ALWAYS ON SUNDAY – COOKBOOK REVIEW

It’s no secret that I am partial to the columns written by food editors in the thousands of newspapers throughout the USA. I first wrote about these food editors in “when food editors write cookbooks” featured in the February/March issue of the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 1997. And since then, I regret to announce those food related articles written by food editors have become more and more scarce. Most of these foodie newspaper columns that I receive nowadays are sent to me by penpals throughout the USA.

For years, I was greatly enamored by the Los Angeles Times food column “S.O.S”—to the extent that I filled several 3-ring binders with S.O.S. columns (collected throughout the 1960s and 1970s). Alas, the column itself is still being published but I find it lacks reader interest (at least this reader’s interest). What a shame! Another gripe of mine occurred when the L.A. Times changed its recipe format on S.O.S—my motto is -if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

And I am only solaced by the food columns written in newspapers throughout the U.S.A that penpals continue to find for me. Now I rely primarily on food columns that appear in small newspapers sprinkled across the U.S.A. and only when a penpal has sent them to me.

Along with newspaper columns written by food editors, I am especially partial to the cookbooks they have compiled over the years. After a while, certain names jump off the page when you read them on cookbook lists or are browsing the shelves of your favorite bookstore (if you still have a bookstore in your hometown). If the name you see is that of Natalie Haughton , you‘ll have a basic understanding of the style of the writer and have an idea whether or not you will like it.

Why are food editor’s cookbooks so popular? I can only venture to guess but I think it’s because they are really in touch with their readers. They ask for a recipe and hundreds of readers respond. They misprint a recipe and hundreds of readers quickly complain. The food editors know, from their readers, what food trends are in and which are not.

It has been some time since I have come across a good editor’s cookbook that is almost indescribably charming—I think, had I pursued a career as a food editor, Eleanor Oatman’s ALWAYS ON SUNDAY is exactly the kind of book I would have wanted to write.
Ms. Oatman has spent over thirty five years writing a Sunday food column for the St Paul Pioneer Press. The author explains that the title of her book was conceived by two food cronies who focused on the day of the week the column appeared; it was a play on the movie title “Never on Sunday” and, of course. the perfect title.

The chapters in ALWAYS ON SUNDAY are named after years, beginning with Eleanor Oatman’s initiation into the world of writing about recipes in the year 1968. This format is all the more interesting as you travel forward in time, seeing how our collective taste buds have changes over the decades. You can track down almost any recipe.

By now you may be wondering whether or not ALWAYS ON SUNDAY contains many recipes—indeed it does! They are all prefaced with an entertaining story, but the book itself contains over 400 recipes, chosen after Eleanor culled through nearly 4000 tested for the column. The publishers note that Julia Child asked Eleanor for recipes. Jacques Pepin cooked in her kitchen; James Beard gathered mushrooms for her. Pierre Franey and Giuliana Bugialli dined at her table.

Along with those stories are Eleanor’s tales of crashing a state dinner in China’s Great Hall of the People, having tea with Rosalynn Carter at the White House and lunching with Paul Newman.
For those of us who enjoy nothing more than curling up with a good cookbook at night, for the thousands (millions?) who liken cookbooks with reading a good novel, ALWAYS ON SUNDAY is certain to entertain. I absolutely love it.

You can find ALWAYS ON SUNDAY on Amazon.com and there is a good selection from which to choose – Amazon has over 40 pre-owned copies starting at 49c—or you can order a new copy for only $2.36.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

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