by Betty Fussell; Viking; 528 pages; $24.95.
In a cookbook quite unlike any other, Betty Fussell says that to hear the sound of “silent” cooking in America, she has to get away from the restaurant noise. She compares American food to jazz—improvised, impromptu, potluck, each region’s food typical of its particular ecology. Specifically she explores the cooking of six regions where the ethnic roots are still distinct: the Southwest of New Mexico, the Delta South of Louisiana, the Southeast of the Carolinas, the Northeast of New England, the Northern Midwest of Wisconsin, and the Pacific Northwest of Washington and Oregon. From these areas she chooses foods such as Navajo Kneel-Down Bread, Jambalaya ala Everything, Nun Puffs, and dozens of others. The recipes are adventurous rather than difficult, and the writing is an entertaining medley of lore, food, and history.