Picks and Pans Review: Miss Ruby's American Cooking

updated 12/11/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/11/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Ruth Adams Bronz

This is the kind of cookbook that makes you think it's impossible to cook without pounds of butter, cream and eggs. So right away, you know we're on the right track. Divided by regions, the recipes ricochet from the exotic (warm mussel salad, with hijiki seaweed, cilantro and fresh ginger-root) to the indigestible (five-cup salad, about which the author advises, "If you're really embarrassed by the marshmallows, you can substitute fresh pitted cherries").

Sort of a downscale Glorious American Food, this book emphasizes the dishes your mother cooked (that is, if she was any kind of mother at all)—chicken-fried steak, stuffed baked potatoes, spoon bread, pineapple cream pie. "This dessert appeared along with beef stroganoff in suburban dining rooms all over America in the fifties," Bronz writes, introducing the long-neglected green grape dessert, "and we all believed it came from California."

Well, we believed a lot of things then, including the inherent healing powers of hush puppies. When Bronz, the owner and head cook of Miss Ruby's Café in Manhattan, shows you how to fry 'em up with catfish, the only hard part (depending on your region) may be finding the catfish. Stick with her and you'll soon develop the impeccable tasting credentials of Lone Star residents. Texans, Bronz writes, have no cuisine. "They'll eat anything that tastes good." Who could argue? (Harper & Row, $22.50)

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