Category Archives: FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHORS

MORE COOKBOOKS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT

It never fails to amaze me how many cookbooks are “out there” that I didn’t know anything about. Not only that, but some of my cooking magazines publish articles such as “Top 100 COOKBOOKS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS” and “TOP 100 COOKBOOKS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS”—or another one “OLDIES BUT GOODIES” and when I go to put these lists in some kind of date order, I constantly come up short.

I think the article OLDIES BUT GOODIES came from ALLRECIPES—their list, thankfully, is short and the authors suggest these would make good bridal shower or graduation gifts but point out that, if you buy a current JOY OF COOKING cookbook for a bridal shower, it won’t be the same as the original JOY (which I have written about on my blog—that being said, a few years ago, Joy was published in a facsimile edition. You can have a new copy of an old favorite.

The selection of OLDIES BUT GOODIES published by Cooking Light are:

THE SILVER PALATE by Julie Rosso and Sheila Lukins, Workman publishers, $23.

THE ART OF SIMPLE FOOD NOTES, LESSONS AND RECIPES FROM A DELICIOUS REVOLUTION, by Alice Waters, Clarkson Potter, $35

ALL ABOUT BRAISING: THE ART OF UNCOMPLICATED COOKING, by Molly Stevens, W.W. Norton publisher, $35

THE SPLENDID TABLE’S HOW TO EAT SUPPER: RECIPES STORIES, AND OPINIONS FROM PUBLIC RADIO’S AWARD WINNING FOOD SHOW, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift, Clarkson Potter Publishers, $35, and

BAKING FROM MY HOME TO YOURS by Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, publishers, $40.

Well, this list makes me feel like a poor country cousin. Of the five, I am only familiar with THE SILVER PALATE—and I was under the impression that the authors had a falling out—but when I Googled the title, I discovered that Sheila Lukins passed away in 2009, so that may explain my misconception. While on Google, I discovered that THE SILVER PALATE Cookbook celebrated its 25th anniversary, so it’s been around a while. I am fairly certain that I have a copy of THE SILVER PALATE but I have no idea which edition I have—or where to find it.

MY BAD! The bulk of my cookbooks are in categories; if I don’t know which category to put it with, I am pretty much at a loss.

I do have a separate collection of favorite cookbook authors—but if its not one of my favorite cookbook authors it could be anywhere.

I know about The Splendid Table, having listened to the Public Radio’s program but I confess, I’m not an avid listener. That’s all I can say about the list in Allrecipe’s OLDIES BUT GOODIES—but the article tells us that these have stood the test of time and that “while the recipes may not always take the fastest route from raw to cooked, they certainly take the reader from novice to confident home cook in a matter of weeks”

and FYI – many roads lead to Rome; if you don’t want to spend $35 or $40 for one of these cookbooks, unless it’s a wedding or bridal shower present – you know I am an avid Amazon.com follower. They list over 300 copies, from one cent for pre-owned paperback to 44 cents for hardcover They are certain to have a copy that appeals to you and meets your spending requirements.
***
If you start to investigate the magazine COOKING LIGHT’s list of the TOP 100 COOKBOOKS—it’s easy to get lost in lists. They write:
“As we contemplate turning 25, we decided to pick our favorite 100 cookbooks, which we’ll unveil over the next year across 15 categories. We looked at best-seller and awards lists, and talked to editors, authors, and experts. For consideration, books had to be published in the United States since 1987 and either be in print or easily available online. Winners emerged after passionate debate about voice, originality, beauty, importance, and a clear mission or vision. Yes, we tested the recipes. Finally, we asked: To whom would you give this book? (Probably another Cooking Light reader: Our research shows you are omnivorous cookbook consumers.)

There is Cooking Light’s TOP 100 COOKBOOKS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS –
PART unknown
PART 2 unknown
PART 3 HEALTHY COOKBOOKS
PART 4 ASIAN COOKBOKS
PART 5 FRENCH COOKBOOKS

The COOKING LIGHT lists overwhelmed me, I confess. The publishers came up with 15 categories which had to meet the Cooking Light stringent requirements. MY BAD again—I don’t think I was a Cooking Light subscriber throughout all of their categories.

It has taken me almost 800 words to make a point. And not only am I unfamiliar with virtually all of the cookbooks featured in COOKING LIGHT, I don’t plan to get on Amazon.com and start buying them. For, as many of you know, the bulk of my cookbooks are club-and-church titles for that was my specialty in 1965 when I began collecting cookbooks. Back in the day, those were harder to find than they are now—and once the Junior League cookbooks became popular, they became more readily available.

Here, then, are my next five titles for you to think about—and #1 is a Junior League cookbook. Its title is MOUNTAIN MEASURES by the Junior League of Charleston, West Virginia. MOUNTAIN MEASURES was first printed in 1974. By its tenth printing in 1994, over 150,000 copies of MOUNTAIN MEASURES had been printed. Its theme was pioneer women, her recipes, arts and crafts.

I was initially drawn to MOUNTAIN MEASURES because my mother-in-law had been born and raised in Bluefield, West Virginia. I assume her husband, who died of lung cancer in 1957, had also been born there. Her husband, whose name was Paul Sanford or Sanford Paul Smith, went to Cincinnati to make a better living. My mother in law, whose name was Bertha, liked to tell the story of her traveling to Cincinnati by train, and she was so weak when they got there, that she had to be carried, in a quilt, off the train. Aside from poor health, she gave birth to three children – two sons and one daughter. Her youngest son, James, was my husband for 26 years. In his mother’s eyes, he could do no wrong. And despite her poor health, she lived to be ninety-something years old.

I was often tried, beyond tolerance, to put up with the family’s (particularly his mother’s) belief that Jim was too frail to be a proper husband much less hold down a full time job—as I write this, he is going on 78 years old and still going strong. He remarried about ten years ago.

Despite our being at cross purposes most of the time, I learned how to make biscuits and gravy from my mother in law, the proper way to make cornbread and beans (always pinto beans) and other “down home” favorites.

From MOUNTAIN MEASURES I found a lot of later day recipes, such as Crystallized Ginger Cream Cheese Dip, Parmesan-on-Rye Canapes, one of my favorite recipes – Pickled Shrimp which is so easy to make up in advance, and several recipes for corn bread – Double Corn Corn Bread and Grandmother Kiser’s Corn Bread. There are also recipes for Corn Pone, Hush Puppies and Johnny Cake, Dr. Maggie’s Old Fashioned Spoon Bread and Cornbread Dressing. There is an 1890 recipe for smoked turkey and a recipe for Leather Britches (string beans that had been dried) and many more recipes sure to become your family favorites.

So MOUNTAIN MEASURES is one of my favorites and ranks #1 on this list. Pre-owned copies are available for just under $3.00 each on Amazon.com. Not sure if this is one you need to own, you might check Amazon.com for a copy published by Quail Ridge Press. One of the features of Quail Ridge Press is that they provide an index of the cookbooks featured in each of their cookbooks, along with a photograph of each of the featured cookbooks, most with ordering information. **
The next one I like and is #2 has the unusual title of A TWISTER IN THE KITCHEN, by Chris Snyder. The author says “the name of this cookbook is a little odd so I figured it deserved an explanation. I love to cook. Even more than that, I love to cook for other people. Elizabeth used to tell her boyfriends, “My mom has a need to feed”” Strangely enough, having the need to feed others is actually a symptom of an eating disorder. Go figure…” (and everyone who knows me well knows I have a need to feed, too.

I think it’s related to a need to keep a pantry (and refrigerator and freezer) packed. My daughter in law, Keara, and I had a discussion about this—which she shares with me. It has to do with growing up in a home where there was never enough to eat. We had meals—but there was seldom enough for seconds or leftovers. In my mother’s kitchen, when I was growing up, you also had to ask the others if they wanted a bit of leftover peas or corn or whatever. If someone else wanted some, it had to be shared. My best example of what fed seven people (five children and two adults – this was before Susie & Scott were born) – my mother would feed everyone with one can of salmon that was 14 or 15 ounces, out of which she made salmon patties that may have been mostly crushed crackers than fish. Meatloaf was the same – a pound of meat had about a loaf of bread incorporated into the mix. We didn’t know what real meat tasted like until we became adults and moved out of the house.
But getting back to A TWISTER IN THE KITCHEN, Chris uses one of my favorite phrases—she continues, “Anyway, I digress. When I begin to cook, “ she writes, “I make sure the kitchen is very clean, neat and tidy before I begin and my goal is to finish one task, clean up and then begin another. However, its kind of like binge drinking. Once I get started, it’s like a whirlwind, or…a twister has been released in the kitchen. It begins with a slow building storm and soon I’m in such a flurry that I can barely have anyone in the same room with me as I dash from one location to the next, spoons dripping ingredients flying and pots boiling over. It’s almost like a trance I slip into. I am completely unaware of my surroundings. I’m just creating a path of destruction wherever I turn…” (this is where Chris lost me—because when I cook, I am cleaning up after myself as I go along.)
She goes on to say the food does turn out great, but when she puts the food into the refrigerator and turns to examine the kitchen, it’s an enormous mess.

This is not how I cook and when I put a meal for the family on the table, all there is to clean up are the plates and serving bowls, pots and pans. I prefer to clean up the kitchen by myself because I am very picky about the process – silverware and glasses first, then plates, then pots and pans. I don’t have a dishwasher and it’s unlikely I will ever own one; my kitchen counter is the same counter put in with the house when it was built in 1955. I need a couple more inches to put in a dishwasher(per my son who works on appliances and knows these things).

For that matter, I don’t think my 1955 kitchen plumbing would tolerate a dishwasher. (When I had a repairman here to fix the sink, he observed that it was all “the original” from 1955. Not a good sign.

But getting back to A TWISTER IN THE KITCHEN, granted that Chris and I have nothing in common when it comes to keeping our kitchens clean; that being said, I think we are kindred spirits when it comes to recipes. I was pleased to find a recipe for pomegranate martini—a very simple recipe, at that, and Hot Dip For an Army can be made in your largest crockpot. The author notes that leftovers—if you have any—can be frozen and reheated later. I like the sound of BLT Dip too. Corny Bean Salsa sounds like a winner too. Her recipe for Honey Roasted Pretzels sounds like something I will make up—it calls for 9 cups of mini pretzels and I have 3 bags of them on hand from a previous addiction to Hidden Valley Ranch pretzels, a recipe from my friend Sylvia. These and many other mostly easy to fix recipes will keep you busy—either reading or cooking. I was unable to find A TWISTER IN THE KITCHEN on either Amazon.com or Alibris.com—so if you happen to find a copy at a book sale or where ever, snap it up. ***

I have referred to the BEST OF THE BEST cookbook series from time to time –The concept was an unusual one and highly successful. Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley set out to write a cookbook about all fifty states—for instance, I am looking at BEST OF THE BEST FROM OHIO and it is #3 on my favorite five list.

The two women traveled to all fifty of the states (one at a time, presumably) and once they were in a State – such as Ohio – they set out to collect as many church and club cookbooks from that state as they could find—and then would choose what they considered the finest from a collection of those cookbooks. The recipes would be collated into a cookbook, along with an index and a catalog of contributing cookbooks—and, when possible, ordering information for those cookbooks. When the Best of the Best first began publishing their cookbooks, my friend Mandy and I were not satisfied just to buy the Best of the Best cookbook—we began ordering many of the church and club cookbooks that became a part of the BOTB cookbook. The problem with collecting cookbooks is that the collector is never satisfied with just the cookbooks – we are addicted to cookbook lists or cookbook catalogs (I can spend hours reading cookbook catalogs such as the ones Edward R. Hamilton publishes.

I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and consequently, have searched for Ohio/Cincinnati cookbooks whenever I am visiting family and friends—one year when I took the children to Cincinnati to spend the summer at my parents’ home, I bought so many cookbooks that we packed them into boxes. We took the Greyhound Bus back to California because there was no restriction on the weight of your baggage. A redcap assisting my husband at the train station in downtown Los Angeles inquired “what you got in here, lady? Fort Knox?” to which I replied “No, just cookbooks….lots of cookbooks.” Fortunately, at the time we had a station wagon and all the boxes fit into the back of the car. Those summer trips to Cincinnati with my sons—and trips downtown to find used book stores with my kid brother who was a teenager at the time—are some of my favorite memories. For, when it comes to collecting books – whether they are cookbooks or biographies, fiction novels or history—part of the joy is in the search and finding something special.

You can find BEST OF THE BEST FROM OHIO on Amazon.com new for $7.33 or pre-owned starting at 09 cents (bearing in mind, shipping will cost you $3.99 for a pre-owned book). Still, a little over $4.00 for a cookbook like this one is a good deal. I think I have all of the BEST OF THE BEST COOKBOOKS. I know that Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley have gone on to compile second editions of some of their cookbooks—for instance, there are two of Texas and two of Oklahoma. There may be others by now that I am not aware of. The BEST OF THE BEST series are amongst my favorite cookbooks. **

That being said, BEST OF THE BEST FROM OREGON is also a favorite and is #4 on this favorite five list.

I acquired an Oregon penpal back in 1974; we are still going strong forty years later. They have visited me (Bev and her husband LeRoy) more often than I have visited them. In 1978 we had a camper and my husband and children—and I—visited their farm in Oregon for the first time.

I didn’t make it back to Oregon until 2007, when we spent one day visiting lighthouses, and again in 2012. I had planned to visit them this year, 2014, and even had my plane tickets purchased—when an unexpected illness knocked me for a loop. I was in the hospital for 2 weeks and recuperating for the next three months.

Blackberries grow in wild abundance in Oregon. My friends have blackberries growing wild across the back of their property. Bev would bring me bags of frozen puree of blackberries or whole frozen blackberries. Blackberries have become my favorite fruit, whether for making jam or putting into recipes.

BEST OF THE BEST FROM OREGON offers recipes for blackberry apple pie, blackberry butter, blackberry dumplings, blackberry roll and blackberry apple crunch—but if you aren’t as crazy about blackberries as I am, you may want to try a recipe for rosemary-blue cheese potatoes, zucchini patties or zucchini fritters, asparagus chicken or cranberry chicken.

If you travel to Oregon (and not just drive through it on I-5, you will find, as noted in the Preface, “Home in the mountains, home in the plains..…stretching majestically across the state’s north/south expanse, the Cascade Mountains, create two separate regions, offering a dramatic topographical diversity to the state’s landscape…”

When I was there in 2007, we drove over the Cascades –and found it snowing; we drove out of the snow to nice sunny weather on the other side. The authors of BEST OF THE BEST FROM OREGON also note that east of the Cascades are highly productive farmlands overflowing with potatoes, carrots, etc. My friend Bev makes good use of all the fruit and vegetables they produce; she cans everything that isn’t nailed down.

During my 2012 visit she was making homemade V8 juice upon my arrival —so we went out and bought me a case of quart jars so we could make a batch of V8 juice for ME—and they brought it with them when they visited me in January. But tomatoes aren’t the only thing she cans—and that weekend, her family came to celebrate our joint birthdays and make apple cider. (I made a batch of Cincinnati Chili to feed her family on that occasion).

There’s something for everyone in BEST OF THE BEST FROM OREGON. It’s an excellent go-to cookbook for something new and tasty for you to try.

My fifth (and #5 on this list of favorite cookbooks) is a Gooseberry Patch cookbook. If you aren’t familiar with the series of Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, you are really missing out. I think I counted over 60 titles yesterday; a lot of them are Christmas topics but there are many other titles as well.

I am referring today to their cookbook DINNERS ON A DIME—it’s one of my favorites because of all the thrifty inspired recipes. I submitted a recipe to Dinners on a Dime and it was accepted for publication. If you submit a recipe and they accept it – you receive a free copy when the books are published.

The recipe I submitted was my Aunt Annie’s Chicken Paprika. I even found one for Roosevelt Dinner that was the contributor’s mother in law’s famous recipe. She had found Roosevelt Dinner in a newspaper many years ago. What caught my attention is that this contributor lives in Ravenna, Ohio, where my brother Bill also lives.

But DINNERS ON A DIME offers a great deal more than just my aunt’s chicken paprika and/or someone named Amy’s Roosevelt Dinner. The first chapter is devoted to Shoestring Suppers but there are Hearty & Thrifty Soups, Cent-sational Sides. Slow-Cooker Savings, Penny-Pinch Pantry Staples and a lot more. I think DINNERS ON A DIME is about the 6th Gooseberry Patch cookbook that I received free—you can submit some of your favorite recipes to http://www.gooseberrypatch.com – then wait and see if you get a letter congratulating you for your entry being chosen.

Gooseberry Patch is also on Facebook, if you are interested. I love the Gooseberry Patch cookbooks so much that I often give them for Christmas or birthday presents. I misspoke on my count of the spiral bound Gooseberry Patch cookbooks – I also have about a dozen oversized books, mostly dedicated to the holidays. You can order their books directly from their website – for example, DINNERS ON A DIME is listed on Amazon.com for $11.53, new, or $4.26 also new, or starting at 73 cents from a private vendor—but prepare yourself, when you see all the other titles published by Gooseberry Patch.

That concludes five of MY favorite cookbook titles you may not know about!

–Sandy

OLD FRIENDS AND OLD BOOKS

Let me share with you a few thoughts on old friends and old books.

Years ago—when I was young and cute and the mother of only two little boys instead of four (1965, actually), I was working at Weber Aircraft when I found myself in need of a new babysitter. A friend suggested her neighbor, a woman named Connie, who herself was the mother of three young children, the youngest a boy the same age as my son, Michael.

Those two five year olds could get into more mischief than half a dozen other children their age. Once I came home to find Connie attempting to put together half a dozen bicycles and tricycles. Michael and his buddy Sean had taken apart all the bikes and trikes—to see how they worked, I think—but they were careful to keep all the parts in one pile. What one five year old didn’t think of doing, the other one came up with. Another time I came home to hear they had painted circles on the fences and whatever else they came in contact with.

Connie became my babysitter and more importantly, a close friend. She was godmother to my youngest son, Kelly, when he was born. Connie and I shared so many interests that it’s impossible to say which one was the most important—and we shared a love of books. One of our interests focused on the White House and anything Presidential; one time we bought a “lot” of used White House/Presidential books, sight unseen, from a woman somewhere in the Midwest. I think the books cost us about $50.00 each and when they arrived, we sat on the floor divvying them up.

We shared a love of cookbooks and began collecting them at the same time, in 1965, although Connie was a vegetarian and leaned more towards cookbooks of that genre. She was also “Southern” and shared with me a love of “anything” Southern. We shared a love of diary/journal type books and books about the Mormons, books about the White House, Southern cookbooks and religious groups that formed in the United States in the 1800s. These were just a few of our mutual interests.

It was because of Connie that I started working for the Health Plan where I was employed for 27 years, until I retired in December of 2002.—I only went to work “part time for six weeks IN 1977 to help out”, and there I was all those years later, casting an eye towards retirement and pleased that I had a pension. My job literally saved my sanity when I went through a divorce in 1985.

Our sons started kindergarten together, and Connie’s oldest daughter lived with me for about six months, as a mother’s helper, when she was in high school.

More than a decade ago, on June 29, 1998, Connie died of lung cancer. It seemed incongruous that someone so devoted to eating healthy should die of such a terrible disease. In 1971, Connie and I quit smoking together, at the same time. I never went back to smoking but a year later, Connie began smoking again. It was hard to understand—why would you take up something again that had been so hard to give up in the first place? (I don’t have the answer to this).

One night, Connie’s oldest daughter brought three boxes of books to the house, explaining that it has taken a long time to go through her mother’s collections—many of her books were divided up amongst her children and other friends, but there were some that Dawn thought I would especially like.

After she left, I opened the boxes and began laying books all over the coffee table and chairs. Books about the White House – some I had never heard of before! I wish I could have had them when I was writing “WHAT’S COOKING IN THE WHITE HOUSE KITCHEN”. Intriguing titles such as “DINNER AT THE WHITE HOUSE” by Louis Adamic, memoirs of the Roosevelt years, published in 1946, and “DEAR MR. PRESIDENT; THE STORY OF FIFTY YEARS IN THE WHITE HOUSE MAIL ROOM” by Ira Smith with Joe Alex Morris, published in 1949.

There was a Congressional Cook Book – #2 – and a very nice copy of “MANY HAPPY RETURNS or How to Cook a G.O.P. Goose”, the Democrats’ Cook Book. There were several books about soups that I had never seen before another subject I have written about previously, first for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, and again on my blog. One was “THE New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook”, another “The ALL NATURAL SOUP COOKBOOK”.

More books about Southern cooking – a few duplicates but others I was unfamiliar with, “RECIPES FROM THE OLD SOUTH” by Martha Meade, a copy of the “GONE WITH THE WIND COOKBOOK” – actually, a booklet – which was given away free with the purchase of Pebeco Toothpaste which is long gone from the drug store scene while “Gone with the Wind” is as famous as ever. (The first time I saw “Gone with the Wind” was with Connie.

My best friend and I drifted apart some years ago, after a difference of opinion –we remained friends but were not as inseparable as we once had been. She made new friends and so did I. But it was she who urged me to return to work in 1977, for which I remain forever grateful.

But I am deeply touched that some of her treasured books have come into my possession. Running my hands across the covers, I imagine that Connie had done the same thing, many times, dusting them, touching them. For in one aspect, if no other, we were kindred souls. We loved books. I still do.

Old books and old friends have a lot in common. As I have grown older, some of my dearest friends have passed away—but their books, now mine, remain treasures in my collection of books.

–Sandra Lee Smith

CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM

Christmas on the Farm, edited by Lela Nargi, is a collection of favorite recipes, stories, gift ideas and decorating tips from The Farmer’s Wife. First published in 2011 by Voyageur Press, it is a beautiful hardbound book to add to your favorite Christmas collection.

In the Introduction, Lela Nargi writes “The Farmer’s Wife (which is enjoying a resurgence of popularity for the past few years—Nargi has been publishing a number of “Farmer’s Wife” cookbooks, all available to check over on Amazon.com)– was originally a monthly magazine published in Minnesota between the years 1893 and 1939. In an era long before the Internet and high-speed travel connected us all, the magazine aimed to offer community among hard-working rural women, to provide a forum for their questions and concerns, and to assist them in the day-to-day goings-on about the farm—everything from raising chickens and slaughtering hogs, to managing scant funds and dressing the children, to keeping house and running the kitchen.”

“Christmas was the be-all, end-all celebration on the farm—more than Easter, New Year’s or even Thanksgiving,” she writes. “This quintessential holiday of giving and togetherness gave rise to pages and pages on the topic in every December issue of the magazine. And these pages weren’t just about food—although recipes for all the various components of dinners and parties and holiday gift baskets certainly abounded. The magazine’s experts expounded on the best and latest ways to decorate home, tree, and parcels. Its monthly columnists devoted themselves to the matters of home-made gifts for family and friends, and games to be played to festively capture the spirit of the season. Its readers wrote in with tales of Christmases in other lands, in times gone by. Its editors rhapsodized in and out of two wars, on the value of peace and compassion.”

“In short,” Lela explains, “The Farmer’s Wife” presented its own opinion—both grand and humble, broad and minute, and always, always bearing in mind the idea of community among its readers—about the ways in which Christmas should be celebrated…”

CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM presents, with nostalgia, a way of life that has to a certain degree disappeared from the American landscape and lifestyle. The book starts off with the Christmas, 1920 issue of the magazine (you’d have to be a mentally alert ninety-three year old citizen to remember that decade);

Lela writes, “To those who live in the land of snow and Christmas trees, the twenty-fifth of December blends all its associations with the gleam of snow on hills and fields and woods, the fragrance of fir and pine, the leaping light of Christmas hearthfires. But Christmas is a world-wide day and the environment determined by climate is but an external.

They tell us, too, that ‘Christmas on the Farm’ is the only ideal Christmas. The Farmer’s Wife carries its Christmas message into all zones, from Florida, to the frozen North and from its own home in the corn belt to the edges of the continent where the oceans roar out their accompaniment to the carols of the good, glad day. It is a message of love, and faith and cheer as befits a Christmas message of love, because love is always the winner of faith, because without that staunch quality, nothing would ever be accomplished, of cheer, because when we have love and faith, the flame of cheer follows as a  matter of course—as light follows the burning torch….”

I may have been born in the wrong period of time—as I read and typed the above, it crosses my mind that this message would be “politically incorrect” in the world we live in today. You can’t even say “Merry Christmas” – you have to say “Happy Holidays”—and let me say that I say MERRY CHRISTMAS at every opportunity in December. But I digress.

Curiously, in 2010, I wrote a series of poems for a poetry group I belonged to, under the umbrella heading of “An American Childhood” and I will share one of these poems with you. Mine were written before CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM was published, so I’m not stepping on anybody’s toes.

Christmas Dinner in 1929 presented its readers with an illustration of the proper way to set your table and follows with an assortment of beverages to serve your guests—from Fruit Punch taken from the January 1913 issue of The Farmer’s Wife to a Cranberry Cocktail from the 1934 issue and including a November 1937 recipe for Cranberry Gingerale Cocktail. To go along with the drinks are an assortment of hors d’oeuvres starting with Candied Nuts from the January, 1913 issue of The Farmer’s Wife but includes recipes for a relish plate (November, 1934) to a Cheese and Cracker Tray (also from the November, 1934 issue (in recognition, perhaps, for readers who might not know where to begin with cheese and crackers or preparing a relish plate) but offers as well a recipe for Cheese Puffs ((July, 1922) or pinwheel cheese biscuits (October 1926)—or, to my amusement, a 1919 Pigs in Blankets recipe…a recipe that is updated and still around 94 years later (think: Pillsbury crescent rolls and hot dogs cut into smaller sizes to fit the dough)—it makes me wonder if the Pillsbury Crescent rolls with hot dogs was a Bake-Off recipe way back when! There are also several recipes for oyster hors d’oeuvres which at one time were enormously popular—not so much today.

What follows next is a selection titled Table Talk, which presents inexpensive recipes for Yuletide Dishes; Main Courses featuring roast goose roast duck and turkey recipes, an impressive chart of all the correct dishes to serve with your selection of a holiday bird makes it easy for the cook to plan the entire meal easily. There are recipes for baked spiced ham, crown roast of lamb—even a curried rabbit (not my favorite meat but certainly had to be a familiar sight on the farmland table, especially during hard times. Under a chapter titled Smorgasbord, taken from the December, 1937 issue of the Farmer’s Wife, is a recipe for meat balls for your smorgasbord, followed by many still great side dishes, from a French Dressing for salad (October, 1911 issue of the Farmer’s Wife)—over a hundred years ago—as well as a Sweet Cream dressing for salad published in 1934, and red dressing for head (Iceberg) lettuce from November, 1924—but all of the salad recipes would be doable today, most for a fraction of the cost, considering that most of the recipes in Christmas on the Farm cover decades of the Great Depression plus two world wars. –the exception might be a recipe for Lobster salad—but it might interest you to know that lobster and other shell fish were affordable throughout World War II. And these were items that were not rationed during the war. And, most of the vegetable and salad recipes were made up of items grown on the farm—Glazed Carrots from the January 1931 issue of the Farmer’s Wife, Creamed Spinach from the May, 1911 issue. These are just a sampling of the recipes found in Christmas on the Farm.

The Desserts found in Christmas on the Farm are mostly simple, inexpensive such as January, 1910’s Lemon Floating Island or November, 1926’s Chocolate Blanc Mange I, a Prune Souffle fro October, 1923 or a Prune and Raisin Pudding from November, 1926, Apricot Whip from February, 1919 or a January 1911 Cranberry Pudding. Still under Desserts is an interesting story  from 1937 titled “She Sells Fruitcake”, a story that began fifteen years earlier with a  young housewife who built a career empire making and selling fruitcakes. There are recipes for fruitcakes and its cousin the Steamed Pudding plus an Eggless Fruit Cake that was made up mostly of spices, raisins and coconut—certainly a welcomed recipe in January of 1913. You’ll also enjoy reading “A Farm Woman’s Christmas Cakes” which appeared in the December, 1925 issue of the Farmer’s Wife.  There are also recipes for candy and cookies, too—candy recipes that are still popular today—toffee and fudge, creamed walnuts and maple pralines from December, 1916—plus many more.

For the farmer’s wife with little cash resources, there are oodles of directions for gifts she could make—even directions for building “Dolly a House” that was published in December, 1921. There are also directions for making many other gifts, however.

By the way, you will love the 20s,-30s,40s illustrations throughout the book. It’s really like stepping back in time with CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM.  Who among all of us would have kept the monthly magazines published throughout those decades? (Apparently, someone did!)

Christmas on the Farm is a beautiful holiday book with a most attractive red cover and is sure to please anyone who buys a copy.  I was lucky enough to receive a copy from my penpal, Betsy, in Michigan—but I checked with Amazon.com; they have several paperback copies starting at $11.98 but listing a new PB copy for $15.27.   Alibris.com has copies starting at $11.98.  If you can get one of the hardbound copies, go for it – it will hold up to years of thumbing through to find your favorite recipes or new ones for you to try.  I’m looking forward to trying some of these recipes this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas, 2013!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

As promised, the following is one of my 2010 poems from a collection I called “An American Childhood”.

WHEN IT’S CHRISTMAS ON THE PRAIRIE

By Sandra Lee Smith, 2010

Come winter on the prairie and as far as you can see,

Snow makes a great white blanket across the endless prairie sea,

Pa gets the big sleigh from the barn and greases up the blades,

To make the pulling easier for the horses, on the grades.

 

Mama takes out the oldest blankets, that help to keep us warm,

Pa checks the sleigh most carefully, to keep us all from harm.

Then snug in mittens, scarves and coats that mama made from wool,

Pa takes us every morning to our little country school.

He stays a while to help our teacher fill the old wood bin,

She thanks him with a curtsy, brings out the gentleman in him.

We students hang our coats and things in the cloak room at the back,

And teacher claps her hands and says, “Since Christmas’s coming that—

 

Today we’re going to decorate a tree that kind Mr. Mc Clune

Went up north to get for us and will bring it to us soon,

For now we’ll all make popcorn garlands and chains of colored paper,”

And from a box she lifts up a silver star—nothing had escaped her.

 

No reading, writin’, rithmetic, no studying today!

We’re going to decorate a tree and enjoy a day of play;

On Christmas Eve our families will come to see the tree,

And Santa will come and give us each a bag of candy, free!

 

“Tain’t no Santa,” One of the big boys in the back row shouted out,

The little girls in front began to shriek and cry and pout;

My younger sis is with the little girls that were in tears.

I knew I had to do something to take away their fears.

 

You take that back!” I said with fists clenched, ready for a fight,

When teacher intervened and said “Now, boys, this isn’t right. 

On Christmas we all celebrate the birth of Christ the King,

George, you say you’re sorry and we’ll all forget this thing.”

 

Then teacher told a story, while we cut and pasted rings,

As we made a garland for our tree, she told of many things,

Of the birth of one small baby, in a manger far away,

And how folks far away and near remember Him on this day.

 

She told about Saint Nicholas who filled the wooden shoes,

Of all the good Dutch boys and girls to remember this Good News,

She said how now, we all remember Jesus in this way,

And all of us remember Him on every Christmas Day.

 

The big boy, George, he was abashed, and said he didn’t mean it,

But he had no ma or pa and no Santa Claus would visit;

He lived with one old aunt who had no time for foolishness,

No time for trees or holly, for Santa Claus or Christmas.

 

On Christmas Eve our families came and crowded in the room,

We’d cleaned our desks, the blackboard, and candles chased off gloom,

Then Santa came and brought a sack, and we all lined up to get

A little bag of peppermints, a night we’d not forget.

 

When all the candy had been passed out, Santa stood upright

And asked, “I wonder if a boy named George is here tonight?”

George came forward and I noticed that his face had turned beet red;

As he said “I’m sorry, Santa, I really didn’t mean to be so bad.”

 

“Oh, I know that!” Santa laughed, “Why, I know what’s good and true,

There’s just one gift I have to give, and George this one’s for you!”

And from his burlap bag, he reached and handed George a box;

George opened it and all of us heard him gasp with shock;

 

Inside the box there was a very fine Swiss army knife;

George’s eyes lit up with wonder, “I’ve wanted one all my life,

But,” he said, “I never told this to a single living soul!

Santa patted him on his shoulder and said “Oh, George, I know!”

 

We all shed tears and teacher said “Let us sing a song of praise,

That we all remember this night all our living days.”

And so we sang, then hurried home in the cold night with elation,

Before we left, I heard my ma extend a special invitation.

 

George said he didn’t think his aunt ever would agree,

Ma said “I won’t take no for an answer; dinner is at three.”

And so next day, George and his aunt and our teacher came for dinner,

That all of us told mama was so fine and sure a winner.

 

In the parlor there were presents for sis and George and me,

Scarves and mittens ma had stitched and it was plain to see

That no one had done this much for George in all his sorry life,

“Scarves and mittens!” George exclaimed, “And a fine Swiss Army knife!”

 

We all sipped hot tea with cookies ma had baked, just for this day,

And our guests all carried home tins of cookies wrapped so gay,

Before we went to bed that night, I heard my mother whisper,

“You dear old Claus, I do believe, I’d like to kiss your whiskers!”

 

Years later, when my pa was old frail and could not see,

I ventured then to ask him what had long been bothering me,

How could you know,” I asked him, “About George and that army knife?”

Because,” he said, “I wanted one, most of my own life.”
George married my kid sister and they have a bunch of boys;

Their farm is off in Kansas and sis tells me it’s a joy,

For George just loves his rowdy bunch, for them he’d give his life,

And every one of those young boys owns a fine Swiss Army knife.

–Sandra Lee Smith, 2010

 

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE COOKBOOKS

The first cookbook I want to bring to your attention is THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK, which features the best single recipes from each year in Gourmet magazine, from 1941 to 2009. The book was published by Conde Nast Publications in 2010 and is offered by Amazon.com with a wide range of price variations – if I remember correctly, I might have bought my copy about a year ago and I didn’t pay very much for the book – and probably got free shipping as I go for free shipping whenever possible.

Gourmet magazine’s demise also was a factor—since we won’t be reading the magazine anymore, it seemed logical to me to read whatever books are published under Gourmet’s umbrella.

In acknowledgements, we learn something about the birth of the Gourmet Cookie Cookbook—that it took a few people who were relatively new to Gourmet to realize what an extraordinary resource* (italics mine) the editors had. Several editors came up with the idea of featuring the best cookie recipe from each year of the magazine’s existence.

They tell us “It was not until executive food editor Kemp Minifie began trolling through the archives that we really understood that this was more than a fabulous collection of cookies; it also told a very American story.  It was no accident that every one of us found excuses to spend time in the kitchen while test kitchen director Ruth Cousineau—who threw herself boy and soul, into baking the cookies—was immersed in the project. These cookies were not only delicious; they are also a fascinating window into history that none of us wanted to miss..”

And as wonderful as the cookies were all by themselves, the editors say, “it took the passion and inspiration of creative director Richard Ferretti, associate art director   Kevin DeMaria, and photographer  Romulo Yanes to make them dance. Their vision has made this book a delight to look at…”

They also confess that in the end, the book would not have been possible without Gourmet’s devoted readers, who sent their cookies, their recipes, and their comments, for so many years.  “This book belongs to you,” they conclude, “and we thank you for it.”

For those of us who cannot cook or bake without a visual idea of what the cookie (or cake, dessert, appetizer or prime rib dinner) should look like—the table of contents will make you swoon. There is a delightful photograph of each year’s chosen winner, starting with 1941.

*I often muse longingly on that extraordinary resource buried – wherever the Gourmet magazines and accompanying research material are now stored, while wondering what editor Ruth Reichl is doing now. I was a subscriber for many years – then let my subscription lapse – because I didn’t feel that the magazine spoke to me any more. When Ruth Reichl joined Gourmet’s editorial staff – I re-subscribed – in part because I cherish and love her books, in part –because whenever she writes something, I feel like she is speaking to me. That is, I think, a gift—and one I try to impart on the readers and subscribers to my blog, Sandychatter. When someone writes to me and tells me I am speaking to them – I feel that I have learned something precious from Ruth Reichl – as well as the other cookbook authors  whose work I admire – Marion Cunningham, M.F.K. Fisher, and Jean Anderson, to name a few.

In the Introduction to The Gourmet Cookie Book, the editors tell us “Buy a cookie, and it’s just a bite of sugar, something sweet to get you through the day. Bake a cookie, on the other hand, and you send an instant message from the moment you measure out the flour. Long before they’re done, the cookies become a promise, their endlessly soothing scent offering both reassurance and solace. And even the tiniest bite is powerful, bringing with it the flavor of home. for anyone who is comfortable in a kitchen, a warm cookie is the easiest way to say I love you.

Somewhere in the back of our minds, we all know this. It is the reason we bake cookies at Christmas, why we exchange them as gifts. Not for nothing do we pack up our cookies and send them off to our far flung families. Like little ambassadors of good will, these morsels stand in for us. There are few people who don’t understand, at least subconsciously, how much a cookie can mean…”

But until the Gourmet editors began to work on THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK, it had never occurred to them to look at history through a cookie prism. When they decided to select the best cookie from each of Gourmet’s sixty-eight years and became captivated, not surprisingly, by the language of cookies, so they printed the recipes as they originally appeared. In the early years, they write, the recipes were remarkably casual—as anyone who has collected cookbooks for decades would know.  (Church and club recipes from decades ago were especially casual). Write the editors “[it was a kind of] mysterious shorthand that assumes every reader was an accomplished cook who needed little in the way of guidance…”  “Bake in a moderate oven until crisp” is a classic instruction, they tell us.  They thought it interesting to watch as numbers crept into the recipes in the form of degrees, minutes and cups…”

[if I am not mistaken, it was Fannie Farmer who standardized recipes with measurements back in the day when she had a cooking school].

Following the Introduction, one of the most interesting I have ever read, there are two pages of Recipe Tips, with good suggestions—some that even I didn’t know.

The first chapter is the 1940s,  in which the editors write, “1941 was an unlikely time to laundry an epicurean magazine. War was looming along with the possibility of food rationing, but Gourmet’s founder. Earle MacAusland, convinced that soldiers who had spent time in Europe and Asia would be loath to come back to meat loaf, saw an opportunity.  Little wonder that Gourmet, published from a penthouse at the Plaza Hotel, concentrated on sophisticated fare. Cookies did not figure into the equation and the few recipes that the magazine published leaned towards old-fashioned American classics like wafers and sugar crisps, with a couple of European treats…”

Check out “Cajun Macaroons”, a crisp, chewy little cookie introduced in an early 1941 issue in which we also discover that Louis P. DeGouy became Gourmet’s Chef.  (I wrote about Chef DeGouy in Sandychatter – he was chef at the Waldorf Astoria for 30 years and was one of the founders of GOURMET magazine; see TRACING THE LIFE OF LOUIS P. DE GOUY posted in april, 2011 Sandychatter blog post. I am frequently nonplussed by the number of famous cooks/chefs/cookbook authors who—although prominent in their day—have all but disappeared from our culinary landscape – sls)

The next featured cookie is an icebox treat—the war was on and sugar was rationed. Actually, it was the first item to be rationed.  Wanting to do its patriotic bit, Gourmet magazine printed an article showing readers how to use honey in place of sugar. [Although one reason sugar was rationed was due to it being made in Hawaii—which, as we know, was bombed in Pearl Harbor at the onset of World War II, but it was also an ingredient used in making gun powder!  I discovered this when doing research of an article of mine, called HARD TIMES).

Gourmet provides us with a cookie called Honey Refrigerator Cookies which does contain a small amount of brown sugar but also contains half a cup of Honey.  This is followed by a recipe called Scotch Oat Crunchies; Gourmet Magazine and everybody else were trying various recipes using oatmeal and this recipe, which produces a small round cookie that you pair up with your choice of filling – dates, raisins, figs or whatever.  I think I will have to make a batch of these. They sound wonderful and I’m speculating that they would travel well if you send cookies to relatives or a favorite serviceman or woman. Another good traveler, advises Gourmet, is a cookie called Cinnamon Sugar Crisps, from Gourmet’s entire column called “Cookie Jar”.

The first postwar cookie to appear in Gourmet is one called Date Bars. Write the editors, “The recipe appeared in one of the many articles about Katish, a remarkable Russian cook who had many fans including M.F.K. Fisher who comments “I think I have copied every one of her recipes as they’ve appeared…”—and OMG, now I have discovered yet another great cook who appears in one of the Modern Library Food books published by Ruth Reichl in 2001 and containing an introduction from Marion Cunningham. The book was originally published in 1947, written by Wanda Frolov, under the title, “KATISH, OUR RUSSIAN COOK”—just another author I have never heard of before.

The next recipe that I am charmed with, this from December 1946 is Moravian White Christmas cookies, which I can’t wait to try.

If you only buy one more Christmas cookie cookbook in your life, check out THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK which is available on Amazon.com but be forewarned – when you type in this book title, Amazon will present it with many other cookie cookbooks that you may find irresistible.  It is also available on Alibris.com for as little as $2.43 for a new copy.

Ok, I’m ready to start mixing Christmas cookie dough!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

APPLES, ETC – SOME COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOKS BY Christopher Idone (and others).

Christopher Idone is the author of at least four best selling cookbooks—GLORIOUS FOOD, GLORIOUS AMERICAN FOOD, CHRISTOPHER IDONE’S SALAD DAYS, LEMONS—A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK and in 1993, APPLES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK.

I need to interject a little information about Collins Publishers in San Francisco, for they were the company to come up with the concept of one-word cookbook titles, with glorious photography, and at an affordable price—the books originally were published at a $19.95 price. Thus it was that Christopher Idone wrote LEMONS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK, as well as APPLES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK. He is also the author of the best-selling cookbooks listed in the first paragraph.

My curiosity was piqued as I began searching for all the one-word title Country Garden Cookbooks—I discovered that Christopher Ione is not the author of all twelve titles I have discovered.   He is, however, the author of APPLES with gorgeous photography by Kathryn Kleinman, and LEMONS, also featuring photography by Kathryn Kkeinman. Cookbook addict that I am, I have just ordered four more of the one title country garden cookbooks. So, for the time being, let’s just forcus on APPLES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK published in 1993 – because I love apples.

Last fall I had the opportunity to visit friends who live in Oregon and have a small (about six) apple trees of various varieties. We picked apples for days, filling every container, box, or wheelbarrow that my friends have. On a chilly Saturday morning in October, they – and their children and grandchildren –began running the apples through an apple cider machine and made as much cider as would fill all the containers on hand. (I was in the kitchen making a big pot of Cincinnati chili to feed the crew, and dicing apples in between stirring the chili pot).

In 1996, Mr. Idone’s GLORIOUS AMERICAN FOOD was honored as the cookbook of the year by Duncan Hines International Association of cooking Professionals.  A teacher and lecturer, Mr. Ione has served as food consultant to New York’s Master Chef Series, produced for PBS and is a frequent contributor as writer and photographer to national publications including HOUSE AND GARDEN, FOOD ARTS, CONDE NAST TRAVELER and THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE.

Kathryn Kleinman has provided the lush photographs of both LEMONS and APPLES, and speaking as an amateur photographer, I must say that I am envious of her wonderful combinations of light, color, and many wonderful varieties of apples. Not only does Mr. Idone provide us with tantalizing recipes to try…he also gives us a crash course in apples, with a glossary explaining how to select and store apples and a list (with photos) of the many kinds of apples indigenous to the United States.
The introduction, by Mr. Idone, is prose…he tells us that his “first chore around the house when I was maybe three or four or five was gathering the apples which had fallen to the ground and filling bushel and peck baskets made of wood”. He goes on to share his favorite memories of packing up the apples in his father’s ford wagon to take to the local cider mill, which belonged to a local apple grower who allowed his father to make his own cider.

At this point, I am asking myself why my grandmother use most of the apples from her apple trees  to make apple sauce—and wondering why my grandfather, who – I know – made wine from the concord grapes that grew in a small arbor in their back yard—never made any other kind of alcoholic beverage. . I can only wonder—there is no one left, on earth, to answer my questions]. My grandmother would send a wagon full of apples by way of one of us grandchildren to the nuns at St Leo’s who lived in a house behind the school. And I remember watching my grandmother make apple strudel. My sister could remember grandma, our mother, and two aunts peeling and cutting up apples for apple sauce which was canned in quart jars. What I do remember about the apple sauce is that during the war years of WW2, the applesauce was canned without the addition of sugar, which was rationed. We had very tart applesauce with almost every meal for years—you were allowed to sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar on top of the applesauce. (My sister Becky also remembered Grandma having a still in the kitchen, with a big doily over it. I don’t remember a still).

Also included in the introduction to APPLEs is a condensed lesson on apples in history, the Publishers tell us “In APPLES. Master Chef Christopher Idone has created a  repertoire of classic apple recipes. You’ll find enticing openers such as Apple and Butternut Squash Soup, Grilled Prawns with Winter Fruit Chutney, and a Breakfast Apple Omelet.  Robust main dishes featuring apples include Sautéed Quail with Cream and Calvados, Risotto with Apples and Chicken Curry…”

As for me, I couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen to try the Cranberry-Apple Conserve and the Apple Fritters, which reminded me of those my grandmother used to make for us. Next on my list of delicious sounding recipes to try was Apple Marmalade and Winter Fruit Chutney. For something unique and colorful to serve as a salad during the holidays, may I suggest Beet, Radicchio And Apple Salad with Roquefort.

I began searching through my own cookbook files and checking titles on Amazon.com when I realized how much Collins Publishers has been able to expand on this one-title theme.  In addition to Idone’s collection of APPLES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK (published in 1993) and LEMONS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK (also published in 1993)- you may want to look for the following, all published by Collins Publisher of San Francisco:

POTATOES – A COUNRY GARDEN COOKBOOK, by Maggie Waldron, published in 1993

GREENS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY SIBELLA KRAUS, published in 1993

PEARS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY Janet Hazen, published in 1994

TOMATOES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY JESSE ZIFF COOL, published in 1994

SQUASH – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY REGINA SCHRAMBLING, published in 1994

BERRIES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOK BY SHARON KRAMIS, published in 1994

SUMMER FRUIT – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK by EDON WAYCOTT, published in 1995

ONIONS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY JESSE ZIFF COOL, published in 1995

CORN – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY DAVIS TANIS, published in 1995

HERB – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY ROSALIND CREASY published in 1995

I already had five of the titles – and I have four more on order through Amazon.  I’m sure I will want to complete the set of a dozen cookbooks.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

My blog, 10/23/13

Chef Louis Szathmary – a Tribute to the Master

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CHEF LOUIS SZATHMARY – A TRIBUTE TO THE MASTER

The following was sent to me recently via an email:

CHICAGO TRIBUNE
NEWS
1996

Louis Szathmary, a larger-than-life chef, teacher, writer and philanthropist who operated The Bakery restaurant here from 1963 to 1989, died Friday at Illinois Masonic Hospital after a brief illness. He was 77.

After selling his restaurant, he became chef laureate at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., considered the world’s largest food-service educator. His 400,000-item culinary arts collection of memorabilia and books, valued in excess of $2 million, is housed at the university.

In recent years, Chef Szathmary divided his time between Providence and Chicago, where his food-service consulting firm was located. At the time of his death, he was working on two books and was active on the editorial advisory board of Biblio magazine.

Other donations he made from a personal library that totaled 45,000 books included a Franz Liszt collection to Boston University, cookbooks to the University of Iowa and a Hungarian collection to the University of Chicago.

A native of Hungary with a doctorate in psychology from the University of Budapest, Louis Szathmary immigrated to the United States in 1951. After cooking in restaurants and corporate dining rooms, he went into food-service research. He came to Chicago in 1959 as manager of new product development for Armour and Co. and opened his restaurant four years later.

The Bakery, at 2218 N. Lincoln Ave., brought continental flair to the local restaurant scene. Its signature dish, an individual beef Wellington, became one of the city’s claims to gastronomic fame. The restaurant’s success also made its owner a celebrity–a forerunner of the outspoken New American chefs who came to prominence in the 1970s and ’80s.

Of considerable girth with silver hair and a sweeping white mustache, Chef Szathmary was the center of attention in his restaurant dining room. He was described as indefatigable, witty, unique, blustery, egotistical and sensual by various writers.

As a book author, newspaper columnist, radio broadcaster and lecturer, the chef spoke out on subjects as diverse as convenience foods and restaurant critics. (Unlike most classically trained chefs, he was for convenience foods and helped develop frozen and dehydrated food products for companies such as Stouffer and Armour and for NASA. As for critics, “They can’t tell shiitake from Shinola,” he liked to say.)

Chef Szathmary also was active in a campaign in the mid-1970s to persuade the U.S. Department of Labor to elevate chefs from the category of “domestic” laborers.

His books were “The Chef’s Secret Cook Book,” “Sears Gourmet Cooking Forum,” “American Gastronomy,” “The Chef’s New Secret Cook Book,” and “The Bakery Restaurant Cookbook.” He also was editor of the 15-volume “Cookery America” and “Antique American Cookbooks.”

He was honored as a “living legend” by Food Arts Magazine, the Illinois Restaurant Association and the James Beard Foundation. He was scheduled to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Penn State University Hotel Society in April 1997. One of his favorite tributes came in 1990 when the alley behind The Bakery was renamed Szathmary Lane by the Chicago City Council.

Survivors include his wife, Sada; a daughter, Magda; and a brother.

A private funeral will be held in Chicago on Oct. 12. A public memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 24 in Bond Chapel of the University of Chicago, 1025 E. 58th St. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to the Museum Acquisition Fund of the Culinary Archives & Museum at Johnson & Wales University.
***
I first became curious about Chef Louis Szathmary when I was writing articles for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in the 1990s. At the time, there was not much I knew about him other than what appeared on dust jackets of his books. I started out initially with the idea of writing capsule biographies about some of the most prominent chefs.

Finding chefs to write about was no problem—there are so many, especially nowadays, when hundreds, if not thousands, of four-star restaurants throughout the USA all boasting of their own super-chefs, who in turn frequently write cookbooks. I must have several dozen chef-authored cookbooks on my bookshelves. Other famous chefs appear on television and cable cooking shows; many of them have become familiar household names and faces. Who isn’t familiar with Rachel Ray and Paula Dean, Bobbie Flay and dozens of other TV chefs?

Many of the old-time chefs and cooking teachers of the 1800s – women such as Fannie Farmer, Miss Leslie, Mrs. Lincoln and others have been written about in depth by other writers.

I wanted tell you about some other super-chefs, starting with one you may not know much about.

My favorite Chef is Louis Szathmary! (Pronounced ZATH-ma-ree). Szathmary had an incredibly fascinating life.

Louis Szathmary, described by one writer as “a heavyset man with a generous face and large bushy mustache “(a description that matches the face on the cover of “The Chef’s Secret Cook Book”) was, surprisingly, a Hungarian who had a doctorate in psychology from the University of Budapest and a master’s degree in journalism. Szathmary was born in Hungary on June 2, 1919, reportedly on a freight train while his family fled invading Soviet troops. He learned to cook in the Hungarian army. After service in the Hungarian army during World War II, Szathmary spent time in a succession of German and Soviet prison camps and thereafter was a displaced person confined to the American occupation zone in Austria. He lived in Austria and other Western European countries before coming to the USA in 1951.

A few clues to Szathmary’s background appear in the preface to “AMERICA EATS”, by Nelson Algren. “AMERICA EATS” was published in 1992 as part of the Iowa Szathmary Arts Series. Szathmary, who knew Algren personally—and purchased the manuscript from him–wrote the introduction to “AMERICA EATS”. (Nelson Algren was a fiction writer and the author of “THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM” which won the first National Book Award. In addition to writing fiction and poetry, Algren also wrote two travel books. “AMERICA EATS” was his only cookbook).

What cookbook collector hasn’t heard of the Iowa Szathmary Culinary Arts Series? But, in case you haven’t, briefly, Louis Szathmary, in addition to being a chef and the owner of the famed Bakery Restaurant in Chicago for many years, was a cookbook collector. Actually, Szathmary didn’t just collect cookbooks—he amassed an enormous collection of rare cookbooks, scarce pamphlets and unique manuscripts spanning five centuries of culinary art. He had a collection of twelve thousand books devoted to what he called “Hungarology” – books about his native country – which were eventually donated to the University of Chicago Joseph Regenstein Library. Ten thousand books of Hungarian literature were donated to Indiana University while a small collection of composer Franz Liszt’s letters was given to Boston University.

Johnson & Wales University, the world’s largest school devoted to the food and service industry, was the recipient of over 200,000 assorted items, described as a treasure trove of historical artifacts, which filled sixteen trailer trucks used to make the transfer to the school. There were antique kitchen implements, cheese graters, meat grinders, nut crackers, raisin seeders, chocolate molds, books and even menus.

Included in the gift to Johnson & Wales was “a collection within the collection”, a presidential autograph archive that included documents dealing in one way or another with food, drink, or entertainment, written or signed by every American chief executive. In George Washington’s handwriting is a list of table china he inherited from a relative. A handwritten letter from Mary Todd Lincoln invites a friend from Baltimore to the White House for an evening of relaxation. In a penciled note to his wife, Julia, Ulysses S. Grant asks that two bottles of champagne be sent to the oval office for a reception with congressional leaders. (Szathmary referred to this collection “from George to George”, meaning from George Washington to George Bush). His gift to Johnson & Wales has been attracting thousands of visitors since opening to the public—I believe it! I would love to go to Rhode Island just to see the collection!

The autograph collection includes items written by other historic figures, from Napoleon Bonaparte to Charles Dickens, as well as a note from the fourth earl of Sandwich, inventor of the most frequently ordered food item in the world.

If all of this were not mind-boggling enough, in addition, Szathmary donated over 20,000 cookbooks to the University of Iowa Libraries, creating the Szathmary Collection of Culinary Arts. Almost overnight, according to David Schoonover, the library’s rare book curator, the institution became a “major research center in the culinary arts”.
The University of Iowa Press, in conjunction with the University of Iowa Libraries, publishes reprints, new editions, and translations of important cookbooks from the collection of Chef Szathmary. It must have given Chef Szathmary great satisfaction to witness the birth of the Szathmary Culinary Arts Series. Each title presents an unusually interesting rarity from the collection he donated to the institution. One of these published books was “AMERICA EATS”, which I have in my own collection.

“In my native Hungary,” Szathmary wrote for “AMERICA EATS”, “I was raised in a bookish family. From my great-grandfather on my father’s side, my forebears were all book collectors, and when I had to leave just hours before the Soviet army arrived in the Transylvania city where I resided and worked in the fall of 1944, I had already inherited and amassed a sizable number of books, mainly on Hungarian literature and other Hungarian subjects…”

However, Szathmary arrived, in his own words, “virtually penniless” in New York in 1951, with only fourteen books in his small wooden trunk. He appeared to have been fond of telling the story of arriving on our shores with $1.10 in his pocket, one change of underwear, two pairs of socks, one Sunday suit – and fourteen books. (It is worth noting that the 14 books Szathmary treasured most were not donated to any of the universities. The books he carried with him to America included a Bible he received as a child, three books on Mozart and several volumes of Hungarian poetry).

Upon his arrival in America, Szathmary began to collect books. Writes Szathmary, “My first purchase was a book by Ludwig Bemelmans at the Marlboro outlet store at 42nd Street and Broadway, where in 1952 all the remainder books were sold for nineteen cents each.” Szathmary confessed that he worked two jobs in the beginning, one during the day and another at night—and spent all the money he made on books. Of his early days in America, Szathmary said that he would spend hours in the Salvation Army basement searching for books, which he purchased for as little as five cents each. He said, “I rummaged through books in bins, on tables outside the door, and amid the garbage the accumulates in the back of used bookshops. I found treasures—valuable items—because I had the time.” Later, as time and money improved, he often worked at one job during the day and another in the evening. On the seventh day, he recalled, “I spent all the money I made on books.” (A man after my own heart!)

He continued to collect books while at the same time, as his interest in culinary arts and food management grew, he began to collect books in these fields as well.

Szathmary and his wife Sadako Tanino, owned and operated The Bakery Restaurant in Chicago for 26 years. It grossed more than $1 million a year for much of the time he was in business—and this was a restaurant that served only five dinners a week, no lunch, no bar and no “early birds”.

Szathmary authored several cookbooks of his own, including “THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK”, “THE CHEF’S NEW SECRET COOK BOOK”, “THE BAKERY RESTAURANT COOK BOOK” and “AMERICAN GASTRONOMY”. He was advisory editor for a series of 27 cookbooks, in 15 volumes, titled “COOKERY AMERICANA”, for which he also provided introductions. (I only have three of the volumes from the series at this time, “MIDWESTERN HOME COOKERY” and “MRS. PORTER’S NEW SOUTHERN COOKERY BOOK”, and “COOL, CHILL, AND FREEZE”. These are facsimile editions of earlier cookbooks. Szathmary seems to have been utterly dedicated to American cookery and cookbooks.

Szathmary was a prolific writer, and in addition to cookbooks, also wrote poetry. Additionally, he wrote a food column for the Chicago Daily News, and then in the Sun-Times every week for twelve years! Maybe he felt he didn’t have enough to do, for after closing the restaurant, he continued to operate Szathmary Associates, a food system design and management consulting business, and he devoted a great deal of time to what he described as “the matter of the books”. He also continued to lecture and worked continuously on new projects.

What is particularly intriguing about Szathmary as a chef is, I think, his wide range of expertise. So many of the super chefs today focus on one type of cooking. Szathmary, who could have devoted himself to solely to Hungarian cuisine, seems to have adopted the American potpourri of cookery, which embraces many nationalities. He was famous for his Continental cuisine, in particular his Beef Wellington.

What you also may not know about Szathmary is that he developed the first frozen dinners for Stouffer Food Corp. He worked as product development manager for Armour Food, coming up with new foods and ways to prepare them. Szathmary also designed a kitchen for military field hospitals that could be dropped by parachute and assembled quickly in combat zones.

At The Bakery, Szathmary’s restaurant in Chicago, he dominated the dining room with his commanding presence. He’d walk around in rolled up sleeves, wearing an apron, often telling diners in his booming voice, what to order – or to ask them why something was left on a plate. His customers at The Bakery appear to have provided the inspiration for “THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK”. In the introduction, Szathmary said he gave recipes to ladies who visited his restaurant. Apparently, they often accused him of leaving something out!

Szathmary wrote, “When I tell the ladies that I am able to give them everything except my long years of experience, they still look suspicious. So once again I launch into my best explanation, an old record played over and over again, which goes something like this: If you go to a concert and listen to Arthur Rubinstein playing the MEPHISTO WALTZ of Franz Liszt, and if you go and see him backstage after the performance and ask him for the piano notes, and if through some miracle he gives them to you, and you take them home and sit down at your piano (untouched for years), open up the notes and play the Mephisto Waltz and your husband says ‘Darling, it doesn’t sound like Arthur Rubenstein—“ what do you tell him?

Probably this: Oh, what a selfish artist! He left out something from the notes, I’m sure. Because when I play it, it doesn’t sound like when he plays it.

Well, dear ladies,” concluded the great chef, “Do you really think Rubenstein left out some of the notes? Or do you think his talent had something to do with it—and his daily practice for years and years and years?

You see, my dear ladies, cooking is just like playing the piano—it needs talent, training and practice.”

Szathmary concluded, “The best-kept secret of the good chef is his long training and daily performance. It’s not enough to make a dish once and when it’s not up to standard, to declare, ‘the recipe is no good.’” A specialty of “The Chef’s New Secret Cookbook”—if you manage to obtain a copy—is that each recipe is followed by a “chef’s secret” – Szathmary, throughout his life, was enormously generous – sharing his recipes, his collections, everything in his life. It saddens me that I never met him—but curiously, I sometimes feel, as I am typing, that he is looking over my shoulder and nodding his approval.
**
Szathmary spearheaded culinary education in Chicago by fostering work study programs with restaurants at vocational and high schools. Students and dining enthusiasts were invited to use the library on the second floor of The Bakery. He shared a passion for travel by assisting first time travelers with their plans to visit Europe and Asia.

Szathmary chose, on his own, to donate the bulk of his collections to various universities and institutions. Aside from Szathmary’s incredible generosity, what a wise move to make! Can you think of any better way to make sure the things you love most will be treasured by future generations, people who are certain to love your books as much as you do?

Szathmary explained that he had always bought books for various reasons. ‘When you bet on the horse race,” he said, “You bet for win, for place, for show. When you buy books, you buy some to read, some to own, and some for reference. You want to possess the books, you want to own them, you want to hold them. Perhaps you even hope that you will read them….’ (As a book collector myself, I completely understand this philosophy—it’s never been enough just to read my books – I have to own them too). 

And after having donated hundreds of thousands of books and documents to these different universities, Szathmary confessed “I am still buying books. It’s like getting pregnant after the menopause; it’s not supposed to happen.”

My all-time favorite Szathmary story is written in an article about obsessed amateurs. Writer Basbanes met Szathmary as the transfer of some 200,000 articles to the warehouses at Johnson & Wales was taking place. Szathmary was overseeing the transfer of his collection. Where, Basbanes asked the great chef, had he stored all this material?

With a twinkle in his hazel-brown eyes, Szathmary said, “My restaurant was very small, just one hundred and seventeen chairs downstairs for the customers to sit. But I owned the whole building, you see, and upstairs there were thirty-one rooms in seventeen apartments. That’s where I kept all the books”.

For many of us, we recognize in Louis Szathmary a kindred spirit. How to explain to non-collecting people the love of searching, finding, owning treasured books? One can only hope there are lots of books in Heaven. Meanwhile, here on earth, Louis Szathmary has left us with a wondrous legacy.

“SEARS GOURMET COOKING” was published in 1969.

“THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK” was published in 1972 by Quadrangle Books and is packed with mouth-watering recipes and lots of “Chef’s secrets” – tips provided by the master himself. “The Chef’s Secret Cook Book” was on the New York Times bestseller list for several years.

“AMERICAN GASTRONOMY” was published in 1974.

“THE CHEF’S NEW SECRET COOKBOOK” was published in 1976 and

“THE BAKERY RESTAURANT COOKBOOK” was published in 1981.

Szathmary also edited a fifteen volume collection of historic American cookbooks. One of the volumes in this series is “Cool, Chill and Freeze/A new Approach to Cookery” which I purchased from Alibris.com. This is a reproduction, with introduction and suggested recipes from Louis Szathmary, of recipes from “FLORIDA SALADS” by Frances Barber Harris, originally published in 1926, and Alice Bradley’s ‘ELECTRIC REFRIGERATOR MENUS AND RECIPES”, first published in 1928 (oddly enough, I have both of the originals).

Included in the Iowa Szathmary Culinary Arts Series are “THE CINCINNATI COOKBOOK”, “RECEIPTS OF PASTRY AND COOKERY FOR THE USE OF HIS SCHOLARS”, “THE KHWAN NIAMUT OR NAWAB’S DOMESTIC COOKERY” (originally published in 1839 in Calcutta for European colonials living in India), “P.E.O. COOK BOOK” and the previously mentioned “AMERICA EATS” by Nelson Algren.

Since embarking on the life of Louis Szathmary, I have purchased three of his cookbooks from Alibris.Com on the Internet – they have a great listing! The most recent to arrive is a copy of “The Bakery Restaurant Cookbook” which I was delighted to discover is autographed by the great chef—who was something of an artist, too! (Why am I not surprised?).

His ‘autograph’ is the face of a chef, wearing a white chef’s hat.

Louis Szathmary was a member of the United States Academy of Chefs, the Chef de Cuisine Association of Chicago, and the Executive Chefs’ Association of Illinois. In 1974, he was awarded the coveted titled of Outstanding Culinarian by the Culinary Institute of America, and in 1977, he was elected Man of the Year by the Penn State Hotel and Restaurant Society. He was considered by many to be the “homemakers best friend”, a master chef who willingly shared his secrets of culinary expertise with the world. His cookbooks read in a friendly, chatty way, making me wish with all my heart I could have known….this super chef! You would be wise to make an effort to add his books—if you don’t already own them—to your cookbook collection. Louis Szathmary was, above all, an excellent chef.

Nicholas Basbanes, in his article about Chef Louis for Biblio, described his first meeting with “this delightful, compassionate, brilliant man with the big white mustache”, relating “when I asked how it feels to give away books that were such an indelible part of his generous soul, Chef Szathmary responded, “The books I give away now, they stay in my heart, just like all the others. I don’t have to see them to love them.”
***
After writing about Louis Szathmary for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, I wrote about him again, on my blog, Sandychatter, which began in March, 2009. I wrote my updated article about Szathmary in 2011. To date, the post has received 131 messages—and THAT is what has inspired me to write about my favorite chef again.

In January, 2011 someone named Nancy wrote: “Sandy – I had the pleasure of working as one of Chef Louis’ personal assistants from 1985-1986. He certainly was a fascinating character and very aware of his own importance in cooking history. In addition to his extensive cookbook collection which included favorite church and community cookbooks (a personal favorite) Chef Louis also had an extensive post card collection. Seeing your blog about him brought back wonderful memories”.

In February, 2011, someone named Sue wrote: “Thank you so much for writing about Mr. Szathmary! I only ate at The Bakery twice, as I lived several hours away, but both times he came into the restaurant and greeted each table – such a new thing for a Midwesterner in the 70s & 80s. I have eaten in many famous restaurants since then but this first experience with great food and an interesting chef, in a unique setting, will always remain the most memorable and the best! I have all of his cookbooks and have slowly tried to collect the Americana series though some have been impossible to find.”

In March, 2011 a man named Dennis wrote: “Hi, Sandy-My wife and I had a ‘colorful’ experience working with/for Chef Louis, similar, it seems, to Grant Aschatz’s time with Charlie Trotter. Our first night in the city, the Chef bid us dine at the Bakery at his expense…but tip well! — it was great. Coincidentally, we sat at a table next to Mike and Sue Petrich; he was a wine representative for Mirassou wines. After dinner, the Petrichs and we went upstairs to our modest 3rd floor apartment rented to us by the Chef and his delightful wife, Sada. We survived four months and had a colorful story resulting from each day with the Chef. Barbara Kuch was there and incredibly helpful. The staff was wonderful. Our “larger than life” Chef brought old-world training values to his new world – such a challenge…for all. He was unbelievably generous and painfully demanding — beyond professional. Sadly, I had to witness the Chef physically threatening a very young apprentice for “f—ing up the chocolate moose.” Conversely, when my wife’s father was dying of cancer, the Chef said, “Shhh – don’t tell Sada – here is $250 for your flight home to see your dad.” I know Beethoven has an emotional breadth unequalled by all others musically; similar was Chef Szathmary in the realms of cuisine and people. Sandy – thanks for sharing; thanks for listening…there’s so much more. Thanks for the opportunity. Sincerely – d’crabb”

As you can imagine, pieces of a puzzle – the puzzle about the enigmatic Louis Szathmary – began to fall into place, through the Internet, through readers finding my article about him and wanting to share their experiences with the one and only Chef Louis.

In April, 2011, I received the following message from Helen “Hi Sandy, I must add my story. When I was about 35 years old I was married to a Hungarian. My name then was Muranyi. I was working in Chicago selling radio advertising. Unwittingly I made an in person sales call on Louis. He roared at the thought that he might need advertising. He explained that reservations were filled weeks in advance. However, he was such a sweetheart he invited me to his library to see his 14th century Hungarian cookbook and his test kitchen. Needless to say at his invitation my husband and I did dine there as often as possible and it was the “special” restaurant for occasions for the children. The two younger never got to go as they were too young and grudgingly bring it up still as adults that were cheated. Always when we did dine there we received a special appetizer (usually a baked white fish in white sauce) that we noticed other diners were not served. Could it have been that the reservation was made in the name Muranyi? Usually we had a tableside visit from Louis and sometimes his cute little Japanese wife. Actually I am searching for some information on her artwork that she had on the walls made from the wine corks. If you could be helpful in any way I would be grateful for any information or help. Those were special memories for my family. **

In July, 2011, someone named Juan wrote the following message: “Sandy, did you know that Chef Louis was responsible for the lobbying initiative that changed the US government’s classification of food service workers from ‘domestics’ to ‘professionals’. Chef Louis did, indeed, have a temper . . . . I worked there throughout my adolescence -Saturdays, school breaks, summer vacations- and I managed to get myself on the receiving end of it from time to time. Miss Lenegan (as Barbara Kuck often affectionately addressed Nancy) can attest to that! It took me a while, but I eventually realized that much of Chef Louis’ temper came from the fact that he cared deeply for and had high expectations of every single member of his “family” at The Bakery.

There were three different collage themes at The Bakery. Matchbooks, corks and obsolete currency. All of them were made by Louis and his wife Sadako (affectionately known as Sada or Auntie Sada) nee Tanino. The matchbook collages decorated the front room; the cork collages decorated “The Cork Room” (the main dining room); and the currency collages decorated “The Money Room” (the front room of the southernmost of the three storefronts used for private parties, banquets and the many cultural/social events that Louis hosted for the Hungarian community. could go on and on…….”

And in December, 2011, someone named Gabriele wrote the following: “How strange to come upon this blog today — I just happened to be wondering whether Sada was still alive and ran a Google search on her, and in the process came across your blog (which is quite lovely, by the way!).
I, too, worked with Chef Louis, but not in the kitchen. I was a part-time secretary who took dictation and typed up correspondence, articles, and whatever Chef needed. This was in 1993 and continued off and on for several years. My very young daughter came with me and stayed in her playpen except for lunchtime. She thought Chef Louis was Santa Claus!
He was working on a cookbook introduction and would ask me how to word things because he wanted to keep his Hungarian style while using proper English. It could be quite a challenge at times, and was always interesting. His wife, lovely Sada, was the epitome of grace, kindness and hospitality.

Chef Louis and I had some very interesting conversations about the Austro-Hungarian Empire as I had spent a college year in Baden bei Wien, Austria. He and lovely Sada will stay in my memories until I die. Thank you for such a wonderful post..”

Near the end of 2011, someone named Joan wrote the following message: “This is great!! I lived in Chicago until recently and LOVED Chef Szathmary and the restaurant. He was always generous and helpful and gave me perfect information re: products etc. Which brings me to why I was surfing his name. He had recommended a meat thermometer which I bought and which a guest recently broke, and I’ve been unable to find on line. It’s a La Pine (made in Switzerland). I see in his early correspondence that he’d provided a “form” to order it but I didn’t keep a copy. Do you by any chance have info regarding where I could look to order another??? Thank you so much!!!

Tributes to Chef Louis Szathmary continued to come throughout 2012:

In January, someone named Sue wrote: “…thanks for the write up on the Chef! I have his cookbook he signed for me with his legendary signature (he’d use 2 or 3 colored markers) where he made the L in Louis into a caricature of himself…the mustache, the chef hat were all drawn into the capital script L. I helped him with food prep for a tv show he was taping in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 70′s…I was only 12 or 13… he used my mom’s kitchen/stove to cook the turkey in the brown paper bag that he was going to pull from the oven on the show. Even though I was so young, he left a HUGE impression! I have used that cookbook so much that the pages are falling apart and I know it’s a treasure. Thanks for writing about him. I think part of the reason I love to try recipes, cook, etc… because of him. He was a very interesting man and larger than life… I am very privileged to have had the opportunity to have met him..”.

In March 2012, Kathy wrote “A wonderful treat to read all the comments….and stroll down the Hungarian lane….what a loss that there are not as many Hungarian restaurants to enjoy all the blessings of food, people, and their talents…one in Michigan called ‘Rhapsody’ was wonderful!! Thanks to all for sharing your stories….I will be looking for the Chef Szathmary cookbooks!!”

I have deliberately omitted all my response to messages but I thought this one was pertinent. I wrote the following back to Kathy: “thanks for writing! Thought I’d add a line – a few years ago I was visiting friends who live around central Oregon and they took me to a wonderful Hungarian restaurant for lunch. It was, for me, like stepping back in time. After lunch I spoke with the owner and told him my Hungarian connection, friends we’d had back in the 1960s – and he actually knew some of those Hungarian men – they had been Freedom fighters in the 1956 Hungarian revolution. Many escaped to the USA to avoid prosecution. I love Hungarian food, and also love the individual stories…”

In April, 2012, someone named Mike wrote: “ Hi Sandy, Thanks for posting the article about Chef Louis. He was my great-uncle. I only met him in person once but what a day! His library was massive and that was after he had given away many books. The food he cooked for us was exceedingly rich but very tasty. It’s easy to see why he shut down The Bakery, that style of food is long out of favor. I’m thinking it was easily a 2,000 calorie meal. But it was sublime food. Sada is an amazing woman and a lot of fun to be around..”

The next message I am copying (after leaving out many short messages from blog readers), is important because it comes from an employee of the University of Iowa. In November, 2012, I received the following from Colleen Theisen: Thank you for your wonderful article. If you want to see some of Chef Szathmáry’s collection we have digitized the handwritten cookbooks and put them online to be transcribed. You can find them here on our crowd sourcing page:

diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu.
Colleen Theisen
Outreach & Instruction Librarian
Special Collections & University Archives
University of Iowa

Then, in December, 2012 came a message from someone else who worked for the Chef. I received the following from someone named Andrew: “I met Chef Louis in the summer of 1953 when I was a school boy trying to be a kitchen help at the Jesuit Manresa Inst. in So. Norwalk, Connecticut where he was the Head Chef cooking three meals seven days a week for 250 or so Jesuits. To my good fortune I was able to keep up the relationship right up to the time he died in 1996. My two sons spent one summer each at his The Bakery Restaurant also as kitchen help. I was fortunate to have eaten at the Chef’s restaurant twice the last being when he had his 70th birthday bash at The Bakery. Chef Louis was kind to invite my wife and I to several events at the Johnson and Wales Culinary Museum and a private dinner at Dartmouth. If there ever was a “Most Unforgettable Character” he was it, while being a genuine Renaissance Man. May he rest in peace..”
Still in December, 2012, came this email from a man named Charles, a boyhood classmate of Chef Louis: “Upon reading your history of Louis Szathmary and The Bakery Restaurant, I felt it appropriate to send this letter detailing several reminiscences of my time with Louis. He was a good friend since our school days in Hungary, and I am hoping you enjoy these stories as you share them with others.

It is proper that I introduce myself. My name is Károly (Kahroy, Anglicized later to Charles) Bartha (the h is silent), third grade student (14 years old) at the Reformed high-school in Sp, in the Northeastern part of Hungary.
It is September of 1937. The pupils were excited to hear the news that two students were transferring: brothers, one in the first grade, the other in the fifth. (There were eight grades then). Géza (Gayzaw), the younger was in my brother’s class and lived with us in the same dormitory. The older, Lajos, immediately acquired the nickname, Poci (Potzi, one with a pouch) because of his large size around the waist.

For the Pentecost holiday next year, we received a four-day vacation. Because the brothers lived too far and the train fares were too costly, they decided to remain in Sarospatak. I asked them if they would like to spend the vacation with us. They accepted gladly. We arrived in Viss (Vish), my birthplace of about 1100 residents, unannounced. My father was the school-master for the Protestant (mostly Reformed), Jewish, and Gypsy (now Romany) pupils there.

My motherly grandparents lived with us and three more brothers in the same household. Although my parents were surprised, they welcomed the boys warmly.

There was not much to do in a hamlet with unpaved roads and without electricity. Our guests fit in fine immediately. Luckily, Lajos took along his set of pastel chalks and proceeded to make an excellent portrait of my grandpa. (Louis had a copy of it in Chicago.) Next day, he painted a picture of the mountain of Tokaj (Tokawy) and another of a manually operated ferry-boat on the bend of the nearby river, Bodrog.

Géza visited our vineyard and helped with the tedious job of red currant picking.

They went to church with us, where my father was the organist. I think they had a good time with us.

During his second year in Sarospatak, Lajos became the president of the school’s Literary and Debating Society. His talent for writing surfaced shortly and was greatly appreciated by the students and the teaching staff. After Lajos’ graduation in 1940, our paths parted. Would they ever cross again? The war was looming on the horizon.

Lajos served in the Hungarian Army, so did I. He cooked somewhere, I attended the Hungarian Royal Military Academy. He was taken POW by the Americans, I surrendered to them. I emigrated to Detroit in 1949, he followed two years later, eventually to Chicago. Around the end of 1960, I learned through emigrant papers that a fellow Hungarian named Louis Szathmary opened a restaurant in Chicago.

We dropped in unannounced for a Saturday lunch in The Bakery with our kids. We were seated, and shortly after, greeted by the Chef himself. After mutual introduction, Louis remembered me when I uttered the word, Viss. I remembered him immediately, hugging each-other.

Finishing our lunch, Louis didn’t let me pay for it.

Although he asked us to come back repeatedly, we did not for a while, fearing that he’ll repeat the hustle over the pay.
A few years later Louis invited us to a Hungarian gathering, for some cultural event. We accepted, and went back several times afterwards. Approaching my retirement, Louis asked me if I would help him in his library. Having nothing else to do, I gladly accepted his invitation.

A few years later, I began to work for him.

Arriving at The Bakery around noon, Louis introduced me to his “crew”. I knew Sada from earlier meetings, a pleasant, gracious lady indeed. Next came Barbara, the chief-steward carrying a huge string of keys, who later behaved as if she owned the place; then Laci (Lawtzi), Louis’ personal driver and general factotum, fixer of everything; Pista (Pishtaw), the creator of tortes and other sweets, and preparer of the wondrous Beef of Wellington. Sadly, I cannot recall the names of those who were present at that long table.
Later, Sada told me that she spent an entire summer in Sarospatak where her husband attended high-school, with teenagers from all over the globe to learn Hungarian. To my surprise, her Hungarian was adequate for an everyday conversation.

Four-five (maybe ten) years ago, I read an article about Barbara in a magazine. I thought her last name was Koch (with guttural ch), I might be wrong. She was referred to in the article as the daughter of Louis Szathmary. (Hence her chip on the shoulder attitude?) Indeed, Louis created a position to her as curator—with plenty of stipend—to the Culinary Museum of the Johnson & Wales University. [Sandy's note: Barbara was not Szathmary's daughter; she was an employee. He did have a daughter named Magda-sls].

My first night at The Bakery was uneventful, sort of. I was assigned temporarily to the living quarters of Louis’ departed mother. Before going to sleep, I looked around for something to read. There was a long shelf above the bed, holding about twenty large books of the same size. To my surprise, all of them dealt with cannibalism, a definitely different and—luckily—a dying-out way of food preparation and consumption. Who collected them and for what reason, I never asked. It was, in my opinion, a minuscule part of Louis’ collection of cook-books, numbering a few thousand. Somehow, I didn’t read much that evening. Everyone to his taste.

After a sumptuous lunch, Louis showed me his cook-book collection. I found it immense, rather unorganized, noticing several duplicate copies. Louis told me that I’ll have nothing to do with these. His working area, the den of a genius, was a “mess”—a rather mild description— which nobody was allowed to touch. My real job was to weed out duplicate copies, called “duplum”, in the literature part of his library and to arrange the books for dissemination.

Louis asked me to leave alone his Transylvanian collection, housed in a separate room, and his private collection in his living quarters.

For the next few weeks (year and a half, to be exact), I spent 5 to 6 hours a day on ladders, from noon on Tuesdays to noon on Fridays. If I ran across books with interesting illustrations, such as wood- or linoleum-cuts, I put them aside. After the early evening meal, Louis looked them over, creating several piles to be given to his friends. Around eight o’clock, I had a call from Louis occasionally. If there were few guests that evening, he would ask me to join him while he ate his dinner. (I normally declined to eat again.) Looking around, he would get up to greet the guests, returning to finish up his meal with a cordial.

It is difficult, if not impossible to break a habit—such as collecting books—especially if the “store” rolls up to your doorsteps. Although Louis slowed down near the end of his life, he loved to visit an adventurous Hungarian refugee’s truck, loaded with anything Hungarian, including recently released books. Sausages in one hand and 4-5 books under his arm, I encountered Louis at the back door. Asking him what he purchased, he sheepishly confessed the sausages, but not the books, of which he already had several examples. I returned the books, telling the fellow to sell Louis only newly acquired printed material.

And, finally, I feel I owe Louis the following: Besides dividing and donating his library to several universities in the USA, Louis also remembered his alma mater in Sarospatak. He sent his Kossuth collection there, not only books and letters, but also memorabilia. (Louis Kossuth (Koshut, o as in or, h being silent) Regent-President in 1848-49, belonged to the Hungarian lower nobility, so did Louis. Kossuth attended the High-school in Sarospatak for a while, so did Louis. Both were fierce Habsburg foes and pro-democracy fighters, and both were Protestants. Hence the affinity, in my opinion, between the two patriots.) Louis asked me to assure that his collection arrived safely on my next trip to Hungary. Naturally, I complied, taking numerous pictures of an as-yet unorganized collection. Louis also sent huge pallets of émigré newspapers and several hundred books to join his Kossuth collection. This was the time I left The Bakery.

One of my brothers told me recently, that Louis’ presents were neatly arranged in a separate room, in a building adjacent to the main library. At the main entrance to the high-school, there is a marble memorial plaque for the school’s famous professors and pupils. Louis’ name is on it, as the last entry (for the time being). The grateful citizens of Sarospatak also arranged a special room commemorating Louis and his deeds, in a manor-house near to their 14th century famous fortress.

May you rest in peace, Lajoskám!

Respectfully,
Charles Bartha

May l add the correct Hungarian pronunciation of Chef Louis’ name:
Sz az in s(ee),
a as in (m)a(ll),
th t is the same, the h being silent,
m same,
á as in a(re),
r same, somewhat rolled,
y as in i(n).
The accent is on the words first syllable, as you noted correctly.

His given name was Lajos, pronounced approximately: Lawyosh.
His former full name is, with Hungarian hyphenation: Szath-má-ry La-jos. Yes, family name first, with no comma between the two names.
I called him often by his affectionate name: Lajoskám, my “little” Lajos”. **

Isn’t this a wonderful email? It provides us with so many little details to Chef Szathmary’s life! This is what I wrote back to Charles: “I am in your debt and enormously delighted that you took the time to share all of this information about Chev Szathmary with me and my readers. Some of them, you may have noticed, either worked for him or had been acquainted with him in one way or another. My only claim to kinship is that one of my books of his is authographed and I wrote about him because I was so fascinated with his life. That, and a bit of Hungarian ancestry – my paternal grandfather was from Hungary. I am going to print a copy of your message to put with one of my cookbooks written by him. You can’t imagine how much I envy your being able to work with his collection. I “only” have about 8 or 10 thousand cookbooks–I stopped counting years ago and I understand how out of hand a cookbook collection can become. I’m thrilled that you wrote and provide so much insight to the man who became the quite famous Chef Szathmary. Please feel free to write to me again, anytime! Thank you so very much for writing this. – Sandy@sandychatter

The next memorable email about Chef Szathmary came from a woman named Fredricka, and was dated March 12, 2013. Fredricka wrote: “While attending a mathematics education conference in Chicago around 1972, I gathered several colleagues from Syracuse University including my Ph.D. committee chair and the University of Georgia where I was on faculty and my 17 year-old gourmet cook daughter and cabbed it from the Conrad Hilton to The Bakery. Chef Szathmary personally guided our menu decisions and autographed The Chef’s Secret Cookbook to my daughter: “To Lisa with my best wishes” followed by his unique signature embedded in his drawing of a chef’s hat. Lisa and the chef somehow got talking about his special meat thermometer (to not leave in during cooking was unheard of) and she was thrilled with her new culinary acquisition. The next year Lisa and I had occasion to return to the Bakery and the Chef remembered us. Lisa and I often remembered our lovely experiences at The Bakery as recently as a few months before I lost her this past June after a 10-year courageous battle with cancer. She ended up following her dream of having her own art gallery and creative website (lisart.com) which her clients referred to as a jewel in Philadelphia. I am using the Chef’s rib roast and Chef’s Salt recipes this Saturday for Lisa’s elder son’s 31st birthday dinner…” **

In August of this year, (2013) someone using the initials MPJ wrote the following: “I happened upon your blog and it brought back delicious memories! When I was about eight years old Chef Louie, his wife, and their friend James Swan held a program showing slides from their trip to Easter Island. Mr. Swan was a friend of my mother’s and she brought me to the program. Afterwards Chef Louie had a buffet including, as I recall, turnips or something he’d carved to look like Easter Island figures. What I remember most though was the pâté. I tried it, I loved it. He sold it for take away at the Bakery and we were fortunate to live nearby. We had it for every birthday and holiday. My mother even brought it to me in college. I miss that pâté…”

There have been numerous other messages but I’ve restricted myself to copying those that shed light on Chef Szathmary’s personality and his most incredible life.

Last, but not least, I received another email in August of this year (2013). Marie wrote: “ I ran across this site while doing some research on Chef Louis Szathmary. My husband and I buy estates, foreclosure cleanouts, auctions etc. and recently made a purchase of over 300 boxes. I was floored to learn that this is the partial estate of Chef Louis and am in awe at the contents. So much so that I have begun to research him and his professional life. Which is something I have NEVER been intrigued enough to do with any estate purchase we have made. I’m not sure what I will do with all his belongings, but learning about him will help me decide.”

I’ve exchanged many emails with Marie, who has been indexing and making up lists of the various books, menus and other culinary objects that she has determined were, apparently, at one time in the possession of Barbara Koch, the woman mentioned in some of the email messages. I bought some cookie cutters and a 2-quart Anchor Hocking measuring cup from Marie, to have something personal of Chef Szathmary.

The following is from one of Marie’s email messages:

“Yes, he certainly was an amazing character! I feel like I know him by just going through all of his belongings. We finished sorting and organizing his estate last week and today we had a rare book collector of specifically food and drink related items fly in from Maine. He spent 10 hours selecting the items he was interested in and his finds consisted of TWENTY ONE (21) boxes of items. Even with his purchase that barely skimmed the surface of what we have. If you would like to tell me what types of things you are interested in I could give you a nice selection of choices. Aside from books and cookbooks, there are many items like:

*Artwork – the Chef was quite the artist in pen and ink drawings too!

*Culinary Kitchen Tools/Gadgets – Simply hundreds, 99% of them are vintage pieces

*Photos – pictures of him cooking at different events, being silly at “the Bakery”,family pics etc.

*Liquor Collection – he collected liquor bottles, some full, some not. Some bottles date back to 1913!

*Memorabilia – Awards he received, pins, uniform patches from “The Bakery”, some of his chef hats and jackets etc.

*Paper Archives – Lot and lots of rough drafts of his cook books, doodles he drew, catering menus, personal and professional letters he received and sent, his teaching outlines and notes etc.

I’m sure I am forgetting things, but off the top of my head that is an overview of what we have. If anyone has any interest, email me with a more narrow request on what you would like to have please: icyalookn777@comcast.net

Sandy – I JUST found out today HOW these things ended up in a storage facility. His second wife put them there, and apparently she has fallen on hard economic times and couldn’t afford to satisfy the monthly storage costs…..Mystery solved!”

—Sandra Lee Smith
October 11, 2013

COOKING UP A STORM/Recipes lost and found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans

COOKING UP A STORM/RECIPES LOST AND FOUND FROM THE TIMES-PICAYUNE OF NEW ORLEANS, hereafter referred to simply as COOKING UP A STORM was co-edited by Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker. COOKING UP A STORM, published by Chronicle Books in 2008, is perhaps one of the greatest and most difficult endeavors to ever confront a regional group.  In this instance heading the regional group was the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Louisiana. The “group” turned out to be many of the people of New Orleans,    

It may interest you to know (per Wikipedia) “The Times-Picayune is an American daily newspaper published in New Orleans, Louisiana since January 25, 1837. The current publication is the result of the 1914 merger of The Picayune with the Times-Democrat. The paper was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2006 for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Four of The Times-Picayune’s staff reporters also received Putlizers for breaking news reporting for their coverage of the storm. The paper funds the Poe Award for journalistic excellence, which is presented annually by the White House Correspondents’ Association..”.

That being said, who isn’t familiar with the utter destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, when the horrific Category 5 storm smashed into New Orleans?  The seawall collapsed, triggering a flood that washed away nearly an entire American city. (From the Introduction to Cooking Up a Storm).

Here are some statistics to consider:

Hurricane Katrina was the largest and third strongest hurricane ever recorded to make landfall in the U.S.   In New Orleans, the levees were designed for Category 3, but Katrina peaked at a Category 5 hurricane, with winds up to 175 miles per hour. The storm surge from Katrina was 20-feet (six meters) high.  

Over 700 people are reported as still missing as a result of hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina affected over 15 million people in different factors such as economy, evacuations, and gas prices or drinking water.

The final death toll was at 1,836, primarily from Louisiana (1,577) and Mississippi (238).An estimated 80 percent of New Orleans was under water, up to 20 feet deep in places .Hurricane Katrina caused $81 billion in property damages, but it is estimated that the total economic impact in Louisiana and Mississippi may exceed $150 billion, earning the title of costliest hurricane ever in US history. Hurricane Katrina impacted about 90,000 square miles. The region affected by the storm supported roughly 1 million non-farm jobs, and still, hundreds of thousands of local residents were left unemployed by the hurricane.

More than 70 countries pledged monetary donations or other assistance after the hurricane. Kuwait made the largest single pledge of $500 million, but Qatar, India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh made very large donations as well.

And, although the people of New Orleans were strongly urged to evacuate before the storm made landfall—many didn’t – some didn’t believe it would be so horrific, or that the seawall would cave in; others stayed in their homes or inside hospitals perhaps because of the logistics of being moved to higher ground or a safer place. Instead, Hurricane Katrina was the worst—and costliest—storm in the history of the USA.

In the introduction to COOKING UP A STORM, the co-authors explain “Beginning in the hours leading up to the storm and continuing through its devastating effects and the many months of difficult struggles that followed, The Times-Picayune has served as a strong voice for the city and a beacon of recovery. On October 27, eight weeks after the storm and just two weeks after the staff members of the Times-Picayune were able to return to their building in downtown New Orleans from their exile in Baton Rouge, the Food Section resumed publication. The city still lay in ruins. The death toll still mounted every day. More than 250,000 people were still living in exile. And every day, the people who did return took a grim inventory of the homes, businesses, Jobs, and irreplaceable objects collected over a lifetime that now lay in ruins.

The editors at the newspaper had long known about New Orleans’ deep and abiding relationship with its food. But in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, they were about to get a lesson in just how profound that connection was, and remains today. In New Orleans, food is culture. Food is family. Food is comfort. Food is life.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, a diaspora spread across America. Displaced citizens from New Orleans began to cook their comfort foods, bringing their indigenous dishes to places like Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh—places where people didn’t know etouffee from café au lait.

Back home, people were anxious for their favorite restaurant, corner grocery store, sandwich shop, or neighborhood café to reopen. They wanted a roast beef po-boy dripping with gravy, a bowl of rich gumbo, or maybe just a cup of café au lait and a hot beignet to give them both physical and spiritual sustenance as they tried to rebuild their shattered homes and lives…at the newspaper, a frenetic dialogue commenced with readers, as they sought to replace their treasured recipe collections most of them gathered over a lifetime, and destroyed after lying under water for three weeks. A faithful reader named Phyllis Marquart suggested to food editor Judy Walker a new theme for the recipe exchange column. On October 27, 2005, Walker invited readers to participate in ‘Rebuilding New Orleans, Recipe by Recipe’.

‘Exchange Alley’ (The column is named after a street in the French Quarter) became the avenue to reclaim recipes. Walker paired readers searching for recipes with those who still had theirs. She would print letters from those seeking recipes and ask for responses which she included in the column a week or two later”. [This reminds me of the way food editor Fern Storer operated her column in a Cincinnati newspaper for many years. Occasionally my mother would send me the food section of the newspaper and I would send some requested recipes to Fern-sls] “Sometimes, Walker was able to find the recipes in the paper’s archives. At other times, readers filled the request from their own recipe clippings. A week after a reader’s request for Baked Stuffed Oysters was printed in ‘Exchange Alley’, another reader sent a copy of the recipe she had clipped from the newspaper twenty years before…”

There is a great deal more to the Introduction of COOKING UP A STORM but the bottom line is that the requests poured in, continuously, with many readers who had lost their recipe collections and cookbooks, asking for a cookbook printing all the lost treasured recipes.

This is something I could related to so easily -I  just look around at my collections of cookbooks and over 200 recipe boxes, of more than fifty 3-ring binders filled with recipes collected over a period of 50 years–many from women’s magazines, many of them clipped from the Los Angeles Time’s weekly S.O.S. columns and thinking how unimaginably lost I would be without all of my cookbooks and recipes.

The upshot was that the Times-Picayune editors asked cookbook authors Marcelle Bienvenu and Emeril Lagasse to take on the project of building a cookbook from the many recipe requests. Marcelle is the author of “Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make a Roux?” published in 2006. Bienvenu also writes a popular column called “Cooking Creole” for the Times-Picayune. She also understands that in New Orleans, it’s not just about the food, but also the stories that go with the recipes, (italics mine) which explains how they came to be and who created them. [I think this is a concept that my siblings, cousins and I understood when we compiled a cookbook in 2004 called “Grandma’s Favorite” – our tribute to our grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and ourselves—in giving credit where credit was due.

I love the concept of COOKING UP A STORM, appropriately named, given the circumstances under which it was published. The Introduction alone provides detailed statistics, most of which yields a great deal more information about Hurricane Katrina than we might have learned about from television at the time of the disaster. And throughout all of the news broadcasts and everything we learned—at the time Hurricane Katrina struck—and then in the horrific  aftermath—I never stopped to think about the average person in New Orleans losing a lifetime of recipe collections.

I wish I had known, when the Times-Picayune began its quest to assist people in re-establishing recipe collections, that I had known and could have possibly lent assistance from my own collection. I didn’t know. I don’t remember ever hearing, or reading about, the newspaper establishing “Exchange Alley”.   I hope that COOKING UP A STORM was a huge success.

As cookbooks go, there is a wealth of New Orleans culinary expertise in COOKING UP A STORM – from appetizers to Soups, Gumbos & Chowders, from Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, to casseroles and vegetables, from Cakes & Pies, to Cookies & Candy, from Puddings and Other Desserts – to Lagniappe – (a little something extra) – you will find many of the lost treasured recipes of New Orleans’ residents. Many New Orleans homeowners may have lost everything they owned, but the people of the Times-Picayune newspaper and their dedicated readers helped save something we all treasure – our favorite recipes.

I have Marcelle Bienvenu’s “WHO’S YOUR MAMA…” in my collection of Louisiana cookbooks. I also have “First – You Make a Roux” from the Lafayette Museum in Lafayette, Louisiana, along with stacks of community cookbooks from Louisiana – not just New Orleans. I also have a treasured copy of the 9th edition of “The Official Picayune Creole Cookbook”, first published in 1901 by the Times-Picayune Publishing Company, along with a 1984 edition of “RIVER ROAD RECIPES”, first published in 1939 by the Junior League of Baton Rouge—which, by 1984, had gone through 40 printings!  I am non-plussed by the copyright date of 1939 for the first River Road Recipes edition. I think there was some debate a while back when the first Junior League cookbook was published—might it have been River Road Recipes? I’m not sure but 1939 sounds pretty old to me, for a junior league cookbook.

Amazon.com has copies both new and pre-owned copies of COOKING UP A STORM which was published in 2008 by Chronicle Books. It is a soft-cover cookbook that apparently has not been published in a hardbound edition. It is also listed under Alibris.com with copies selling for $8.75, more or less.

My copy has been stamped “no longer property of the Seattle Public Library”, followed by a stamp stating “Received Capitol Hill Library 2009”—so my copy has been around the block a few times, and luckily for me, has fallen into good hands. I will forever more think of what total loss means to people – not just their homes and furniture, clothing and belongings – it can be the loss of treasured recipes as well.

Review by –Sandra Lee Smith, October 2, 2013

MYRA WALDO REVISITED (SEARCHING FOR THE FRENCH CONNECTION)

The search began with an inquiry from a blog visitor, an attorney in San Diego, who began to question the identify of “the famous pseudonym”, as indicated on a little paperback cookbook titled THE ART OF PARISIAN COOKING, by Colette Black. He bought it when he was in college and wanting to learn how to cook more than frozen dinners or hamburgers.  On the back of this little paperback cookbook published by The Cromwell-Collier Publishing in 1962, is the notation “Colette Black is the pseudonym of a renowned writer, hostess, and world traveler, whose other cookbooks include the French Provincial Cookbook, the southern Italian cookbook and the Low Calorie Cookbook, all available from Collier books.”

From John H. July 6, 2013 :

I was led to your site because I was wondering who was behind a wonderful cookbook I bought in college and has been a staple of mine ever since. The recipes are easy and they are uniformly wonderful but I never knew who the author was (since they said it was a pseudonym) and I never saw any other books by her. The Art of Parisian Cooking still has the best recipe for boeuf bourguignonne I have ever had. Just made it the other day and it was wonderful. I found her name under copyright entries for the book at the Library of Congress. Sure wish someone would reissue the book in hardback form. If I am wrong and she is not the author, in the words of Emily Litella* “never mind”.

(*Emily Litella was a character created by Gilda Radner in the early days of Saturday Night Live-sls).

Hello John – you have my curiosity piqued – who is the author on the book? I don’t think it’s one of Myra Waldo’s as I don’t have the title listed under her books. I did a Google search and DID find a title THE ART OF PARISIAN COOKING but it offered very little else – no author, appears to be scarce.
Is there anything at all you can tell me about this book? I’d love to know. And someone who reads my blog might know something. Thanks for writing! – Sandy@sandychatter

The author is “Colette Black” but the book indicates it is a pseudonym for an important author. I got on the list of copyright titles from the Library of Congress.  Here is a link: Catalog of Copyright Entries. Third Series: 1962: January-June. I am trying to copy and paste it, but don’t seem to be able to do so. I will keep working on it. It is a GREAT cookbook!

John:  July 7, 2013

I just clicked on the link I sent and I got to the site but you have to scroll down to find Myra Waldo Schwartz. I hope you can find it. I also hope it is she. That would sure add to the romance and mystery of this woman you have so kindly revealed to me via your blog.

Sandy:  July 7, 2013

HELLO John – I’m trying to find it and am missing something – and I have no idea who Colette Black is. It’s perplexing to think that Myra Waldo would have used a pseudonym for one of her books – she used her name of Myra Waldo throughout writing career producing 40-something cookbooks and a fistful of travel guides – but that doesn’t mean she DIDN’T; maybe there was a reason we don’t know about. What I have found perplexing is how or why she completely disappeared from public life. It was only a fluke that I learned – maybe a year or two ago – that she had moved to Beverly Hills where she lived out the rest of her life. That was such a “what-if” moment in MY life (discovered most of it in an Obituary) – Until 2008 I lived in the San Fernando Valley not very far from Beverly Hills. I thought ‘oh, to have been able to interview her’ – but maybe by then she didn’t WANT anything to do with the public. I spent about a year researching Myra Waldo before writing my first article about her for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange (in the mid 1990s). Myra’s cookbooks were fantastic. She also had an incredible career [in addition to writing cookbooks] – and then simply disappeared from public eye. One can’t help but wonder why.

Wonderful female chefs/cookbook authors such as Elizabeth David and Marion Cunningham–just to name two out of a plethora of wonderful female cookbook authors I admire – wrote until they were at death’s door. It begs the question, why didn’t Myra Waldo? Well, maybe between us we can figure this out. Thank you very much for writing. I just printed Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon to have on hand for comparison. (One of my favorite past times is delving deep into food – the history, not necessarily the cooking and eating part.

My guess is that she used the pseudonym “Colette Black” because she thought people might not be as attracted to “Myra Waldo Schwartz” as an author of a book on Parisian cooking. Sort of like the identity she created for the Molly Goldberg cookbook.

John:  July 7, 2013

In the Catalogue of Copyright Entries, entries are listed by author. This particular edition is from 1962. The entry for Myra Waldo Schwartz reads as follows:  SCHWARTZ, MYRA WALDO  The art of Parisian cooking by Colette Black, pseud. [caps as in original entry] 1st Ed. (Cookbook original Collier Books AS196) © Crowell-Collier Pub. Co.; 27Apr62; A6564110; Cook as the Romans do; Recipes of Rome an northern Italy by Myra Waldo, 1st Ed. (Collier Books Collier Books Cookbook original AS99) © Myra Waldo Schwartz 29Dec61 A546005

And it goes on from there with other entries. I think this is a wonderfully fascinating mystery. She must have been a really fascinating woman. I am glad you are keeping her alive.

John, I found the cookbook [The Art of Parisian Cooking] on Amazon.com for $4.00 & 3.99 shipping and it’s paperback, may not be in great condition, but I am curious enough to find out. A HARD BOUND copy is listed at $140.00!!! Hope to hear from you & any additional input you may have to contribute! – Sandy

I am so glad you found it! Mine is paperback too. I know you will enjoy it. Great recipes in that little book. I do not know if I mentioned how I came to it. I was in college at UCSD and used to wander through the college bookstore and just browse through books. The Art of Parisian Cooking caught my eye and I had always heard that French cooking was the best so I picked it up. My diet at the time was mainly hamburgers and fast food and anything else a young college guy could throw together. (Absolutely NOTHING green!). When I looked in the book the recipes looked easy I decided to buy it (for 95 cents) and thought I would give it a try. The first thing I made was “Fondue du Poulet” which is NOT a fondue but was great and I found I liked cooking and the result was a pretty great product. I also discovered that girls liked it when guys cooked for them! So I started cooking for my dates. That started a lifelong relationship with finer food than I as a college kid was used to making for myself. It dovetailed with my discovering that there were better wines out there than Red Mountain Hearty Burgundy. The rest, for me, was history.

John:  July 7, 2013

I just clicked on the link I sent and I got to the site but you have to scroll down to find Myra Waldo Schwartz. I hope you can find it. I also hope it is she. That would sure add to the romance and mystery of this woman you have so kindly revealed to me via your blog.

The art of Parisian cooking by Colette Black, pseud. [caps as in original entry] 1st Ed. (Cookbook original Collier Books AS196) © Crowell-Collier Pub. Co.; 27Apr62; A6564110; Cook as the Romans do; Recipes of Rome an northern Italy by Myra Waldo, 1st Ed. (Collier Books Collier Books Cookbook original AS99) © Myra Waldo Schwartz 29Dec61 A546005

And it goes on from there with other entries. I think this is a wonderfully fascinating mystery. She must have been a really fascinating woman. I am glad you are keeping her alive. The Art of Parisian Cooking also has a filet mignon au champignon that is great, something call fondue du poulet (basically a chicken curry), a lobster mousse and a Lobster thermidor, among many others.

Sandy: Thanks, John–I believe you, Colette Black was Myra Waldo/Schwartz–and Collier’s was a publisher she used frequently.

It may remain a mystery altho I think I could try writing to someone (maybe the person who wrote her obituary) & see if I can find a list of everything not previously listed (and an explanation for her using a pen name in later years?). I’ll try to get to the website you mentioned. –if I can put together enough information I could do an update on “Where’s Waldo” – to let the world know she’s been found. Did you notice, Where’s Waldo has more comments over the past 2 years than almost anyone else I have written about. I think Complete Meals in One Dish is my favorite of all her books–for the text as much as the recipes–it’s enchanting and her writing is a style I can identify with. I have written about other mostly forgotten cookbook authors but Myra remains #1. Will try to put together a list of the unknown titles. Thanks! Sandy

John H:  I wonder if she has living relatives. Maybe they would know more and could shed light. I think you are single-handedly keeping her memory alive. I am sure she would have liked that.

Maybe there is a book in it for you, actually. Following the mystery. I know I would buy one as, I am sure, would many of your readers.

Sandy:  Thanks John. You may be right – Myra isn’t the only cookbook author who disappeared from sight–just recently someone led me to the answer about Meta Given (another fascinating story) & a few years ago I was led to the answer about a handwritten cookbook I bought from a used book store in Hollywood decades ago–a young woman, American by birth but living in Great Britain–solved the who-dun-it mystery of the author of my beloved handwritten cookbook, compiled over decades. That became Helen’s Cookbook and the follow up to Helen’s Cookbook.

And not too long ago I was able to write about The Browns, whose books I have loved since I first began collecting cookbooks–turns out a couple of descendants of the Browns also had blogs and they found ME. Just recently realized I need a master list of all the titles – and I HAVE started it but sometimes it’s a tossup- write about something new and different or try to compile a master list? And while I was going through some of the articles in my WORD file, I see there are a lot more than I thought. but doing a book about these cookbook authors and presenting it as a detective story would be interesting (if someone doesn’t do it before I do) – btw, I find it fascinating that authors I have written about–without virtually Anything listed on Google at the time–now, when I go back–I find dozens of entries that weren’t there before. Meta Given is one such example. By the way, the first one I wrote about–originally for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange–was Ida Bailey Allen. Thanks for writing! – Sandy

John:  You should read [the introduction to] the Art of Parisian Cooking by Colette Black. I had never read the introduction but after discussing it all with you decided to do so and compare the style to some of Myra Waldo’s other writing. I see some similarities but would defer to your judgment. My conclusion is that she was the author because of the copyright register.  I love a mystery!

Sandy  Sorry for not getting back to you sooner, John –  It wouldn’t be too far- fetched for Myra  to have taken up writing under another name. She just disappeared (as Myra Waldo) from public view and cookbook writing – and quite possibly publishers were no longer interested in her as Myra Waldo. A cookbook author with whom I have had some correspondence said never mention the year she was born because it turns publishers off–they seem to think once you reach a certain age, your material is no longer publication -worthy. Do you suppose that could have happened to Myra also? Her published cookbooks span decades. Have you learned anything else you could share? This would be a great blog post to write if I can dig up enough material. I’ll start with the Art of Parisian Cooking.
Sandy

John:  August 17, 2013

My theory is that Myra had a lot of success under her own name but thought a cookbook about Parisian Cooking should have a more French sounding name if it was going to succeed. I think the actual title of the book is “The Art of Parisian Cooking by Colette Black” but that she simply did not put author credit on it. So the title is not “The Art of Parisian Cooking” with author credit for “Colette Black”. If you find an intact copy (mine has lost its back cover) it mentions that “Colette Black” is a pseudonym for a “famous writer” (which of course, only heightened the mystery. I figured it was some great French writer of literature who did not want people to know she also knew cooking. It is wonderful how many details the imagination can provide.) Finding out from you that Myra traveled widely (especially in Europe) and often wrote about the food from places she went suggests to me that she spent some time in France and picked up a bunch of recipes when she was there.

I am certainly no expert but I think cookbook writing back in the 50′s and 60′s was less glamorous than it is today. They were really “how to books” for women (mainly) like the “how to books” on auto repair were for men. I don’t think the authors were big stars like they are now, though I could be completely mistaken about that. But the cookbooks I have from that era are pretty anonymous or use false names like “Betty Crocker” with little reference to the authors as personalities.

I will say that the introduction to the Art of Parisian Cooking is airy and whimsical and contains allusions to the French reputation for enjoying life in all of its aspects. This came at a time in American history when we were slowly emerging from a more puritanical Victorian way of talking about things. So her sly references to sex, though extremely tame, might have been seen as mildly racy when the book first appeared but might have been acceptable coming from a “French” writer.

Over the years, I have learned to hear meter and style and to be able to identify writing or speech based on that rather than the actual identification of the author. (I guessed that the writer of several episodes of a TV show were written by David Mamet, for example, before the credits appeared based on the sound of the dialogue. It will be very interesting to me to hear what you think when you read the introduction to the Art of Parisian Cooking. My guess is you will know immediately whether or not you think it is Myra’s work. Sorry for the long post.

John, I like your belief that you can identify writers by their style–I think that’s true & you know, I have received dozens of email messages from people reading my posts over the past few years & writing to say they like how I write–my style, if I have such a thing, is to write the way I talk and to bring people into my kitchen to talk about food and recipes. I strive to keep it plain & simple. When I was writing about Myra Waldo (first time was back in the 1990s) I was collecting her books at the same time, and trying to read as many of them as quickly as possible–I think I said before that Complete Meals in One Dish was a favorite; many of the introductions to chapters are written the way a friend might write to you from another country about their food/recipe experiences. Well, I hope I can learn more about Collette Black & perhaps dig up enough information to write a sequel (am also collecting information to write a sequel to Chef Szathmary). This is such an exciting experience. Thanks much! Sandy

In my business, conclusions can be drawn based on direct evidence and on things that are deducible from direct evidence. Circumstantial evidence works too. Here is my case: (1) the Patent Office register lists Myra Waldo Schwartz her as the author of the Art of Parisian Cooking; (2) Myra Waldo wrote several books called “The Art of …. Cooking”; (3) Myra Waldo traveled everywhere in Europe with her husband and wrote about the indigenous cooking; (4) with her interest in food and cooking, she had to know the French had the reputation for the best cuisine and Paris the best of the French; (5) she wrote about the cooking of a bunch of places including Italy and South America but not about Parisian cooking? Seems unlikely to me. The case rests.
But I am really anxious to hear what you have to say when you read her introduction. As I said before, I think you will be able to tell if she is your Myra. I agree with your correspondents, by the way. I like your conversational style. It goes with the topic.

Sandy: August 18, 2013

Hi, John – thanks for the input – I have copied and pasted your latest comment to my WORD file & I hope you won’t object to my including it (do not have to include your email address, last name, etc, just “John” maybe in San Diego? – I wouldn’t have been able to word your case for Myra being Colette as well as you did.  Will let you know when my copy of the book arrives. I have been mulling over whether or not someone from her family would respond to an inquiry. It might be worth a try. The obituary listed some family members. And it begs the question – were there any other books printed under the name of Collette? Thanks for the information!

Sandy – You are welcome to use anything I have written to you in whatever way you would like, with or without attribution. I am happy just to advance the solution to the mystery.

Thanks, John – I will let you know when my copy of Colette’s book arrives in the mail. Looking forward to comparing her writing with Myra’s.

Sandy – I assume you’ve read your copy of The Art of Parisian Cooking by Colette Black by now. What do you think?

Sandy:  John, I will start researching Colette when I get back from Seattle. Also meant to tell you, I am on LinkedIn – just seldom use it (I forget–I have too many irons in the fire) – but when I am intrigued by an author (such as Waldo/Black – then I zero in on it and everything else goes by the wayside.
Thanks for your help!! I’m delighted! – Sandy

Sandy:  ps to John–want to suggest you go back and read through all the titles I listed, of Myra’s books, – in at least 3 or 4 it references French cooking being among the countries represented in some of her books. In Complete Meals in One, she mentions trying out several languages on a person they encountered when their car broke down–French was one of the languages they tried out on the farm wife they met (to no avail). I think I can make up a list of the books in which French cooking was referenced. Maybe she always planned to write one, separately on French cooking & never got to it. Or she DID and we never knew!!

Sandy: September 16, 2013

John, I thought I had written to tell you that my copy of the Art of Parisian Cooking did come …. I haven’t come to any conclusion RE whether she and Myra are one and the same person. I’m inclined to lean in that direction & have wondered if I wrote to a family member, whether they would respond. It would make a fantastic blog post if Collette & Myra were one and the same person. I think I’ll try to find something else that Collette has written–I have virtually all of Myra’s cookbooks & in some instances, more than one copy. Have gotten sidetracked working on some material about Chef Szathmary.

If there are Myra family members you have located, I sure would contact them. Maybe they will know and maybe not, but it would be worth the try.

Sandy: September 16, 2013

ps- note to John – OMG. I just had an epiphany kind of moment – I was re-reading some of Myra’s dialogue in which, whenever she & her husband traveled, – she always simply referred to him as “my husband”. His last name was Schwartz. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t Schwartz German for black?

Oh My God!

You are so right!!

You have just hit on it!

That is so great!

That is the last key!

John: September 17, 2013

Sandy – Something else just occurred to me. Myra clearly used the name “Black” because of her last name. So, how come the name “Colette”?

You said she traveled extensively in France and this is the “Art of Parisian Cooking”. If it is Paris, perhaps she dined at Le Grand Vefour, one of the most Parisian of Parisian restaurants and it has been in business for over a hundred years.

What is significant about that is that they have always promoted the restaurant by saying that it was the favorite restaurant of both Napoleon and the French writer Colette. In fact, when I dined there I sat in the booth that Colette preferred.  I wonder if that is why she chose that name?

Sandy: September 18, 2013

John, I think you may have hit the nail on the head–if memory serves me correctly (and I will have go back to my file on Myra) I dont think she had children of her own. She had two nephews and I don’t think there were any nieces. It enabled her and her husband, Robert, to travel not just to France but to many different countries – she wrote several cookbooks encompassing these countries. It makes sense to me that Collette might have been a favorite name & one she might have chosen if they had had any children of their own. Is this another piece of the puzzle falling into place? I have to look up the name of the family member who wrote the obit too. curiouser and curiouser! Wouldn’t it be fantastic to find out we are absolutely right?? – regards, Sandy

Sandy: September 19, 2013

ps – John, back in August in one of your messages to me RE Myra Waldo, you wrote: 1) the Patent Office register lists Myra Waldo Schwartz her as the author of the Art of Parisian Cooking – I think this pretty much seals our supposition that Myra Waldo and Colette Black were one and the same person–I’ll still make an effort to contact a family member. Do you know of any other cookbooks that Myra wrote as Colette? I haven’t found any other titles yet. – Looking forward to writing a sequel to my original “Where’s Waldo?” –You have been such a huge help with this. – Sandy

John: September 19, 2013

One more thing about the idea that Colette came from the French authoress. Colette wrote Gigi in the 1940’s and it was made into a French film and then adapted for stage in the early ‘50’s (long before your time!)

It was a huge hit on Broadway in the mid-‘50’s and the movie was a huge hit in the late ‘50’s. Colette had a bit of a renaissance during that time. It would not surprise me if Myra and Robert went to Paris and dined in the Le Grand Vefour having already heard of Colette and Gigi (they lived in New York, after all). Add a big French celebrity and the English version of her last name and voila! You have Colette Black.

I think your observation that “Schwartz” means “black” in German was genius. It really explains everything! I am glad only to have helped.

That is GREAT!   Mystery completely solved!

I have loved The Art of Parisian Cooking for nearly 50 years.  I am thinking of buying the Provencal and Italian books too.  I’ll bet the recipes in those books are just as good. Thanks for letting me know.

It is interesting that Myra did several other cookbooks under the Colette Black name.  I wonder why she did some in her own name and some under the Colette name.

This is exciting!  What a journey!  This is going to be terrific for your readers.

One more thing about the idea that Colette came from the French authoress. Colette wrote Gigi in the 1940’s and it was made into a French film and then adapted for stage in the early ‘50’s (long before your time!) It was a huge hit on Broadway in the mid-‘50’s and the movie was a huge hit in the late ‘50’s. Colette had a bit of a renaissance during that time. It would not surprise me if Myra and Robert went to Paris and dined in the Le Grand Vefour having already heard of Colette and Gigi (they lived in New York, after all). Add a big French celebrity and the English version of her last name and voila! You have Colette Black.

I think your observation that “Schwartz” means “black” in German was genius. It really explains everything! I am glad only to have helped.

SandySeptember 19, 2013

John – I have sent a message to a woman who I THINK may have been related to Myra, and is listed on Facebook. Cross your fingers! Am hoping I have the right person and that she will either confirm or deny the relationship with Myra and Myra’s connection with Colette. if this person isnt the right one – I can try for one or two others.

Sandy:  September 19, 2013

John–regardless of whether I get a response or not to my inquiry re Myra/Colette–I think we have solved the question ourselves. I would just like an official response but that might not happen. Do you remember any other titles (besides the Art of Parisian Cooking) that were copyrighted in her real name?

Here is one:

SCHWARTZ, MYRA WALDO.

The art of South American cookery,

by Myra Waldo. Illustrated by

John Alcorn. 1st ed. Doubleday.

© Myra Waldo Schwartz; l8 Aug 6l;

A517793.

Sandy: September 19, 2013

John, I found 4 titles THE SOUTHERN ITALIAN COOKBOOK, 1963, THE LOW CALORIE COOKBOOK 1962, FRENCH PROVENCIAL COOKING, 2 LISTED ON EBAY $29-$33. (YIKES!) and of course, our ART OF PARISIAN COOKING. If I had the other titles I could compare them with books she wrote under Myra Waldo. There were a couple of diet type cookbooks. I’ll have to dig out the many paperback copies of her cookbooks that I acquired when doing searches. I think one was a diet cookbook. no response on FB yet.

OMG, Sandy!  I got back on the Library of Congress log of copyrights to get you the other books listed for Myra and look what other titles I found under Myra Waldo Schwartz!

Cook as the Romans Do

Cooking from the Pantry Shelf

The Hamburger Cook Book

The Souffle Cookbook

And last but not least:

The Low Calorie Cookbook by Colette Black

Again it is listed (like the Art of Parisian Cooking) as “pseud”, meaning it is a pseudonym for the author.

Now here is the BIG news:

I decided to put The Low Calorie Cookbook by Colette Black into my Google search and I found several books by Colette Black!

Southern Italian Cookery

French Provincial Cookery

ALL of them say “Colette Black pseud.”

So, she wrote more books under that pseudonym.

Put “the low calorie cookbook by Colette black” into Google and it will give you an Amazon link. Go on that link and you will find the other books.

I think you have not only found Colette Black, but also that Myra wrote more books than you thought!

I am excited!

SandySeptember 20, 2013

John…I’ve been thinking we are working at cross purposes at times–if that is the right expression–when I go through messages I find we have repeated ourselves more than once…I propose to go to work in WORD tomorrow morning and start with the Myra’s cookbook titles I listed at the end of my article. Then I will do a list of Colette’s titles. Also want to add publishing dates for both lists. This is important because she was writing under both names in the early 60s. How on earth did she do it? There are at least 3 diet-genre cookbooks in paperback under Myra Waldo that I found amongst my cookbooks. Cooking for your heart & health, The low salt, Low cholesterol cookbook, The slenderella cookbook – plus the one she did as Colette. (Slenderella was an early version of something like Weight Watchers or Curves).What blows my mind is that she was doing all of this B.C. (before computers!) – what’s the earliest that she could have had her own P.C.? I didn’t have a home computer until I divorced in 1984 and decided I needed a computer to keep up with my writing. so how did she manage? Well, we may have discovered who Colette Black was, but it begs the question – how on earth did Myra DO it ALL? amongst the paperbacks are two THE COMPLETE BOOK OF ORIENTAL COOKING and THE COMPLETE BOOK OF VEGETABLE COOKERY, which appears to have been part of a group–I just have those two…some of these paperbacks have turned up in unlikely places–thrift stores or used book stores when we still had a lot of those to go digging around in.. sorry this is so long but your email prompted thoughts of mine–I would love to list you as my cowriter/researcher on this project if it doesn’t infringe on any of your professional work–we’ve shared so much of this & it has been challenging and delightful to have someone get as excited about it as I am. So on that happy note I will sign off for tonight. to be continued! – Sandy

John: September 20, 2013

 Sandy – Just to keep it straight, perhaps we should communicate through e-mail. You can cull out of our e-mails whatever you would like.

I still believe that the clincher would be to find recipes for the same dishes in both Colette and Myra cookbooks to see if they are the same. My guess is that there will be some.

I was really excited to find other “Colette” books; to find that they were pseudonyms and to find more than one “Colette” book listed under Myra’s name as copyrighted by her.

Anyway, I am happy to help in whatever way I can. I love solving a mystery. In my line of work we look for patterns from which one can extrapolate.

The fact that there are books “The Art of ____ Cooking” by Myra both and “Colette”, suggests to me a pattern of title that ties them together. When you add that to the fact that about the same time there were books both by “Colette” and by Myra that were healthy eating or diet books, also suggests a relationship. Finally, the fact that both “Colette” and Myra did books the final word in the titles of which was “Cookery” (a word not in common usage) suggests that the same person was involved with both.

BTW – Just the lawyer in me talking, but you should copyright your work so it is protected. It is easy. Just put © Copyright August 2013 Sandy Smith at the end of each of your posts. There is a difference between copyrighting your work and registering the copyright. It is the registration that costs money and time. JW

Sandy: September 20, 2013

John–I was going to reply by email & then discovered I didn’t have it written down but I know it’s in my inbox emails somewhere. And how do you use the copyright symbol? I used to know that & trade mark but don’t remember them now. Oh, and wanted to mention – I was tickled that you thought Gigi was before my time. Not at all. I was a kid growing up in the 50s. And Gigi was on tv not very long ago. I think that was Maurice Chevalier (sp) first big film hit. And I do want to give you credit for your research on this project. I would have never connected all the dots by myself. You wrote today “still believe that the clincher would be to find recipes for the same dishes in both Colette and Myra cookbooks to see if they are the same. My guess is that there will be some” – I’ve been thinking the same thing! It amazes me how often we are on the same page. I was reading the introduction to the Art of Parisian cooking in which she delves into the history of French cuisine–Myra doesn’t do this in all of her cookbooks but she does in some–I think some of the paperback editions are condensed so the introductions are shorter. I wanted to see if the lengthier introductions have a pattern of similarities. I would like to check the recipes in Art of Parisian cooking with some of the others in Myra’s collection of foreign cookbooks–some of them just have to be very similar if not the same. (just now I opened up my paperback copy of Myra Waldo’s Bicentennial American Kitchen thinking it could be her most recently published book (was thinking 1976) – aha! the copyright date is 1960. Thanks again for your input–it has been a long time since I put this much into cookbook research–it’s exciting, like putting a complicated puzzle together. Still no answer from the person on FB I think is related to the family. I just know they are in Beverly Hills. – Sandy

Sandy: September 20, 2013

I have been working on my Myra cookbook list and wanted to share one title in particular with you – it’s not a book I have, I’m sorry to say – my collection of her books is far from complete and now I want to go back to searching for some of the missing titles. Anyway – this title caught my eye:

THE COMPLETE BOOK OF GOURMET COOKING FOR THE AMERICAN KITCHEN adapts hundreds of French gourmet recipes for American kitchens (and palates) with recipes ranging from appetizers to desserts, and a glossary of different kinds of cheeses, a chapter of information regarding wines and an herb and spice chart. This is the kind of book that will make gourmet cooks out of all of us. (*and now I wonder – how would THIS book compare with the Art of Parisian Cooking?) MUST find this one!

NOTE TO FILE: 9/22/13 I ordered the Complete Book of Gourmet Cooking for the American Kitchen from Amazon.com before checking my own bookshelves and discovering I already had it. Then spent the past 2 days cross referencing Complete Book of Gourmet Cooking (which contains French recipes for the American household) with  “Colette’s” ART OF PARISIAN COOKING—after I cross referenced 20-something recipes, including the famous Beef Burgundy that got John & me working on this project, and established that the recipes were virtually identical except for minor types of alcohol – Cognac versus Brandy, which John assures me is the same thing, Cognac just being a more expensive type of brandy. One recipe called for a cup of heavy cream while its counterpart only had half a cup[ of heavy cream – but for all intents and purposes, the recipes are the same. It was an amazing discovery.

Some final comments from John on this subject:

One other thought about the duplication of recipes.  If there are that many that are the identical (in fact if there is even one), that is pretty proof positive that they are one and the same not only because they are the same in different books under different names but also because it is copyrighted material.  If they were not owned by the same person, they could not have appeared in 2 different cookbooks by different authors because it would have been copyright infringement and Myra’s lawyer husband would have known that. If there were someone named Colette who was stealing his wife’s copyrighted material, he likely would have sued and likewise would not have wanted Myra to infringe anyone else’s copyright. So it is clear enough that they are the same person, if only because the law prohibits misappropriation of copyrighted material.

Copyrights last for the life of the author plus 70 years.  If you have something that you want to make sure is completely safe, you should register the copyright with the Patent Office. It is an easy form that can be obtained online and the registration is not all that expensive.

 But I think the final nail was your brainstorm that Schwartz means “black” in German.  I should have noticed that.  I have a number of Jewish friends from New York who told me that there is a Yiddish slang word “schwarter” that used to be used and was slang for black people.  I do not know if it was intended as an epithet but don’t think so. There was a cartoon in New Yorker years ago that had a black guy wearing a campaign button that said “Schwartzers for Carter”.  If it was an insulting or mean reference I don’t think the New Yorker would have printed it.  But I don’t know Yiddish, so I don’t know.

 Second, in honor of you and Myra, I am making fondue du poulet tomorrow (and I am using Remy Martin cognac).  I will let you know how it turns out. I haven’t made it in more than 10 years but it was always a hit.

 Sandy’s final note: When I first began writing about Myra Waldo in the mid 1990s, I didn’t have search engines like Google to dig around and search for titles, and I didn’t have Amazon.com and Alibris.com to enable me to order some of Myra’s cookbooks—and I most certainly didn’t have a blog which enabled me to write about all the cookbook authors I loved, or for people all over the United States to write back to me when something on my blog struck a chord. Such was the case when my lawyer friend in San Diego became curious about his tattered paperback copy of The Art of Parisian Cooking and wrote to me because he was curious about the unknown author writing under a pseudonym. What little we were able to establish about the elusive Colette Black is that her writing style seemed familiar—and on the back of The Art of Parisian Cooking, Collier Books wrote “Colette Black is the pseudonym of a renowned writer, hostess and world traveler…”  Well, the only person who fit that description was, once I had enough time to mull over it, was Myra Waldo.  But how to prove to our own satisfaction – for John was by this time my co-researcher on this project—that Myra Waldo and Colette Black were one and the same person?  Our emails back and forth, some of which were repetitive or about other topics, have been condensed so that, I hope, you can follow the yellow brick road that led us from no knowledge at all about the identity of Colette Black—to firmly establishing that Colette and Myra were the same person.

For readers who are interested in finding some of Myra’s cookbooks:

SERVE AT ONCE, THE SOUFFLE COOKBOOK, 1954, was published by Thomas Y. Crowell Company in New York and may be her first published cookbook. (I believe she had travel books or pamphlets published before she began writing cookbooks).

“Myra Waldo has been testing and collecting souffle recipes for years,” we learn on the dust jacket of this book., “Her previous writing experience ranges from copy for cosmetics and chain stores to travel folders, and to assisting her husband compile two dictionaries. She is a member of the Gourmet Society of New York...” (This comment on the dust jacket would seem to indicate that the Souffle Cookbook was Myra’s first published cookbook.)

COMPLETE ROUND-THE-WORLD COOKBOOK; RECIPES GATHERED BY PAN AMERICAN WORLD AIRWAYS FROM OVER 80 COUNTRIES, WITH FOOD AND TRAVEL COMMENTS BY MYRA WALDO, 1954, First American edition, 1957, 9 reprints up to 1960.

THE MOLLY GOLDBERG JEWISH COOKBOOK/PUBLICATIONS, PAPERBACK) copyright 1955 by Myra Waldo & Gertrude Berg, first published by Doubleday, 1955, 7 printings up to 1968.Pyramid  Royal paperback.

Myra Waldo appeared to be ahead of her time with cookbooks that were for our health.  SLENDERELLA COOK BOOK* was first published in 1957 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.  Later, it appeared in paperback under the title, THE COMPLETE REDUCING COOK BOOK FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY. Another cookbook published in paperback was titled COOKING FOR YOUR HEART AND HEALTH, first published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 1961, reprinted in paperback by Pocket Book in 1962 (cost of the paperback was fifty cents—imagine THAT!).  (*Slenderella, a former New Yorker advised me, was a kind of weight loss facility—think Weight Watchers or Curves)

THE BRIDE’S COOKBOOK was published by Collier as a paperback in 1961 with numerous reprints. The copy my friend and editor, Sue Erwin, located was printed in 1972.  As cookbooks go, this one is a delightful departure from the norm. It’s the story of newlyweds, Jane and Peter, told in diary form by Jane; the recipes are good and the story line is cute. As an aside, while researching this and other cookbook authors, it has become apparent that quite a few writers of the 50s and 60s wrote a cookbook for brides.  (*Incidentally, I don’t think the Jane-and-Peter format would go over today).  My paperback copy of the Bride’s Cookbook shows a copyright date of 1958. First Collier edition published in 1961, fifth printing 1972.

Another favorite Myra Waldo cookbook is “THE DINERS’ CLUB COOKBOOK, (Great Recipes from Great Restaurants), published in 1959 by Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, Inc.  Recipes are from famous restaurants from coast to coast and there is even one from the Toll House in Whitman Massachusetts—where the original chocolate chip cookie was created. The recipe in the Diners Club cookbook, however, is a frosted daiquiri pie. Many of the restaurants no longer exist today, but it’s fun to read and the recipes sound delicious.

THE COMPLETE BOOK OF ORIENTAL COOKING, First PRINTING 1960 by David McKay Publishers, 2ND PRINTING 1962, BANTAM PAPERBACK PRINTINGS 11 PRINTNGS AS OF 1965.  THE COMPLETE BOOK OF ORIENTAL COOKING offers chapters on cuisine from Hawaii, Japan, Korea, Phillipines, Indonesia, China, Indochina, Malaya, Thailand, Burma, and India.

THE COMPLETE BOOK OF GOURMET COOKING FOR THE AMERICAN KITCHEN, also published in 1960, by G.P. PUTNAM’S SONS (French cooking for American kitchens)  adapts hundreds of French gourmet recipes for American kitchens (and palates) with recipes ranging from appetizers to desserts, and a glossary of different kinds of cheeses, a chapter of information regarding wines and an herb and spice chart. This is the kind of book that will make gourmet cooks out of all of us.

In 1960, Myra Waldo published “COOKING FOR THE FREEZER” and this was dedicated to preparing meals in advance. Written prior to the advent of side-by-side freezers and cross top freezers, the refrigerator-freezer shown on the cover with the author doesn’t look like it would hold more than a single meal but the author offers recipes that reconstitute satisfactorily after freezing and do sound good. Most of Myra Waldo’s cookbooks show, I think, the influence of her world travels.

THE ART OF SOUTH AMERICAN COOKERY published in 1961 by Doubleday.

CAKES, COOKIES AND PASTRIES, (187 great dessert recipes from around the world) first published by Crowell-Collier Publishing Company in 1962.  Included are tantalizing recipes for goodies like Venezuelan Banana Torte and Viennese Poppy Seed Torte, Greek Pistachio Cookies and Swedish Honey cookies.

MYRA WALDO’S DESSERT COOKBOOK is written in a similar vein, offering recipes from many parts of the world.  Included are recipes for yummy recipes such as Hungarian Plum Dumplings, Chinese Sesame Seed Bananas, Polish Almond Bars and Persian Rice Pudding. This, also, was first published in 1962 by Crowell-Collier Publishing Company.

One book appears to have been originally published by Collier’s as a paperback, was THE CASSEROLE COOKBOOK 1963 (170 ingenious one-dish dinners). I think it might have been a takeoff from her earlier COMPLETE MEALS IN ONE DISH although the recipes are different.  “The casserole” noted the author, “is the greatest single boon for the busy hostess. It permits her to join her guests instead of being confined to last-minute duties in the kitchen…” I agree, and reading both books, found many recipes that would be suitable even today. The back cover of THE CASSEROLE COOKBOOK notes that “Myra Waldo is the author of many Collier cookbooks, including  COOKING FROM THE PANTRY SHELF, GREAT RECIPES FROM GREAT RESTAURANTS, THE HAMBURGER COOKBOOK, COOK AS THE ROMANS DO, SOUFFLE COOKBOOK, CAKES, COOKIES AND PASTRIES  and 1001 WAYS TO PLEASE A HUSBAND: THE BRIDE’S COOKBOOK. Incidentally, if you have this last title, it appears to be the most elusive of all Waldo’s books and, for some reason, the highest priced listed in Alibris.com. I am unable to determine whether 1001 Ways to Please a Husband and The Bride’s Cookbook are one and the same or two separate books.

And, although THE ART OF SPAGHETTI COOKERY 1964 does not appear to have been classified amongst Waldo’s “foreign” cookbooks, it does contain recipes from many parts of the world; recipes such as Czechoslovakian potato noodle, Greek macaroni casserole, Bhat Aur Savia (Indian rice and spaghetti) and Chinese beef and noodles.   As an added bonus, the author provides an interesting history of spaghetti in the Introduction.  Another cookbook by Myra Waldo, while not strictly “foreign” has a European stamp, with recipes from France, Italy, Spain and Sweden.

COMPLETE MEALS IN ONE DISH/DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY, 1965

COMPLETE BOOK OF WINE COOKERY 1965 (publisher?)

DICTIONARY OF INTERNATIONAL FOOD AND COOKING TERMS, 1967

INTERNATIONAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COOKING, ILLUSTRATED BY SIDONIE CORYN 1967 (publisher?)

INTER-CONTINENAL GOURMET COOKBOOK published in 1967 by Macmillan Company. (One edition with a box to hold the cookbook in), but I also have a very nice hardcover edition published the same year.  Was the boxed edition for something special?

THE COMPLETE ROUND THE WORLD MEAT COOKBOOK, also published in 1967 by Doubleday & Company

SEVEN WONDERS OF THE COOKING WORLD published in 1971 by Dodd, Mead & Company is devoted to recipes from China, The Orient (other than China), Where East Meets West (recipes from Russia, Rumania, Greece, Turkey, Iran and Israel), Middle Europe (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia), Italy, the Latin Countries (Spain, Portugal, South America and Mexico) and France.

CUCINA ORIENTALE, 1972 (publisher?) no other information

Despite being a most prolific cookbook author throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, producing over 40 cookbooks, Myra Waldo appears to have all but disappeared from our culinary landscape.  Most of my food-related reference books fail to mention her at all; James Trager, in  “THE FOOD CHRONOLOGY” refers only briefly to her first cookbook, “THE SOUFFLE COOKBOOK” published in 1954, and Waldo’s 1967 “INTERNATIONAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COOKING”.  (As a yardstick of comparison, I noted that Irma Rombauer, who wrote only one cookbook (Joy of Cooking) ranks an entire lengthy paragraph in Trager’s Food Chronology, while Margaret Rudkin who introduced the world to Pepperidge Farm Bread and wrote THE PEPPERIDGE FARM COOKBOOK” is acknowledged with nearly an entire page. Ida Bailey Allen who, you know, is the author of first cookbook I was introduced to as a child, is referenced nine  times in Trager’s book, even though some of Allen’s books were little more than pamphlets and many were quite obviously promotions for the products that sponsored her.

And yet, as I leaf through cookbook after cookbook written by Myra Waldo, I am impressed with the quality of her writing. Recipes were written straightforwardly, directions are clear and precise. Any one of us could read her cookbooks, today, and follow her instructions.  Sometimes we are gifted with interesting asides such as those in “THE COMPLETE BOOK OF GOURMET COOKING FOR THE AMERICAN KITCHEN” in which Myra explains how Baked Alaska was the unexpected and happy result of a laboratory experiment and tells us how sherbets came to 16th century France with Catherine de Medicis, bride of Henry II.  Myra often gives us a food-related history lesson throughout the pages of “THE COMPLETE BOOK OF GOURMET COOKING FOR THE AMERICAN KITCHEN”.  This cookbook, incidentally, is another favorite of mine. The stories she shares in COMPLETE MEALS IN ONE DISH are heartwarming. Each chapter begins with a short memoir—and it is here, in this cookbook, that one gets a true sense of who Myra Waldo was.

Another mystery to this most elusive cookbook author is that her books were published by many different publishers, sometimes two different ones in the same year. Oftentimes, an author’s books will be published by the same publisher. (Although someone else who did this were the cookbook authors, The Browns—Cora, Bob, and Rose.  Well, someone else will have to solve that mystery!

Readers of my blog who like cookbooks that are all “from scratch” ingredients would do well to find some of Myra’s cookbooks for your shelves. She was a most incredibly gifted (and beautiful!) writer.

And this is what I found on Google January 15, 2011:

Dateline July 29, 2004

“Myra Waldo, a writer who filled bookshelves with advice on places to see and their customs, died Sunday in her home in Beverly Hills. She was 88 and formerly lived in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  The cause was congestive heart failure, her family said…Myra Waldo was born in Manhattan and attended Columbia University. In 1937 she married Robert J. Schwartz, a lawyer, who died in 1997.  She used her maiden name professionally….” (Obviously, Wolfgang Saxon who wrote this piece – didn’t really KNOW anything about Myra Waldo. He concludes, “Ms. Waldo worked on special projects for the MacMillan Publishing Company in the late 1960s. From 1968 to 1972, she was on the air as food and travel editor of WCBS radio, a job that led to her 1971 “Restaurant Guide to New York City and Vicinity” which she continued to revise into the 1980s.”  ARE YOU KIDDING ME, WOLFGANG?  This is all you had to write about a woman who wrote over FORTY cookbooks? – not including all her books on travel? I would hope that, if I wrote that many cookbooks, someone in my family would compose a better obituary for me. Myra deserved better. I hope that I have given it to her with this tribute.

Jill Holzman, writing for Jewish Journal did considerably better with a short obituary about Myra Waldo Schwartz on August 5. 2004:  “Myra Waldo Schwartz, travel writer, food editor and critic, died July 25 [2004].  A member of the Screen Actors Guild, Myra made numerous television appearances, [had] a radio show on food on New York’s WCBS News Radio 88 and was the food editor for the Baltimore Sun’s This Week Magazine.

She wrote more than 40 books, including “The Complete Round The World Cookbook”, “Seven Wonders of the Cooking World” “The Molly Goldberg Cookbook” and “l,001 ways to Please Your Husband.”

For anyone who wants more proof that Myra Waldo and Colette Black were one and the same person, please note the follow:

All of the following Myra titles are from The Complete Book of Gourmet Cooking (French cooking for the American kitchen). The Colette titles are all from The Art of Parisian Cooking:

Myra – Pate Maison page 7   Colette – page 26 Pate Maison

Myra – Chicken Liver Mousse page 6, Colette – page 26 Chicken Liver Mouse (*amount of cream is ½ cup in one recipe and 1 cup in the other. Remaining ingredients are the same)

Myra – Fondue of Chicken, page 115, Colette – Fondue de Poulet, Page 89

Myra – poached chicken with truffles, page 111, Colette – page 88 supreme de Volaille Demi-Deuil

Myra – Chicken & Sweet Breads with pastry page 118, Colette –  Poulet Et Ris Beau En Pate page 89

Myra – Chicken in cherry Sauce page 106, Colette – Poussin Montmorency page 83

Myra – Fricassee with White Wine, page 97, Colette – Fricassee a la Parisienne, page 84

Myra – Chicken in Red Wine page 96-97, Colette – Coq Au Vin Rouge page 85

Myra – Chicken in Saffron Cream Sauce, page 106, Colette – Poularde Au Safran page 86

There are many more but the special recipe that started our search for the French Connection:

Myra – Beef Burgundy, page 145, Colette – Boeuf Bourguigonne page 67.

I rest my case.

Sandy’s cooknote: A special thank you to John H. in San Diego for all your assistance and insights—particularly in areas in which I have no expertise (writing styles and copyright laws) ©   – Sandra Lee Smith, September 24, 2013

NATIVE AMERICAN COOKING

NATIVE AMERICAN COOKING (FOODS OF THE SOUTHWEST INDIAN NATIONS) by Lois Ellen Frank, was published in 1991 by Clarkson Potter, Publishers, and is surely one of the most beautiful cookbooks I have ever seen. That it is so beautiful is not happenstance—Lois Ellen Frank is a professional photographer as well as cookbook author. In this case she is both cookbook author and photographer, whose work has appeared in major magazines and newspapers, such as L.A. Style, New Mexico Magazine and the Los Angeles Times Magazine.

To get a better understanding of the book, let’s read what Ms. Frank had to say, in the introduction to NATIVE AMERICAN COOKING:

“When I graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara,” she writes, “I was asked to give a speech at the commencement. With this special opportunity, I wanted to reach out to every person there and explain my feelings about photography—how the images we produce should be positive and productive and, if possible, influence generations to come…”

After Lois Frank gave her speech, the renowned photographer Ernst Haas also gave a speech, and Lois was greatly moved by his words. As she and Ernest became friends, he encouraged Lois to share her visions with him.

Ernst believe that in order to express your visions through an art form, you must allow your childlike, uninhibited feelings to surface.

“Quite often” he explained to Lois with distaste, “I see people photographing things they don’t necessarily care about, just to make money, and then when they finally reach a point in their lives when they have time to be creative, they have forgotten what it is they wanted to express in the first place”.

And so, Lois began to search for the message she wanted to convey through her photography. She knew she had to look within herself, and she began to have dreams—-dreams of herself doing simple things, like grinding corn and making baskets and planting seeds. She says she has always tried to be in touch with the earth and has always been interested in people who are; she also notes that her grandfather was a Kiowa Indian and that she has always been interested in Native American culture.

As a result, Lois Frank spent several years visiting and living on many of the southwestern Indian reservations. She learned from the elders where to find, how to harvest, and how to prepare Native American foods. And-—they gave her permissions to photograph their food rituals – a rare privilege, she notes.

In September of 1986, while Lois was on her first trip to the Hopi reservation, her dear friend, Ernst, died of a stroke. Though his death left her with a great feeling of emptiness, she knows his spirit lives within her.

In the introduction to NATIVE AMERICAN COOKING you will learn a bit about the beliefs and culture of the Native Americans of the Southwest, whose people have always lived in close harmony with the natural world: their religions are based on a belief that the gods are embodied in the forces of nature and in all living things. Consequently, every food, whether plant or animal is considered sacred.

“To offer an overall picture of the region,” Lois explains, “I have chosen not to separate the recipes by tribe. Thus you’ll find a variety of influences throughout the book: recipes that derive from the sophisticated farming techniques of the Hopi and other Pueblo tribes; recipes that include fish, from the tribes that settled along the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico; recipes that reflect the hunting-and-gathering diets of the Navajo and Apache tribes; recipes featuring cactus, a special staple of the Pima and Papago peoples…”

All of these recipes, of course, have been adapted to the modern kitchen and whenever possible, Lois has given advice on how to find special ingredients and, when appropriate, has suggested more common ingredients you can use as substitutes.

You will surely be as pleased as I was over the beautiful photography which illustrates the recipes, and if you enjoy southwestern cuisine at ALL, you are going to love this book. There are a wide variety of recipes from which to choose, ranging from Blue Corn Dumplings in Potato Nests with Red Chile Sauce, to Indian Fry Bread.

Also included is a source guide, so that no matter where you live you can order special ingredients and feast on Native American cuisine to your heart’s content.

NATIVE AMERICAN COOKING, subtitled FOODS OF THE SOUTHWEST INDIAN NATIONS by Lois Ellen Frank, was published in 1991 by Clarkson Potter. It is available on Amazon.com, reasonably priced at $9.98 for a new copy, $5.75 for a collectible copy and starting at one cent for a pre owned copy. (It originally sold for $27.50 when it was first published).

I also found FOODS OF THE SOUTHWEST INDIAN TRIBES, published by Lois in August 2002. That one is available at $23.79 for a hardbound copy or $7.86 for a pre-owned one. A third listing on Amazon.com that I am wrestling with myself (to buy, or not to buy, that is the question) is titled TACO TABLE and it’s available at $8.96 for a new copy or $2.98 for a pre-owned one.

Lois Ellen Frank also lent her expertise as a photographer to a number of other cookbooks—if you type in her name on Amazon.com with “photographer” you will see an amazing list of cookbooks featuring her photography.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

Sandy’s Cooknote: I have been enchanted with the southwestern states – and southwestern cuisine–for quite some time and have reviewed some SW junior league cookbooks in the past…consider this a lead-in – I’ve acquired several more cookbooks featuring New Mexico’s tantalizing cuisine—and will be featuring them on my blog as soon as I can get them read-and-reviewed. – Sandy 9/6/2013

TENDER AT THE BONE BY RUTH REICHL

I just finished re-reading Ruth Reichl’s early memoir TENDER AT THE BONE and want to tell you, this is a must for all of us—for everyone who loves to cook, for anyone who grew up in the 40s or the 50s but especially in New York; for anyone who appreciates good food, for all of us who enjoy a good story—for those of us who have suffered in the not-too-distant past the idiosyncrasies of our mothers—but mostly for all of us who appreciate the lure and calling of the kitchen.

I first read about Ruth Reichl’s TENDER AT THE BONE in a lengthy, fascinating review that appeared around the time Reichl’s memoir was first published and was reviewed in the Los Angeles Times. The review was actually a reprint of chapter two, titled Grandmothers, and it captivated everyone who read it—along with everyone who ever enjoyed having a wonderful grandmother. In it, Ruth describes the relationship she enjoyed all her life with her father’s first wife’s mother, Aunt Birdie, who was—at four feet eight, the smallest grown-up that Ruth or any of her friends had ever seen.

From Aunt Birdie and Aunt Birdie’s cook, Alice, Ruth was introduced to the kitchen and from Aunt Birdie, Ruth received the one thing all of us as children need and cherish—unconditional love. Aunt Birdied, incidentally, so desperately wanted to be a grandmother that she presented herself at the hospital when Ruth was born, and volunteered herself for the job.

Ruth Reichl has been a restaurant critic for the New York Times, New West Magazine, California magazine, and the Los Angeles Times newspaper, and was editor in chief for Gourmet Magazine until it folded (I began re-subscribing to Gourmet when Ruth became editor its chief. I loved everything she wrote and attempted to follow her career).

She also edited ENDLESS FEASTS which was a tribute to sixty years of writing from Gourmet Magazine. ENDLESS FEASTS was published in 2002. It’s the perfect book to carry around with you on errands to the post office or bank, wherever you may find yourself standing in line—the short stories are ideal for waiting-in-line and the book is small enough to fit into most purses.

Ruth Reichl was a writer and editor who was the Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine for ten years until its closing in 2009. Before that she was the restaurant critic of the The New York Times, (1993-1999), and both the restaurant critic and food editor of the Los Angeles Times (1984-1993). As co-owner and cook of the collective restaurant The Swallow from 1974 to 1977, she played a part in the culinary revolution that took place in Berkeley, California.

From Ruth Reichl’s official biography, we learned that she began writing about food in 1972, when she published “Mmmmm: A FEASTIARY”. Since then, she has authored the critically acclaimed, best-selling memoirs “Tender at the Bone”, “Comfort Me with Apples”, “Garlic and Sapphires”, and “For You Mom, Finally”, (originally published as “Not Becoming My Mother and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way”). Reichl is the editor of The Modern Library Food Series, which currently includes ten books—I was curious about this series and checked through both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble to see what all is in the series. (It looks like something I will want to order and write about—one thing that stunned me was the discovery that Henri Charpentier is the subject of one of the books. I wrote about Charpentier in January, 2011, on my blog—but had written about him long before that, for the cookbook Collectors Exchange).

Reichl has also written the introductions to Nancy Silverton’s “Breads from the La Brea Bakery: Recipes for the Connoisseur” (1996) and “The Measure of Her Powers: An M.F.K. Fisher Reader” (2000), and the foreword for “Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art”, by Shizuo Tsuji (2007). Reichl is featured on the cover of Dining Out: Secrets from America’s Leading Critics, Chefs and Restaurants, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page (1998), History in a Glass: Sixty Years of Wine Writing from Gourmet, 2006, and Gourmet Today, 2009.

Ms. Reichl has been honored with six James Beard Awards (one for magazine feature writing and one for multimedia food journalism in 2009; two for restaurant criticism, in 1996 and 1998; one for journalism, in 1994; and Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, 1984) and with numerous awards from the Association of American Food Journalists.

In 2007, she was named Adweek’s Editor of the Year. She received the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism, presented by the Missouri School of Journalism, in October 2007. Ms. Reichl received the 2008 Matrix award for Magazines from New York Women in Communications, Inc..

She is also the recipient of the YWCA’s Elizabeth Cutter Morrow Award. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in the History of Art from the University of Michigan and lives in New York City with her husband, Michael Singer, a television news producer, and their son.

Whew! I hope you were able to keep up with me listing all of that!

Right now, I’d like to focus on TENDER AT THE BONE, an early memoir but not the very first. That would be “Mmmmm: A Feastiary” published in 1972.

TENDER AT THE BONE is the story of Reichl’s life and how it led her to the kitchen from early childhood to the present. This is not really a cookbook although it does contain some of Reichl’s favorite recipes, including Aunt Birdie’s famous potato salad and Alice’s apple dumplings with hard sauce.

Many of Reichl’s experiences in life struck a familiar chord – when she tells of being sent to a French girls school in Canada—where everyone except Ruth spoke French—and how out of place and foreign she felt – I was instantly reminded of my first year at a Catholic Girls’ High School where everyone seemed to know where to go and how to behave, except me, (one nun never forgave me for walking into the cloister to get to my science class, not believing that I had no idea what “cloister” meant—although fifty years later when we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our graduation, Sister Seraphia—reading my confession about the cloister in the school’s quarterly booklet—conceded that I probably didn’t really know what “cloister” meant). As for me, I made it my business forever after to learn the meaning of any word I was unfamiliar with. It was a good lesson). And while my mother may not have been quite as outrageous as Ruth’s, mine may have run a close second. It took many years for my siblings and I to discover that it wasn’t the food we disliked; it was the way mom cooked it. (Oh? You mean rice isn’t intended to be a hard sticky ball like library paste?) Ruth says her mother was taste-blind, as some people are color-blind. My mother was pre-occupied with managing to feed seven people with one pound of hamburger meat (you keep adding bread to the ground beef. None of us knew what a real hamburger tasted like until we grew up and could order something from a local Frisches’ diner.)

TENDER AT THE BONE, write the publishers, is the story of a life determined, enhanced, and defined in equal measure by unforgettable people, the love of tales, well told, and a passion for food. In other words, the stuff of the best literature.

The journey begins with Reichl’s mother, the notorious food-poisoner, known forevermore as the Queen of Mold and moves on to the fabled Mrs. Peavey, onetime Baltimore socialite millionairess, who for a brief but poignant moment, was retained as the Reichl’s maid. Then we are introduced to Monsieur du Croix, the gourmand who so understood and yet was awed by this prodigious child at his dinner table that when he introduced Ruth to the soufflé, he could only exclaim “What a pleasure to watch a child eat her first soufflé!…”

In an Amazon.com Internet interview with Ruth Reichl, she explains that she didn’t start out thinking she was writing a memoir; she just really wanted to do some writing that was not just restaurant reviews. We also learn from the interview that Ruth is a kindred spirit to us all—she has hundreds of cookbooks. The Fannie Farmer cookbook is one of her all-time favorites (and in TENDER AT THE BONE you discover her introduction to, and friendship with, cookbook author Marion Cunningham who wrote the latest version for the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Ruth says she loves Marian Morash’s vegetable book THE VICTORY GARDEN COOKBOOK and was greatly impressed with Rozanne Gold’s RECIPES 1-2-3, (previously reviewed on my blog).

Ruth Reichl also loves Richard Olney’s books, especially SIMPLE FRENCH FOOD and says that one more book she really loves and has had for about twenty years is GOOD FOOD OF SZECHWAN.

TENDER AT THE BONE is available on Amazon.com for $12.09 or from one of many private vendors starting at $3.95 for a pre-owned copy. Alibris.com also has pre owned copies starting at 99 cent.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith