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Nobody Cooks Like Ruth: Menus from Cherotree By Ruth Dondanville

Jacket: Paperback
Pages: 231 pages
Publisher: Infinity Publishing (PA); (March 25, 2003)
Genre: Cookbook
ISBN: 074141418X

Comments about the author: Ruth Dondanville is an accomplished cook who over a 35-year culinary career has been a caterer, cooking teacher, restaurateur, consultant, food writer and producer of television food commercials. A native of Mercer County, Illinois, she holds a BS from the University of Illinois and a MSSW from the University of Tennessee. She has also lived—and cooked—in Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Ruth is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) and the American Personal Chef Association (APCA). Visit the author's website

Review: Cherotree was a successful restaurant in its time. A reservation only restaurant, it became a popular spot for many types of people in Tennessee. Owner Ruth Dondanville would decide, on a nightly basis, what the entrée of the evening would be. There was no long menu that tried to please everyone. Ruth had an idea, usually based on the seasonality of the food, and that would be the one & only choice that evening. She had great side dishes and dessert to accompany the entrée all for a fixed price. Cherotree became very popular: most nights were a sell-out. Years later, Ruth Dondanville opened a second restaurant called Ruth"s, A Restaurant. Nobody Cooks Like Ruth is a culmination of recipes and menus from both these establishments.

After spending some time with this book, I realized that Nobody Cooks Like Ruth is a very different type of cookbook than anything I am used to. Its uniqueness lies in the folksy, chatty anecdotes of the author's Southern lifestyle. Not really considered a Southern Cookbook, Ruth takes recipes from many different cultures and makes them her own. The tidbits throughout the book are entertaining, interesting, and give the reader some insight into what goes into planning a restaurant or working at one. Most people have a glamorous idea of what is involved in running a successful restaurant and Ruth is quick to point out that it is a serious and perishable business with major losses if too many mistakes are made.

Ruth's philosophy regarding food is simple with many recipes filled with fat, salt and high calories. She believes in the originality of the food and doesn"t pay much attention to "lighter fare". If a recipe needs butter, salt, and flour, then by all means use it! In that way, this cookbook resembles the Southern flair for cooking. There are some basics in this book, such as Meatloaf, Seafood Casserole, Eggplant Parmesan, and Seafood Newburg. However, Ruth puts a new and interesting spin on Tenderloin Tips with Wonderful Lemon Cream. The book is broken into seasons with Menus at the beginning of each section. She then explains how they came about along with the recipe. While some may consider sections of the work didactic, it's always entertaining.

If there were any detractors to this cookbook, it would be its size, layout, and art direction. The cookbook is large and does not stay open when you are trying to follow a recipe. A spiral binding would have complimented the work nicely while making the book more useable to the cook.

Overall, I would recommend this cookbook as part of a collection. To the novice cook or the old pro in the kitchen, there is something for everyone to learn and be inspired by which, after all, a good cookbook is all about.

— Reviewed by: Clare Dagata


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