Category Archives: FAVORITE COOKBOOKS

READING COOKBOOKS LIKE NOVELS

If you have been collecting cookbooks for any length of time, or gravitate towards any articles or references to cookbooks that you find on the Internet, in the newspaper –or anywhere else—you may have seen the oft-repeated comment from collectors, “I read cookbooks like novels” in a sort of perplexed way, like who does anything like this? The answer is WE ALL DO and our number is legion. I might have made a comment like this myself back in 1965 when I first started collecting cookbooks and really didn’t know where to go about getting started.
There was a magazine for penpals called Women’s Circle (not to be confused with Woman’s Day or Family Circle) – I wrote a letter to Women’s Circle trying to find a little Hungarian cookbook for a friend and as an afterthought, wrote that I wanted to start collecting cookbooks and would buy or trade for them.

I received over 200 responses when my letter was published; I found the Hungarian cookbook published by Culinary Press (ck) and bought one for my friend and one for myself. Then I began buying anything anyone offered me and it was the nucleus of my collection. I also began finding cookbooks in used book stores—I hadn’t been living in California long enough to be familiar with used book stores such as one in West Hollywood that was a treasure trove of cookbooks, many for only $1.00 each. It was there that I acquired a handwritten cookbook that the owner of the book store offered to me for $11.00. Now that is a cookbook I have read from cover to cover many times. I have also written about it on this blog (see Helen’s Cookbook first posted June 16, 2009, along with Helen’s Cookbook the Update and Helen’s Cookbook the Sequel) – now this was a revelation. I have been collecting recipe boxes for years and had discovered filled recipe boxes—recipes collected by someone else, like a kitchen diary) – and I began wondering if there might be more self-written cookbooks like Helen’s. Aside from the very famous hand-written cookbooks such as one created by Martha Washington or Thomas Jefferson and other notables, over the years other handwritten cookbooks have come my way, thanks to friends who know about my addiction to cookbooks such as these.

Each discovery is like traveling down an amazing road and every time you come to a crossroad—it leads to more incredible and fascinating discoveries, all due to starting a collection of cookbooks.

In 1965, I was barely starting a collection. It was a stellar year. I learned how to drive that year, and also acquired an Australian penpal, Eileen, and a Michigan penpal, Betsy, who are still both a part of my life. That was also the year I met Connie, who initially babysat for me—but became a lifelong friend who was also the godmother to my youngest son, Kelly. Her children were as much a part of my life as my own sons. Connie began collecting cookbooks too.
It was right about this time that I became interested in former Presidents and the White House, and Connie and I bought a “lot” of White House, American presidents, sight unseen, from someone for $100.00. We scraped together the money and when the books arrived, divided them between us. (My discovery that cookbooks and the White House/American presidents were connected – came much later and now those books take up several shelves in my bookcases).

So, it wasn’t very long before I was collecting not only cookbooks—but books about the White House kitchens and chefs, books about American Presidents and their families, and books about First Ladies (these take up an entire bookcase).

I’m not sure when I first became aware of an antiquarian bookseller in San Gabriel…she compiled an annual booklet, “200 Years of Cookery” and I bought some books from her—this was another revelation; the booklets were reasonably priced and became my wish books. I remember visiting her once at her home in San Gabriel; I don’t remember the year—or who drove me there. I can’t imagine Jim taking me there—and Bob was familiar with San Gabriel. I still have a 1974 copy of “200 years of Cookery” and only thought, last night, to look up Marian Gore on Google. I learned that she passed away in 2009 at the age of 95. It’s quite possible that I met her, at her home in San Gabriel, with Bob accompanying me. I met him in 1986 and around that time had begun to focus on cookbooks compiled by women’s clubs and churches.

However, I discovered that I was as interested in reading cookbook catalogues as I was in reading the cookbooks themselves. Edward R. Hamilton publishes catalogues of books –including those devoted solely to cookbooks.

I would begin collecting L.A. County Fair cookbooks in the 1980s when Bob and I began entering my jellies, jams, pickled cherries and cantaloupe in the annual fair competition. If your recipes won a first, second, or third prize ribbon, you were invited to submit your recipe for the next fair competition the following year. My curiosity was piqued and I began searching for the L.A. County fair cookbooks published before I began entering it – and I did find them….but I stopped collecting the books when I was no longer able to enter the fair or get to the fair when it was being held at the Pomona Fairgrounds.

But I was still curious – what about cookbooks published by other county fairs? And what about STATE FAIR ANNUAL COOKBOOKS? (To the best of my knowledge, Texas publishes the best State Fair cookbooks…at least they did when I was broadening my search for anything fair related). The glory of fair cookbooks is that they are always reasonably priced. And this, my friends, was one of those crossroads I mentioned earlier.

As for Helen’s cookbook, also mentioned previously—it was through a penpal living in England that I learned who Helen was and something about her life; she and her husband never had any children of their own, which probably explains how her exquisite handwritten cookbook ended up in a bookstore. What charmed me most were the detailed descriptions of her dinner parties, who was invited, how everyone was given a task to perform, and what she served to them—including the recipes.

And it was because of Helen’s cookbook that I began compiling 3-ring binders of recipes…some clipped from magazines, others from other sources—until there are now over 50 of these 3-ring binders stuffed full of recipes. There are twelve binders full of cookie recipes alone. But back in the 1970s I began keeping descriptions of MY own dinner parties, who was invited, what I served and how I prepared the various dishes. I think I kept these dinner party descriptions up until the 1980s when I came to another crossroad.

For years I collected gingerbread house recipes from magazines (all of which ended up in one of my 3-ring binders) until one year Bob and I decided to build our own gingerbread house; the first house we created wasn’t too great but the next one we built was a beauty. When a visiting four-year old great-niece broke off pieces of the chicklet fence, we decided not to re-build and fed it to the birds. Bob was a genius at working on graph paper to copy designs in the magazines to a bigger size. He would make and cut out all the pieces to the gingerbread house. Together we would create gingerbread dough and roll it out to lay the pieces down on the gingerbread dough, cut the pieces out and bake them. It was an enormous undertaking! I’m sorry now that we didn’t attempt to enter THAT into the L.A. County Fair. Well, that’s how I started collecting cookbooks devoted to the topic of gingerbread houses. There were a multitude of other gingerbread creations you could make, not just gingerbread houses. One year we attempted a gingerbread dollhouse that was featured in one of the houses. That was an unusually wet winter and the house sort of collapsed from the dampness. Since then, I buy kits for my grandchildren and me to put together and decorate. And I still like to read the gingerbread house cookbooks!

Do I read cookbooks like a novel? Absolutely. Doesn’t everybody?

–Sandra Lee Smith

SOME MORE FAVORITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE COOKBOOKS

My collection of Christmas-themed cookbooks actually fills one entire large bookcase; even so, there are a few favorite cookbooks that I turn to year after year. Ditto some of the recipes typed or written on 3×5” recipe cards—the cookie recipe cards fill have a dozen recipe boxes but there are some that are more worn and frequently used than others. I imagine most of us have favorites like these.

One of my favorite cookbooks is Mimi Sheraton’s VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS.  Even the title is captivating. VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS was first published in 1968. Mine is a revision published in 1981 by Harper & Row.

VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS is subtitled “A cookbook of cakes, cookies, candies & confections from all the Countries that celebrate Christmas” Sheraton had me captivated in the first paragraph of the Preface, where she writes, “When this book was first published thirteen years ago, it represented the results of what might be considered a hobby—a joint interest in Christmas and in food that had led me to collect recipes for traditional Christmas confections over many years…”  (Are we soul sisters? Long lost twins?)

Later, she comments, “No holiday has a wider variety of special symbolic foods than Christmas and anyone who prepares the cakes, cookies, candies and drinks related to that holiday can feel a long connection with the past, for many of the foods maintain traditions that began centuries ago—some even before Christianity itself…”

Following is the Introduction featuring the Six Weeks of Christmas, From Advent to Twelfth night in which Sheraton writes, “No Christmas memory would seem to be complete without recollections of the holiday foods, most especially the sweets: the yeasty coffee breads golden with saffron and mace; the aged and ripened fruit cakes spiked with whiskey or brandy and jeweled with bits of candied fruits; crisp butter cookies peppery with ginger or aromatic with anise; darkly rich mince pies, plum cakes and puddings; the flaming wine punches and soul-warming wassails; the sensuously sweet taffies and marzipan candies; and the pervasive comfortable scents of vanilla, peppermint, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves…”  This is followed with all the Six weeks of special holiday observances, including December  6th and 7th, St Nicholas Eve and Day, which was celebrated religiously in my childhood home. We hung long white socks of my father’s (because they were bigger) and would find a tangerine, some walnuts, hard candies and maybe a small toy in our stockings. I don’t recall ever having a tangerine at any other time of the year and it still amazes me to think we had a prolific tangerine tree in our front yard in Arleta.

January 6th is known alternatively as Three Kings’ Day or Night, the Feast of the Magi, Twelfth Night – to us, as children, it was the Feast of the Three Kings and my grandmother made doughnuts for us – each doughnut would have a coin in it, usually a nickel or a dime, I think.

Because I want to remain focused on cookies, I’ll save a more detailed description of VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS for another time – Chapter Three, Cookies & Small Cakes, starts with Drop and Bar Cookies from various countries – Brandy Snaps from England, Anise Drops from Germany, Canadian Fruit squares and Elise Lebkuchen from the ancient Bavarian city, Nuremberg. I think the Honey Lebkuchen is the recipe I have been making for several decades.

There are recipes for Hazelnut Macaroons, Pine Nut Macaroons, Chocolate Macaroons—take your pick!  Pepper Nuts is called Pfeffernusse in Germany or Pepparnotter  in Sweden—in any language they last a long time if stored in an airtight container and the recipe makes about nine dozen cookies!  Sheraton comments that in Pennsylvania Dutch country, this dough (Pefferniss) is allowed to ripen at room temperature for one to  two weeks, after which it is shaped into rolls, chilled and cut  to bake –they can be rolled in powdered sugar while still warm or allowed to cool and iced.

My daughter in law’s favorite Snickerdoodles are in VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS with the comment that the recipe is Pennsylvania Dutch and New England—I wonder if she knows that?

There are molded and shaped cookies, such as Hazelnut Crescents from Northern and Central Europe and Finnish Chestnut Fingers that I am thinking would be fun to make (and why didn’t I collect more chestnuts from the grounds of a place my friend Bev & I visited in Oregon? The ground was littered with fallen Chestnuts; I took about a dozen to bring home with me because they look just like Buckeyes from the Buckeye Tree in Ohio. In Ohio, women keep a buckeye in their handbags for good luck).

There are recipes for Swedish cinnamon Sand cookies which I think I would like to make this year, Baseler Leckerli from Switzerland, the Pennsylvania Dutch Belsnickles (which used to be given to masked revelers—Belsnickles—who went bell ringing from one house to another on Christmas Eve) and Bellylaps, another Pennsylvania Dutch cookies similar to Moravian Brown Sugar Cookies but are a little less brittle and can be used for tree ornaments. But I think I would like to try making Swedish Gingersnaps which should be rolled to paper thinness—or perhaps Moravian Brown Sugar cookies, which also must be rolled paper-thin.  This is just a sampling of the cookie recipes to be found in VISIONS OF SUGAR PLUMS.

It is listed in Amazon.com for $19.00 (hardcover, new) or 95c for a pre-owned copy. I could not find a listing on Alibris.com

One of my older (1971) cookbooks is HOMEMADE COOKIES by the Food Editors of Farm Journal.  Years ago – in the late 1960s, early 1970s, I think – a penpal began introducing me to Farm Journal cookbooks. These became my tried-and-true recipes of the time. (Every so often I find a copy of this cookbook at the Lancaster Friends library sale – I snap them up to give to friends; the cookbooks are good.) There are hundreds of recipes and they’re all good.  My copy is almost falling apart, it’s been used that much. This one is featured on Amazon.com starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy.

Another favorite cookbook from 1963 is THE ART OF MAKING GOOD COOKIES PLAIN AND FANCY by Annette Laslett Ross and Jean Adams Disney—another one of those can’t-be-beat cookie cookbooks. (This one is featured on Alibris.com for 99c. Amazon.com has pre-owned copies starting at one cent).

A third favorite is COOKIE COOKERY by John Zenker and Hazel G. Zenker, published in 1969. I found COOKIE COOKERY on Amazon.com, pre-owned copies starting at one cent.

A little treasure of a cookbook that was given to me by a friend is THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE BOOK by Virginia Pasley, published in 1949 (I wasn’t collecting cookbooks back then but this is one of those timeless cookbooks written in a friendly chatty style).  Alibris.com doesn’t have this one in stock, but Amazon.com does, starting at $1.32 for a pre-owned copy.

FAVORITE BRAND NAME 100 BEST HOLIDAY COOKIES is nicely designed with hidden wire binding and a lot of color photographs of the cookies. I found this one on Amazon.com new for $2.97 and pre-owned starting at one cent. I have half a dozen post-its sticking out of its pages- the recipes I thought I might like to try this Christmas. (Reminds me of the saying “so many books, so little time” – only I would call it, SO MANY COOKIES, SO LITTLE TIME).

These are a few of my favorite cookbooks – as time permits, I will try to share some of my other favorites with you.  Happy Cookie Baking!!

–Sandra Lee Smith (portions previously posted on sandychatter in 2011)

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

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE …The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking…by Joseph E. Dabny, is a monumental work, presenting Appalachian cuisine from pioneer days to the present.

Author Joseph Dabny is a retired newspaperman and public relationships executive who has studied Appalachian and hill-country food traditions for many years.

A beautifully written foreword is provided by noted food historian and cookbook author, John Egerton. He states, in part, “In place of the denigrating mythologies of Appalachia—the buffoonish Snuffy Smith-Lil’ Abner-Beverly Hllbillies stereotypes—we see these salt-of-the-earth citizens for what they truly area: smart, industrious, creative, frugal, good-humored, and highly skilled, especially when it comes to putting great meals on the table.

Because he grew up at tables such as these in the southern arc of the Appalachian highlands—and remains close by even now—Joe Dabney knows how to recreate the atmosphere and the characters and the food…Dabney is unquestionably the right person to pull together a patchwork quilt of a book such as this…”

The author was born in South Carolina in 1929; when his father, a merchant, went bankrupt by a wave of customer credit caused by the Great Depression, the family—which included six other children—left their home in the Piedmont for a rented farm in Greneville County, a hundred miles to the northwest.  “There,” writes Egerton, “just below the eastern shadow of the Blue Ridge mountains, the Dabneys rode out the Depression with unwavering faith, hope and charity—in God, Franklin Roosevelt, and a support group of relatives and friends…”

“Back in Kershaw at the age of seven” says Egerton, “Joe had already learned the code of the hills and it would serve him well from then on…and it is those people, the ancients and his own more recent kin and neighbors, whose voices echo through Dabny’s smooth-flowing narrative. To be sure, this is a cookbook and most of the talk is about food—or over it, at the table, –but it is much more than that. It’s about characters like whiskey-maker Theodore (Thee) King of Gum Log, Georgia, and Simmie Free of Tiger, Georgia and ninety year old Nina Garrett of Near Cartecay, another Georgia hill-country community…Dabney’s book is also about hog-killing and smokehouses, about making lye hominy and gathering greens, about ramps and cushaws and leather britches [dried green beans], about cracklin’ bread and corncob jelly*, whistle pig and poke sallet, apple butter and stack cakes…”  (I made corncob jelly last year when my youngest son had a beautiful crop of corn on the cob. I removed most of the corn from the cobs, to blanch and freeze it – and not wanting to waste all those cobs, I made corncob jelly. It’s delicious!).

Mr. Dabney acknowledges that many people helped with the creation of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE,” which includes a bibliography of more than two hundred books.

I feel as though I should know Mr. Dabney; many familiar names jump off the pages of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE. My dearly-loved Georgian columnist Celestine Sibley, who died not long before I wrote my first review of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE in 1999 for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange and had the delight of being featured in one of her newspaper articles…author Nathalie Dupree,  another favorite cookbook author, and author Janice  Holt Giles—whose books I have dearly loved my entire adult life, featuring pioneer history often centered around her home deep in a Kentucky ‘holler’ and made me love American pioneer history forever after—these are just a few of the American authors whose work I admire and relish and wish I had the ability to write like they do…they all recreate and make us familiar with the foodways and people of places such as Appalachia. Here, I noticed also, comments about Mark Sohn, whose great cookbook MOUNTAIN COUNTRY COOKING that I reviewed for CCE members some time ago.

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON CREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE is not a cookbook you will breeze through…it should be savored, page by page, like a fine…scuppernong wine. Here is a history of a people and their food; a celebration of foodlore handed down from Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany and the Cherokee Nation.  As Celestine Sibley would have said, “This one’s a keeper”.

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON CREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE was published by Cumberland House in Nashville in 1998. It is widely available on Amazon.com and other sites, starting at $3.33 for a pre-owned copy with a wide range of prices for new copies.

Mr. Dabney is also the author of THE FOOD, FOLKLORE AND ART OF LOWCOUNTRY COOKING, A CELEBRATION OF THE FOODS, HISTORY AND ROMANCE…

Another favorite of mine is BISCUITS, SPOONBREAD, AND SWEET POTATO PIE, by Bill Neal and if your interest is piqued to continue on a quest along these lines, you may want to also read John Egerton’s SOUTHERN FOOD, AT HOME, ON THE ROAD, IN HISTORY, originally published by Alfred Knopf in 1987.  Visit Amazon.com and Alibris.com for an extended list of titles by the author, not all are cookbooks.

For a more-in depth look at some of my favorite southern cookbooks, please refer to THAT’S WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THE SOUTH, PARTS 1 AND II, posted on this blog in 2011.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

 

2013 UPDATE FOR “YOU MAY BE A COOKBOOK COLLECTOR IF”…

2013 UPDATE FOR YOU MAY BE A COOKBOOK COLLECTOR IF…

*Your nightstand is piled high with cookbooks that you read in bed at night the way other people read novels.  It’s not unusual for you to find a couple of cookbooks in the bed with you when you awaken in the morning.

*You immediately head for the cookbook section of your favorite bookstore, just to see what’s new;

*You seldom leave a bookstore without buying a few new cookbooks;

*You go to the Friends of the Library book sales just to search for cookbooks. You might even buy some you already have but will buy them anyway because they are only fifty cents each;

*You don’t see anything unusual about having more than one edition of a favorite cookbook, such as the Joy of Cooking; your logic is that there might be some different recipes in the newer edition;

*You don’t want any of the pages of your cookbooks to become stained or spattered so you will copy a recipe on your printer instead of referring directly to the cookbook. Your refrigerator door is covered with recipes copied from cookbooks;

*When someone says they have a huge collection of cookbooks – at least three hundred books – you snicker because you have more than three thousand cookbooks;

*You think the next best thing to reading cookbooks is – browsing through book catalogs and websites that feature a lot of cookbooks;

*Your idea of a perfect day is spending it in used bookstores that have a lot of old cookbooks for sale—and the storekeeper has to help you lug them all to the trunk of your car when you are finished shopping (one of my favorites is in downtown Cincinnati);

*When someone asks you “What’s your favorite cookbook, the one you can’t live without?” you have to admit you probably have over a hundred favorites you can’t live without.

*You think the next best thing to reading cookbooks and recipes – is writing about them!    You have discovered that it is as rewarding—even more so—when you have the opportunity to participate in the creation of a community (church or club) cookbook. The first one I participated in was RECIPES ROUNDUP for Beachy School in Arleta  (California) in 1971. I volunteered to help and ended up taking over the entire project, typing all of the recipes before submitting them to a publisher. Several of the PTA ladies that participated in the project became life-long friends.  A few years later my sister Becky & I both participated in the compilation of a Christmas cookbook from a group in Cincinnati. And she was a major driving force in a cookbook project by the Cheviot PTA in Cincinnati—she did all of the graphics and submitted dozens of our family’s favorite recipes. Oddly enough—this spiral bound cookbook published by a PTA in Cincinnati somehow ended up in the hands of a girlfriend of mine when she was living in Maryland but some years later, returned to California—where she and her husband retired in the mountains in Southern California—I spotted it on her cookbook shelves one day when I was visiting—and couldn’t believe she had a copy of that particular cookbook.

The greatest project was the family cookbook, Grandma’s Favorite which ended up taking us years to get published in 2004. It’s my favorite turn-to cookbook though—it contains most of the family favorites. Another project that took years to be published was The Office Cookbook that a group of us where I worked began working on in the 1980s. The original manuscript contains over 400 recipes and when a co-worker learned that I had all of them, typed up, in a notebook – he asked if he could copy it and I said yes, of course. He printed both sides of the pages and put the book into nice clear plastic binders—and presented me with a copy.  Some twenty-something years later, when the company’s fund-raising committee wanted a sure fire fund-raiser – I suggested the Office Cookbook. It was reduced to 200 recipes—many of the original contributors had either retired or passed away—but finally it was published in 2002, still under the name of The Office Cookbook. It was never anything else.  But when I want a particular recipe, I almost always turn to the UN-condensed typewritten collection in a 3-ring binder.

*A few years ago, I became acquainted, long-distance, with a woman who is an editor for a cookbook publishing house.  I often think – that has to be the BEST job of all! Kudos to you, Sheila.

Happy Cooking!

Sandy

 

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

A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS, BY PAMELA ALLARDICE

Some years ago, I wrote an article on figs for the University of California Extension Service which, at that time, published a newsletter…the article was “everything I ever wanted to know—and share with the world” on the subject of figs. Oddly, I had titled it, “Who Gives a Fig?”

So, you ask, “What’s the point?” the point is, I had just finished reading (and salivating over) a book newly published in 1994 titled “A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS…TRADITIONS, MYTHS, AND MOUTH-WATERING RECIPES” published by Hill of Content, in 1993. The very first chapter is titled “Who Gives a Fig?” and contains pages and pages (about twenty—I counted)  on the history of figs throughout the world, including biblical quotes and superstitions (i.e., the Italians say fig leaves are unlucky and believe that evil spirits lurk in them during the summer months).

There is a wealth of reference material here – for instances, there are over 700 fig varieties in the world, and we learn that the fig is a member of the mulberry family. It is one of the oldest known plants in the world, and some writers have even suggested that the unspecified fruit that Eve offered Adam was actually a fig, not an apple. We do know that the earliest biblical reference to figs is the account of the fall of Adam and Eve, whereby they sewed fig leaves together to form aprons to cover their nakedness.

She discusses how the fig has featured in the mythologies of the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Greeks, as well as in Buddhist beliefs and in Christian tales.

Author Pamela Allaardice certainly did her homework—included in this book are two pages of bibliography.

As the owner of two prolific fig trees [until we moved to the Antelope Valley in 2008] I was constantly searching for good new fig recipes—and if you have a fig tree or if you just enjoy the taste of figs–Pamela Allardice’s book is for you.

Recipes? Try one o the many desserts—from chocolate fig mousse to fig and ginger pudding…or perhaps figgy pears or figs flambé. There are recipes for figs at Christmas, such as Christmas pudding, or Dutch Christmas bread…a fig and nectarine ice cream, or perhaps figs and mangoes in syrup. The author provides recipes for a Hungarian Fig Wine (that I wish I had tried) and baked figs with cherries and cinnamon…three are recipes for jams, sauces and preserves—from jellied fig and walnut relish to fig and watermelon preserves…fig butter and fig/apple spread.

For the adventurous, who want to try something different, there are recipes for a roast pork with figs and apples, or perhaps you might want to try a Medieval Meatball recipe.

I checked with both Amazon.com and Alibris.com—because I was startled to discover that A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS has maintained a distinct value—possibly because so little has been written about figs.  Amazon.com has pre-owned copies starting at $8.00.  A new copy starts at $35.00.  Alibris.com has copies, all starting at $35.00 and up. It originally sold new for $18.95.

A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS was originally published in Australia where author Pamela Allardice was editor of NATURE AND  HEALTH MAGAZINE and was a regular contributor  to AUSTRALIAN COUNTRY STYLE and HOUSE & GARDEN. At the time A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS was published, Allardice had written ten other books with fascinating titles – LOVE POTIONS and MOTHER KNOWS BEST.

Southern Californians may find themselves with a fig tree—last year I discovered that a fellow bowler on the league I had joined –had fig trees. Hers are a different variety from the black mission figs we had in Arleta—these are a small green fig—but they ground up the same way in a blender and I was able to make strawberry fig jam, often called Mock Strawberry Jam.  If you enjoy figs—or even have a fig tree, you might want to find a copy of A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS—worth the price if only for the well-written history.

–Updated Review by Sandra Lee Smith

My blog 10-21-13

Chef Louis Szathmary – a Tribute to the Master

chef (1)

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

THYME IN A BOTTLE

“Hi, I’m Ingrid Croce and THYME IN A BOTTLE is my life story in a cookbook”. This is how Ingrid Croce Introduces herself and captivates her audience from page one.

Who could be better qualified to write a cookbook titled THYME IN A BOTTLE than Ingrid Croce, wife of the late Jim Croce, whose TIME IN A BOTTLE is still played, frequently, on mellow/easy listening radio stations. Jim Croce died in an airplane crash in Louisiana in 1973. Croce, incidentally, also wrote-and-recorded “Operator”, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and “I’ll have to say I love you in a song”. His career was just starting to take off when he died, never knowing that at least one of his songs would become an all-time favorite classic.

From Google we learned that Croce was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 10, 1043. He first learned to play the accordion at the age of five. He later became a self taught guitar player.

Jim attended Villanova College in Pennsylvania and it was in his freshman year that he began to get serious about a musical career. He played in several bands doing a variety of music. It was also at college that he met his wife, Ingrid.

In 1969 he moved to New York with Ingrid and an old friend from college. They began playing in clubs and coffeehouses for more than a year.

It was there that they recorded their first album. However, the album was not a success and they grew tired of life in the city. The Croces then decided to move to Lyndell, Pennsylvania, where their only child, Adrian James Croce, was born. Although they lived a much simpler life, money was short, so Jim began selling the guitars he collected while living in New York. He worked construction jobs again and for studios in NY, dong background vocals for radio commercials.
Eventually, Jim was heard and signed by ABC/Dunhill record label in 1972 and released his second album, “YOU DON’T MESS AROUND WITH JIM”.

His rock style and soulful ballads became popular with American radio stations. This album gave Jim the success he had dreamed about – The title album, “YOU DON’T MESS AROUND WITH JIM” became a top ten hit. His third album was an even bigger success. “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” was a chart topping single that reached number one and eventually went Gold. Jim Croce was now traveling all over the country doing concerts and making television appearances.

One of his favorite songs, “Time in a Bottle” was used as theme song on a television movie titled “She Lives,” in early September of that year. It was after being heard on national television that this now legendary song became a radio success. However, only two months after “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” went to the top of the charts, Jim Croce was killed in an airplane crash.

Jim had finished what would be his last concert at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. His small charter airplane took off in bad weather and crashed into a tree right after take off, killing Jim, his lead guitarist Maury Muehleisen and the airplanes crew.

After his death, Jim Croce’s music continued to grow in popularity. He will always be known as one of the most talented singer, songwriter and musicians that we were blessed to have for such a short time.

There is no way of knowing just where Jim’s career would have taken him if he had not died so tragically just when his dreams were becoming realities. People who knew Jim Croce spoke of what a genuine, kind and easy-going man he was. His music was so easy for everyone to relate to. Jim Croce is buried at Haym Salomon Memorial Park in Frazer, Pennsylvania. An album titled, “Photographs and Memories” was released in 1974 as his greatest hits package. He was only thirty years ago when he died.

The following is a list of Croce’s top ten songs:

1. “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”
2. “Operator (That’s Not the Way it Feels)”
3. “Time in a Bottle”
4. “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”
5. “One Less Set of Footsteps”
6. “It Doesn’t Have to be That Way”
7. “Roller Derby Queen”
8. “I Got a Name”
9. “I’ll Have to Say I Love You In a Song”
10. “Lover’s Cross”

(Some of these can be heard on Youtube with Jim singing).

Getting back to “THYME IN A BOTTLE”, this cookbook came to me by way of the publishers, HarperCollins, when I was doing cookbook reviews for the now defunct cookbook newsletter the Cookbook Collectors Exchange.

What you may not know is that in 1985, Ingrid opened Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar in San Diego, California, as a tribute to her late husband, singer and songwriter. Jim Croce. Many of the recipes made famous in her restaurants (for she parlayed the success of her first restaurant into a group of popular restaurants) can be found in THYME IN A BOTTLE.

THYME IN A BOTTLE features Italian favorites of the Croce family, as well as Russian and Jewish classics from Ingrid’s own childhood.

Not just a cookbook—THYME IN A BOTTLE chronicles Jim & Ingrid’s lives. Their sometimes troubled marriage, and the difficulties she faced after Jim’s death, leaving her with a young son to raise and a myriad of legal battles to obtain what was rightfully hers and her son’s; the rights and royalties to her husband’s music. (It took Ingrid until 1986 to win back their writer and artist royalties).

Long-time friend Arlo Guthrie said “When I had finished devouring this book by my friend Ingrid Croce-Rock, I wasn’t sure what had happened. It’s part story, part history, part recipe, part restaurant and part Ingrid. I listened, I laughed, I cried and I got the munchies—all within a short space of time. There were moments,” Guthrie continues, “when I was riveted and wanting more, and moments when I drifted between her life and my own, where they touched or ran together side by side through our common traditions. I felt my tears fall softly as details unfolded of our shared sorrow…”

“And,” says Guthrie, “this isn’t literature, this is life”. What a lovely tribute!

And I agree; after reading THYME IN A BOTTLE, I felt like I really knew Ingrid. I wanted to call her up or go visit her at the restaurant—mostly I wanted to share her book with others.

About the recipes found in THYME IN A BOTTLE; the author explains that written recipes were non-existent in her home, when she was growing up. “Traditions and circumstances of our dinners and their preparations,” she says, “were handed down with explanations like a ‘little of this and a little of that’ You had to be there, side by side in the kitchen with the cook to learn the ingredients and their measure and to taste the cook’s stew”.

This, she writes, is how her grandmother and mother learned to cook and this method allowed room for personal interpretation and creativity. (I was also reminded of my paternal grandmother’s cooking. Nothing was ever written down. The recipes that survived were learned by my grandmother’s daughter-in-law, my Aunt Dolly, who was a teenage bride in WW2 and learned grandma’s cooking by standing at her elbow, watching and learning).

Ingrid was a teenager when she married Jim Croce, and he was the cook in the family—fueled, she says, by generations of Croce’s scrumptious Northern Italian cuisine. But again, nothing was put down in writing!

Ingrid tells us how Jim’s Croce’s father gave her a Fannie Farmer cookbook and how, from it, she practiced making bread, roasted colorful legumes for frittatas , vegetable and chicken stocks, mixed organic salads and fresh baked fruit pies.

As a housewife and mother,” Ingrid writes, she practiced her cooking and pored over cookbooks as if they were novels. (aha—can’t many of us relate to that?)

Ingrid says “from Marion Cunningham to Fannie Flagg, from Alice Waters to Annie Somerville, M.F.K. Fisher and Richard Sax, I have dripped batter, spattered oil, salivated and compared notes. As a cookbook junkie, I learned how raw becomes cooked, dredged, minced and braised…”

In 1984, Ingrid opened her own restaurant, and out of necessity began to write down her family traditions. As Ingrid traveled and was given the opportunity to taste other kinds of food and food combinations, her repertoire of recipes expanded—and we get to benefit from all of it.

THYME IN A BOTTLE is the kind of cookbook you will read like a novel…it’s one of my favorite kind of cookbooks, combining history and life with food. It is filled with wonderful recipes, interspersed with Ingrid’s friendly, chatty style. Yu might want to do as I did—I went out and bought a CD of Jim Croce’s music—to further set the mood. Be advised—this isn’t an Italian cookbook, although it contains many Italian recipes from the Croce family; it isn’t a Russian Jewish cookbook even though Ingrid shares some of her family favorites…it isn’t a Southwestern cookbook even though Ingrid provides us with some of the tried-and-true recipes from her restaurant menus…I guess I would say this is a compilation of one’s woman’s life experiences in the kitchen. That is something we can all relate to.

Ingrid Croce was named one of the top ten female businesswomen in San Diego by the San Diego Business Journal, and her restaurants have received Gold Medallion Awards from the California Restaurant. She is now happily married to business partner, Jim Rock.

(Sandy’s note: my review of THYME IN A BOTTLE was originally written for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 1996. I’m not sure how current all of the restaurant related information is—however, that being said, when you Google Ingrid Croce, information about her restaurant and a photograph of her—immediately come up. I’m only sorry I didn’t try to find it when I was in San Diego a few years ago with my younger sister and one of our nieces).

THYME IN A BOTTLE is available at Amazon.com; it is $7.97 for a new copy or priced at one cent & up for a pre-owned copy. I couldn’t find a listing on Alibris.com.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith