THE SIMMERING POT COOKBOOK

THE SIMMERING POT COOKBOOK, BY ALICE DEVINE LOEBEL is yet another cookbook on my soup/stews shelf that caught my eyes as I was looking over my personal collection of soups/stews, or one pot dishes. First published in 1969 with one repeat in 1974, it happens to be one of the books I found at the Burbank Friends of the Library Sales before I moved to the Antelope Valley in November of 2008. (I have fond memories of attending the Burbank Friends sales with girlfriends Connie and Mandy).

I have since found many great cookbooks at the Lancaster (California) Friends of the Library book sales. At their most recent Friends sale, I managed to buy FIFTY ONE preowned or Library discards for a total of $21.50! (I will be happy to write more about the Friends of the Library sales if anyone is interested in learning more about them). I have to confess – I don’t read all of the books I find and buy right away—I’m good but not that good. First I split them up into categories. At the recent sale, I found a dozen children’s books to give to a couple of my grandkids.

I wish I had spent more time going over the children’s books which are in so many different levels – from first readers to pre-teens; the latter is where my granddaughter, Jewls, is right now. Abby is a early reader, at the age of seven. I think she enjoys more being READ to, though.

But getting back to the recent Friends’ sale at Lancaster, Library—I found over a dozen cookbooks, some in like-new condition. I found about a dozen books of fiction that I am looking forward to reading. I found a few books I sent aside for my nieces, or my penpal, Lisa, in New York, who loves the books I send to her—I have managed to thin out the ranks of my book collection by sending a lot of them to Lisa.

(it was the only way I could find shelf space for new purchases!) – I’m embarrassed to admit this—but when Bob and I moved to the Antelope Valley, we went from about 3,000 square feet of space, including the guest house which Bob outfitted with a lot of bookshelves and a guest room for my brother, Jim, when he visited. The Arleta house had plenty of space for bookshelves throughout most of the house and we made the most of it in our nineteen years in the Arleta house on Arleta Avenue.

In 2010 now in the Antelope Valley, Bob created a garage library utilizing some of our bookcases from Arleta, but creating other bookshelves, a wondrous creation when you consider the garage library only takes up half of the space in the garage – my car is in the other half along with Rubbermaid cupboards along one side of the garage half—those shelves are packed with all my cooking equipment that wouldn’t fit in the kitchen. It pretty much has to be seen to be believed.

And I donated boxes and boxes of books to the Lancaster Library in 2009 and 2010.
Well, my shelf of soups, stews, one dish meals – is at my eye level if I am sitting on the edge of my bed and looking over books that might be suitable for posting on my blog. And the catchy title of THE SIMMERING POT COOKBOOK caught my attention—it even has the original dust jacket which is especially desirable if you want to write about a particular cookbook.

(*I remember years ago, writing about the Browns and their cookbooks when the only information available was what you found on the dust jackets and that was scant—ditto two other favorite cookbook authors, Myra Waldo and Meta Given. Back then the publishers didn’t provide much background information about the authors. (was it to protect their privacy? I don’t know). The Internet changed all that! I have since discovered much biographical information about my favorite cookbook authors with the advent of the World Wide Web—I have even received emails on my blog from descendants of my favorite cookbook authors. It opens another whole dimension to what a writer can write about favorite authors and I am so thrilled and delighted when someone who was related to, or personally knew, one of my favorite authors writes to me!

Much along these same lines, the dust jacket to THE SIMMERING POT COOKBOOK is almost entirely devoted to enticing the reader into buying and reading (or borrow from the library) this cookbook. At the end of the jacket blurb, is a short message—kind of an after-thought “Alice Devine Loebel lives in New York City and in Connecticut. Her husband, Herbert Loebel, took the photographs for this book”. (a scant few, I might add)

But, a while ago, I discovered, on the back of the dust jacket, a comment written by none other than M.F.K. Fisher, who wrote, “who as a food writer and critic sees most of today’s cookbooks and approves of few, writes: “a good book in a morass of shoddy stuff..honest and sensible and well written, a rare combination in current culinary texts. It is also persuasive and tempting, so that no reader may well resist its intelligent approach to the pots and pans, prime weapons in our art of living.”

This being said, why should you look for THE SIMERING POT COOKBOOK? For one thing, Alice devotes a fair amount of information, “the basic technique of the magical stockpot, regarded as an essential by classic French cookbooks, together with the steamer method which preserves nutrition, flavor and the appearances of foods, form the theme of this high quality cookbook…” –

Alice pays close attention to kitchen ecology followed by The Stockpot. Writes the author, “the stockpot is the oldest, most tried and true method of recycling food. The basic requirements to produce a rich and toothsome stock exist in every contemporary kitchen.”
The chapter dedicated to the Stockpot starts with a quote from Escoffier “Stock is everything in cooking…without it, nothing can be done. If one’s stock is good, what remains of the work is easy. If, on the other hand, it is bad or merely mediocre, it is quite hopeless to expect anything approaching a satisfactory result.” Escoffier knew what he was writing about. And so did Alice Loebel.

She tells us “the desire to serve forth from our modern kitchens the wholesomeness and delicious foods of our grandmother’s era is a universal wish. Despite the over-packaged and refined foods in today’s market, it can be done…she says “convenience foods such as TV dinners and commercial frozen entrees are costly, low in nutrition and their wrappings are pollutants”…elsewhere, she writes “During the era of large wood and coal burning kitchen stoves, whether in a palace or in a pioneer’s shack, the stockpot stood permanently and majestically on the back of every stove. It simmered continuously and the savory leftovers of meals and cooking scraps were always being added”…elsewhere she writes “the stockpot is the oldest and most tried and true method of recycling food..”

Reading this about stockpots reminded me of one of my grandmother’s soups that we all loved and enjoyed with a freshly baked homemade salt bread. Her soup was a broth, undoubtedly chicken broth, in which she added tiny little dumplings called Rivels. (we pronounced it as ‘rivel-lies)

Another family favorite was ham and bean soup, made with a ham bone and some ham scraps—to which everyone in the family added about a tablespoon or two of vinegar directly into your bowl of soup. This soup is still one of my favorites.

Alice provides stock recipes for classic chicken stock, classic beef stock, classic brown stock and classic ham stock- and one not to be overlooked, classic fish stock.
There are a variety of consommé recipes which gave me pause – I don’t recall ever seeing anything except a beef consommé – and recipes for making your own bouillon—that one did make me sit up and take notice. I have to confess, the only bouillon I had ever made are the little foil-wrapped chicken, vegetable and beef bouillon cubes-which, admittedly, are almost always very salty.

The rest of Alice’s cookbook is filled with mouth-watering recipes you will surely want to try—imagine Potato and Bacon Soup, or Potato and Spinach Soup, Avocado Soup, a delicate creamy cauliflower soup, or how about a cream of pea and mushroom soup? And I was thrilled to find a Hungarian Goulash Soup—a sister-in-law of the author was raised in Vienna and this was her family’s recipe. Additionally, there are an assortment of chowder recipes, providing a Scallop Chowder and a Fish Chowder that I know I will have to try. There is even a recipe for Pot Roast which just happens to be what I have been cooking this afternoon, using up left over pot roast from a Sunday Dinner for my youngest son and daughter-in-law.

I haven’t counted all the recipes in Alice Loebel’s cookbook, “The Simmering Pot Cookbook”—just want to say there are quite a lot of recipes I haven’t seen elsewhere.
I went onto Amazon.com to see if they have copies of pre-owned copies of the Simmering Pot Cookbook—they do and there are quite a few. I’ve been thinking, getting some extra copies would be great Christmas or birthday presents for my like-minded friends. There are eighteen pre-owned books, starting at $3.55. Remember that whenever you purchase a pre-owned book on Amazon.com, there is a $3.99 shipping & handling charge. I find that the pre-owned books are shipped quickly and are well wrapped.

Alice Loebel was also the author of “The Stockpot and Steamer Cookbook”, published in 1969, and may have the inspiration for “The Simmering Pot Cookbook”. I didn’t find any other cookbooks by this author.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

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