Garden County--Where Everyone is Welcome to Sit at the Table

Published By: Syren Book Company

Book Category: Non-Fiction, Cooking

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Reviewed by Jean M. Holewa

Garden County is a celebration of gathering. Gathering can be defined as "collect, harvest and accumulate," all action words. Though John Michael Lerma details many specific gatherings, there is no better word to describe the book itself.

John Michael started collecting traditions and the knowledge of how to cook while being raised on a farm in the Red River Valley of North Dakota. His collection grew with the recipes passed on to him by his grandmother, even though many of them were not written out with key details like measurements, oven temperatures and cooking times.

Garden County is filled with recipes for old-time favorites like glorified rice and Grandma's iron skillet fried chicken to those more contemporary, like grilled portobello mushroom burgers and herb shrimp pizza.

Now a resident of St. Paul, Minnesota, John Michael shares how pleasing it is to cook with the ingredients harvested from your own backyard. I particularly love that he allows for the fact not everyone has the capability to plant and tend a garden and suggests planting what you can in pots or enjoy an outing to the local farmer's market. He knows there’s more than one way to reap the benefits of a fresh harvest.

Celebrating the accumulation of friends and family is the real heart of Garden County. Whenever people gather, new memories are made and old ones are remembered. Many suggestions are offered on how to enjoy the occasions while making your guests feel welcome and comfortable. One gathering example that is offered is for a "pie festival." Pick a date, invite your guests and ask everyone to bring a pie. Someone may bring a quiche, or a meat-filled pie while others will bring dessert pies. Expect that likely someone will bring a store-bought pie--and that's okay.

Armchair Interviews says: John Michael's greatest message is "it's not the food you prepare or the drinks or the decor of your home--it's the gathering of the people that you'll remember tomorrow--the laughter and conversation."

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