Sometimes a cookbook is so sweet, you’ve got to fall in love with it. That was my reaction to Blackberries, Dandelions & Dungeness Crab: The People and Food of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, a community cookbook to celebrate the 1ooth anniversary of the City of Sequim, Washington. I sat down in one setting and read the book from cover to cover.
There are plenty of community cookbooks by churches, fraternal organizations, and cities, counties, and regions created to raise money or mark a particular event or milestone. Several things are different about Blackberries, Dandelions & Dungeness Crab. First, Sequim, a quaint, small town on the spectacular Olympic Peninsula in Northwest Washington is a special and beautiful place.
The city, home to about 6,000 and a retirement haven for Northwesterners, overlooks the bluer-than-blue Puget Sound and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. Nestled at the foot of Mount Olympus, one of the wettest places on the planet, the city and surrounding valley are protected by the Olympic Rain Shadow getting only 16 inches of rain per year, the same as Los Angeles. Yet “Sunny Sequim” as the city calls itself, has surprisingly luxuriant forests dominated by Douglas-fir and Western red cedar. The area also boasts large stands of black cottonwood, red alder, big leaf maple, Pacific madrone, lodge pole pine, and Garry oak. In addition, lavender growers have come to the area and, during lavender season, purple fields wafting soft scents of lavender make the setting even more beautiful.
Tapping the Area’s Natural Bounty
Second, the cookbook contains more than the usual family-favorite, comfort food recipes created by Aunt B. The recipes, many developed by some of the peninsula’s finest, award-winning cooks, primarily utilize the area’s natural bounty. Hence, the name of the cookbook and the many recipes containing ingredients like local clams, oysters, salmon, mussels, Dungeness crab, and the area’s many berries.
There are delectable recipes like clam and crab rollups made with crispy ,phyllo; crab tacos; Grandma Dee’s crab casserole; Patti’s Chianti Salmon; Crab bread; stuffed steamer clams, and more.
Stories About the People
And finally, the book is about the people of the region. The book is filled with historical photos of the people who have lived and loved Sequim and the Sequim-Dungeness Valley. Many of the book’s contributors have offered not only treasured recipes, but also mini-vignettes about their families. There are small windows into everyday people that make the book absolutely charming.
The 180-page book is divided into appetizers and beverages; condiments; soups and stews; main dishes and traditional foods; vegetables and sides; breads; and desserts. While there are plenty of black and white historic photos, there are almost no photos of the recipes. While I’d have loved to see color photos of the recipes, give the budgets to produce these kinds of cookbooks, this isn’t surprising. It also doesn’t really detract from the deliciousness of this little book.
The index is quite unique too. Instead of an index of recipes, the index lists the names of the recipe contributors—quite fitting for a book that’s as much about the people of Sequim as the food.
You can purchase Blackberries, Dandelions & Dungeness Crab on Amazon or take a drive and visit sunny Sequim (check out the City of Sequim’s Centennial Cookbook page to see where to pick one up locally www.sequimwa.gov/index.aspx?NID=513. — by Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor