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Little Woman Cooks Up a Book

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Julia Child, watch out: Gretchen Anderson, 7th-grade student and culinary historian, has just published her first cookbook, which she wrote when she was 8 years old.

The young author blended her love of cooking with her fondness for the works of a popular 19th-century writer to produce The Louisa May Alcott Cookbook, featuring 28 recipes for dishes mentioned in Little Women and Little Men, Ms. Alcott's best-known works.

Not coincidentally, Gretchen lives about five miles from Concord, Mass., the birthplace of Ms. Alcott.

The cookbook began as an ungraded project when Gretchen was enrolled in a program for gifted and talented students at the Haynes Elementary School in Sudbury, Mass.

According to her teacher, Beth Beloff--to whom the book is dedicated--Gretchen re-read Little 8Women and Little Men and noted the foods the characters ate. She then researched typical ingredients and cooking methods of the period by reading 19th-century cookbooks.

The book took a year to complete. Lynn Anderson, the author's mother, said Gretchen tested all the recipes herself, with her teacher's help.

Included in the cookbook are recipes for the tarts that were served at a family gathering in Little Women, and for the buckwheat cakes served to a poor family as a Christmas breakfast in the same book. The author's favorite recipe is that for pound cake.

After the book was written, Ms. Beloff said, she suggested that Gretchen try to get the book published, just for the experience.

They submitted the manuscript to only one publisher, fully expecting to receive a rejection slip. "We were completely surprised" when the manuscript was accepted, Ms. Beloff said.

The Louisa May Alcott Cookbook was published this fall by Little, Brown and Company--the same firm that published Ms. Alcott's books 100 years ago.

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