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OP: American Regional Cookery

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by Sheila Hibben

Sheila Hibben (1888–1964), an Alabama native, wrote widely about food, publishing a number of books and contributing to magazines, ultimately settling in 1934—as the first food critic—at The New Yorker

Hibben’s most lasting contribution to the world of food and cookery books was in being one of the earliest authors, by several decades, to draw attention to American regionality, which wasn’t seriously addressed again until the publication of such significant works as How America Eats by Clementine Paddleford (1960) and James Beard’s American Cookery (1972).

Her voice is outspoken, brash, opinionated, and utterly charming as such. The New Yorker wrote in her obituary, “she despised all gastronomic snobbery, and it was one of her ambitions to drive the word ‘gourmet’ out of the English language. She simply thought that good food should be respected.” In her own words: “Now, I think, more than ever before, there is need to bring, not nostalgia, but a fresher understanding to the old ways, so that what was good in them shall be preserved to become a leaven for the new.” 

Hibben clearly valued humble fare, rejecting dressed up or fancified foods. This appreciation for traditional, local traditions naturally led her to acknowledge regional differences and the varying cuisines of the then 48 United States. Her first book, The National Cookbook (1932) was thus arranged conventionally (soups, salads, meat, poultry, etc.) but also with each of the more than 850 recipes identified specifically with their city or state of origin. 

That book was reissued and tightened in 1946 under the new title, which we offer here, American Regional Cookery, with about 600 recipes, similarly arranged. It remained in print for several years. Though both books lack contextualizing headnotes, Hibben certainly deserves a lasting place of honor among a serious American collection.

Our copy is a third printing in Very Good condition. The jacket is present, though clipped and chipping at the head and foot of the spine, and bears an old price sticker on the rear, now placed in a mylar sleeve to prevent further damage.

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