Monthly Archives: October 2013

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

 

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CONFESSIONS OF A JUNK MAIL JUNKIE

When I was perhaps seven or eight years old—old enough to read my brother’s comic books—I discovered “ADS”. These ads were for free stamps – with approvals. Now, I certainly didn’t know what approvals were—nor did I know much about stamps (other than it took a 3 cent stamp to mail a letter or one cent to mail a postcard) – but I was captivated by the word “FREE”.  Now pre-paid postcards, from the post office, were one cent each and for ten cents (which was often the most I ever had) you could mail ten one cent postcards (hard to believe, isn’t it?)  I was constantly earning pennies running errands or selling greeting cards for my mother, which she bought and then sold from Cardinal Craftsman card company. I began using the penny postcards to send for the “FREE” stamps and when they came, on sheets of onionskin paper, with accompanying letters and literature, I blithely threw away anything that wasn’t a stamp, which I kept in a large dress box with my paper dolls. (In hindsight, I am baffled that my father never opened these packets of stamps—he opened all the other mail—the first time I submitted an article, printed in pencil, to My Weekly Reader—when I was in the second or third grade—my father opened that and read it before giving it to me—without any comment.  Why didn’t he open the envelopes containing the stamps?  I’ll never know.

At some point in time, when my cousin Margie and her siblings were visiting us, I showed the stamps to her. She expressed an interest in them, so I gave all of them to her and that was the end of my stamp collecting. By then, the stamp company began sending me threatening letters about my unpaid account. I confessed to my mother, who wrote to the stamp company explaining that their customer was eight years old and didn’t know any better and I learned what “with approvals” meant.

Now, you would think that this experience would have cured me but from early on, I was enchanted with the idea of receiving mail and even more thrilling was receiving things in the mail, free of change. In the 1940s, magazines such as Life and Look were filled with ads for things you could get FREE. One day I found a stack of old LIFE magazines in my grandmother’s basement. With never a thought that the magazines might someday become valuable, I began cutting out all the little coupons advertising FREE things. Along the way, I made another discovery. I wrote to the Cuticura people one day telling them how much I loved their soap and what do you know! They began sending me free gift packages with shampoo and big bars of cuticura soap. I also discovered that most food companies, at that time, offered free recipe booklets. These usually advertised not only in women’s magazines, but also on the backs of cans and boxes—such as baking powder, baking soda, Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa. I began searching through all the containers in the pantry, reading the labels, searching for free booklet offers. The only limitation to this enterprise was acquiring enough pennies to buy more postcards. (one source was empty soda pop bottles, which were good for 2 cents each in the grocery stores. Everyone I knew—myself included—searched for pop bottles to redeem at the grocery store on the corner (Finke’s was on the corner of Pulte and Beekman while Mary’s was farther up on Pulte—there were numerous little mom-and-pop grocery stores and saloons all over Fairmount. Fred’s Cafe was on the other corner of Pulte and Beekman Streets.)

Before long, I had acquired a good size stack of free recipe booklets. With my mother’s Ida Bailey Allen Service Cookbook and my stack of free recipe booklets, I began to learn how to cook. (My original collection of recipe booklets was lost, probably when my husband Jim and I made so many moves. When we first came to California—with what could be packed inside the car (or tied to the roof, like a baby bed) was mostly what we needed for our one year old child—many personal things were packed in my mother in law’s shed. The floor to that shed caved in one winter and my belongings were mostly trashed by the elements. My in-laws retrieved what they could but my scrapbooks, childhood dolls & other things were all lost. [and the concept of storage units was years away).

Throughout most of my adult life, I had been a “refunder”—saving proofs of purchases or box tops—to redeem for cash or premium offers…in 1970-1971, I saved all the money from refunding to pay for a trip to Ohio for entire family—by then my husband, myself, and four children. Back then, you could travel with a young child on your lap; I held one child and Jim held the other. We had two young children only 15 months apart.

One year I acquired half a dozen basketballs, free – for my sons and for my friends’ sons. Another time I acquired dolls for the girls. (I would use my own address as well as the addresses of close friends or neighbors.

One summer when I was in Ohio with three of the children –our oldest son stayed home with his father – the two of them opened all my refunding mail and kept the cash for themselves. That may have spelled the end of refunding for cash unless it was a check.  And I really don’t remember all the things I acquired free, so I asked my penpal, Penny, who became a penpal in the 1960s and with whom I frequently exchanged refund forms and occasionally the POPs (proof of purchases needed to fulfill a refund offer). She wrote this back to me:

There were, she writes, basket and baseballs, baseball bats, all sorts of T-shirts (I particularly remember the Smuckers and Reeses shirts) Fisher Price Snoopy Sniffer, stuffed toys, snuggle bear, mama, papa, and baby panda bears, Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, a few Tonka trucks, Hot Wheel cars, Del Monte veggie pillows, Libby’s red wagons, baby clothes from Dreft.

There were also band aid wall sconces, Tide set of Melmac dishes, Kellogg’s silverware (which she still has), the glasses and cup sets from laundry detergents, free socks and boys/men’s underwear from Hanes, Hanes sports shorts and sweats, Duncan Hines cake pans (which Penny still has).

She thinks the following are from the 1980s..Camel/Salem free basketballs, baseballs, VHS recorder/player, sony camcorder, 19” tvs, boom boxes—this was a military form that failed to say so..and there were NO limits on the items you could get. Penny says “we picked up packages [from cigarettes] from the side of the road, bought them for 5 cents each, had the guys in the Tulsa county jail saving them for us…I got MANY duplicate things, mainly the basketballs, boom boxes, TVs and VHS recorder/players. Most cigarette brands were offering premiums and I got sooooo many. Sold the Marlboro setuff on Ebay and made over $500.00..”  (Penny did a lot more refunding than I did!).

Back when I was a young child, my mother saved the labels from Wilson’s Evaporated milk – which were redeemable at a small store in downtown Cincinnati – I know that I turned in batches of the labels, stapled together in groups of ten (for dish towels or other small kitchen items) and we all saved S&H green stamps to get free items.

I think it goes hand in hand with all the refunding Penny & I did when our sons were young boys—me with four sons, her with three.  Free was good – not so different from the free samples of Cuticura soap and recipe booklets that I acquired in the mail when I was a child!

And now you know the rest of the story!

–Sandra Lee Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

My blog, 10/23/13

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

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CHEF LOUIS SZATHMARY – A TRIBUTE TO THE MASTER

The following was sent to me recently via an email:

CHICAGO TRIBUNE
NEWS
1996

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“SEARS GOURMET COOKING” was published in 1969.

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

“AMERICAN GASTRONOMY” was published in 1974.

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

“THE BAKERY RESTAURANT COOKBOOK” was published in 1981.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tributes to Chef Louis Szathmary continued to come throughout 2012:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May you rest in peace, Lajoskám!

Respectfully,
Charles Bartha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Sandra Lee Smith
October 11, 2013

CANNING VEGGIES FROM A “SMALL” CITY GARDEN

 My son Kelly planted a larger garden last spring. He has done a little dabbling in gardening in the past few years, mostly pumpkins for the kids to make jack-o-lanterns. This year’s garden was a more serious endeavor. He planted corn, tomatoes, small hot chili peppers, bell peppers and crookneck squash. Oh, and watermelon and cantaloupe too. Early on, the garden began overflowing faster than any of us could pick, cook, or can. The squash went crazy. I went to a birthday party for a girlfriend in June; it was at a restaurant in Gorman and about forty something guests showed up. I put crook neck squashes in paper lunch bags and labeled them all door prizes—got rid of about 20 squashes this way but I could have easily given away many more. Then watermelon and cantaloupe overflowed; we couldn’t eat it fast enough or find enough homes for the fruit.

Meantime, Kelly’s one packet of cherry tomatoes began taking over the entire garden. As fast as they ripened, he would bring a bucket of tomatoes over for me to can (I live right around the corner from them). Tomatoes not quite ripe enough went in 1-pint plastic containers that I put in a back window that gets morning and afternoon sun. They would finish ripening overnight.

The easiest thing I could think of for canning cherry tomatoes was to convert them into juice and cook it down to a puree. Every other day I would cook a pot of cherry tomatoes and run them through a food mill; then the juice went into a gallon jar until I had enough to fill 7 quarts (the maximum amount that fits into my canner). I discovered that the easiest way to cook the juice down without any scorching was to pour the jars of juice into my largest crockpot. When I thought it was thick enough, I would have the sterilized quart or pint jars ready along with lids that had been sterilized and kept hot in a small pan. (I often wondered what the importance of cooking the lids was – it’s to soften the sealing compound on the underside of the lid—so that you get a solid seal after the jars have been submerged in a boiling water bath for an allotted amount of time (which varies depending on what you are canning. I only can food that can go into a boiling water bath, rather than a pressure cooker).

Well, we picked and picked and picked cherry tomatoes for weeks—I just took my time cooking the tomatoes in a small amount of water and then running it through a hand-held food mill. Then the pulp went into newspaper and into the trash; the juice went into the gallon jar until I had 2 gallon jars filled (I have often regretted not having a compost anymore. Bob & I had a compost going in an enclosed brick space in my back yard in Arleta—we lived there for 19 years so whatever he dug out of the very bottom of the compost would be perfect for gardening – and we invariably had volunteer tomato plants coming up where ever he used any compost).  I can’t do a compost here in the desert – nothing that would attract coyotes or bears which, believe it or not, have been spotted in Quartz Hill and Palmdale a few times since I’ve lived here. I was sitting in my car about to go somewhere one day when a skinny old coyote came around the corner and meandered slowly up my street.  And critters have been known to capture and kill family pets. A black bear was spotted one day about halfway between mine and my sister’s houses. I think animal control had to come and get that little fellow. Sorry, I digress.

Well, long story short, I have canned over 50 quarts of tomato puree. Some of Kelly’s little hot chili peppers went into a few of the jars.  The last of the tomato puree is heating up in my crock pot even as we speak. I should get 7 or 8 quarts of puree from the last of the ripe tomatoes.

A few days ago I suggested to Kelly (as we were digging around in the garden picking the last of the ripe tomatoes we could find) that I wouldn’t mind trying to make some pickled green cherry tomatoes—so over the weekend he and I picked all the green tomatoes we could find – we filled two large stainless basins and a large strainer—and he began pulling out the vines and packing them into his trash bin that is for leaves, clippings, garden debris. He climbed into the trash can to pack it down – and we called it quits for the tomatoes

(His bell peppers are still producing blossoms and peppers. I diced dozens of bell peppers with my Vidalia food chopper – it has a small dice and a larger one – and I filled bag after bag of bell peppers to give to friends and to fill our freezers).  Most of the chili peppers went into my dehydrator and we have given a lot of those away too).

So, yesterday – after making sure I had everything I wanted to put into my green tomato pickles – I began sterilizing jars, filling them with the green cherry tomatoes and spices—and making pickles. I weighed the cherry tomatoes on my bathroom scale before starting – and had 14 pounds of tomatoes.  This has produced 12 quarts of pickled cherry tomatoes. How do they taste? Well, I have one jar in the frig—not canned—and we’ll give them a taste in a week. The rest are going into my jelly cupboard which I had to completely change around this morning to make enough space for all the tomato puree and the cherry tomato pickles.  Whew! We don’t have the pantry or cupboard space that I had in the Arleta house. And you can’t store excess grocery items in the garage – it gets too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.

To Make Pickled Green Tomatoes, I checked various sites I found on Google—which is easier and faster than going through my collection of notebooks on canning, preserving, jelly & jam making.  I made my own variations which included the omission of garlic, which none of us is crazy about in pickles. I also added a small hot chili pepper in some, not all, of the jars.

 What You Need:

(For 12 quarts of green cherry tomato pickles)

14 pounds of green cherry tomatoes
12 cups of white vinegar
12 cups of water
12 tbsp. of kosher salt
dill seeds
whole black peppercorns

red pepper flakes or whole small chili peppers—dried or fresh

Jars — either quart-sized jars or 6 pint-sized jars, as well as lids and rings, a hot water canner (if you’re planning on storing your pickles long term)
Jar lifter

Prepping Your Tomatoes

(Note: If you’re planning to process your pickles in a hot water canner, you should fill the canner with water, add your jars, and turn the water on to sterilize and warm your jars. Just leave the jars in the water until you’re ready to use them. Place the lids and rings in another pan with simmering – not boiling- water until you’re ready to use them.)

Gather and wash 14 pounds of green tomatoes. I used green cherry tomatoes because they seemed to stay firmer after processing, but any tomato will work. You can cut your tomatoes in half if they’re larger or cut them into quarters. (I left mine whole and used different sizes – large and small. The very small ones  filled empty spaces in the jars.)

Now, make your brine. Add the vinegar, water, and salt to a pan, and bring it to a boil. Once it’s boiling, it’s time to start filling your sterilized jars.

Remove the jars from the boiling water canner with jar tongs. Set them on a towel on your counter (so they don’t crack when they come into contact with the cool surface) and add the following to each jar:

  • 1 tsp. dill seeds
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp (or more if you want them spicier) of red pepper flakes–or small whole red chili peppers (fresh or dried)

Once your spices are in, start packing your tomatoes into the jars. Really, pack them in. Once they’re packed, add brine to fill the spaces between tomatoes. Use a chopstick or knife to go around the inside of the jar and remove any air bubbles, then fill with more brine if you need to. Leave 1/4 inch of headspace, then wipe the rims of your jars to clean up any brine, add your lids and tighten your rings.

Put your jars in your hot water canner, and cover with a lid. Once the water comes up to a boil, start your timer — you’ll be processing your pickles for fifteen minutes.

Once time is up, remove your jars and place them on a towel on a kitchen counter. They’ll have to sit there for several hours to cool. When they are cool, you can label the pickles and put them in a dark place to “age” – 6 weeks should be about right. This is the length of time I age my hot Hawaiian pineapple pickles.

Making Refrigerator Pickled Green Tomatoes–You can also forget about the boiling water processing if you just want to make a few jars of pickles to be eaten within the next month or so. Prep your tomatoes, add your spices, tomatoes, and boiling brine to the jars, and place in the refrigerator. They’ll be ready to eat in about a week.

What to Do with Pickled Green cherry tomatoes? You can snack on them or slice or dice the pickles to go on top of hamburgers or hot dogs. They can be diced and added to tuna or chicken salad for sandwiches—or cut up to go into salads.  The sky’s the limit.

–Sandra Lee Smith

 

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

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

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

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

Here are some statistics to consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review by –Sandra Lee Smith, October 2, 2013