originally posted in 2011.

When we were children, no one ever aspired to be an insurance salesman or a clerk-typist. We all had loftier ambitions—to be a cowboy in the rodeo or a famous movie star. Few of us ever came anywhere near realizing those ambitions.

However, in my family—two of us have come close. I always wanted to write, and at an early age, began writing stories which I surreptitiously mailed to “My Weekly Reader”.

I was receiving my first rejection slips by the time I was in the third grade. There was never any question in my mind that I would be a Writer.

When I was about ten or eleven years old, my parents purchased an old Royal
Typewriter. I taught myself how to type using two fingers (and had to unlearn the wrong way when I took typing classes in high school). The acquisition of a Real Typewriter brought the dream a little closer, – even though I knew nothing, at the age of thirteen, about double-spacing and word counts. I began writing “novels” which were single-spaced and rarely re-written. My girlfriends loved to read them, however, and the “novel” would be passed around in class, one page at a time.

One of the great tragedies of this period was my mother accidentally burning one of my novels. I remember tears of anguish – and cries of “I’ll never be able to write that book again!”. And, I never did, but most of the other “novels” of my teenage years have survived. In high school I wrote a novel titled “Charm Bracelet” which included a court room scene. I was aided and abetted in writing this chapter by my typing teacher who happened to also work at the courthouse and kindly encouraged my writing enough that I could write my “stories” in class as long as I completed all my typing assignments by Friday afternoon.

Those old standard typewriters were a far cry from today’s computer keyboards or even electric typewriters which came along some years later. In my 20s, I acquired a Smith-Corona electric portable typewriter on which I banged out stories and poems so hard that the typewriter often danced across the kitchen table. Occasionally I sold a short article or a poem, just enough to fuel my ambitions. What a thrill to receive a letter of acceptance from an editor! (Or even a letter – albeit with a rejection slip – of encouragement).

More practically, I typed insurance policies on the side to make some extra cash when I was a stay-at-home mother). Every poem or short story that I submitted to a magazine had to be retyped when it was returned with a rejection slip. We couldn’t even have imagined the advent of today’s computers or how they would streamline writing!

Life has a way of getting in the way of lofty ambitions, of course, and my life was detoured with marriage and the births of four sons. I spent many years working for insurance companies before finally returning to writing. When I purchased my first computer in the mid 1980s, I told myself “Now I will write”.

My younger brother Bill always wanted to be a cowboy. Cowboy as in, has horses, will ride. I have a black and white photo of him, sitting on the front porch of our house on Sutter Street, hanging onto our black lab dog “Mike”. Bill, at age six, is wearing a cowboy hat and if you look closely, you can also make out the gun-and-holster strapped to his waist. (Every year at Christmas, my two younger brothers asked for, and received, gun-and-holster sets. The pistols were cap guns; a roll of caps was inserted inside the gun so you had more than a six-shooter. It was probably a 50 or 100 shooter).

We all played cowboys and Indians (the most coveted role being that of the horse). We went to Saturday matinees to see Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy. The rest of the week we ran up and down the street, whinnying and stomping our feet. But whereas most of us outgrew any lofty ambition to really be a cowboy, my brother Bill did just that. Today, he has a farm in Ohio and more horses than you can shake a stick at. He wears cowboy hats and cowboy boots … and even though he is an engineer for a valve company (for somebody has to pay for all those horses and what they eat) – everybody calls him cowboy. And he really is.

Sandra Lee Smith



How does a writer compile, in one volume, a book about the history of cooks and cooking? And yet, this is exactly what author Michael Symons has set out to do.

The University of Illinois Press (demonstrating once again the incomparable value of the books provided by University Presses) has published A HISTORY OF COOKS AND COOKING.

In the preface to A HISTORY OF COOKS AND COOKING, the author notes, “Between us, we have eaten an enormous number of meals. We have nibbled, gorged and hungered our way through history. Cooks have been in charge…finding, sharing and giving food meaning. We could not have survived without them. They have been everywhere yet writers have hardly noticed. In fact, I suggest that t his is the first book devoted to the essential duties and historical place of cooks…”

Symons claims, “If this is, with few qualifications, the world’s first book on the world’s most important people, it implies a surprising intellectual oversight. Nearly two and a half millennia ago, Plato warned against an interest in cooks, and western scholars have largely complied. Almost without exception they have failed to inquire into the chief occupation of at least half the people who have ever lived. Even thinkers must eat…”
And while I might not totally agree with Symons assertion—and finding myself wondering exactly why Plato warned the world against an interest in cooks—I do concur with his statement that “Cookery books are so consumable that French Chef Raymond Oliver compares them with wooden spoons, ‘one is astonished at the number which have disappeared…”

Symons states, “We have devoured innumerable books on how and what to cook, and even some about certain cooks and aspects of cooking, but this abundance makes the central gap even more peculiar. There are so many texts for, and so few, about cooks…cooks have always been in the background both ever present and unnoticed. Their contributions have seemed too common, pervasive, trivial, unproblematic…”

He also writes, “Virtually every archaeological dig, every diary, every streetscape tells the cooks’ tale. We do not lack evidence, and can appropriate much scholarship. But no one has tried to pull this all together. Since the nineteenth century, we have become so hyper-specialized that we scarcely know any longer how to place cooks within the great scheme of things…”

Symons also observes that, “If we are what we eat, cooks have not just made our meals, but they have also made us….”

The author provides, in the preface, a capsule breakdown of the chapters and the best way to give you some idea what this book is really about, is to quote Symons himself:

“In quest of cooks,” he begins, “we initially enter the kitchen of just one Sydney chef, Phillip Searle, (Chapter One). The book then relates how certain novelists have portrayed some cooks (Chapter Two) and finds the gastronomic tradition; often appreciative (chapter Three). Having traced the development of fire (Chapter Four), existing assumptions about what cooks do are examined (Chapter Five), why their key tool is the knife (Chapter Seven and how they are behind festivals, beauty and love (Chapter Eight).

Symons embarks on a journey, exploring how food, and the cooks who prepared it, were written about in books, including Laura Ingalls Wilder’s THE LONG WINTER, AND Nora Ephron’s HEART BURN, touches on the American diner and street food, the contributions of various famous chefs, such as Henri Charpentier. (In yet another instance of synchroniscity, I acquired a book about Henri Charpentier and have written about him in an article for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange and on my blog).

The publishers explain, “Symons sets out to explore the civilizing role of cooks in history. His wanderings take us to the clay ovens of the prehistory eastern Mediterranean and the bronze cauldrons of ancient China, to fabulous banquets in the temples and courts of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia, to medieval English cookshops and southeast Asian street markets, to palace kitchens, diners and modern fast-food eateries.

Symons samples conceptions and perceptions of cooks and cooking from Plato and Descartes, to Marx and Virginia Woolf, asking why cooks, despite their vital and central role in sustaining life, have remained in the shadows, unheralded, unregarded and underappreciated…”

No longer. Michael Symons’ A HISTORY OF COOKS AND COOKING FROM THE University of Illinois Press has provided a tribute to cooks and will surely join the ranks of all other important food-related books.

*The Australian author uses the European spellings, whereas Americans spell many of these words with a Z instead of an S—I’ve corrected them for easier reading in this post—for one thing, my spellcheck has a nervous breakdown whenever I try to use European spellings.

Well, I don’t necessarily agree with much of what Symons has written but I wrote a review of this book for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 2001—and I think much has changed in our culinary landscape in the past eleven years. If nothing else, programs such as those shown on the Food Network focus on cooks and chefs all the time. There have also been many more books about individual cooks and chefs as well. Still, you may want to read A HISTORY OF COOKS AND COOKING and decide for yourself. And even though this was published by the University of Illinois Press, the Australian author’s viewpoint may reflect what he has observed and studied in Australia.

Michael Symons is a former journalist for Sydney Morning Herald and also the author of “THE PUDDING THAT TOOK A THOUSAND COOKS.”

Symons is also the author of two other food-related books, ONE CONTINUOUS PICNIC: A HISTORY OF EATING IN AUSTRALIA, and THE SHARED TABLE.

You can find a copy of A HISTORY OF COOKS AND COOKING on starting at $10.50 and they have 35 copies to sell.

-Review by Sandra Lee Smith


This blog was originally posted in 2011. I thought it was worthy of a repeat performance:

A few other Michigan cookbooks had been set aside after I finished posting “Saluting Michigan Friends & Kinfolk” so maybe you can consider this a “P.S.” to the earlier post.

One I am particularly fond of is a spiral bound church cookbook titled “AFTER GRACE” compiled by members of Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids to honor the 100th birthday of Grace Church.

Soon after church members began collecting recipes for a cookbook, one of their Guild members discovered, in her own cookbook collection, a copy of the 1892 Grace Church Cook Book which contained over a thousand recipes. They thought it would interesting to provide their readers with some of the recipes from the original Grace Church Cookbook. What a find!

So, from the 1892 Grace Church Cookbook, here is a recipe for “grilled almonds” that reminds me of a candied almond I have made. To make Grilled Almond, Mrs. Seymour advises, “These are a very delicate candy, seldom met with outside of France. Blanch a cupful of almonds, dry them thoroughly; boil a cupful of sugar and ¼ cup of water til it hairs* throw in the almonds, let them fry, as it were, in the syrup, stirring occasionally; they will turn a faint yellow brown before the sugar changes color, do not wait an instant once this change of color begins, or they will lose their flavor, remove from the fire, stir them until the syrup turns back to sugar and clings irregularly to the nuts. You will find them delicious and they are an alternate at dinner with the salted almonds so fashionable.
Artichoke Dips are a popular appetizer in trendy restaurants nowadays – there is a really simple recipe in “After Grace” that would fit in a 3-ingredient cookbook as well. To make artichoke dip, you just need

2 jars marinated artichokes, drained
1 cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup diet or lite mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients in blender. Pour into a soufflé dish to bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with chips or crackers. ~~

One more for your next party – I first tasted these at one of my office potlucks—so good! (ok, so I have been retired for 15 years–it’s still a great recipe!

To make Seasoned Oyster Crackers you will need:

½ regular size package Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
2 tsp dill
2 tsp garlic powder
1 (16 oz) box of oyster crackers
½ cup salad oil

Heat oil to warm. Mix dry ingredients with warm oil. Pour over crackers tossing until well mixed. Put on ungreased cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, stirring often to keep from burning. Cool & serve. ~~
One thing that I love are Vidalia onions; they are in the supermarket for a brief period of time and then you have to go back to using plain old brown or white onions. When they are “in season” I buy a bunch and spend a day chopping them up and packing them in plastic freezer bags, the one quart size—so I can have them ready to use in recipes. Now this recipe caught my attention but you will have to use fresh Vidalias and slice them.

To make Vidalia Onion Casserole you will need
5 large Vidalia onions
1 stick margarine (or butter)
Parmesan cheese
Ritz crackers

Peel the onions and slice into thin rings. Sauté in margarine until limp or opaque. Pour half of the onions into a 1½ quart casserole. Cover with Parmesan cheese and crushed crackers. Repeat layers and bake, uncovered, in a 325 degree oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Yum! ~~

I have been unable to determine if copies of “After Grace” are still available. I have a email address for anyone who wants to try to buy one; Apparently, my copy came from Schuler Books in Grand Rapids—the receipt was inside the book. ~~

Another church cookbook is “Welcome to our Table” compiled by members of the St Luke the Evangelist church in Bellaire, Michigan. This cookbook was published in 2007, relatively recently – so you may be able to find a copy.

Here is a recipe for Father Jim’s Pork Chops!
Pork chops
Aunt Jemima complete pancake mix
Olive oil

Wash pork chops in tap water. Dust the chops completely in the pancake mix; cover well. Brown the pork chops in a fry pan with olive oil. Place the browned chops in a casserole dish with onion slices on top. Add about ½ more chopped onions. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. ~~

Another from “Welcome to our Table” that has a unique twist to a breakfast brunch – is titled “Pepperoni Breakfast” and to make it you will need

2 ½ cups frozen shredded hash browns
1/3 cup chopped onion
3 TBSP butter
5 eggs
½ cup milk
1 tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
25 slices pepperoni
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

In a large skillet. Cook potatoes and onion in butter until tender and light brown. In a bowl, beat eggs, milk Italian seasoning, salt & pepper. Pour over potato mixture. Sprinkle with pepperoni. Cover and cook on medium-low for 10-12 minutes or until eggs are set. Remove from heat, sprinkle with cheese, cover and let stand for 2 minutes. Cut into wedges. Makes 6 servings.

The contributor of this recipe was someone named Sharon Smith. No relation although I have a niece by marriage named Sharon Smith! ~~

I have been searching for the longest time for a tater tot casserole that I used to make for my sons when they were children. This sounds almost like it.
To make Tater Tot Casserole you will need

1 lb hamburger,
¼ cup onion
1 c. grated cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 small package tater tots

Brown hamburger and put into a loaf pan. Layer onion, cheese, mushroom soup and tater tots on top (in that order). Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. ~~

I couldn’t find ordering information for “Welcome to our Table” but you could try this email address: This would be a great addition to your cookbook collection! ~~

Another church cookbook that I can’t find a publishing date for is “First Assembly of God Cookbook/Our Favorite Recipes for Feeding our Flock”, from the First Assembly of God Church in Battle Creek, Michigan. Sometimes when the cookbook committee is putting together their collection of recipes, the date of publication is overlooked. In any event, here is a nice recipe for making

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

3 cups biscuit mix
½ cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup quick oatmeal (not instant)
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs, well beaten
1 ½ cups milk
¼ cup butter, melted
2 cups fresh blueberries

Combine biscuit mix, brown sugar, oatmeal and cinnamon. Set aside. In mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk and butter, mixing well. Add dry ingredients all at once and stir just until blended (do not beat). Fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into muffin cups* 2/3 full of batter. Sprinkle top of each with sugar. Bake in 40 degrees oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Place on rack to cool; after they have been removed from pan. ~~
(*Sandy’s cooknote: the person who contributed this recipe doesn’t say so, but be sure to either spray the muffin tins with Pam or other vegetable spray – or, do as I do; use paper cupcake liners for easy removal from the muffin pans.)

Also from First Assembly of God, I found a recipe for Crispy Baked Fish – I always have trouble getting fish to turn out crispy so I am going to try this recipe that sounds delish. To make Crispy Baked Fish you will need

Butter or oil
6 fish fillets
6 tsp Dijon mustard
½ cup bread crumbs
Cooked rice

Butter or oil a large shallow baking pan. Butter one side of fillets and lay in a single layer in baking pan. Spread top of each fillet with 1 tsp Dijon mustard and then sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake at 400 degrees until fish I fully cooked and flakes easily, about 20 minutes. Check for doneness after 15 minutes to prevent overcooking. Serve fillets whole with cooked rice. Sprinkle with garnish of parsley to serve. ~~

Typing this recipe brought back a memory of an Almondine Fish recipe that my penpal Betsy had given to me years ago. I think the top of the fish was sprinkled with slivers of almonds. Well, my husband and children wouldn’t eat anything with NUTS in it – so I would run the almonds through the blender and mix them with the bread crumbs called for in the recipe. They never knew the difference.

First Assembly of God doesn’t provide any ordering information but there IS a telephone number on the first page of the cookbook – try 616 965 5441 and ask whoever answers if they have any of the cookbooks left!

Happy Cooking & even more happy cookbook Collecting!



Coincidentally, yesterday a girlfriend brought over perhaps five pounds of figs from her own fig tree. I sorted them and ground in a blender the ones too ripe or split for anything except grinding up and freezing in plastic containers, to do something with later on. I melted sugar and later added water to it, to make candied figs. The recipe I am following is a 3-day project, letting the figs cook slowly and then resting for another 24 hours. I think I should have enough for about 4 pints jars.

Then I came across the following article that I posted a few years ago:

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 Allardic certainly did her homework—included in this book are two pages of bibliography.

As the previous 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 Allardic’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 and was startled to discover that A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS has maintained a distinct value—possibly because so little has been written about figs. has one pre-owned copy price at $16.95. If I can get a fig plant to grow in my back yard, I would be interested in trying. the two fig trees we had in Arleta were prolific.

A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS was originally published in Australia where author Pamela Allardic 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, Allardic 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. i now know that figs grow both in the San Fernando Valley as well as the Antelope Valley (high desert).

–Updated Review by Sandra Lee Smith
My blog 8-10-17


i posted this a couple years ago–but its o one of those blog posts that lends itself nicely to an update and reprint:

In the past, I have attempted to review several cookbooks in one fell swoop, with the idea that perhaps I can pass along information on some exceptional community cookbooks. There are, unquestionably, hundreds – perhaps thousands – of new cookbooks being published every year; no one can possibly keep up with all of them. What I have been doing in the past few months is putting together some short stacks of cookbooks I feel are too good to get lost in the shuffle. (and no one knows better than I how easily cookbooks can get lost in the shuffle!)

So, with this thought in mind, let me share some of my favorite cookbooks with you and maybe something in this presentation will kindle a spark with other like-minded cookbook collectors (rest assured; if you have more than a few dozen cookbooks, you are a collector). I remember when I had only 300 cookbooks and thought I was hopelessly addicted to cookbooks. That was a long time ago and now I have no idea how many cookbooks are in my collection.

The first book I want to write about is not a community cookbook per se, but it is a nicely spiral bound cookbook by a woman named Linda Burgett. The title of the book is MILD TO WILD Mexican Cookbook/ More than 400 Recipes to delight your imagination and tickle your taste buds. Linda comes by writing a cookbook honestly; her parents, Sharon McFall and father Gene McFall are the authors of BUSY WOMEN’S COOKBOOK, COOKING WITH WILL ROGERS, GET ME OUT OF THE KITCHEN and JUST AROUND THE CURVE COOKBOOK.

Linda lives in New Mexico (a State more and more responsible for producing cookbook authors) with her husband and son. Linda enjoys entertaining and collecting recipes at the many functions she attends. Her husband’s love of spicy Mexican food and her son’s desire for milder versions inspired her to write MILD TO WILD MEXICAN COOKBOOK.

This cookbook kicks off with a Wild Sauce and Kickin’ Ketchup plus a variety of salsa recipes. There are a number of easy to prepare recipes ranging from Green With Envy Salsa to Black Bean Salsa, Aloha Salsa and one of my favorites, Pico de Gallo Salsa, a Restaurant Style Salsa and many hot salsa recipes. There are many other salsas and dips from which to choose, including a Layered Dip similar to one that has made its way into many American homes since (I believe) the first one I ever saw in print was in a woman’s magazine around 1980—but there is an Avocado Layered Dip that I think would be a good change of pace.

But Mexican food is a great deal more than salsas and dips—I’ve been marking with post-its recipes for chicken enchiladas and chicken fajitas, Spanish Spinach Enchiladas and easy Cheese Enchiladas. There are over 400 recipes in MILD TO WILD, from tamales to burritos and dozens of mouth-watering recipes in between.

I found MILD TO WILD on, by Linda Burgett and Amazon is offering 38 new and used copies starting at $1.99. (whenever I am overwhelmed by many copies being offered, I generally go for the least cost with the best condition ).

For sheer attractiveness I’d have to give high marks to PUTTING ON THE GRITS presented by the Junior League of Columbia, South Carolina. The art-deco-ish design of the cover and throughout the book is sure to charm anyone who is partial to the art Deco look (Personally, I love it. Whenever I am in Cincinnati, I love visiting the old train depot (now housing several museums) with its 1930s art deco designs). First published in 1985, Putting On the Grits has gone through five printings by 1993 (and perhaps more since then).

From Appetizers ranging from Spinach Cheese Squares to Spicy Chicken Tidbits, from the incredibly easy to prepare Hot Bacon Bits, to Marinated Shrimp, these and many other recipes will whet your appetite. There are a wide variety of soups, salads, breads, vegetables and side dishes from which to ooh and ahh and dash off to the kitchen to try.
I am admittedly partial to southern recipes so a chapter titled Southern Classics certainly caught my eye. Whether it’s Buttermilk Biscuits or Hot Pepper Jelly (to put on the hot buttermilk biscuits!), Shrimp Pie or Crab Cakes, Southern Baked Grits or Sausage and grits Casserole, Fried Green Tomatoes or Blackberry Jam Cake—you will surely find a southern favorite to add to your culinary has copies of Putting on the Grits starting at $2.28 for pre owned copies has new and pre-owned copies of THE GRAPEVINE starting at $1.99.

This is is One of my favorite cookbooks to come from the Finger Lakes Region is titled THRU THE GRAPEVINE, and was compiled by the Junior League of Greater Elmira-Corning, Inc. and was published in 1991.

This is a big thick cookbook which had gone through seven printings as of February 1994 including a Southern Living Hall of Fame Edition). Over a thousand recipes were submitted by members of the Junior League of Greater Elmira-Corning. Inc. The 635 recipes contained in this book were tested and retested for quality, selected and edited for clarity by the Junior League members. Included with the many specially chosen recipes there are illustrations of famous sites such as Bluff Point ad Glen Iris Inn, Taughannock Falls and Watkins Glen Gorge—Watkins Glen Gorge!!

I have been keen to return to upstate New York ever since my family visited it when I was 15 years old, and my brother Jim was stationed at an air force base (no longer in existence) in the finger lakes region. I am especially keen to return  to Watkins Glen, which I know, now, is a great deal larger than the small portion we visited on our way to Jim’s base.

I can’t begin to do this cookbook justice; the sheer volume of recipes is overwhelming. There is something for everyone and you will spend weeks, if not months, working your way through the more than six hundred recipes.

On this happy note, I will bring this post to a close for the night. I hope one of these cookbooks piques your interest. All three are spectacular. Updated review August 2017.

Reviews by Sandra Lee Smith

SIMPLY THE BEST (subtitle 250 prize winning family recipes)

SIMPLY THE BEST is a Weight watcher cookbook – mine is a soft-cover cookbook that I acquired somewhere along the way. It wasn’t surprising. I originally joined Weight Watchers around 1984 along with a girlfriend. We’d go to a meeting one evening a week and after weighing in and attending the meeting, we’d go next door where they served some kind of ice cream dessert that was “Weight Watcher approved” My friend moved up north and I eventually switched to a meeting that was closer to home. As time went by, I would re-gain the weight (by not attending the meetings) and return to Weight Watcher meetings. I made several girlfriends along the way.

Back in 2006, I returned to Weight Watchers and this time maintained my dedication to losing excess weight. I weighed, I believe, 183 pounds at the time I returned to Weight Watcher meetings (I have been a lifetime member for many years–as long as I am not overweight, I don’t have to pay for attending the meetings).

One thing I would like to point out to anyone who is interested–is that you don’t have to be overweight or interested in a weight loss cookbook to add them to your collection. The original cookbooks aren’t as interesting as the more recent, such as SIMPLY THE BEST, which contains 250 prize winning recipes, including some luscious colored photographs.

For instance, I collect soup recipes everywhere I can find them–SIMPLY THE BEST offers recipes for Gazpacho, Hearty Chicken-Vegetable Soup, Harvest Chicken Chowder, Skinny New England Clam Chowder, Tortellini Soup, Mushroom-Barley Soup–all this and more!

Equally impressive are the recipes for fish/seafood – such as Florentine Orange Roughy, Greek Baked Fish with Vegetables, Zesty Flounder and Ginger Shrimp Stir-Fry, just to name a few.

Included with the detailed recipes are equally detailed lists of ingredients. Another feature is a list of Recipe Symbols–ranging from those that can be made ahead to vegetarian.

Another feature in the introduction is the story of how this particular WW cookbook came into existence. After testing and retesting, Weight Watchers whittled the best down to 250 prize winning family recipes.

I checked for the availability of copies–pre-owned copies of SIMPLY THE BEST start around 99c and up. Remember that when you order a preowned copy there is a charge of $3.99 for shipping and handling. Generally, these copies are being offered by pre-owned sources…what we used to think of as used bookstore owners. Over time I have discovered which pre-owned sources are the most reliable.

SIMPLY THE BEST is a terrific cookbook to add to your collection. Published in 1997, it is a valuable addition to your collection.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith


It isnt often that I go out and buy new cookbooks anymore–for one thing, I am completely out of bookshelf space–I kid you not. I have been working on thinning out the shelves in the garage library by donating works of fiction that were primarily Bob’s–we didn’t share our love of fiction by the same authors–besides, even if I have space on the shelves in the garage library, those books are our fiction authors. It doesnt solve my problem of lack of space inside the house where all of my cookbooks are. And even though bookcases are in all three bedrooms (plus two walls of the living room) of my house and mostly on all three walls (and often doubled up on the shelves, plus five smaller bookcases are sandwiched here and there in the family room, guests who come into the house are generally somewhat askance by the sight of the books, not to mention two hundred cookie jars and 125 recipe boxes, give or take a few dozen. Generally, the first thing anyone says to me when they see the bookcases is “do you actually read all of these books?” –I am sorely tempted to be crass and say something like “I’m just keeping them for a friend”. People who have been in my life for many years are used to the sight.

But back to cookbooks–like I mentioned I rarely buy new cookbooks. I was spoiled silly by the editor of a newsletter called Cookbook Collectors Exchange, generally referred as the CCE; publishers would send cookbooks to Sue, the editor, to be reviewed and featured in an issue of the CCE newsletter. I began reviewing cookbooks in the CCE – and no one ever complained — actually, we received many favorable responses to my reviews.Reviewing cookbook kept me fairly busy for about a decade; the newsletter folded when Sue’s husband passed away. What followed were a series of unfortunate events.

In 2002 I retired from the company where I had been employed for 27 years. in 2008 we found we had to move; the owner of a house I had rented for 19 years wanted a high increase in rent that I could ill afford; we were now retired senior citizens.

And I don’t remember exactly when we began to notice the demise of all the bookstores, new and used, throughout the San Fernando Valley–and while we regretted and mourned the loss of the bookstores in the San Fernando Valley, I couldn’t resist going to the stores and buying more cookbooks at special prices. The worst loss of all was the closing of Dutton book store, which had been a staple in bookstore lovers for decades. You knew a black cloud had fallen over the San Fernando Valley when Duttons closed their doors forever. (In writing about these events, I use the plural “we” because my significant other, Bob, loved books as much as I. Whenever we traveled anywhere, we had to checkout all the bookstores where ever we were.

At any rate, the bookstores disappeared and came into our lives–where you could find any number of pre-owned books which was kind of like going through a dozen used book stores in one fell swoop.

But I digress–and I apologize for that.

A few weeks ago, my son Steve was visiting me and we made a trip to the Barnes & Noble book store in Palmdale; I had two B&N gift cards burning a hole in my pocket – or they would have been if I had a pocket–and one of the books I bought at Barnes & Noble is Oprah Winfrey’s FOOD HEALTH and HAPPINESS.

I was enchanted with the first chapter SOUP IS LOVE–along with a collection of soup recipes (I want to make all of them) are photographs of Oprah as a young girl. Actually – I think FOOD HEALTH and HAPPINESS is as much a book of memoirs as well as recipes. Other chapters choreograph Oprah’s rise to fame–if you are a fan, as am I, you will thoroughly enjoy reading all about Oprah, told by Oprah.

Along with reading about Oprah, her cookbook is lavish with food art–can it get any better than this?

I love this cookbook; I think you will too. Prices start at $35.00. has copies for $17.50 as well as new and used copies starting at $8.00.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith