to peas and even fish.
Recipes take us through the seasons, with Lemonade With Vanilla and Lavender for Summer, Roasted Cauliflower and Apple Soup in Autumn, and Blue Cheese Pizza for right about now. The pies and desserts are lullabies of comfort, there’s even spiced tea and eggnog.
Whether intentional or not, the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook is a source of great inspiration. In the kitchen there are so many traditional recipes, many with twists, that have been passed down to me by the authors, but they have also inspired me to stake a greater claim on my suburban farmstead. It wasn’t long after reading the book for the first time that I realized that a peach tree would be ideal in the garden, according to local lore, peach and apple trees were common on the lawns and gardens throughout the area, most were cut down because of the excess fruit. Blueberries have replaced some of the azaleas that were destroyed in Snowtober in 2011, and a bed of daffodils is being dug up and transplanted elsewhere so it can become a more formal herb garden. I've been overly inspired. You don’t have to do that if it’s not your thing, hit the farmers markets, talk to the produce manager, and embrace the possibilities. The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook is available at Watchung Booksellers
Full Disclosure : This Is My Favorite Cookbook and Favourite Book To Give As A Gift