Monthly Archives: July 2012


This year, 2012, should be the 92nd anniversary of the L.A. County Fair. This year, the fair begins August 30th and runs until September 30th!

From the L.A. County website we learn, “In 1921, a merchants exposition held along the Southern Pacific Railway in downtown Pomona set the stage for things to come…at the time, Los Angeles County did not have a county fair, and local  businessmen saw this as an opportunity to bring recognition to the city of Pomona. A reporter for the Pomona Bulletin overheard two Lions Club members discussing the idea and put it into print. One of those men, was a local music store owner who had been involved with fairs in Iowa. He was asked to present his plans to the Pomona Chamber of Commerce, which then took the idea of a fair to the city council.

Although half a dozen attempts to bring a fair to L.A. County had failed, the board set out to start the first L.A. County Fair. A fair board was formed.  The city of Pomona agreed to purchase a 43-acre beet and barley field from the Ricardo Vejar estate for use as a fairground. Research revealed that the name “L.A. County Fair” was not registered. Afflerbaugh contacted Sacramento and the name was adopted at once.

The inaugural L.A. County Fair opened Oct. 17, 1922, and ran for five days through Oct. 21.  Fair attendance in 1925 topped the 100,000 mark for the first time (102,991). It also marked the first time the Fair was held in September instead of October.  The L.A. County Fair has an illustrious history but it should be noted that the fair closed down in 1942, due to

World War II, and was suspended for six years. The grounds played an important part in the war effort as they were taken over by the U.S. Army. The grounds were converted into a motor base in January, and headquarters were established in the home arts building. ..”

For some years, beginning in the 1980s, Bob and I made a trip to the County Fair in September, spending a night at the wonderful Sheraton Fairplex Hotel after it opened, (which provides a separate no-line-entrance for fairgoers) and in general, just having a ‘really good time’. We spent most of our time in the HomeArtsBuilding, admiring all the beautiful quilts that were on display, the hand-created gowns and dresses, hand-crafted dollhouses and homemade breads, cakes, cookies, jams and jellies.  The theme for 2001, “A Tapestry of Tradition” included a quilt show with more than 250 quilts from “A Tapestry of Tradition” quilt competition, which also included a display of antique quilts.

There are woodcarvers and table top displays, exhibits of hand-decorated Christmas trees, a wide variety of recipe contests which always includes the Weber barbecue contest and homemade beer and wine competitions—and for the past decade or more, a SPAM® recipe contest. One of the recipe contests 2001 was a 1970s type one-dish cooking contest, which was inspired by the 25th anniversary of the L.A. County Fair cookbook. There was also a spaghetti eating contest and a savory cheesecake contest, a pie eating contest and a butter churning contest.

The Los Angeles Fairgrounds in Pomona has, on site, a huge greenhouse and garden center called the Flower and Garden Pavilion. It offers one of the most spectacular floral exhibits on the west coast and, the fair people say, has delighted fairgoers with its various themes and décor for more than 50 years the many floral displays are always breath-taking beautiful. Behind the greenhouse, there are many vast decorated gardens to explore—or for fairgoers who tire a bit from the crowds and bustle, you can sit on the grass or on a park bench and rest a while under the trees.

There are dozens of carnival rides and a petting zoo, pig races, and more than 250 food concessionaires offering everything from oversize fried onions to a deep fried Snickers bar.

We enjoyed walking around, drinking freshly made lemonade and eating hot dogs, while admiring the many different displays. There are always huge model train displays assembled by a model train club in the area, and thousands of vendors selling everything under the sun, from kitchen utensils to hot tubs. We were both interested in the model train displays so that was always a must-see.

We stayed at the hotel whenever we went to the fair, so that I could return to the room and rest periodically, and that evening, our friends Pat & Stan who lived in Covina would meet us at the hotel and go with us to dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was wonderful and a delightful way to end the evening.

One of the main reasons I always wanted to go to the fair was—to buy a stack of the cookbooks, which I liked to give out as presents at Christmastime.  I became enchanted with the L.A. County fair cookbooks in the late 1980s, at which time I also began entering some of my canned foods and winning some red and blue and pink ribbons.  Then, I began searching for earlier L.A. County Fair cookbooks. I’ve been successful in finding all but one of the early cookbooks and have a few duplicate issues to use as bargaining chips to find what I am missing.

In 1978, the people at the Los Angeles County Fair were besieged with requests for copies of the winning recipes. The people in charge decided it might be a good idea to put together a little cookbook collection.  The woman responsible for compiling that first cookbook was a lady by the name of Nadine Lowery, who was the home arts coordinator for the L.A. County Fair from 1971 to 1986. In an interview for the Los Angeles Daily News (September 3, 2003), Lowery recalled, “…then the requests for the recipes started. Oh, so many people wanted them that we decided to put together a little cookbook collection. I don’t remember the actual size of the first one but it was pretty small…”

I have a copy of the first L.A. County Fair Cookbook and can tell you – published in 1979, the first cookbook proudly boasts, “LOS ANGELES COUNTY FAIR FIRST EDITION OF AWARD WINNING RECIPES, COMPILED BY THE HOME ARTS DEPARTMENT”. The recipes were a collection of the 1978 prize-winning recipes and the little book, (even though the pages are unnumbered and the recipes un-indexed) reflects the prize winning recipes of the 1970s with a heavy emphasis on home baking – home made breads, pies, cakes, and cookies. (As a yardstick for comparison, the 1978 prize winning cookbook contains 23 winning recipes for preserved foods…the 2002 issue contains over 70 recipes! – and if I were to go back and count, I’m sure I’d find that the cookbooks of the 1990s, which contained first, second, and third place winning recipes, would have a far higher total).

“With our first cookbook” said Nadine Lowery, “we sold out in four or five days. We had no idea back then that this was going to be so popular…”

The 1980 Fair cookbook, titled “Blue Ribbon Recipes” reflected the winning recipes from the 1979 fair and also was a small un-indexed cookbook. By the time the Ls Angeles County Fair Award Winning Recipes published in 1983, reflecting the winning recipes for 1982, the Home Arts Department had produced a much better cookbook and it was indexed. And, a few years later, by the time the Home Arts Department   published “Award Winning Recipes – Discover America – L.A. County Fair September 7-30, 1990 (for the winning 1989 recipes), the cookbook had become a best seller, a big thick cookbook with the price remaining at $10.00.  And by the mid 1980s Bob & I had begun to enter jams and jellies, pickles and other canned items into the L.A. County Fair.

In past cookbooks, the top three winning entries were published in each category, but the collections became too big. (Well, this is what the Fair people say.  I love those big thick fair cookbooks!).  As reflected in the 25th anniversary edition, only 2002’s first place winners are listed. Even so, the cookbook provides 297 pages of recipes which gives you some idea of the magnitude of the Los Angeles County Fair, considered the largest county fair in the entire USA.

Fair cookbooks are, I think, regional Americana at its finest. I was addicted and began collecting regional fair cookbooks and state cookbooks.  But the L.A. County Fair remains my favorite.

My L.A. County Fair cookbook collection ends with the book published in 2005, offering the winning recipes from the 2004 Fair. Even though only the first place winning recipes are in the book, there are over 300 recipes –  demonstrating how popular our fair cookbook has remained over the years.

You can visit the Los Angeles County Fair’s website at  If you are interested in collecting fair cookbooks – wherever they are and where ever you are, much can be found just by googling “fair cookbooks”

A few years ago, my younger sister and I were in San Diego for a few days with one of our nieces and we found many San Diego cookbooks at a used cookbook store there. The three of us loaded up on many of our favorites.

I’m hopeful that by NEXT year I will be able to enter some of my prize jellies and jams or pickles in the Antelope Valley fair! I’m also asking myself how well I might be able to make the drive to Pomona from the Antelope Valley.  I miss the Home Arts Department most.

In a 2010 article in the Los Angeles Times, considerable attention was paid to the Home Arts Department. It reads, in part:

“This year, we’ve seen quite an increase in the number of people entering their work,” said Sharon Autry, a spokeswoman for the Fairplex. “Last year, we had more than the year before, but not quite like this.”

“In 2009, 694 contestants entered 1,940 items in the fair. This year, 750 people made 2,248 items to be judged. Crafts contestants ranged in age from 17 to over 90.

“The competition has always been one of the more popular parts of the fair,” Autry said. “But it seems to have really gotten people’s attention this year.”

Maybe it’s the Great Recession that has sent people searching for the comforts of homemade. Perhaps it’s a defiant push back at the netherworld of Facebook and Foursquare and Twitter. Whatever the reason, it’s exhilarating to see, in this digital age, actual digits at work”.

Will I see you at the Los Angeles County Fair this year?

For cookbook collectors who like to collect FAIR cookbooks here is a partial list of the books published by the L.A. County Fair:

Date Published         Title

















*missing 17th edition







*missing 24 edition





I do not have anything printed after 2005 country fair. I have several extra copies, like new, of 2001 award winning recipes from the 2002 county fair and one extra copy of the 2002 award winning recipes from  the 2003 county fair.

Happy cookbook collecting!




 After writing a post about the life and passing of Marion Cunningham, a most distinguished California cookbook author , I found myself wondering more about her.

In 1972, Marion, at age 50, wanted to go to Oregon to attend cooking classes led by famous food writer/cookbook author James Beard. It was her first experience traveling out of the State of California. Talk about a life-changing experience!

James Beard took to the tall, blue-eyed homemaker (perhaps in much the same way that he took to Helen Evans Brown, another California cookbook author) and for the next 11 years Marion was his assistant, helping him establish cooking classes in the Bay Area. The job gave her a ringside seat to a period in American cooking when regional food, organic produce and a new way of cooking and eating were just becoming part of the culinary dialogue.

Marion caught the golden ring on a Merry-Go-Round when James Beard recommended Marion to do the revision of Fannie Farmer’s cookbook to Judith Jones. It was a huge success and she followed up in 1984 with The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. (Please refer to my article “MARION CUNNINGHAM, COOKBOOK AUTHOR” for more information).

I wondered how Marion decided to write something next called THE BREAKFAST BOOK. She tells us in her own words in the Introduction to The Breakfast Book. “As my interest in breakfast intensified over the last few years” she writes, “I became more and more inspired to write this book. I found there are almost no books  on the subject—no tempting recipes and nothing to encourage people to cook breakfast. There are lots of brunch books,” she concedes, “but brunch, with its undefined ingredients and preparation is entirely different from breakfast—it could be any meal. Brunch is almost always a partylike affair, served with wine and liquor, and with an assortment of unrelated dishes…”

Marion notes that “Breakfast, on the other hand, involves no alcohol and usually consists of grains, dairy products, fruits and maybe eggs or a little meat or fish.”

Marion said that she often asked people what they thought of breakfast and most would instantly reply that it was their favorite meal—but when pressed to tell what they eat for breakfast, their answers become vague. She concluded that people liked the idea of breakfast but needed some guidance and recipes        to get them to cook it.

“Breakfast,” Marion wrote, “has remained pure amid all the food trends with their stylish dishes and chic ingredients. The honest simplicity of breakfast is so captivating. The most delicious breakfasts usually derive from the humblest of ingredients…” Money alone does not buy good food, Marion wisely advises.

Then, she writes, “The deeper reason that breakfast inspires me is that we have become so busy maintaining our lives in the working world that we often find ourselves sharing the same house with strangers. The meaning of “home” has disappeared.” [I can’t help but wonder if Marion was talking about her own home and her own life]. She continues, “Surveys report that families no longer sit down together for the evening meal. Eating is a lonely experience for many, and we can be lonely without even knowing it sometimes. Standing up by a microwave oven or refrigerator or in front of the TV, automatically eating, leaves out a precious human element from our lives….” Elsewhere she writes, “if it is true  that d inner is becoming a solitary fast-feed-yourself experience, I’m hoping that breakfast, with its easy, wholesome honesty, will be an opportunity to be with and share oneself with friends and family. There is no greater inducement to conversation than sitting around a table and sharing a good meal…”

Marion also says that her sense of health is that getting a good start with breakfast makes it the most important meal of the day.  She writes, “After the night’s abstinence, it important to break fast and eat a nutritious meal..”

The Breakfast Book begins with Yeast Breads and oh, that’s something I really love to make. She provides us with a wide range of Yeast breads, starting with a Basic American White Bread from which you can also make Cinnamon Swirl Bread.  There is a recipe for Granola Breakfast Bread or Raisin Cinnamon Wheat Bread, Oatmeal Orange Bread   or Mexican Bead. She provides recipes for Glazed Cinnamon rolls as well as Hot Cross Buns, Sticky Buns and Crumpets and English Muffins—these are just a sampling of what you will find in the first chapter of The Breakfast Book. (and I’m heading for Trader Joe’s to see if they have rye flour. I love rye bread (all the Schmidts* do – in my family whenever a group of Schmidts are in a restaurant ordering breakfast, invariably we all ask for rye bread) – and Marion’s recipe for Orange Rye Bread sounds delicious! Then I discovered Marion’s recipe for Chocolate Walnut Butter Bread…that sounds absolutely perfect for a Christmas morning breakfast!

(*Sandy’s note – I didn’t misspell Smith. I was a Schmidt before I married a Smith).                 **

The second chapter is titled TOASTS, FRENCH TOAST, AND BREAKFAST SANDWICHES –Choose from a wide array of recipes – from Melba toast to milk toast, cinnamon toast or French Toast, Breakfast Sandwiches that range from fig and Ham on Rye Bread to Sausage and Melted Cheese, Date and Breakfast Cheese or Ham and Farm Cheese Butter-Fried – or try Mexican Breakfast, which sounds great too.  A breakfast sandwich is a great thing to take along with you in the morning when you are just too pressed for time to sit down at the table and eat. Let’s face it; we can’t all, always sit down and eat a proper breakfast. My son Kelly has become an expert at his own version of a Mexican breakfast – a breakfast burrito that is a tortilla filled with scrambled egg and maybe some bits of bacon or sausage.   And my children grew up on French bread –it was something I could always afford to make because we often didn’t have very much money; I bought day-old bead at the thrift bakery and French bread was always the perfect way to use the bread.

The next chapter in THE BREAKFAST BOOK is QUICK BREADS and there are so many from which to choose – I love making muffins and that has always been a staple recipe in my household when my children were growing up. Marion offers such a range of muffins – raw apple muffins, for instance, or Bran Muffins, Boston Brown Bread Muffins and Fig Muffins, Lemon Yogurt Muffins and Orange walnut muffins, Persimmon muffins and Last Word in Nutmeg Muffins. Other quick breads include Blueberry Cranberry Bread and Date Nut Bread which also offers variations made with figs, or prunes. There is also a Christmas Bread recipe I am looking forward to trying – and you might know, most quick breads can be made in small loaf pans for gift-giving at Christmas—a nice gift with a jar of homemade jam!

There is a chapter on Cereals, both hot and cold—and I have made many hot pots of oatmeal when my children were growing up; Marion also provides recipes for making granola. This is followed by a chapter on Doughnuts and Fritters while Griddling has its own chapter with a wide assortment of pancake and waffle recipes, including the Raised Waffle recipe that became one of Marion’s signature recipes.

Some of the biggest names in food have enjoyed Marion’s waffles,  driving through the hills east of San Francisco to the low-slung house on an acre of land where Cunningham lived for 42 years. They sat at her kitchen table, near a wall of snapshots that told the story of a culinary life: there’s Ruth Reichl holding a baby, a boyishly young Chuck Williams, Edna Lewis sitting in the sun, MFK and Julia, and James Beard goofing off as a teenager.

People journied to Cunningham’s house to eat pepper bacon, gossip, and watch one of America’s most famous cooks pour thin, yeast-leavened batter into a pair of waffle irons. She used an old recipe*, one she discovered when she first revised the “Fannie Farmer Cookbook.”

Going to Marion’s for Waffles became almost a badge of honor for some of the best professional chefs and food writers in the country. But for Cunningham, the informal gatherings are simply an extension of what she has been preaching for much of her cooking career: sharing simple, delicious food around a family table is the most important thing in life.

There, in the Breakfast Book is Marion’s recipe for Raised Waffles. Indeed, there are plenty of other recipes for pancakes and waffles but none will ever be as famous as Marion’s Raised Waffles.

The next chapter is simply titled “EGGS” but the assortment offered is anything but simple. Instructions follow for soft-boiled eggs, coddled eggs, hard boiled eggs, goldenrod eggs, scalloped, scotch, fried, poached, shirred, baked, scrambled, – you name it, it’s all here. And omelets! (I love omelets and fortunately so did Bob for whom I cooked breakfast for several decades. Marion provides recipes for filled omelets: ham, apple, cheese, bacon, herb, mushroom, jelly, smoked salmon, mushroom, Mexican, – on and on. What we discovered about omelets back in the day was this: I could make a fairly substantial omelet and then cut it in half – then one half was cut into two and we had a good size omelet portion for each of us. The uneaten half was refrigerated for another day. It was easy to reheat an omelet; you just have to be careful not over heat it.

At the beginning of this chapter, Marion shares a story about her childhood. She writes, “I grew up in the small rural foothill town of La Crescenta, California, in the twenties. I was an only child and my mother was twenty-seven when I was born (which is like being forty-five today). As a result, she was an anxious mother, always sending away for government pamphlets for advice on how to feed me. One of the things the pamphlets said was that an egg and a glass of goat’s milk were perfect whole foods for a growing child. So, my father had to get a goat to join the chickens we already kept”.

She still liked eggs, Marion wrote. She doesn’t mention the goat’s milk (which, incidentally, my first grandchild lived on the first years of her life, since she was extremely allergic to cow’s milk). But Marion writes, “If I’m going to have one small thing for breakfast, I cook one egg until its almost hard, shell it [peel], and have it with lots of pepper on it…”

Marion advises, “It is easy to cook eggs properly if you follow a couple of basic guidelines. With few exceptions, eggs should be cooked slowly and over low heat, because both egg white and egg yolk coagulate at well below the temperature of boiling water.  When cooking an egg in its shell, if you first pierce       its large end with an egg-piercing gadget or pushpin, it will help keep the shell from cracking as it cooks…”

Sandy’s cooknote: I discovered this method of cooking eggs – whether hardboiled or softboiled, and  now keep a straight pin within reach in the kitchen. A safety pin works, too.

The next chapter is titled FRUIT FIXING and what a treat this is – how to prepare mangoes, apples, dates and figs, oranges and grapefruit, grapes, berries and many other fruits. There are some I wouldn’t have thought of, such as baked bananas and baked pineapple, or cranberry poached apples.

And then there are POTATOES. Some you will be familiar with, such as hash brown potatoes and oven fries—but you may not know about Rough and Ready Potatoes or Raw Potato Pancakes or Potato Bacon Pie.

The next chapter is titled MEAT AND FISH and contains some of my tried-and-true favorites , such as corned beef hash and pork tenderloin with biscuits and gravy. (I’ve used cube steak and sausage as the meat when I am making biscuits and gravy, too. Something that provides a lot of drippings makes a great gravy).

Marion provides recipes  for Ham and Bacon, Ham Loaf, Fresh Fish, Trout Fried with Oatmeal, Fish Hash, Red Flannel Fish Hash and salt cod cakes as well.

A chapter titled CUSTARDS AND PUDDINGS came as a surprise; I wouldn’t have thought of custards and puddings as breakfast fare, but then again – amongst the choices offered by Marion include a Cornflake Pudding, Steamed Persimmon Pudding, Maple Oatmeal Steamed Pudding and lots of other recipes. Included is The Coach House Bread and Butter Pudding recipe. This Coach House is the legendary  New York  Restaurant.

Another surprise is the chapter titled COOKIES, PIES, AND CAKES in which Marion provides recipes for Mother’s Cooies, Cereal Cookies, English Digestives, Oatmeal Bran Breakfast Cookies—of course! I thought. What could be better on a busy morning than a few oatmeal bran breakfast cookies to take along with you to work to have with your coffee?  And most Midwestern farmers and groups such as the Amish are familiar with having pie for breakfast.

“The cookie recipes are not too sweet” Marion advises. And, she adds, “The breakfast cakes in this chapter are meant to be sliced, toasted, and buttered, not frosted.  With good cake the wholesomeness will shine through without the added frill of frosting. Breakfast cakes are wonderful, particularly if you are a sweet and not a savory breakfast person…”

Look for Indian Loaf Cake, Madeira Poppy Seed Cake, Fresh Ginger Cake or Soft Gingerbread—and possibly to become my favorite, Great Coffee Cake which comes with several great variations.

My favorite chapter, I don’t mind admitting – is one titled CONDIMENTS because these recipes are the type I collect and can’t wait to try on family and friends. There is Raw Fresh Fruit Jam and Peach Rose Jam, Strawberry Llump Preserves and Orange Marmalade – and one I’ve never heard of, Beet Marmalade!  There is Lemon Pineapple Apple Relish and Date Raisin Condiment, spice Walnuts and many other recipes, the kind of presentation I love to display for a breakfast or brunch at my house.

There is a chapter  titled Breakfast Beverages in which you will find tea, coffee,  hot chocolate or Mexican Chocolate, Cuban Orange Juice                                          or Airy Eggnog, Garden Tomato Juice or even Malted Milk.

Marion concludes The Breakfast Book with an assortment of Breakfast Menus to inspire you.

I know that Marion was afraid that real breakfasts were being overshadowed and lost in our busy lives, but I have spent years preparing breakfast and it’s still a favorite meal to prepare for family or friends. Sometimes in our busy lives, it’s not possible to prepare breakfast but you could keep some of these things on hand for your family members—and you can always focus on nice breakfasts on the weekends.

THE BREAKFAST BOOK is sure to provide you with a lot of inspiration!

THE BREAKFAST BOOK by Marion Cunningham was published by Alfred A. Knopf, NY, in 1987.  I found THE BREAKFAST BOOK on, new for 15.00 or pre-owned for $7.45. has copies starting at $1.02, pre-owned, with a recommended copy at $1.19.  They have new copies for $12.95.

Happy cooking & happy cookbook collecting!























































Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley, whom we all know as the inspirational creators of the “Best of the Best” state cookbook series, appear to be branching out.

In the preface to the “Hall of Fame Dessert Cookbook” the daring duo explain “Where did all these incredible recipes come from? Well, in a word – AMERICA. Its many cultures, many tastes, many cuisines are all represented within the pages of this cookbook. America the Beautiful is also America the delicious!

But more specifically, they continue, “These recipes were chosen from the more than 4,000 dessert recipes in our BEST OF THE BEST STATE COOKBOOK SERIES, each of which was already a chosen favorite from their state…”

Some 2000 cookbooks from around the country who are contributors to their state’s individual  “Best of the Best Cookbook” sent in their selections. Below each printed recipe throughout the book you can see which cookbook and state the recipe represents. At the back of the cookbook you will find a list of the many contributors.

How did the Best of the Best Recipe Hall of Fame Dessert Cookbook come about? Prior to the publication of this cookbook, Quail Ride Press compiled a “Recipe Hall of Fame Cookbook”. When they were putting it together, they7 realized there were so many dessert recipes, the easiest solution would be to compile a book just with dessert recipes.

The new cookbook contains over 300 winning dessert recipes from all over the country. Illustrations of many of our favorite landmarks are also included – from the White House in Washington, D.C. to the Space Needle in Seattle, and from the West Quoddy Lighthouse in Lubec, Maine, to the very old Taos Pueblo in New Mexico (believed to be over a thousand years old). You will also find interesting little sidebars, facts about our wonderful USA.

And recipes? Well, who hasn’t at one time or another wondered what to make for dessert, what to serve the ladies with coffee at a Tupperware party, what to take for a pot luck at work, what to make for a bake sale, to take to a church social, or to serve company at a dinner party?

And there is a familiar theme at my house (sort of like Murphy’s Law) – the recipe you want is the one you can’t find. How does one lose a recipe? It’s like losing a sock in the washer or dryer—it shouldn’t be missing but it is.  Well, RECIPE HALL OF FAME DESSERT COOKBOOK might be the solution! With over three hundred favorite dessert recipes from which to choose, the debate might now be – which one  to make for the ladies luncheon, the church social, the potluck at work.

And another thing. This is the new millennium, by go0lly. I don’t have time to spend hours putting together a dessert where there’s so many other things to do. One of the features I really, really like about the RECIPE HALL OF FAME DESSERT COOKBOOK is the simplicity of most of the recipes.

As noted by McKee and Moseley, “People vote for recipes that are easy to make, that are most often requested, and that they like making over and over again because they enjoy the compliments! We call these recipes ‘unpretentious’ because they may use package mixes and any shortcuts possible to bring    about the quickest, most delicious results…”

I was bemused to find that the very first recipe is one for Red Velvet Cake (It wasn’t so very long ago that I embarked on a lengthy search for a recipe like red velvet cake). There are other all-time favorite cake recipes, everyone’s favorite Mississippi Mud Cake and Caramel Apple Cake. Including also are recipes for Pumpkin Cake in a Jar (which my daughter in law made one year for all her friends and neighbors) and surprise, surprise! Mexico City Earthquake Cake—not very long ago I spent an entire weekend searching for this recipe at the request of my friend, Pat.

Under pies and pastries you will find such all-time favorites as Hershey Kiss Pie, Old Fashioned Lemon Meringue Pie, French Silk chocolate Pie (my son Kelly’s favorite) and Mystery Pecan Pie.

Trifles and Tortes include Death by  Chocolate, Strawberry Tiramisu, and a luscious Black Forest Trifle.

The Cookie Section contains many of my all-time favorites, such as Brownie Meringues, Peanut Butter Blossoms (a Christmas favorite) and some new ones that will surely become favorites, such as “Goof Balls”. There are also sections on brownies and bars, puddings, frozen desserts, candies and “Other” desserts.

And, for those occasions when you want to really impress your guests, check out the recipes for Frangelico White and Dark Chocolate  Mousse, or Pistachio Pineapple Dessert, or something like Bailey’s Irish Cream Turtle Torte (yum!) As for me, the one I want to try the most is called “Twinkle Treat” and it starts out with two boxes of Twinkies!!

RECIPE HALL OF FAME DESSERT COOKBOOK from Quail Ridge Press is sure to become one of your all-time favorite cookbooks.  At the time of publication in October, 2000, it sold for a reasonable $16.95. You can find pre-owned copies on for as little as one cent (remember you will pay $3.99 for shipping and handling whenever you buy something from a private vendor) and has copies for 99c and $1.00.

In 2003, Quail Ridge Press issued RECIPE HALL OF FAME DESSERT COOKBOOK II. has copies of that  cookbook for as little as 02 cents for a pre-owned copy or $4.84 for a new one.

Happy cooking – and happy cookbook collecting!


*This  review was originally written for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange and published April, 2001.




Sandy’s cooknote: This article was written in the 1990s when there were a lot more used bookstores than there are today. It has given me so much grief to go to visit a favorite used bookstore and find its been replaced with a furniture store. Consequently, today, I buy most of my pre-owned cookbooks from an internet website, such as and I also resort to finding a lot of my pre-owned cookbooks at Friends of the Library book sales.

The following was written around 1994:

Within our world of cookbook collecting, possibly nothing creates more heated debate than the subject of the value of cookbooks and possibly topping the list may be books on the subject of the value of cookbooks.

Having said that, let me say that I had read and propose to review without bias the book COOKBOOKS WORTH COLLECTING BY Mary Barile Published by Wallace-Homestead Cook Company, in 1994.

As cookbook collectors, you may know, reference books on the Subject of cookbook collecting are a double edged-butter knife. It’s fun to read through books like these and sometimes we find references to books that we have in our collection. The downside is that every used book dealer is certain to buy the reference books too, and they price the books on their shelves accordingly.

What this means is that cookbooks are often greatly overpriced and you are less likely to find used cookbooks in book stores at reasonable, fair prices.

This is not to say that you won’t find the bargains in your search for cookbook treasures.  Years ago, I found a #1 Bake Off book at a rummage sale in Palm Springs—and bought it for $1.00! I didn’t find it in a bookstore – and the seller’s folding table was filled with boxes of cookbooklets and pamphlets, marked 50 cents each. I almost didn’t buy it when the seller said “Oh, I need a dollar for that one”. I almost balked—I don’t approve of that kind of salesmanship. But I bought that one and two others for $2.00 and it wasn’t until I was back in the car with my sister Becky that I took a look at what I had bought and I realized I had a #1 bake off book. (I’m sure you must all know, there isn’t anything on the cover indicating it’s the first one. Pillsbury didn’t know what they had started. It was the only bake off book I needed to complete my collection; I would have even purchased a facsimile edition if Pillsbury had published one. Now we are up to something like #45. As for the bake off booklet, I have seen #1 listed at different prices ranging from $50 to $75.00—and no, I would never have paid seventy five dollars for a cookbooklet. I don’t think I would spend that much on ANY cookbook.

I  do find much of the text in Mary Barile’s COOKBOOKS WORTH  COLLECTING to be informative and helpful—if you just focus on the TEXT and what she is sharing with you, and not on how much a cookbook in your collection might be worth—you’ll find it a good book to have.  I’ve also found references to books I’ve never seen or heard of before which inspires me to keep searching. There were even a couple of rhymed recipes, taken from community cookbooks, that I wish I had had when I was working on an article on that subject.

(*Sandy’s cooknote Rhymed recipes and kitchen-related poetry has been a pet project of mine for many years—I finally collected enough to do a series on this blog titled The Kitchen Poets. There are ten parts to the series).

COOKBOOKS WORTH C0LLECTING is interesting and well done. Like all cookbook reference books, you must take it all with  grain of salt—keeping in mind that price lists are, or perhaps should be, GUIDES and aren’t cast in stone. Also keep[ in mind when you buy a cookbook reference compilation that the featured books are usually the personal property of the writer and generally not for sale. Virtually everything I write in Sandychatter is based from books in my own collection.

State the publishers, “Whether you’re a chef, bibliophile, collector, historian or simply a cookbook lover, you’ll enjoy this guide to collectible cookbooks…it takes a look at the history of cookbooks from ancient Rome to colonial America to the nineteenth century. Charity and fundraising cookbooks as well as ephemera and related items are also discussed.

There are over 100 black and white photographs with detailed captions…over a thousand captions…over a thousand listings include bibliographic information and current values.

Mary Barile specializes in recreating menus and dishes from America’s past for historical societies and serves as food editor for Kaatskill Life magazine*. She is also the editor of JUST COOKBOOKS, for which I couldn’t find any references on either Amazon or Alibris.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: There is a Kaatskill Life Magazine, a quarterly that has been published since 1986. I don’t know if Mary Barile is still writing for the magazine).

But I could have had a field day ordering other books from Amazon—on the page featuring Mary Barile’s COOKBOOKS WORTH COLLECTING (which you can purchase on for $1.24, pre-owned,) while doesn’t have any of her books—however! I saw the following titles listed on Amazon:

Vintage cookbooks and Advertising leaflets, lowest price $9.56

Price Guide to Cookbooks and Recipe Leaflets, Linda Dickinson, paperback copy starting at 1 cent,

Guide to Collecting Cookbooks, Colonel Bob Allen

Collectors Guide to  Cookbooks. Identification and Values.

So, you can assume—there are books of this genre to be had but you might have to do some detective work finding them.

Happy Cooking & Happier cookbook collecting!



Do you have any Storey Books?  No, not story – STOREY!  As in Storey Books, the publishers in Pownal, Vermont.  My first introduction to Storey Books was when we decided to brew our own red wine with grapes grown in our minuscule arbor. At a wine and beer making supply store in the San Fernando Valley, we found everything we needed, but while Bob was inspecting fermentation locks and carboys, I was drawn to a little revolving rack of little booklets from Storey Books, devoted to a variety of subjects—but more importantly in a wine and beer making store, how to create your own brews of these particular beverages. I have a particular fascination with how to make almost anything we eat and drink, whether it is wine or cordials or liqueurs, bread or cheese—but sometimes finding instructions can be a real challenge. The first time Bob & I decided to make our own sauerkraut, I spent hours  wading through my vast collection of three-ring binders, amassed over a period of fifty years, until I found a newspaper article on how to make your own sauerkraut. (I know, I always say “never again” –we make it in vast batches, about 30-40 quarts at a time—and I always swear this time is the last. Well whenever cabbage was less than 10 cents a pound in March as St Patrick’s Day was drawing near, who could resist? And there we were, busy shredding head after head of cabbage.

Well, if you are interested in how to make a wide variety of things—whether it is sauerkraut (Martha Storey provides a recipe for making small batches) or butter, wine, chutneys, ice cream yogurt or cheese (including directions for building a cheese press!) –now it all can be found in one book! Check this out: “500 TREASURED COUNTRY RECIPES FROM MARTHA STOREY & FRIENDS”– this is such a comprehensive column that it could have been overwhelming but it isn’t. The format is easy to read and follow with directions anyone can understand. There are even directions for carving a pumpkin, making a gingerbread house (complete with templates), butterflying a leg of lamb, making jellies and jams, curing meats, bottling your own soft drinks – and cutting up a chicken.

And recipes? Oh, my yes! Loads of recipes! Whether it’s Mimi’s Sunday Pot Roast or Chocolate Zucchini Bread, Cock-a-Leekie Soup or Boeuf Bourguignon, there is something here to tantalize every palate. Try Baked Brief with fresh fruit or the Sweet Potato & Carrot Casserole (a lovely change of pace from ordinary sweet potato casserole), from Apricot Salsa to Granny Smith Apple Pie, there is a vast array of recipes from which to choose.

Another great feature of this oversized, comprehensive cookbook are all the “sidebars”—whether Martha Storey is writing about Pasta or Soups you will find margin sidebars explaining, for example, the definition of different kinds of soups to directions for making the perfect pasta. There are sidebars for brewing the perfect pot of tea to making perfect gravy, hints for steaming vegetables to the best way of making pumpkin puree.

For instance, in writing about olives, there is a margin sidebar on the subject: “Olives are a fixture in Greek salads, and they can be used in many other combinations as well. In addition to the familiar seedless black olives and pimiento-stuffed green olives, look for their stronger-flavored briny cousins from the deli. Huge, fleshy GREEN OLIVES, COAL-BLACK, OIL-CURED TANGY Kalamatas, and tiny Nicoise olives add interest to salads.  To pit a ripe olive, press on it firmly with the flat side of a knife until it splits; the pit should come out cleanly.

But wait! There’s more! 500 TREASURED COUNTRY RECIPES FROM MARTHA STOREY & FRIEDS is packed with other helpful information, such as a chart listing spices and their uses, measurement charts, a comprehensive Equivalent & Substitutions chart, a dictionary of Techniques and terms (such as the differences between chopping, dicing, grating, poaching, or steeping. I couldn’t tell you how many times over the years, one of my sons, daughters in law, nieces or nephews have called to ask “What does sauté mean? What do they mean by fold? 

But move over Betty Crock and Ira Rombauer – I believe 500 TREASURED COUNTRY RECIPES FROM MARTHA STOREY & FRIENDS would be an excellent first cookbook for a new bride, for anyone who wants to learn how to cook –or for anyone who just wants to know how to do anything in the kitchen—this is the book for you.

And for all of you who are artsy-crafty, (I somehow got bypassed from this gene—both of my sisters were the artsy-crafty members of the family) – there is a chapter called Arts of the Country Home which deals with making your own dishwashing liquid, milk bath, herbal bath salts, a bouquet garni wreath (now this is something I would like to try to make) grapevine wreaths, pinecone fire starters – and oh, lots more. There is even a chapter for home gardeners with directions for growing herbs in your kitchen!

500 TREASURED COUNTRY RECIPES FROM MARTHA STOREY & FRIENDS is the most comprehensive how-to book I have ever found in a single column. Published in 2000 by Storey Communications, it was published in 2001 and originally sold for $18.95. has copies as low as $2.49 for a new copy and .33 cents for a pre-owned edition. has pre-owned copies for 99c under their 99c special, or new for $10.70.  I love this book—it’s one of my favorites—and one I can always lay my hands on despite living in a house of books.

Happy cooking!



One of my nieces lives in Washington, just outside of Seattle, and I’ve been to visit her several times. I love Seattle with the ocean breeze blowing in off the coast, the view of Mt. Rainier off to the distance, the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, lots of good book stores! I adore Pike Place Market and the hustle and bustle of the market place.

On one visit, we rode a ferryboat out to Whidbey Island and drove all around the island, stopping here and there along the way.  Another time, we drove all the way to Mt. Rainier (a lot farther than it looks from Seattle); we hiked a ways up the mountain and had a picnic lunch along the way.  I confess, I wasn’t able to hike as far as my brother or his daughter but it was fascinating to stop and find tiny wildflower blossoms growing under melting snow. Coming home, we stopped at several little produce stands in small towns, to buy apples and berries. On another visit, my sister Susie and I gathered brilliant red and orange and yellow leaves and decorated my niece’s apartment with them.

I’ve heard that it rains a lot in Washington, but the weather has been gorgeous every time I’ve been there.

Washington has so much to offer, it should come as no surprise to you that “BEST OF THE BEST FROM WASHINGTON COOKBOOK” from Quail Ridge Press has a lot to offer, too!

Like I do so often when I have a new “Best of..” cookbook to read, I turned to the Catalog of Contributing Cookbooks to check out the titles, mark with post-its the titles I think I will want to order, and just to see what kind of regional cookbooks went into this latest Best cookbook. Why do I do this? I think it gives me a bit of sense about the cookbook I am about to read and I check to see which books I might already have (such as Carlean Johnson’s Six Ingredients or Less cookbooks).

Then I return to the beginning of the book and start to read.

“When you think of Washington food,” say editors Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley, “perhaps you envision delicious juicy apples.  And with good reason—more than half of all apples grown in the United States for fresh eating come from the seemingly endless acres of orchards, nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Washington…”

However, they explain, “Washington is also known for its cherries, plums, grapes, huckleberries and blackberries, to name but a few of its wonderful fruit resources.  The diversity of the land and climate contributes greatly to the many natural ingredients that bring a unique blend of flavors to the dinner table…”

“To the east of the Cascades,” they continue, “lie the apple orchards along the rolling fields of wheat and barley; bountiful crops such as potatoes, corn, hops, mint, peaches and apricots; and livestock, including hogs, cattle and sheep.  Here, too, you’ll find a booming wine industry. Farther west to the coast, seafood and fish abound”.

Recipes in “BEST OF THE BEST FROM WASHINGTON COOKBOOK” abound, too. Beverages and Appetizers features such yummy treats as Jeannie’s Famous Margaritas (I have to try this!) and Spicy Crab Dip with Corn Chips, and Sandy’s Smoked Salmon Spread (another Sandy—but it sounds wonderful!), Apricot Almond Brie (only four ingredients), and Butternut Pot Stickers with Raspberry Szechuan Sauce.

As you might expect from a Washington State cookbook, there are apple recipes such as Apple Blackberry Crisp and Apple Bread, Apple Strudel and Apple Crisp Muffins, Sautéed Apples and Pork and Apples with Granola and Cider Cream. However, don’t overlook the recipes using Blackberries, such as Blackberry Pizza, or raspberries, such as Raspberry Muffins,  or the wealth of Huckleberry recipes such as Huckleberry Dump Cake or Huckleberry Pork Chops!

You may want to try French Toast Decadence, or 24 Hour Wine & Cheese Omelet or Tortilla Torta, Baked Potato Soup, or Northwest Cioppino. Or, perhaps, the Best Avocado Caesar Salad or Taco Macaroni Salad?  How about Seafood Lasagna (made with shrimp, crab meat and scallops!) or Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Cream Cheese, Crab, Mushrooms and Sherry!

Washington is famous for its salmon (and many Native Americans hold an annual ceremony for the first catch of the season) so, as you might expect, you will find recipes for Herb Baked Salmon and Baked Dijon Salmon, Salmon Cakes (made with fresh, not canned salmon) that you serve with Tarragon Mayonnaise and Pineapple Salsa, and  a recipe for Baked Salmon a la Paul Heald (compliments of artist Paul Heald).  However, don’t overlook the other seafood recipes, such as Sturgeon Szechwan or Orange Broiled Shark, Asian Crab Cakes or Stuffed Olympic Oysters.

You can satisfy your sweet tooth with recipes such as Cranberry-Swirl Cheesecake, Peanut Butter Fudge Pie, Japanese Fruitcake, or Butterscotch Heavenly Delight…or any one of a host of recipes for cookies and candies, cakes, pies and other desserts.

Inevitably, when I am writing a review about one of the “Best of the Best…” series, I work up such an appetite that I have to stop typing and mosey out to the kitchen to try one of the recipes.

Coincidentally, I had all of the ingredients on hand for Morning Mix-Up so guess what we’re having for breakfast? And this just makes me wonder—how do Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley keep their girlish figures?

Like all “Best of the Best” cookbooks in this series, “BEST OF THE BEST FROM WASHINGTON COOKBOOK” is generously sprinkled with photographs, facts and features to provide you with a better understanding of this evergreen, ever-so-spectacular state.

BEST OF THE BEST FROM WASHNGTON COOKBOOK” does not appear to be available directly from Quail Ridge Press—it was published almost a decade ago. However, has copies starting at 22 cents or new for $8.99. Your best bet might be which has copies available for 99c.  When I saw a copy available for twenty-two cents I fought off the temptation to buy it even though I already HAVE this cookbook. (Before you think I am crazy, duplicate copies of cookbooks I think are spectacular – make great birthday or Christmas presents for my cooking-minded friends & relatives.

Originally reviewed by Sandra Lee Smith January 2003, re-reviewed July, 2012

Happy cooking!


THE SOUTHERN COOK’S HANDBOOK by Courtney Taylor and Bonnie Carter Travis is, guess what?  From Quail Ridge Press!  We all readily identify Quail Ridge Press as the publishers of the wonderful “best of the best” cookbook series which have covered all fifty states and then went back and did volume two on some states, such as Texas, which had so much to offer in the way of community cookbooks.

OK, just in case there’s someone out there who doesn’t know what the Best of the Best books are, this is a series of cookbooks compiled and edited by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley who embarked on a journey not to just one of the fifty states – but to each and everyone – collecting community cookbooks from each one (To give you a better idea of what a Best of the Best cookbook has to offer, I will provide you will a review from Best of the Best from Washington, for which I provided a review for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange some time ago. But be forewarned – once you start reading one of these cookbooks, you will want ALL of them.)

Meantime – gradually Gwen Moseley and Barbara McKee branched out – with a wealth of other finely selected books such as the Recipe Hall of Fame collection – and THE SOUTHERN COOK’S HANDBOOK.

You may have a bookshelf full of southern cookbooks and if so, might be asking yourself, why do I need another one? Well, because, like the title implies, this is a handbook, a step-by-step guide to old fashioned cooking, with more than 200 traditional recipes. (Don’t be misled by the “southern” in the title – this book is a handy kitchen tool no matter what part of the country you live in).  Immediately, on the inside cover, is a Measure Equivalence Chart followed by cornmeal, flour and sugar equivalents (i.e., 3 cups of cornmeal equals one pound). On the inside of the back cover, you will find a chart of milk, butter, and egg equivalents (how many egg whites to make a cup? 8 to 10!) – along with a “miscellaneous equivalent chart which lists such things as bacon, cheese, pecans, lemon and oranges (how many oranges to make 1/3 cup juice or 2 tablespoons rind? One medium). And that’s just basic information inside the covers.

Authors Courtney Taylor and bonnie Carter Travis tell us, “Our love of Southern cooking has as much to do with our memories of the people who taught us as it does with getting the pastry on a peach cobbler to turn out just right. In our mothers’ kitchens, family cooks took us by the hand and showed us how to judge good pastry by the way it feels when it’s raw and hot to get it to bake flaky, sweet, and tender all at the same time….”

“In our own kitchens,” they recall, “every now and then, an imagine of a favorite old cook will arise with the steam escaping form a bubbling cobbler, and we’ll hear her voice telling us to chose the oven door and have a little patience…”

With THE SOUTHERN COOK’S HANDBOOK, they tell us, “we want to take you by the hand and bring that voice to you…”

As for the recipes, Taylor and Travis reflect, “Among people who love to cook, almost every conversation eventually turns to food. Mention down home cooking and invariably someone will say ‘Oh, let me tell you how my grandmother made biscuits’ or ‘My brother has the best way to cook shrimp…’”

“For decades,” they continue “We have listened and learned not only from our families but also from neighbors, gardeners, vegetable vendors, lawyers, doctors, county sheriffs, strangers on airplanes and countless others who generously shared their wisdom. We’ve copied down their recipes on everything from cocktail napkins to parking tickets and the hems of aprons. We’ve tested them, fiddled with them, combined the, andbeen inspired to invent new versions…”

THE SOUTHERN COOK’S HANDBOOK covers a wealth of basic information, beginning with kitchen equipment, providing definitions for everything from Dutch ovens (what my old friend Marvin used to call a Murphy Pot) to skillets, roasters, casseroles and baking equipment. They provide detailed instructions for “curing” your iron cookware which reminded me of a funny story. Years ago, I had a girlfriend named Rosalia. (pronounced Row-ZAIL-ya).  She gave me all her cast-iron cookware because, she said, “it always gets rusty”.  Well, yesss, because you have to cure cast iron cookware. We never put our cast iron cookware into soapy water. Taylor and Travis provide simple detailed instructions for “curing” and taking care of all your cookware.

Along with lots of recipes, THE SOUTHERN COOK’S HANDBOOK provides a glossary of seasonal produce (even instructions for blanching and freezing vegetables!), a chapter on making stock (I have written about stock before  and how easy it is to make it and keep it on hand). There is a chapter for making gravy and cream sauces (I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to explain to someone how I make gravy. THE SOUTHERN COOK’S HANDBOOK takes all the guesswork out of gravy-making.

There are chapters on frying foods, barbequing and grilling, (along with time and temperature guides for grilling and barbequing) chapters devoted to making cornbread, biscuits, pie crust, yeast dough and cakes.

Recipes in THE SOUTHERN COOK’S HANDBOOK covers everything from making eggnog for a crowd to pecan divinity with a plethora of southern favorites in-between. This cookbook would be absolutely idea for any young cook who wants to learn how and doesn’t know where to start (or even might feel intimidated to ask a seasoned cook). And for those of us who are familiar with the kitchen but aren’t always sure what the difference is between thin, flaky biscuits or drop biscuits, or gumbo or Jambalaya, this book is for you. There is even a comprehensive glossary of cooking terms which you will find useful and handy.

As the people at Quail Ridge Press so aptly put it, “THE SOUTHERN COOK’S HANDBOOK is a how-to manual, a primer for the new cook, as well as a refresher course for the old hand”.

You can find this book at starting at 5.11 for a pre-owned copy or $15.95 for a new copy.  But check – they have copies for 99c (pre owned) but there are a lot of copies available and I am sure you can find a copy that is in good condition. If you want to buy one for someone else, look for something “like new” or invest in a new copy. I was unable to find a listing at Quail Ridge Press, but this book was published in 2001 so – you may have to find a pre-owned or like new edition.

As promised, I have updated a review of a Best of the Best cookbooks—this one is about Washington and will be posted immediately after this blog post THE SOUTHERN COOK’S HANDBOOK.

Happy cooking and happier cookbook collecting!  And look for more southern cookbook reviews – a lot of new/old southern cookbooks have found their way into my bookshelves recently and I am looking forward to writing reviews of them for you. I know that many of you are as keenly interested in southern cooking as I am!



“PASS THE POLENTA” by Teresa Lust is a wonderful, small volume of essays, the result—says the author—of what she originally intended to be a cookbook. She discovered that each recipe evoked a remembrance, each ingredient carried with it an anecdote.

The publishers explain that Teresa “drew upon her experiences as a professional cook and her interest in culinary history to create a book that provides glimpses under the stewpots present and past; one that venerates old fashioned simplicity—from stove top coffee in a rustic Italian cucina to antique varieties of apples in a New Hampshire orchard…”

When I first began reading “PASS THE POLENTA” I thought it somewhat similar in style to that of author Laurie Colwin, so I was not surprised to discover that the publishers also describe Teresa’s first book as “In the tradition of M.F.K. Fisher and Laurie Colwin…” And yet – distinctively, “PASS THE POLENTA” stands on its own merit.

“You need eat only an occasional good meal, or spend a very long stint eating nothing but bad meals,” says the author in the Introduction, “To develop an appreciation for food. Appreciate enough food and sooner or later you will find yourself up to your elbows in preparation. From there,” she explains, “It is just a short step to realizing food is not merely about calories and minimum daily requirements and metabolic pathways. At its very heart, food is about people. It is an integral part of our social history that has affected our lives since long before Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of lentils…”

Teresa’s passion for food was born, she says, at the dinner table of her parents’ home in Washington State. “I soon gravitated,” she recalls, “to the kitchen counter where along with my three sisters, I learned to make raspberry jam, to roll out sugar cookies, to use the tines of a fork to seal the edges of ravioli…”

Teresa’s story of the origin of her interest in food is similar to that of so many of us; I, too, began learning about cooking in my mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens.  We start with the seed of interest but in order for that seed to germinate, there has to be a mother or a grandmother willing to allow a child into the kitchen to learn and explore and experiment. What I learned years later, as I, too, began learning about cooking in my mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens, we start with the seed of interest but in order for that seed to germinate, there has to be a mother or a grandmother willing to allow a child into the kitchen to learn and explore and experiment.  What I also learned years later, as a young adult, is that many mothers don’t want their daughters               In the kitchens, making messes. (When my high school girlfriends and I began marrying, I was often bombarded with phone calls from girlfriends whose mothers never allowed them to be in the kitchen—asking simple questions—such as how to peel potatoes or the best way to cook a pot roast. I was the only one in my group who had grown up in the kitchen and had a mother who had turned me loose in the kitchen when I was nine or ten years old).

Teresa says that after she decided the biology degree she had received in college had no practical application, she took up cooking as a profession. “After several years now in the restaurant trade,” she writes, “from my home state of Washington to California to New England, I have mixed martinis, bussed tables, drawn espressos, mopped floors, sharpened knives, cleaned calamari, glazed tortes, grilled rib eyes, and plated countless meals…”

Through it all she came to appreciate home cooking. “For dining at the home table creates an intimacy and a communion that no restaurant can ever capture,” Teresa states. [Marion Cunningham would have agreed].

Teresa tells the story of how her husband, Bart, bought a little black book and began recording in it all of the special meals they cooked together. And though it embarrassed her, in the beginning to have him bring out the black book to describe meals to guests, –she says she enjoys as much as he does going through the book and recalling meals they have prepared at home.

Teresa also says that she always wanted to write a cookbook and share her enthusiasm for cooking with others but what started out as a collection of recipes turned out somewhat different, and although there are recipes to be found in “PASS THE POLENTA” , this is not what you would consider primarily a cookbook.

From the publishers: “PASS THE POLENTA” offers up kitchen secrets, tricks of the trade, and lessons in life learned at the stoves of the many seasoned cooks in Teresa’s world: an Italian immigrant grandmother who plucked chickens in the backyard, an introverted mushroom forager who accompanied her to the woods to collect Chanterelles, a German auntie who learned to knead bread dough in a wooden bucket. These mentors are ordinary folk, all of them, going about their daily business of baking bread and pouring hearty wine. These stories eloquently demonstrate that cooking is an expression of art and of love, of family and self, of soul and the seasons.

What has non-plussed me as much as anything else about “PASS THE POLENTA”, is that, although our culinary heritages are absolutely poles apart, Teresa has written about subjects that I, too, have tackled on the pages of the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, then on the pages of Inky Trail News (both newsletters for which I have written columns) as well as my blog, Sandychatter, from sauerkraut to apples, from soup to pie. Nonetheless it fascinates me to discover what other foodies have to say about a particular food, or dish. However, Teresa Lust’s background is Italian whereas the closest I came to Italian was an Italian brother-in-law, whose family lived in a section of Cincinnati referred by locals as “Little Italy”. I would like to tell Teresa that yes, I have made my own sauerkraut and canned it as well. When I was entering the LA County Fair, my sauerkraut won a blue ribbon. My background is German/Hungarian.

“PASS THE POLENTA”, which gets its title from the first chapter, also called “Pass the Polenta”, is, says Teresa, actually her mother’s story and one you should read for yourself. The essays contained within the pages of “PASS THE POLENTA” are charming and heart-warming, bringing back memories of my own childhood and the kitchens of my mother and paternal grandmother. Whether reading her chapter on sauerkraut (Of “Cabbages and Kings”) or the making of bread, (“Yesterday’s Bread”), each essay is certain to stir up memories of your own childhood and life’s experiences with food, cooking, and the soul-satisfying preparation of meals for family and friends.

You will discover that all of the titles of the chapters are enticing:  The Same Old Stuffing…Yesterday’s Bread…When Fathers cook…Wine by Numbers..A Secret Well Kept…Enough Room for Strawberry Shortcake…all will tempt you to “read me first!”

“PASS THE POLENTA” by Teresa Lust was published by Steerforth Press is a nice-sized book, the kind you can stick into your purse or tote bag to carry around with you if you – like me – always take a book along to run errands, just in case there’s  a line at the bank or post office. Each of the essays stands on its own. It’s been a decade since I first reviewed “PASS THE POLENTA” for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, and I was so charmed, all over again, that I have decided to re-read it (that’s the glory of keeping all the books you love—you can always read them a second time).

You can find dozens of recipes for Italian Stew and polenta and you probably, as do I, have your own favorite recipe for making stew. Mine is almost always the second day leftover meat from a pot roast. Making it with a 7-bone roast is my daughter in law’s favorite. Here, however, is Teresa’s recipe for making polenta:

1 cup polenta (coarsely ground cornmeal)

4 cups cold water (you can substitute 1 cup stock or milk for part of the water)

Salt & pepper

A few handfuls freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Stir water, polenta, and 1 tsp salt together in a heavy saucepan. Place over a low flame and stir slowly with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot to keep the polenta from sticking. Cook until the mixture thickens and pulls cleanly away from the sides of the pot and the cornmeal feels tender on the tongue, 30-40 minutes. Stir in the cheese. Add freshly ground pepper and more salt, if needed, to taste.


Put thin slices of mozzarella, provolone, and Gorgonzola cheeses on a serving plate – 8 ounces of cheese, total, is ample.  Gruyere, fontina or Roquefort work well in this dish too. Place the cheese plate on the table, along with the pot of stew and the dish of polenta.  Diners serve themselves by spooning a mound of polenta onto their plate, followed by slices of assorted cheeses, and spoonfuls of stew.  Yum!

Copies of “PAST THE POLENTA” are available on and Apparently – I was unaware that a yellow-covered paperback copy was issued in 1999. The original red-dust jacket copy shown on both sites is the original 1998 edition. There is a huge range of prices on Amazon from one cent and up.  On I found copies for 99c and up for either the hardcover edition with the red dust jacket or the yellow paperback edition. I can’t tell if the paperback edition is as compact as the original.

Happy reading and cookbook collecting!



We have long been fascinated with the appetites and food interests of celebrities (my cookbook collection on celebrities fills two shelves) – as well as presidents and their wives (another two shelves of  cookbooks) plus royalty.  WHY we are so intrigued with the eating habits of the rich and famous is something of a mystery.

One of the first books I found which was devoted to recipes and foodlore of English royalty was a slender volume titled COURT FAVOURITES (sic) by Elizabeth Craig.  At the time, I had no idea that Elizabeth Craig was a famous British cookbook author. Bear with me—discovering Elizabeth Craig and COURT FAVOURITES was probably around 1965 or 66, when I was just beginning to collect cookbooks.

COURT FAVOURITES was published in 1953, the same year that Queen Elizabeth II was crowned Queen, and in the foreword, Ms. Craig explains how she acquired the recipes which were the basis of her book:

“Ever since I was 12 years old,” writes the author” I have kept my eyes open for unusual recipes and interesting menus. When other girls were playing Snakes and Ladders (an English game) I was laboriously copying out recipes from magazines and newspapers.

Among them were various notes on royal fare, but it was not until about 20 years ago, when I met an Irishwoman who had the privilege of knowing an English princess, that I began to wonder if some time in the future I might be able to make use of these…”

Ms. Craig goes on to explain how her Irish friend, who often dined with the English princess, was given the opportunity to see the scrap book which had been given to Queen Victoria when she was a young girl. This manuscript cookbook originally belonged to Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV, and Caroline of Brunswick.  Princess Charlotte, Victoria’s aunt, gave the collection to her when she was a very young girl. This collection of recipes dates back to the 1500s and even contained Ann Boleyn’s instructions for making syllabub.

This manuscript cookbook was hand bound in vellum with a crown stamped on every page.  Some of the recipes were in old Italian handwriting. Others were difficult to decipher, as the pages were spotted and faded with age.  From the dates, one could determine that the recipes had been chosen and inserted with care over a period of fifty to eighty years. There was another book of faded script, bound in Russian leather, which contained many recipes cut from old books and papers, along with recipes evidently copied by Princess Victoria.  In the second book, in Victoria’s sprawling unformed handwriting, was a recipe for plum pudding, dated 1565. On the first page of this little book, someone had written “GIVEN TO VICTORIA ON HER BIRTHDAY, 1831”.

We can be thankful that Victoria realized the worth of what she had been given and continued to contribute to the collection. Part of the reason for her interest may have been due to her devotion to her beloved Prince Albert, for whom she prepared meals on a little stove in their private rooms at Windsor.

But, returning to the 1950s, the Irishwoman, who Ms. Craig does not name, was given permission by the princess to copy recipes from the two books. She, in turn, presented them sometime later to Elizabeth Craig, and this was the nucleus of COURT FAVOURITES.

COURT FAVOURITES is an enchanting cookbook. There are lots of  recipes to try, if you are interested in duplicating Henry IV’s Bearnaise sauce (most likely named after his birthplace, Bearn) or Mary Queen of Scots favorite “Scotch Petticoat Tails) which dates back to 1568. Mary brought the recipe with her    from France where the little cakes were known as Petits Gateaux Tailes.

Elizabeth the first was very partial to meringues/kisses recipes that are still around hundreds of years later. (One of my favorites is a meringue cookie called Beacon Hills, which contains chocolate chips). There are, however, dozens of other recipes and a fascinating journey through the British  royal kitchens  covering centuries of kings and queens.

We learn that it was not until Queen Anne ascended the throne that the art of cookery in England made much headway. Queen Anne not only encouraged gastronomy but also the art of wines.  During her reign, wonderful cellars were laid down  in England. Unfortunately, however, her successors did not appreciate the good work she had inspired, and George I and George II introduced a heavy Germanic influence to the British table. Actually, the first three Georges weren’t very much interested in gourmet food—but George IV was considered bon vivant, due to having hired Careme as his chef. Another of King George IV’s chefs, before Careme took over, was a man named Brand. One day he created a special steak sauce that delighted the king. George IV sent for Brand and announced that his sauce was “A-1”  Well, later on the chef retired to manufacture his sauce for public consumption and guess what? The Sauce was called A-1, sold today under the name of A1 Worcestershire Sauce.

Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, was very economical and disliked and kind of extravagance. She was very particular how food should be prepared. Queen Charlotte took a great interest not only in the preparation of food but also in herbs, fruit and vegetables. It is said that she was so fond of mulberries, that the old mulberry trees in Buckinghamshire were planted by her. It was this same Queen Charlotte who would present to the young Victoria her manuscript cookbook which Victoria would treasure, and add to, for over fifty years.

It seems that Elizabeth Craig’s book has commanded respect in other publishing quarters, for – imagine my surprise – as I was reading ROYAL COOKBOOK, favorite court recipes from the world royal families, published by Parents Magazine Press in 1971 –what did I find under the British chapter, but numerous references to Elizabeth Craig’s book. It appears that COURT FAVOURITES was a primary reference source when Parents Magazine compiled THEIR book.

Of course, there are “royals” throughout the world, not just in Great Britain (although it seems to me that the seat of history lies in England.) And if you are interested in learning more about the Royals in other parts of the world—and what they like to east—ROYAL COOKBOOK is a good choice. The book is oversized, coffee table size, with lavish photographs. More than 18 countries are represented—including Russia, Poland, China, Japan, Africa, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and, of course, England/Great Britain. There are numerous photographs (or photographs of paintings) of the royals themselves, including Napoleon and Marie Antoinette of France, King George I (a very dour looking man) and Queen Elizabeth II. Hawaii is represented from the days when it was a monarchy, and there is a photograph of the famous Kamehameha IV of Hawaii and his wife, Queen Emma, and the beautiful Princess Kailulani, daughter of Princess Likelike.

There are also numerous photographs of royal china and serving pieces—not to mention hundreds of royal favorite recipes.

Focusing again on Great Britain, there is an interesting little book titled TO SET BEFORE A QUEEN BY Mrs. Alma McKee.

Mrs. McKee explains in her book, published in 1963, how she happened to end up cooking for Queen Elizabeth II, when QEII was still Princess Elizabeth at Clarence House. When Mrs. McKee went to work there, she was told that she was the only female chef in charge of a royal kitchen. She had previously cooked for King Peter of Yugoslavia, she says, but that was different, since they were very young and very informal.

Mrs. McKee left King Peter’s household to take a long convalescence following pneumonia, and when she returned to work, her agency offered her a choice of two jobs. One was with Isaac Wolfson, the Industrialist, and the other at Clarence House.

After King George VI died and Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II, she eventually moved to Buckingham Palace, but Mrs. McKee stayed at Clarence House to continue cooking for the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.

Mrs. McKee’s book is small but chockfull of interesting recipes and reminiscences of her years as cook for the British Royals.

“TO THE QUEEN’S TASTE,” (subtitled ELIZABETHAN FEASTS AND RECIPES” by Lorna Sass, is a fascinating slender volume published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1976. The queen here is Elizabeth the First who, we learn, liked to eat alone. Possibly it was because of her bad teeth. As she got older, Elizabeth I chewed something called “comfets” which were sugar coated whole spices, to freshen her breath. The book itself borrows from other known sources  of who-was-eating-what in the 1500s, but also provides a glossary of terms which is most useful in translating old recipes.

Elizabeth I was not exactly a gourmet, but she had a notoriously sweet tooth. Her pockets were always filled with candies and anyone who wanted to get into her good graces would dream up a new confection (This may be why she had such bad teeth!)

However, Elizabeth’s fondness for sweets, according to Betty Wason in “COOKS, GLUTTONS AND GOURMETS” led her apothecary to experiment with using the juice of the vanilla bean as flavoring for marzipan, the first time the Mexican pod had been used to flavor anything but the chocolate drink of the Aztecs. Elizabeth was delighted and vanilla has been a favorite flavoring used in candies ever since.

It was also during the reign of Elizabeth I that fruit was first used alone in a pie. Some preserved cherries were given to her as a New Year’s gift and the Queen was so pleased that she ordered a thirty acre tract to be turned into a  cherry orchard. It was the first time cherries were planted in England, and when the trees bore fruit, she ordered them baked in a pie.  Cherry pies from that time forward were a specialty at English royal banquets.

It was also during Elizabeth I’s reign that a merchant named Tom Coryate brought samples of a two-pronged fork home with him after a journey to Italy, and presented one to his queen. Elizabeth was amused and had others made, one of which was made of gold. The fork became something of a fad at court although the country as a whole regarded it as an effeminate innovation.

Other books which provide insight and some details to royal appetites include Esther B. Aresty’s THE DELECTABLE PAST, FOOD IN HISTORY and THE FINE ART OF FOOD, both by Reay Tannahill, and Betty Wason’s COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS.

Ms. Wason notes “Henri IV of France was a gourmet.  Henry VIII of England was a Glutton. Both had gargantuan appetites. Henry VIII’s reign presented us with the grand feast of Christmas…with twelve days of revelry and feasting.

It’s really quite fortunate that people have always been so interested in what is being served and eaten on royal tables. Ever since A FORM OF CURY* was written by the cooks serving King Richard II, we have had a kind of continuous record of what people were cooking and eating.  Without these records, much of the culinary history of the middle ages would have been lost to us. Now, you may argue, perhaps successfully—that kings and queens were eating exactly the same thing as peasants. This is true, up to a point. Royalty’s dinner fare may have been more exotic and plentiful than the poor serf’s—just as what the President of the United States may be eating something far more luxuriously than you or I, today. Nonetheless, I think most food fare was rather standard then, as it is now.

(*From Wekepedia:The Forme of Cury (Forms of Cooking, cury being from Frenchcuire) is an extensive recipe collection of the 14th century whose author is given as “the chief Master Cooks of King Richard II“. The modern name was given to it by Samuel Pegge, who published an edition of it in 1791. This name has since come into usage for almost all versions of the original manuscript. Along with Le Viandier, it is the best-known medieval guide to cooking.)

The roll was written in late Middle English (circa 1390) on vellum and details some 205 recipes, although the exact number of recipes varies slightly between different versions).

Many royals have been entertained at the White House and thanks to the various White House Chefs and other backstairs employees, records have been kept o these famous meals.

The first heir-apparent to the British throne to visit the United States was that of England’s Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, who would become King Edward VII, when he visited the White House during the administration of President Buchanan. It was considered such a social coup that it was talked about for years! (Prior to becoming President, James Buchanan was Ambassador to the Court of King James. His niece, Harriet Lane, accompanied him and became a favorite of Queen Victoria. All of this may have contributed to the Prince’s visit to the United States and its success.

Some years later, after the Civil War, President Grant and his family entertained Prince Arthur, the third son of Queen Victoria, with a dinner that was so lavish, it was reported to have cost $2,000 (a lot of money in the 1800s!) The Grants also hosted a dinner for King Kalakaua of Hawaii, but this dinner tried the patience of the White House Chef, as the King’s personal attendants tasted everything first and decided which were fit for the king to eat.  This was also done to be certain that the king would not be poisoned!

In more recent times, President and Mrs Reagan entertained Prince Charles and Princess Diana when they visited Washington, D.C. for three days. Mrs. Reagan spent weeks consulting with Buckingham Palace over the menu and the guest list. Since Prince Charles is partial to fish and fowl, a lobster mousse was served as a first course, and a lightly glazed chicken was served as an entrée.

This was surely an improvement over the visit paid by the King and Queen of England (Elizabeth II’s parents) when they visited the White House during the Roosevelt Administration and were served hot dogs! (It should be noted that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had very little interest in food—hot dogs might have seemed like a good idea to her at the time).

Actually, to be fair to the Roosevelts, we should note that the rest of the                   King and Queen’s visit was treated lavishly.  At a State Dinner, they dined on diamondback terrapin from Maryland and hothouse grapes from Belgium. It was considered to be the most elegant dinner during the Roosevelt administration. And, it seems that the Royals enjoyed hot dogs very much—so much that they in turn served them to the American Bar Association at a garden party given at Buckingham Palace in 1957.

So, next time you are having hot dogs, consider this—even kings and queens have eaten them.


COURT FAVOURITES by Elizabeth Craig, 1953

ROYAL COOKBOOK, published by Parents Magazine, 1971

TO SET BEFORE A QUEEN, Alma McKee, published 1963

TO THE QUEEN’S TASTE, Lorna Sass, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1976


THE DELECTABLE PAST, Esther B. Aresty, 1964

FOOD IN HISTORY, Reay Tannahill, 1973

THE FINE ART OF FOOD, Reay Tannahill, date of publication not indicated


*This is by no means all of the books you can use to learn more about what people were eating, or how they lived, throughout the centuries since man learned how to make a fire and then discovered meat thrown on the fire tasted pretty good. When I first wrote this article, I was using the books that I had for references.

Just as a sample of what you can look for today might include:

NEAR A THOUSAND TABLES/A HISTORY OF FOOD by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto published in 2002– or

CENTURY OF BRITISH COOKING by Marguerite Patten, published in 1999

AMERICAN CENTURY COOKBOOK by Jean Anderson, published in 1997


I first learned the sad news from one of my blog subscribers, who wrote asking had I heard? And would I be writing something about Marion Cunningham?  “No, I hadn’t heard,” I responded and added “Good idea to write something about her –let me see how many of her cookbooks are on my shelves…”

I didn’t have her books shelved together with favorite authors but rather – filed according to content. I knew, for instance, that The Breakfast Book was in the garage library with other breakfast/brunch cookbooks.  I knew LOST RECIPES and THE SUPPER BOOK were on a shelf in my bedroom, along with other comfort food and often thumbed-through cookbooks.  All of the Fannie Farmer cookbooks in my possession are on a shelf in the garage library. Then I realized I didn’t have ALL of her books and remedied this by placing an order with That being said, I find I have eight different editions of the Fannie Farmer cookbook, neither of which was #12 or #13, the two that Marion worked on. I’ve ordered one of these from (Kind of reminded me of all the work I have put in, back in the day, collecting the Congressional Club cookbooks.)

Marion Cunningham passed away Wednesday, July 11, 2012, at the John Muir Medical Center in Northern California, where she had been admitted on Tuesday with respiratory problems. Family friend, John Carroll, confirmed her death. Marion had been living at an assisted-care home in Walnut Creek, the small San Francisco Bay Area city where she had raised her family. She was 90 years old. I was shocked to learn she had Alzheimer’s disease, which took my own mother’s life in September, 2000.                        **

Marion Enwright was born in Los Angeles on February 11, 1922, to Joseph and Maryann (Spelta) Enright. She grew up as a Southern California beach girl, tall, blonde, and elegant and graduated from high school in Los Angeles. (In her own words she admitted, “I barely made it out of high school. I never paid attention to my teachers…”  That comment is debatable, considering what she produced, once she started writing. )

In one of the columns she wrote for the L.A. Times that can still be found in the Times archives, she wrote for the food section about her southern California childhood: “In the small foothill town of La Crescenta where I grew up,” she wrote, “We spent long summer evenings, after breathlessly hot days, swinging in the hammock…Around 8 each evening, it seemed that everyone in town walked down to Watson’s drugstore to buy a quart of ice cream..(our neighbors) the Merricks made root beer with great success except for the first summer when they couldn’t afford a bottle-capper. They made their first batch corked it and put it in the attic to ferment. In a day or two, all the corks flew out of the bottles, making a colossal mess.”

I laughed over a comment of Marion’s about her mother’s cooking: “My mother followed the government pamphlets on nutrition that she sent away for, and paid no attention to taste” – I have written on my blog a number of times about my own mother’s terrible cooking. We were kindred spirits in more ways than one.

In 1942 Marion married Robert Cunningham, a medical malpractice lawyer, whom she had known since kindergarten. He was a lawyer with a taste for canned pork and beans and well-done red meat. She once summed up his culinary range this way: “He doesn’t like homemade bread and he doesn’t like vegetables. The only green thing he says he likes is money.” (I am struck by the similarities between Marion’s marriage and my own, except mine finally ended in divorce in 1986.)

The newly-wed Cunninghams moved to San Diego, where he was serving in the Marines. During WW2,   a time when men were in short supply for many civilian jobs, Marion worked in a gas station for a while. “I always used to think I would own my own station,” she said in a 1991 interview with the New York Times. “I know more than most women about cars.”

“During the five years we lived in Laguna,” she wrote in an article about home entertaining for The Times in 1990, “every friend we knew from our school days arrived to visit (and often to stay). In order to feed this steady stream, I made casseroles, stews, soups and big hearty salads with thick creamy dressings. All good to eat and cheap to make. (Another parallel to my own life and marriage where I usually had a steady stream of visitors—either friends of my four sons or my husband. I served dinner at 6 pm every night and everyone knew if they showed up they would be fed.)

Marion and Robert eventually settled in Walnut Creek, outside Oakland, in northern California. Robert Cunningham died in 1987 from lung cancer.

Marion spent the first half of her adult life raising her children, Mark and Catherine, who survive her, and tending to the family’s ranch home in Walnut Creek.  And for much of that time she struggled with agoraphobia, a fear of open and public places. It was so intense at times that she could barely cross the Bay Bridge to San Francisco. She had also developed a problem with alcohol.

In 1972, Marion, at age 50, wanted to go to Oregon to attend cooking classes led by famous food writer/cookbook author James Beard. She stopped drinking, cold-turkey, and faced her phobias. To prepare for the trip she bought three airline tickets to Los Angeles and took two friends to sit on either side of her. They had lunch and flew back. She overcame her fears and attended the class. It was her first experience traveling out of the State of California. Talk about a life-changing experience!

James Beard took to the tall, blue-eyed homemaker (perhaps in much the same way that he took to Helen Evans Brown, another California cookbook author) and for the next 11 years Marion was his assistant, helping him establish cooking classes in the Bay Area. The job gave her a ringside seat to a period in American cooking when regional food, organic produce and a new way of cooking and eating were just becoming part of the culinary dialogue.

That trip, which Mrs. Cunningham said was the first time she felt a sense of power and hope in many years, was the beginning of a journey that would change not only her life but the Bay Area culinary community.

Author/editor Ruth Reichl described the relationship between Beard and Cunningham as “One of the great odd marriages in this food world. Cunningham took care of Beard and he took care of her. Their relationship was so sweet and so protective. It really was a kind of mutual support thing.”

Marion’s association with Beard also gave her the big break of her career, in the late 1970s when he passed her name to Judith Jones, a well-known New York culinary editor, who was looking for someone to rewrite The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. (The original Boston Cooking School cookbook, published in 1896 had undergone a number of revisions since Fannie first wrote her cookbook. The update Marion would write was the 12th revision. She would also do a 13th revision.  Revision #11 was done by Wilma Lord Perkins).

“Marion Cunningham epitomized good American food,” Judith Jones, who became her longtime editor at Knopf, said in a statement Wednesday. “She was someone who had an ability to take a dish, savor it in her mouth and give it new life. At a time when Americans were embracing all kinds of foreign cuisine, Marion Cunningham’s love and respect for American food helped ‘The Fannie Farmer Cookbook’ once again earn a place in kitchens across America.”

“It was really a gift out of the blue,” Cunningham said. The only problem was, she didn’t think she had a bit of skill. Oh, she could cook. Cooking had always been something that comforted her. She learned it early on, first watching her father and Italian immigrant mother and grandmother struggle to feed a family during the depression, later trying to make a home from the small salary her Marine Corps husband brought in , and finally, as a mother of two. Initially, she balked saying “I barely made it out of high school. I never paid attention to my teachers. I don’t know where to put periods or commas. How can I do a book?”

But she did, and the 12th revision of the Fannie Farmer cookbook, one of the best selling cookbooks in America, was published in 1979.  Cunningham was 57.

Former Gourmet Editor Ruth Reichl later mused that Mrs. Cunningham had completely reinvented herself at midlife and never thought it even remotely remarkable. Reichl also commented that not only did Cunningham know everyone and everything, she was the person you called when you had a triumph or when things weren’t going so well.

The  revision of the Fannie Farmer cookbook led to seven more cookbooks; her own television show, Cunningham & Company, which ran for more than 70 episodes, sometimes on the Food Network; and a longstanding cooking column for the Chronicle.

In 1989 Cunningham and a friend started the Baker’s Dozen, an informal group of San Francisco bakers. It grew to more than 200 members and led to another cookbook, The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook, written/edited by Rick Rodgers.

In 1993, Marion received the Grand Dame award from Les Dames d’Escoffier “in recognition and appreciation of her extraordinary achievement and contribution to the culinary arts.” In 1994, she was named Scholar-in-Residence by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

In 1999, Marion published a book titled Learning to Cook with Marion (Alfred A. Knoof. Inc.), written for adults who know nothing about home cooking, but would like to learn.

Michael Bauer, the Executive food editor of the San Francisco Chronicle said that more than anyone else, Marion Cunningham gave legitimacy to home cooking. She took what many people would say was housewife food and really gave it respect by force of her own personality.”

Cunningham’s most enduring trait may have been her ability to make even novice cooks feel as if they could accomplish something in the kitchen.

Indeed, she took many of them under her wing and drew from them for her popular book “Learning to Cook”.”She made it her life’s work to champion home cooking and preserve the family supper table. It was a theme she focused on in the preface to “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook”, the classic American volume that she was hired to revise in the late 1970s. Like many others, Ruth Reichl, the author and former restaurant critic for The New York Times (and editor of Gourmet magazine before it folded in 2009) came to regard Cunningham as a mother figure.

She was the glue that held the nascent food movement together, Reichl said, the touchstone, the person you checked in with to find out who was doing what all over the country.”

Ruth Reichl also wrote, in The Times in 1992, when she was the newspaper’s food editor “If Beard was the father of American cooking, Cunningham became its mother.”

Marion loved to go to the supermarket and look into the shopping carts of total strangers, whom she would then interview about their cooking skills. She made it her life’s work to champion home cooking and preserve the family supper table.

All traits I can readily identify with; I love going into supermarkets in other cities, just to see what they have on their shelves that I don’t find on the shelves in MY supermarkets. (I have been known to buy condiments, like unusual mustards, in stores in Ohio or Florida, to bring home for us to try).  I also collect recipe cards (given away free in supermarkets) to exchange with some of my penpals). And I grew up in a home where dinner was on the table at 6 pm—every night. Consequently, throughout the years of raising my sons, they had a home cooked meal every night. We also had unexpected visitors for dinner at night, friends my sons or husband brought home—everyone knew that I always cooked dinner—so I made a lot.

Marion, I think, would have approved of my home cooking. She wrote that “too many families seldom sit down together; it’s gobble and go”. In an interview in 2002 she said “No one is cooking at home anymore, so we are losing all the wonderful lessons we learn at the dinner table…”  She became a champion for family meals.

Ms. Cunningham bought a Jaguar with her first royalty check from “THE BREAKFAST BOOK”; the Jaguar became identified with her and she would drive it to a different Bay Area restaurant almost every night, sometimes logging 2,500 miles a month.

Along the way, Marion collected a passel of friends who changed how America cooked and ate, including her close friend Chuck Williams, whose kitchenware company, Williams-Sonoma, was just getting started.

One of the people she discovered was a young Alice Waters, who co-founded Chez Panisse in 1971 with film producer Paul Aratow. Alice was cooking organic and local food at her little restaurant in Berkeley California.  Marion took James Beard to the restaurant in 1974 and he put it on the culinary map, marking the beginnings of California cuisine and the modern organic movement.

“She was always my biggest cheerleader,” Ms. Waters once said in an interview. “I just can see her even now with her coffee and coffeecake. That’s kind of where she liked to live.”

Waters also said “I always felt like Marion was a best friend of mine, but I’m sure I’m not alone. Her empathy, charm and humor inspired deep friendships; she was always ready to listen if one needed to talk—one could call her day or night. It’s true we didn’t agree on iceberg lettuce but we did agree on a few other things—including the uselessness of the microwave. Marion never thought cooking was a lofty activity; she was a home cook, someone who loved and knew the importance of eating together at the table with family and friends.”

Cunningham, like her good friend Alice Waters and Julia Child, was a celebrity chef long before it was a household term.  In addition to her cookbooks, she wrote articles for Bon appétit and Gourmet magazines, as well as the Contra Costa Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Los Angeles Times. (On reflection, I decided that my earliest knowledge about Marion Cunningham stemmed from recipes/articles published in the Los Angeles Times over the years. I collected the S.O.S. food column recipes for several decades, until the newspaper changed the format and the column no longer appealed to me).

Russ Parsons, who writes a food column in the Los Angeles Times wrote a tribute to Marion, explaining that he worked with her for several years before he actually met her. In the 1990s he was one of her editors—she had a column in the L.A. Times called The Home Cook—but their conversations were mostly over the telephone since she lived in the Bay Area and he in southern California. Eventually, he writes, on a trip to San Francisco and the two finally met in person. Parsons writes, “Up pulled a long gold Jaguar, and out of it climbed one of the most stylish, older women I’d ever seen. Not fashionable—nothing flashy—but tall and slim and dressed just so, her silver hair tied close. There was certainly nothing old-fashioned or matronly about her.”

“We walked into the restaurant”, Parsons continued “where Marion greeted half of the wait staff and all of the chefs by name. That was Marion Cunningham, one part America’s grandma, one part culinary godfather…”

He goes on to comment that it might seem odd that she had two sides, the dining sophisticate and the cooking traditionalist, who could coexist so seamlessly, but they did. “American home cooking had no fiercer advocate than Cunningham. She loved iceberg lettuce beyond all reason. A good bowl of vegetable soup could send her into rhapsodies. Sure, she might dine out every night in some of the most glamorous restaurants in the world, but she also knew the value of a well-prepared biscuit…”  (The title of Parsons’ tribute to Marion was titled “AN APPRECIATION: MARION CUNNINGHAM WAS FANNIE FARMER, BUT WITH A DELICIOUS FLAIR” and appeared in the July 14, 2012 edition of the L.A. Times)

The James Beard Foundation provided a profile of Marion Cunningham that everyone will read and “wish they were there” This was written when Marion was 81 years old and focused on Marion in her home.

“Have you ever had a waffle in Marion Cunningham’s kitchen? Some of the biggest names in food have, driving through the hills east of San Francisco to the low-slung house on an acre of land where Cunningham has lived for 42 years. They sit at her kitchen table, near a wall of snapshots that tell the story of a culinary life: there’s Ruth Reichl holding a baby, a boyishly young Chuck Williams, Edna Lewis sitting in the sun, MFK and Julia, and James Beard goofing off as a teenager.

People journey to Cunningham’s house to eat pepper bacon, gossip, and watch one of America’s most famous cooks pour thin, yeast-leavened batter into a pair of waffle irons. She uses an old recipe*, one she discovered when she first revised the “Fannie Farmer Cookbook.”

Going to Marion’s for Waffles has become almost a badge of honor for some of the best professional chefs and food writers in the country. But for Cunningham, the informal gatherings are simply an extension of what she has been preaching for much of her cooking career: sharing simple, delicious food around a family table is the most important thing in life.

She fills her table with neighbors, old friends, and young people who are hungry to learn to cook. It is not a stretch to imagine that James Beard, with whom Cunningham worked side by side for 11 years and who ate those waffles, would be pleased…”

“Cunningham, who keeps current on food trends by driving into San Francisco five nights a week, has a natural media presence. She had her own television show for a time, and shows up regularly in food articles and at seminars. She goes to the local supermarket every day just to see how people are shopping. Through classes and books like “COOKING WITH CHILDREN” and “LEARNING TO COOK WITH MARION CUNNINGHAM,” she has introduced countless people to the kitchen with her patient and folksy, but determined, approach.

Cunningham viewed the dinner table as the modern tribal fire—the place where stories are shared, families are created, and culture is passed on. And she’s fought to protect it as fewer and fewer families eat together.

‘Today, strangers cook most of the food we eat’ she said. ‘If you stop to think about it, people are living like they are in motels. They get fast food, take it home and turn on the TV. We need to sit, facing people, with great regularity, so we are making an exchange and are civilized. We learn such simple, basic life lessons at the dinner table. If you’re handed a platter and take everything off, you are not leaving anything for others.’…”

“She has been one of the hearts of this whole food revolution,” says Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl who in her memoir, ‘TENDER AT THE BONE’ writes lovingly about how Cunningham served as both a personal and professional guide when Reichl was a new food writer. “She’s like the den mother of the food movement. She’s the way we all keep connected to each other.” [All of the above from the Beard Foundation was written 9 years ago, when Cunningham was a mere 81 years old—there is a great deal more to the article which a penpal found for me on the Internet].

Michael Bauer, editor of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “Marion also captured friends with her self-effacing ways and her razor-sharp analysis that was always on point but never mean-spirited. She always started her criticisms with, “Well, dear, don’t you think …”

She claimed to have barely finished high school. Yet when she thought her equally gifted lawyer husband was lauding his intelligence over her, she secretly took the Mensa test and qualified for membership. She never joined because she had proved her point.

That same titanium spirit propelled her through her last work, when the first hints of disease started to appear. It was a challenge, but she wanted to record recipes that she felt were falling into oblivion, like cream of celery soup, Country Captain and Lazy Daisy cake. (All of which did find their way into LOST RECIPES).

It was shortly after the book (LOST RECIPES) was published in 2003 that she received the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. After a long, heartfelt standing ovation, she told the adoring crowd of the country’s top chefs and cookbook authors that if her life ended now she would be happy.

Soon after, the Alzheimer’s fog began to descend more rapidly. She covered up her momentary forgetfulness by saying “my files are full” when she showed up late for a dinner reservation or called in a panic because she went to the wrong restaurant. Her decline, until the last five years or so when she was isolated in a residential care facility, was as elegant as her ascent.

When she gave up driving, she continued to invite friends to her home in Walnut Creek. After she was forced to leave her home and could no longer cook, she dreamed of her favorite pastimes. During sleep she would make the motion of stirring a pot, as if teaching a cooking class; at other times, she appeared to be talking on the telephone.

We tend to immortalize those who pass on and gloss over their less-attractive quirks, but Marion Cunningham was a special person. She had a temper, and if you were the rare person who ended up on her bad side, everyone would know it. But for the most part, her quick sense of humor and caring nature drew her to the top minds in the food world…”

Since I can’t finish this post without a recipe or two of Marion Cunningham’s, I chose Raised Raffles which appears in The Fannie Farmer Cook Book published in 1896 but was reprinted – at least – in the 1922 edition of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer. It is also in the Eleventh Edition of the Fannie Farmer cookbook, published in 1965.

The recipe for Raised Waffles was also contributed by Marion in the San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook, for which she was a contributor in1997, as well as The Breakfast Book and Lost Recipes.  In Lost Recipes, Marion notes “This recipe comes from the 1896 Fannie Farmer cookbooks. The Raised Waffle recipe alone could have sold a million copies. Another food writer commented “Being asked to come over for waffles and bacon at Marion Cunningham’s Walnut Creek ranch house was akin to winning a James Beard award. No invitation was as coveted in the food world since MFK Fisher, who died in 1992, would hold court in her Glen Ellen home”.

*Marion Cunningham’s Raised Waffles

Serves 8

The batter is prepared the night before, so all you have to do the next morning is cook them. Serve them hot with room temperature butter and warmed maple syrup. A note of warning: These do not bake up well in a Belgian waffle iron.

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 cups milk, warmed
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Instructions: Use a large mixing bowl – the batter will rise to double its original volume. Put the water in the mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes, until yeast dissolves. Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar and flour to the yeast and beat until smooth and blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.

Just before cooking the waffles, beat in the eggs, add the baking soda and stir until well mixed. The batter will be very thin. Cook on a very hot waffle iron (use about 1/3 cup batter per grid). Bake until the waffles are golden and crisp to the touch.

Note: If there is any leftover batter, store in a covered container in the refrigerator. It will keep for several days.

Per waffle: 265 calories, 7 g protein, 26 g carbohydrate, 15 g fat (9 g saturated), 92 mg cholesterol, 421 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

Sandy’s cooknote: If you keep dry yeast in your pantry (or refrigerator), this recipe is one for which you would most likely have all the ingredients on hand and could prepare, in part, the night before. Waffles and pancakes were two of Bob’s favorite foods so I made them frequently. I think it was his favorite meal.

**I could read Marion’s books and type up her recipes for hours on end; it’s like sitting in the kitchen of a good friend and being allowed to copy some of her recipes (which I have been known to do in the homes of girlfriends) –I Just couldn’t resist sharing one more recipe of Marion’s that provides a bit more insight to the woman—and might be the coffee cake her friend Alice Waters has referred to:

Marion Cunningham’s Coffee Cake 

Yield: Makes one 10-inch tube cake


  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 5 teaspoons vanilla extract

To make this cake:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or Bundt pan.

Put the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat for several seconds. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the eggs and beat for 2 minutes, or until light and creamy. Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and stir with a fork to blend well. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix well.

Spoon the batter into the pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a straw comes out clean when inserted into the center. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes in the pan. Invert onto a rack and cool a little bit before slicing. Serve warm.


THE FANNIE FARMER COOKBOOK*, Twelfth edition with Jeri  Laber published in 1979


THE BREAKFAST BOOK published by Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 1987

THE SUPPER BOOK, Alfred a. Knopf, 1992


THE FANNIE FARMER COOKBOOK, Thirteenth edition, published in September, 1996


GOOD EATING, a combination of THE BREAKFAST BOOK AND THE SUPPER BOOK, published 1999.

LOST RECIPES, published by Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 2003

Refer also:

COMPLIMENTS OF THE CHEF 100 Great Recipes from the Innovating Restaurants & Cafes of Berkeley, California, foreword by Marion Cunningham, compiled by the Sisterhood of Congregation Beth El, with Paul T. Johnston, Aris Books, 1985

THE GREENS COOKBOOK (multiple authors) 1987

CALIFORNIA WALNUTS/TALK OF THE TOWN –published by the California Walnut Marketing Board, foreword by Marion Cunningham, published 1984, contains some of her own recipes.

MAPLE SYRUP COOKBOOK (Author is Ken Haedrich; a charming foreword was written by Marion Cunningham, who was a friend of his for many years), 2001

*Sandy’s Cooknote: Regarding the Fannie Farmer cookbook which has been published in various sizes and, at last count, 13 editions, two of which were edited by Marion Cunningham. There were at least two facsimile editions; one has a green dust jacket and was published by Weathervane Books; the second has a yellow dust jacket with blue print and was also published by Weathervane Books. The only date indicated on both books is 1896, for the original publishing of the cookbook. More recent editions are referred to simply as “the Fannie Farmer cookbook” but the original – and some later editions – carried the title of the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer. I had thought to write an article about Fannie Farmer about a year ago but got sidetracked when Bob became so ill. And the lady had a most interesting life—perhaps now I can get the article about Fannie Farmer finished for you!

To summarize—if one can truly summarize a life as challenging and inspiring as Marion Cunningham’s—you only have to Google her life to find story after story, written by those who knew her. (Fannie Farmer, like Marion, had serious obstacles to overcome and I am willing to bet that Marion was inspired by the similarities in their respective lives.

Columnist Russ Parsons also offers a comment that might explain something about Marion Cunningham, in which he states, “Maybe because her own family was somewhat chaotic—she was quite open about having been an alcoholic into her 50s—she would argue all the more passionately the necessity of breaking bread together…”

I wish I could have known Marion Cunningham. I wish I could have sat at her kitchen table and watch her make raised waffles. I am saddened that Alzheimer’s robbed her of the last years of her creative life just as the disease robbed my mother of the last years of her life.

I am also left with many questions about Marion, a woman who championed family meals and family values. In article after article written about her passing, there is only a passing reference to her husband, Robert and two children, Mark and Catherine. Nowhere, in all the articles I have found about her preparing waffles and bacon for friends, have I finally found references to son Mark, or daughter Catherine being present. I finally found an obit reference to Robert Cunningham, stating that he died  in 1987 of lung cancer.

Rest in peace, Marion Cunningham.

—Sandra Lee Smith, July, 2012