Category Archives: TALKING ABOUT COOKBOOKS

all about old cookbooks, what they’re worth, general information

GYPSY FEAST BY CAROL WILSON

Many cookbooks–all worthy of my attention–are stacked alongside the computer, and I have neglected them simply because I haven’t been able to get WORD to work properly. For the past few weeks, I have been struggling to work without WORD. Then I wondered if I could type a draft on Verizon, like an email message. Why not?

One of the books that particularly captivated me is titled is GYPSY FEAST, Recipes and Culinary Traditions of the Romany People, by Carol Wilson. (Then, today, my daughter in law came to change my ink cartridges – and SHE figured out how to open a clean page in WORD for me! Voila!!)

I have good reason to be fascinated with Gypsy Feast; my older brother has often speculated that we had gypsy blood. Our paternal grandmother, Susannah Gengler Schmidt, liked nothing more than spending a Sunday aboard a street car, later a bus, with a twenty-five sent Sunday pass, to explore downtown Cincinnati–and given the opportunity to go on an annual vacation with her daughter, our Aunt Annie, and Annie’s husband Al, to Florida–and I think she was with us whenever the family took a vacation—which wasn’t often–and the car was crowded with my two parents, me, my older sister Becky, two younger brothers Biff & Bill–and Grandma.

I think my little brother Billy was small enough to squeeze in between mom and dad. (I didn’t learn until decades later that my brother Jim deliberately stayed away from home when we were going on a vacation–to escape going along–but he and I discovered our own enjoyment of taking trips in the 80s and 90s. His job took him to a number of places on the West Coast; I’d take vacation time to go along with him. We went to San Diego twice, twice to Palm Springs, to Reno once on business and another time for the USBC Bowling Tournament in Reno; we also went to Las Vegas a couple times and once to San Francisco. During those car trips we often talked about our childhood experiences–a revelation in many ways).

The relatives we spent a week with in Detroit when I was about nine or ten were cousins on Grandma’s side of the family. There was a daughter about my age, named Pat, with whom I began corresponding — she was my first penpal. I think the family may have been second cousins of my father’s. I have no memories of where they put us at night or how Pat’s mother coped with all of us at mealtimes–I vaguely remember a large pool (maybe a lake?) that we spent a day at and I remember all of us crowded in the car–my dad only owned Chevrolet four door cars back then–possibly they were roomier. And no air conditioning! My father would have loved having a RV back then!

But I digress. My brother Jim often speculated that we had Gypsy blood and even though the Romany people do not appear on the DNA results that my brother Bill obtained–the general DNA lump sum of 67% Europe, West, could very well have accounted for some gypsies.

From Gypsy Feast dust jacket, I learned that the Romany people are descendants of the ancient warrior classes of Northern India who trekked westwards around A.D. 1000. Although they were, and still often are referred to as “gypsies” their correct name is Roma. Their migration took them through Persia and Armenia, into Europe and later to the Americas. Today, the Roma live scattered throughout the world.

Roma foodways were traditionally determined by their nomadic way of life. Thus, the cuisine came to include whatever was readily available, such as wild fruits and vegetables, berries, herbs, flowers, fish and shellfish, and wild game. Today, few Roma continue to live as nomads and their traditional cuisine has largely been replaced by that of the mainstream society.

Gypsy Feast, the publishers write, “evokes a memorable picture of the old Romany ways, including recipes, information on feasts and celebrations, marriage and funeral customs, and a unique way of life that has almost disappeared.

Carol Wilson provides recipes that have survived the centuries, frequently undergoing adaption to meet the tastes of a particular time or place, Today, as modern life encroaches on the traditional Romany customs, the old ways of life are rapidly disappearing. Gypsy Feast records many of these fading recipes and culinary traditions. (From the dust jacket to Gypsy Feast).

And I want to say that little more than a hundred years ago, pioneers trekking from Missouri to California or Oregon, were temporarily nomads as they headed west seeking a better life and land, or for the lure of gold, often recording what meager food they might find to supplement their food supplies running desperately short–when you think of it, the development of the USA often depended on their pioneering nomad skills) I have believed for most of my adult life that I made a journey across country in the 1800s, in a previous life.

In 1961 when my then-husband along with our one year old son, drove across country in search of a better life in California. I remember staring into the sky, filled with millions of stars at night when all you could see were stars. I thought to myself “I have done this before”. It was my introduction to past lives.

Returning to GYPSY FEAST, in the preface, the author notes, “the seeds for the book were sown when I was about ten years old and even at that early age, intensely interested in food and cooking and the kinds of food that people ate and why. I was fascinated by the Romany way of life. As a child growing up in the suburbs of Wakefield, in Yorkshire, England, my friends and I watched, enthralled as the Gypsies arrived I their gaily horse-drawn and motor caravans to set up camp in a local meadow every summer….”:

Wilson writes that even though they were called gypsies, their correct name is Roma. “Rom” means in the Roman language and the word to denote people is ROMA. She explains how the Roma made money seasonally such as fruit, vegetable and hop picking. Their labor was an essential part of the local economy and every year, large numbers of Roma traveled to the same fields, orchards and farms for employment…”

Wilson also explains that “the relentless onslaught of modern technology has had an enormous effects on Romany throughout the world as modern technology encroaches on their traditional way of life, their ancient customs are in decline and in danger of being lost forever…” The integration of many Roma with non-Roma cultures has also diluted many traditional values and beliefs. Many young Roman have largely forgotten the old traditions and culture. She says that many Roma are now settled in hoses and few if any travel through the country in colorful wagons.

In the Introduction, Wilson writes that it is difficult to establish with any certainty the world population of Roma today but estimates indicate there are about twelve to fifteen million worldwide and about ten million live in Europe, with an estimated one hundred thousand living in the United Kingdom. Most Roma today live in Romania, Bulgaria, Spain and Hungary.

Wilson notes that “a nomadic people, their gradual migration from India in the fourteenth century led them to become scattered throughout the world. The reasons for t heir exodus are unknown but their migration took them through Persia, Armenia and eventually into Europe. As they traveled they absorbed man aspects of new foreign cultures, traditions and language into their own culture…”

The appearance of the Roma caused something of a stir in the United Kingdom in the fifteenth century—their burnished copper colored skin, glossy black hair and flamboyant colorful clothes, obscure language and almost magical knowledge of herbs and plants, led them to being greeted with suspicion, even hostility wherever they traveled. Wilson writes, “their swarthy looks resulted in a general belief that they were from Turkey or Egypt, and they became known as Egyptians or Gyptians which later became Gypsies. (Interesting to learn how the world “Gypsies” evolved, isn’t it? – sls)

Some record of gypsies in Britain can be found in the early 1500s but in 1530, suspicion and fear of vagrants led Henry VIII to make it an offence to be a gypsy and ordered their departure within forty days unless they chose to abandon “their naughty, idle and ungodly life”

However, writes Wilson, by the time of Elizabeth I there was estimated to be around ten thousand Gypsies I England and although their presence was not exactly welcomed, they were accepted as part of the community.

There is a great deal more of the Introduction to be found in Gypsy Fare but if I keep going, we’ll never get to foodways of everyday life of the Roma.

In her chapter titled Everyday Life, Wilson writes that “Traditionally, eating habits of the Roma was dictated by their nomadic way of life, and their diet consisted largely of what was readily available and in season, such as wild fruits, berries, leafy plants, herbs, flowers, fish and shellfish, game and small mammals which were free for the taking in fields, woods, meadows and streams. Foods were also often traded along the road. Boys as well as girls were taught to cook so they would always be able to look after themselves in the wild. The value of food is difficult for us to appreciate nowadays as we are used to easily accessible to shops and stores which offer a great variety of food…”

Wilson also notes that wild foods were vital for the survival of the Roma and the people developed a phenomenal knowledge of these—which were edible, which were poisonous (even lethal) and where to find them.

Under Everyday Foods, Wilson provides recipes for Berries, sweet with nuts cherry pudding, Bread and Fruit Pudding, Damson Cobbler and others—the one I especially want to try is a recipe for Blackberry Butter. (My Oregon friends have wild blackberries galore on their property). Blackberry Tart would also be great to try.

Generally, we don’t think of flowers as being edible; Wilson notes that flowers are now enjoying something of a renaissance as a fashionable ingredient—these can be sprinkled over salads and even added to stews for their bright color and flavor. Wilson writes, in the chapter titled Edible Flowers, that the practice of using flowers in cookery is very old. Medieval monks cultivated flowers such as marigolds and lavender in their kitchen gardens, alongside herbs and vegetables—Wilson provides a detailed list of what flowers can be grown for use in cooking.

The next chapter is titled NUTS – and since I have cookbooks dedicated to various edible nuts, I’ll skip this except to note, per Wilson, the use of acorns in cooking. We know that Indian tribes used acorns (to make flour, I think) but I don’t think you see much of this in American cookery nowadays.

There are many more chapters—and recipes in Gypsy Fare—but I have written a great deal from the Introduction and this is already fairly long for a review.

I found Gypsy Feast listed on Amazon.com and Alibris.com; both have a starting price of $12.95 for either new or used copies. Amazon.com also has a Kindle edition for about $12.00. This book is valuable for historical reference as well as simply for your enjoyable reading.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

WOK PRESENCE – OR LEAVING YOUR THUMPRINT

I presented this to my readers a couple years ago–while I am trying to figure out how to find some things, I have been repeating myself here and there, with apologies.

WOK PRESENCE – OR LEAVING YOUR THUMPRINT
Culinary Alchemy
or
THE COOK’S THUMBPRINT

For maybe over five years—maybe more like seven or eight now–I have been searching for a quote – a particular food quote. I KNOW you will forgive me for rehashing this topic once again but one of these days SOMEBODY is going to know the exact quote.

I searched high and low and far and wide, somewhat under the impression that it was something that perhaps M.F.K. Fisher or Elizabeth David had written. Needless to say I didn’t find it in either of their books that I have on my shelves. I searched through three books of food related quotes and did an extensive search on Google without having any success.

What the quote related to is the name of that “thing” – the subtle changes that occur when cooks trained in the same kitchen making the same dish, following the same recipe–end up with different results.

Also got to thinking one day as I was watching “Chopped” on the Food Network – that what they are doing is a take-off on this quote I am searching for. On Chopped, the contestants are given 3 or 4 of the same ingredients and in a specific amount of time (sometimes only 20 minutes!), have to create a dish–appetizer or an entrée or a dessert. They present their dish to the judges who decide which dish is the best and one contestant at a time is “chopped” or eliminated from the competition until finally one chef is declared the winner.

You all are probably familiar with this show so perhaps I am unnecessarily digressing. But what they are actually doing is WOK PRESENCE.

I accidentally found a quote while searching for something else. It was something Karen Hess wrote about in her outstanding book “THE CAROLINA RICE KITCHEN….THE AFRICAN CONNECTION”. Ms. Hess was referring specifically to African American women who, during the times of slavery, left their thumbprint on everything they cooked. They were a part of the south but they brought with them African influences which eventually changed the palate of southerners. Ms. Hess writes that the Chinese have a name for this, those subtle changes, and they call it Wok Presence.

(*I wrote an article for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange years ago, titled “OUR AFRICAN HERITAGE” which appeared in the Feb/March 1996 issue of the CCE – which was how I was led to The Carolina Rice Connection by Ms. Hess).

Another cookbook author, Rosa Lewis, had a somewhat different take on the same concept and wrote, “Some people’s food always tastes better than others, even if they are cooking the same dish at the same dinner. Now I will tell you why–because one person has more life in them–more fire, more vitality, more guts–than others. A person without these things can never make food taste right, no matter what materials you give them, it is not use Turn in the whole cow full of cream instead of milk, and all the fresh butter and ingredients in the world, and still the cooking will taste dull and flabby–just because they have nothing in themselves to give. You have got to throw feeling into cooking.” – and no, this is not the quote I have been looking for.

I have been aware of these subtle changes for most of my adult life. It’s why a recipe can be published in a cookbook with exact directions and measurements and my results may not be the same as your results. And there may be a dozen reasons why not.

In the early 1980s, when I was living in Florida, I became even more acutely aware of this difference as I tried to share some favorite recipes with my next door neighbor. She would come crying to me “My cookies burn! They don’t turn out like yours!” – I was baffled – after all, it was the famous Toll House cookie recipe on the back of every package of Nestle’s semi sweet morsels. How could it be different? I went over to her house to watch her bake the cookies and discovered that she would put two cookie trays, side by side – wedged in really, on a rack. The air couldn’t flow; the bottoms of the cookies burned.

I have been a great proponent, ever since, for baking two trays of cookies on two separate racks and switching them, top to bottom, bottom to top half way through baking to assure even baking, so the hot air circulates. And when I am baking and time is not an issue, I bake one tray of cookies at a time. I have a very old stove so I pamper it a lot.

But “Wok Presence” can affect us in many other different ways. For instance – a girlfriend of mine says my ranch dressing tastes better than hers. I discovered she uses Kraft Miracle Whip salad dressing. I use Best Foods Mayonnaise (Hellman’s if you are East of the Mississippi). Another time I discovered that a friend used a Polish Kolbasz for the Hungarian Layered potato recipe. You really need Hungarian Kolbasz to make an authentic Hungarian Layered potato casserole. That’s not to say that your dish won’t taste good. It just won’t taste AS good. It’s like – the difference you will get if you use margarine instead of real butter in a recipe. It will be ok. It just won’t be great.

Wok presence can be affected by the type of baking pans you use and the length of time something, such as a drop cookie, remains in the oven. I had this girlfriend at work who made such wonderful chocolate chip cookies. I asked her what the secret was. She replied that she under- baked the cookies; she would take them out of the oven a few minutes early and let them stand on the cookie sheet on a counter until they were cool enough to remove.
Such a small change but it made the difference between soft and chewy – and crisp.

I adopted her under baking rule with most butter cut out cookies that I make – when they are brown around the edges yet firm enough – I take them out and let them stand on the cookie sheets for a while before transferring to wire racks to finish cooling. And cookie sheets! The kind of cookie sheets you use can make all the difference in the world with your finished product. Now I replace cookie sheets every few years – and I use parchment paper on all of them, all of the time. It works better than the aluminum foil I used on the cookie sheets for years.

The more I think about this – the more certain I am that someone else, a famous cookbook author (and I am still leaning heavily towards Elizabeth David) said that the FRENCH have a name for it, those subtle differences that take place when two chefs – cook the same recipe, with the same ingredients – but each will turn out differently. There is a NAME for this and I am going crazy trying to pin it down.

My curiosity was piqued when someone sent me a food section from the San Jose Mercury News, published in September, 1994. The story was written by Kathie Jenkins of the Los Angeles Times, whose name I recognized. Jenkins opens the article, titled “IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S THE RECIPE” by relating the story of a lady whose hobby is trying recipes until she finds the perfect one. In her quest for the perfect crab cake, this cook tried many different versions including several provided by notable cookbook authors. “They were soggy little balls of yuck,” she reported. “Even my husband wouldn’t touch them, which is really amazing. They were too disgusting.”

All of this came as no surprise, Jenkins reports, “to the owner of the Cook’s Library, Los Angeles’ only all-cookbook shop. “More than half the books in my store have at least one recipe that doesn’t work” reported the storeowner.

And John Taylor, who owns a culinary bookstore in South Carolina and is the author of “Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking” observed that, if he only sold books where the recipes worked, he wouldn’t have any books on his shelves.

The trouble is, writes Kathie Jenkins, that recipe testing is nearly always left to authors who must do it or pay for it. “For cookbook authors,” Jenkins notes, “slaving over a test kitchen stove can pay big dividends. The most popular personalities can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. Added to this are revenues from product endorsements, consultant fees, sponsorships, television shows, and video cassettes.”
Or,” she continues, “in the case of style czarina Martha Stewart, your very own magazine. She started out as a Connecticut caterer, wrote the book, “Entertaining,” and parlayed that into a reported $2 million empire – plus a stream of royalties from television shows, videos, CDs and all those Martha Stewart products sold at Kmart…”

Jenkins notes that a famous name is no guarantee that the recipes work, however. Hoppin’ John Taylor commented, “Nobody in their right mind buys a Martha Stewart Book for a recipe. They buy them for her ideas and great pictures. If a recipe works in a Martha Stewart book, it’s somebody else’s.”
In defense of Martha Stewart and apologies to any Martha Stewart fans, a spokesperson for Martha Stewart commented, “That quote sounds like somebody in the cookbook business who wrote a book and it didn’t sell. I think those are just sour grapes.”

Whether it’s sour grapes or not, I’ll leave that for all of you to decide. What is relevant to the subject at hand is that cookbook publishers have no test kitchens. Most newspapers don’t either and consequently, they can’t test every recipe they print from a cookbook. Most recipes are printed as they appear in cookbooks or from wire services. For what it’s worth, the Los Angeles Times does have a test kitchen and a staff to cook in it. All of the recipes in the “Best of the Best” cookbooks published by Quail Ridge Press are pre-tested. You can generally expect a well-prepared Junior League cookbook to have tested recipes and they will often tell you so in their book by thanking the committee of testers who worked on the recipes (sometimes testing recipes three or four times). Jenkins notes that, unlike newspapers, which can correct a recipe the following week, if necessary, cookbook publishers can’t correct even the mistakes they’ll admit to, short of a recall or waiting until the next printing. And while cookbook publishers claim to care about accuracy in recipes, Jenkins notes, most are unwilling to spend the money to make sure the recipes actually work. In a standard publishing contract, the responsibility of recipe testing is left up to the writers.

Added to the mistakes that may be made somewhere between the writing of the cookbook and its publication, there is another important element to all of this. It translates to the difference between the kitchen of the cookbook author and the kitchen of the person who purchased the cookbook.

Author Paul Reidinger has written, “But the curious truth about recipes is that they often produce dramatically different results in different hands in different kitchens. Many times over the years I’ve told interested parties how I roast my chickens and make my salsa, and I am always convinced that my methods are simple and bulletproof – until I am advised that somebody else used one of my recipes exactly and still ended up with a mess. These admonishments remind me that recipes are only partly science; following a recipe is not like solving a quadratic equation. There is play involved, wiggle room, variance, uncertainty, and the person in charge has to know how to adjust.”

It’s also fairly well known that famed cookbook author Elizabeth David disliked giving exact measurements in her recipes. John Thorne, editor of a cooking newsletter called Simple Cooking, in writing about Elizabeth David, commented, “This – although contemporary food writers (or at least their editors) consider it (i.e., David’s distaste for exact measurements) an inexplicable even reader-hostile failing – expresses a direct truth. The responsibility for a dish must finally lie not with the writer but with the cook. Too much instruction muddles the reality of his responsibility. Cookbooks cannot hold hands; their task is to make the reader think. In Elizabeth David’s books, reader and writer face this fact across the page….”

And, not to run this subject to the ground, there are so many variables when it comes to cooking. The cookbook author’s oven is probably not the same as yours (and do you even know if your oven temperature is completely accurate? Have you ever tested it with an oven thermometer?). Are you using the right size pan? You are probably not using the same kind of flour or baking powder as the cookbook author used. Most recipes don’t specifically state what brand of flour is used, and a lot of people are unaware that baking powder has a limited shelf life. The same goes for spices and herbs. A lot of people don’t know that herbs and spices should be stored in a cool place, away from the stove. I was horrified to see, in a nationally circulated, well- known magazine, the photograph of a kitchen with a spice rack built right over the stove. I wrote to them to complain – that’s the worst place to put a spice rack. They did not respond to my letter. If your herbs and spices have been languishing on a shelf near the stove for a year or two, chances are they’ll have very little potency. That could affect your recipe.

Recently, my granddaughter Savannah and I flew to Sioux Falls South Dakota where we spent a week visiting my son and his wife. One day I baked chocolate chip cookies for him. I used a Silpat sheet on the cookie sheet (at home I use parchment paper) and within a day they were rock-hard even though I under baked them. Another day I baked two cakes – one a chocolate cake, from a mix, in a Bundt pan. The other cake was an angel food cake in a new pan that did NOT come out of the Teflon coated pan easily. I covered my mistakes with chocolate glaze. I have no explanation for the difficulties I encountered using their kitchen—I would blame it on the stove but it’s a very expensive stove that they bought only a year ago. I don’t think Sioux Falls is at any elevation different from Ohio (correct me if I’m wrong). The chocolate cake did not rise as much as it should have. I felt like a failure even though I recognize that the problem was not having my own kitchen to bake in.

Consequently, the skill and expertise of the cook is an important factor to the outcome of recipes. And what do you blame it on if it’s a recipe you have been baking in your home for over forty years? I would undoubtedly be a disaster in one of those Pillsbury Bake-Off kitchens.

But, as Kathie Jenkins reported in her newspaper article, there are a lot of bad recipes that have appeared in cookbooks. The test crew at the Los Angeles Times did a lot of research on their own and discovered there were some real losers (including two lemon pies from Martha Stewart’s “Pies and Tarts” cookbook). Says Jenkins, “Many of the reportedly faulty recipes not only worked but tasted wonderful. One award-winning cookbook author griped that he could never get Rose Levy Beranbaum’s genoise to work. We did. Another complained of far too much chile oil in the spicy soba noodles in Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s ‘City Cuisine’. The noodles were delicious. And Marion Cunningham’s gingerbread did not run all over the oven the way one authority claimed it would.”

“So many things,” Jenkins notes, “affect how well a recipe works—equipment, weather, ingredients, personal taste. So what’s a cookbook author to do? Vigilance and thorough working knowledge of one’s recipes are probably the best insurance..”

Jenkins comment on weather struck a chord. When we lived in Florida for three years, I discovered that some of my favorite recipes were simply impossible to make. The Stained Glass Window cookies simply dripped all the “stained glass” after a day or two and when I couldn’t get melted sugar to set up for the kids’ graham cracker houses, I put them into the oven thinking they would dry out. I set the oven on fire. You simply couldn’t make any kind of meringue cookie, due to the humidity–and I discovered that the beet sugar in Florida was much grainier than the Hawaiian sugar cane sugar we were so accustomed to using. For about two years, I had a girlfriend shipping me bags of C&H sugar from California. (This is probably not a major problem for someone who has central air conditioning in their home but that was a luxury we didn’t have, at the time. I was so happy when we moved back to
California where—despite the intense heat of summers—we seldom have humidity to deal with.

“Good cooking”, wrote Yuan Mei, “does not depend on whether the dish is large or small, expensive or economical. If one has the art, then a piece of celery or salted cabbage can be made into a marvelous delicacy whereas if one has not the art, not all the greatest delicate rarities of land, sea or sky are of any avail.”

Since wok presence is boiled down to leaving your thumbprint – it seems logical to share a thumbprint cookie recipe with you:

Cranberry thumbprints (From the LA TIMES COOKIE CONTEST)

Total time: 1½ hours, plus cooling and chilling times

Servings: Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Note: Adapted from a recipe by Kim Gerber.

Cranberry jam

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, divided

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1 (10-ounce) package frozen cranberries

1 (1-inch) piece cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons corn starch

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together one-fourth cup of water, the sugar and orange zest. Stir in the cranberries and cinnamon stick and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of water with the cornstarch to form a slurry. Thoroughly stir the slurry in with the cranberry mixture and continue to cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, to thicken. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. This makes a scant 1½ cups jam, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The jam will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.

Cookies and assembly

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons ground flax meal
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 egg

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup coarse raw sugar (for rolling)

About 3/4 cup cranberry jam

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole-wheat pastry flour and the all-purpose flour, along with the flax meal and salt.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then the orange zest and juice. Reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly add the flour mixture until thoroughly combined to form a dough.

3. Roll about 1½ teaspoons of dough into balls. Roll each ball in the raw sugar, then place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 2½ inches apart. Press an indentation into the center of each ball using your thumb or finger.

4. Refrigerate the sheets until the dough is hardened, 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

5. Bake each sheet of cookies for 7 minutes. Remove each sheet, and quickly re-press the indentation in the center of each cookie using the handle of a wooden spoon. Continue baking the cookies until set and golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool on wire racks.

6. To assemble the cookies, place a small dollop (about one-half teaspoon) of the jam in the indentation of each cookie. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cookies, if desired, before serving.

Each of 6 dozen cookies: 62 calories; 1 gram protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 3 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 9 mg cholesterol; 5 grams sugar; 13 mg sodium.

Happy Cooking & Happy cookbook collecting! – Sandy

FALSE TONGUES & SUNDAY BREAD

FALSE TONGUES AND SUNDAY BREAD is a tantalizing cookbook that captivated me, not only with the title—but also from the subtitle “A Guatemalan and Mayan Cookbook.” It wasn’t so very long ago that I reviewed a cookbook for you titled “FOODS OF THE MAYA/ A TASTE OF THE YUCATAN” by Nancy & Jeffrey Gerlach.

I have never had a desire to visit any of the countries in South America—but “FOODS OF THE MAYA” piqued my curiosity. Copeland Marks, I learned, is co-author of THE INDONESIAN KITCHEN and often contributed to Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Food and Wine—all of which has me wondering how a New Yorker has produced such a tantalizing title as, FALSE TONGUES AND SUNDAY BFEAD.

My curiosity increased in Marks’ introduction in which he writes, “several years ago I approached a number of people in Guatemala City and told them I wanted to write a book on the cuisine of Guatemala. My comment was received with utter disbelief that there was a cuisine at all; people claimed that the highland Indians ate only beans, tortillas and tamales, and that if there was any semblance of a cooking style it occurred only in the large cities…”
Marks says he collected the textiles of the Maya for twenty years, moving from one village to another where the great tribal textile tradition was still extant. He says he had been impressed by the variety of foods in the daily markets as well as the selection of spices and seasonings available. He knew, he says, there had to be a cuisine. despite fact that none of the restaurants serving tourists were presenting the authentic foods and that there was no real bibliography of cookbooks in English one could study. So Marks returned to the village weavers known to him, all of them women, and proceeded to talk about food and recorded the daily and ceremonial recipes based upon his observation and actual cooking activities with them.
Marks says it wasn’t all that easy—at one point he was bitten by a mad dog in the village of San Juan Sacatepequez and had to undergo 16 injections into his stomach—and there were many other Sacatepequez experiences—during which he asked himself if there wasn’t an easier way to find and write about a cuisine. However, he writes, after a guerilla experience, the veil lifted and Marks was able to collect considerable evidence that the cuisine of Guatemaya Maya is in reality two separate cuisines, –one of the highland Indian with their pre-Hispanic style and the other of the Spanish Colonial era which had been developed by the new race, the Ladinos, who were a mixture of the old and the new. brought about independently of the two other cuisines, a minor satellite that had developed independently in the town of Livingston in Guatemala’s Caribbean coast. It was here that indentured labor from India and Africa was brought in by the British to work in the sugarcane and forests of British Honduras, (now known as Belize). These people developed a vivid style of cooking that was tropical, based on seafood, bananas and coconut milk.

Nowhere will you find more creatively named recipes than those you will find in False Tongues and Sunday Bread! Starting with False Tongues, which is a ground beef loaf, otherwise known as Lengua Fingida.

In the Foreword, Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz writes “Copeland Marks has made a meticulous study of a little-known culinary regions of the Americas—the once-great Mayan empire that stretched from the mother city of “Tikal in Guacamole , north into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula through the modern state of Campeche to Palenque in Chiapas and south to Copan in Honduras, glory had begun to fade by the time of the Spanish Conquest in the sixteenth century. Surprisingly, much has survived the centuries, including the magnificent weavings and the food…the cuisines are, of course, dominated by the indigenous foods. Most of them, like tomatoes, corn, the common bean, chiles and sweet peppers were first cultivated in Mexico, where it is believed agriculture was born millennia ago. These still form the basis of the kitchen, though nowadays with the foods introduced by the Conquest and by the spread of modern trade, all the foods of the world are available. The Guatemalan kitchen of today reflects this and it has also been modified by modern cooking methods and kitchen tools such as the blender and food processor…”

Recipes throughout False Tongues and Sunday Bread reflect the combining of old and new and you will surely reflect all of these and a great deal more. Read and enjoy.

FALSE TONGUES AND SUNDAY BREAD is available on Amazon.com; prices mostly steep but there is one in pre-owned copies for $14.91.

REVIEW BY SANDRA LEE SMITH

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

2013 UPDATE FOR YOU MAY BE A COOKBOOK COLLECTOR IF…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Cooking!

Sandy

 

PARIS BISTRO COOKERY

paris bistro cookery by alexander watt 001

While putting some books away—notably foreign cookbooks—I came across one I have had so long, I no longer remember how I acquired it. I do know that a few years ago when my sister & I, along with her son Cody and my grandson Ethan, met our niece, Leslie, in San Diego with her son Blake—we found a wonderful used cookbook store and bought literally stacks of cookbooks. Leslie was buying all the French cookbooks she could find and I remarked, offhandedly, that I had a lot of French cookbooks that she was welcome to, as it isn’t one of my favorite foreign cuisines. Later on I mailed two boxes of cookbooks to her.  So, how did I end up with a copy of Alexander Watt’s PARIS BISTRO COOKERY? The copyright on this cookbook is 1957 and although the dust jacket is worn and torn in places, at least it’s there.  This small cookbook was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1958 and appears to be the first edition.

My first thought was “What is bistro cookery and how does it differ from other French cooking?  Good question!  From visiting Bing and finding some definitions, I learned that French bistro food caught on in the U.S. in the ’80s, when we realized that we loved the simple, homey cooking found in those small, casual eateries the French call bistros. An alternative to haute cuisine, this is hearty, rustic, everyday stuff, often characterized by regional roots: crisp roast chickens, savory tarts, hearty stews and robust salads.

A bistro (/ˈbiːstrəʊ/), sometimes spelled bistrot, is, in its original Parisian incarnation, a small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting. Bistros are defined mostly by the foods they serve. French home-style cooking with robust earthy dishes, and slow-cooked foods like cassoulet, a bean stew, are typical. According to Wikipedia, bistros likely developed out of the basement kitchens of Parisian apartments where tenants paid for both room and board. Landlords could supplement their income by opening their kitchen to the paying public. Menus were built around foods that were simple, could be prepared in quantity and would keep over time. Wine and coffee were also served.

The origins of the word bistro are uncertain. Some say that it may derive from the Russian bystro (быстро), “quickly”. According to an urban legend, it entered the French language during the Russian occupation of Paris in 1815. Russian officers or cossacks who wanted to be served quickly would shout “bystro.” However, this etymology is not accepted by several French linguists as there is, notably, no occurrence of this word until the end of the 19th century. Others say the name comes from a type of aperitif, called a bistrouille in (or liqueur coffee), served in some reasonably priced restaurants.

Then I discovered on the cover in much smaller print “50 of Paris’s best small bistros—a cook’s tour with 100 recipes of their specialities de la maison”  (so much for such a small book!) On the inside of the dust jacket, I read “Here is a title to look at twice—for it has a double meaning. This is at once a guidebook and a cookbook  It is a collection of moments savored in those wonderful but often hard-to-find Paris islands where magnificent food is served—and eaten. It is, as well, a collection of the secrets of the chefs who make those islands as singular as they are…”

Cookbook author Alexander Watt was the food and wine expert of the London daily telegraph and knew Paris inside the kitchen and out. In Paris Bistro he cut through to the root of the French cuisine.  Covering a wide cross-section of Paris, Mr. Watt took his readers on a tour of fifty small inexpensive bistros that he personally had discovered, tested, and approved. Granted, this cookbook was published over fifty years ago and I have no way of knowing whether any of the 50 still exist more than sixty years later. Reading the dust jacket, something nudged my memory banks – what other book had I read along similar lines?  I’ll think about that as I continue on.

Author Alexander Watt took us on a tour of fifty small, inexpensive bistros that he personally had visited, bringing to life the ambiance of each bistro, recapturing the atmosphere, the particular nature of the cooking, the regional dishes for which the restaurant may be famous. He not only described the specialties of the bistro, but also offered a  representative menu, suggesting the right  accompanying wine, cheese and liqueur (or digestif, as the French would say—to settle a superlative meal. Then Mr. Watt went on to outline the making of several of the dishes for which each bistro is famous.

Mr. Watt is a Scotsman who—at the time Paris Bistro Cookery was published—had spent 25 years of his life in Paris. Watt was a food and wine expert for the London Daily telegraph and a contributor to Vogue and other international magazines. He was an exacting gourmet and an acknowledged connoisseur of food and wine. In 1954, Watt published with James Beard his first book titled PARIS CUISINES. In 1962 Watt published the Art of Simple French Cooking.  I have been unable to find any additional cookbook titles for Mr. Watt. There are, curiously, a number of non-food titles that may or may not belong to this same Mr. Watt.  While exploring his name, I found a number of Alexander Watts going back in history; most of the dates are too old to be our French expert Alexander Watt.

In the foreword to Paris Bistro Cookery, Mr. Watt writes “By ‘a small bistro type of restaurant’ I mean a small restaurant where the activities of Le Patron, or La Patronne, replace those of the chef, the head waiter and the wine waiter.  This, at once,  implies a friendly ‘enfamille’ atmosphere or ambiance as they say in French, which characterizes the bistro type of restaurant with its sawdust and simplicity, as opposed to the carpets and comfort of the one, two-, and three-starred establishments…”

“What exactly is bistro?” Mr. Watt asks. “Few foreigners, or even Parisians can define the word. The origin is an interesting one and dates back to the time of the fall of Napoleon, when, in 1815, the Allies occupied Paris. Hungry and tired, the Russians, who were then encamped on the Place de la Concorde, felt need to be restored, (hence the origin of the word ‘restaurant’) so they used to wander around the adjoining streets in search of food and drink. ‘Bistro, bistro!’ they would shout as they entered the cafés, meaning in Russian ‘quick, quick’ …give us something to eat and drink.  And so the word stuck and now signifies a small café where meals are served simply and rapidly…”

“The clientele,” Watt continues, “consists of the local tradesmen and shopkeepers who have to eat their midday meal ‘’bistro, bistro’.  As often as not, there will also be a gathering of discerning French and foreign gourmets who have come out of their way to enjoy a good quality meal ‘lento-lento’. The bistro proprietors generally do a very good business and remain on friendly terms with their regular clientele who form a sort of family circle of faithful attendants….”

Watt says this should not discourage the gastronome from getting to know these fascinating out-of-the-way bistros—especially  those owned and run by the friendly couple, the one serving at le zinc the bar), the other working in the kitchen—who will welcome a new client if he adapts himself to the unaffected atmosphere and exhibits a ready interest and appreciation of the wines and specialites de la Maison. (This reminded me of a well known Maison Gerard in North Hollwood, where some of us frequently went to eat at lunchtime – they were famous for the French Onion Soup).

Before beginning your adventure in Bistro restaurants, Watt offers a chapter of Hints on Culinary Procedure in which the author places emphasis on the cook (you) having the proper kind of cooking utensils—namely, in France, copper bottomed saucepans and pots and seem  to think most American kitchens would not contain expensive copper bottom pots and pans for “thin aluminum  pots” will cook too rapidly he wrote. I was bemused by this chapter as for myself I use mostly stainless steel cookware (and cast iron skillets)  and don’t know anyone who cooks with aluminum nowadays. That is a singular example of how far we’ve come and advanced with our cooking tools, some sixty years later.

There is a chapter on French Recipe Terms as well.

Follows are the50 bistros with a little introduction to each. I can’t pretend to know very much about French cooking but I was pleased several basic recipes for making puff pastry, Crepes, and a veal reduction. There is an extensive chapter on “choosing a cheese” and a Glossary of the dishes found in this cookbook which may be the most useful to a novice cook or anyone wanting to learn how to make some French recipes.  (and of course, there is always Julia Child’s famous cookbook).

Amazon.com has come pre owned and collectible copies of PARIS BISTRO COOKERY—the cover shown is not the same as mine. It took endless entries onto Google to learn anything at al—the website continuously brings up ads for all sorts of unrelated information. I went to Bing.com and found the books listed on Amazon. Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon, has a red-covered copy of Paris Bistro Cookery with a backorder of $205.50.  Powell’s also answers the questions uppermost in my mind: they note that many visitors who arrive in Paris expecting to eat well in the bistros the city was once famous for, find many have closed or turned into sushi bars. But although these small restaurants with zinc counters serving delicious traditional “spcialitis de la maison and plats du jour” under the watchful direction of the Patron have all but disappeared from Paris, they live on in the pages of this delightful book. It offers a hundred recipes from fifty of the best authentic Paris bistros, collected in the 1950’s when these establishments were at their height. Part guidebook and part cookbook, this volume gives the address and description of each bistro as it was, and its colorful denizens, followed by its signature recipes. A work to savor.

Before I close leaving you to wonder –should you or shouldn’t you attempt to find a copy of Paris Bistro Cookery, I’ll give you an article more accessible to find – Endless Feasts –60 years of Gourmet Magazine—edited by Ruth Reichl—has an article titled Paris Report, by Don Dresden, which offers a more realistic view of Paris restaurants following World War II when the author had gone back there to live. Paris, it seems, was and is equally famous for its food, not just the wines. Anyone who has been there and wants to talk about it – I am ready to listen. Paris Bistro Cookery—with or without the recipes—is a fascinating little book to read.

Sandra Lee Smith

 

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE COOKBOOK?

Some years ago, I was surfing the Internet looking for information about a cookbook author from the 1940s, when I happened to come across an article published some years ago by a newsletter called Simple Cooking.  The title of the article was “THE COOKBOOK CLOSEST TO MY HEART” and the editor of Simple Cooking posed this question to its subscribers: what cookbook would you rescue from a fire, if you could rescue only one? Out of all your favorite cookbooks, which one is closest to your heart?  The responses were varied and interesting, and included replies from a number of cookbook authors (Jean Anderson, Irena Chalmers, Julia Child, Laurie Colwin, Marion Cunningham, Karen Hess, and others) as well as comments from cookbook dealers Marian Gore and Jan Longone.  What surprised me most, though, was the number of cookbooks that I had never heard of!

The topic itself piqued my curiosity.  Back in the 1990s, a food writer for the Los Angeles Times called me on the phone one day and asked if we could do a telephone interview. I said sure, and she proceeded to ask me a few questions about my collection. One of those questions was “What is your favorite cookbook? If you had to choose just one or two, which would it be?”

I was caught off-guard by the question (and whatever my response was, it didn’t appear in the newspaper article which appeared in the December 15, 1994, issue of the Los Angeles Times). Actually, the article was really about a cookbook dealer who, at that time, had a used cookbook store in Burbank. I’ve never been quite sure how I got into the act.  And, I couldn’t tell you what my response was in 1994—my “favorite” cookbook changes frequently. (I have a theory that the only people who could limit their selection to only one or two books are people who don’t actually collect cookbooks).  At that moment, one of my favorites was  Jean Anderson’s “AMERICAN CENTURY COOKBOOK” which was published in 1997, so it wasn’t even a consideration in 1994. Anderson’s “American Century cookbook” is such a wonderful potpourri of recipes covering a hundred years—and I’ve discovered that I am greatly partial to any cookbook that manages to combine recipes with history and food lore. This thought occurred to me some time ago while I was writing a review of Mary Gunderson’s “FOOD JOURNAL OF LEWIS & CLARK, RECIPES FOR AN EXPEDITION”. The history fascinates me as much as the recipes do.

I might have said, in 1994, my choice was “AMERICA COOKS” by the Browns, – Cora, Rose, and Bob, – who compiled a book of favorite recipes when there were only 48 States, so you won’t find Alaska or Hawaii included in the roster. “AMERICA COOKS” is still one of my favorites, though. Actually, all of the cookbooks written by the Browns are really worth having in your collection.

I am very partial to another cookbook that skillfully combines recipes with history, called “CINCINNATI RECIPE TREASURY” by Mary Anna DuSablon (originally published by the Donning Company in 1983, reprinted by the Ohio University Press in 1992 with a number of reprint editions following).   I found a soft-cover edition of this cookbook back in the 90s when I was in northern California with my brother, Jim—and bought copies for all of my sisters and brothers. For transplanted Cincinnatians, this really is a treasury of recipes for dishes not found anywhere else in the United States (such as Cincinnati chili!)  I got a big kick out of the fact that my brother (a great cook, certainly, but not a cookbook collector) read the entire cookbook as we flew from Oakland to Portland.

On a similar note, I was delighted and charmed to discover Jeanne Voltz’s “THE CALIFORNIA COOKBOOK” some time ago – and this cookbook was published thirty-something years ago!  However, it’s a bonanza of California recipes and I have to admit, after living fifty years of living in California, I am more Californian, now, than Buckeye.

One other favorite Ohio cookbook is a little spiral bound book you’ve probably never heard of, titled “HAPPINESS IS…CHEVIOT PTA COOKBOOK”.  My sister Barbara was greatly involved with the compilation of this little cookbook, published in 1974 and she drew the graphic illustrations that appear throughout the book. It also contains many of our family favorite recipes.

I have to admit to also being very partial to all of my Quail Ridge “Best of….” cookbooks as well as a growing collection of cookbooks from Gooseberry Patch.  Both sets of books are filled with contemporary recipes that are generally quick-and-easy, important factors for today’s busy cook. (Thirty-something years ago, however, I would have said that the Farm Journal series of cookbooks were my favorites for everyday cooking. The Best of the Best as well as the Gooseberry Patch cookbooks remind me of the potato chip commercial that says “bet you can’t eat just one”. Bet you won’t be satisfied with just one of these cookbooks!

And, as I have spent more and more time over the years, researching and learning about books such as The Joy of Cooking, The Meta Given cookbooks, Myra Waldo’s collection of cookbooks and Jean Anderson’s  equally wonderful collection of cookbooks—I don’t think I could ever choose just one or two.  It’s sort of like that old saying, “When I’m not with the one I love, I love the one I’m with” – my favorite cookbook is probably the one I am reading right now. But if I absolutely had to choose just a few?  I think my first choice would have to be “Grandma’s Favorite”, a family collection of recipes that took us over 20 years to finally get published. My sister and I were finally able to get it to a publisher in 2004. Most of our family favorites are in this cookbook. I am also very partial to The Office Cookbook—another endeavor by coworkers and myself that also took over twenty years to get to a publisher. “The Office” referred to here is the one where I worked for 27 years before retiring in 2002.

But I have a confession to make: A few years ago a brush fire was burning dangerously close to homes in Quartz Hill, Palmdale and Lancaster. People were being evacuated close to my sister’s home, a few miles away.  At night, looking up the street, the line of fire coming over the mountain range was frighteningly close. For the first time I really DID think long and hard about what could be saved if evacuation became necessary. I then realized there would be no way to save my collections of cookbooks, cookie jars and other things. There would only be enough room for us and our pets and that would be assuming that I could get the cats into carriers. I did take out a valise and filled it with our most important documents. I could also save all the photographs that are on CDs but not the albums themselves. It was a moment of truth. Things can be replaced (maybe) but lives can’t.

But assuming we live in a perfect world in which our favorite things could be saved– what’s YOUR favorite cookbook? The one dearest to your heart?

Happy Cooking!

 

Sandy

 

 

BUNNY’S JOY

Bunny

My brother Jim and Bunny (Ursula) Walker married in 1963 and embarked on a marriage that lasted for 49 years, producing two daughters and one son—and in time, five grandsons. My BF Bob and Bunny were kindred spirits and would sit outside smoking together whenever they visited me, or when we all gathered in Florida. Is it any wonder that they were both felled by the same disease, cancer of the esophagus? And that they died within eleven months of each other?

The first time I saw my sister in law, Bunny’s, copy of JOY OF COOKING was during a visit to Michigan in 1994, along with my sister Becky, to witness the marriage of Bunny and Jim’s son Barry, to Kelli; and a few days later we participated in Jim and Bunny’s youngest daughter, Julie’s, high school graduation—and a memorable party for which my sister and I participated in making chocolate-covered large fresh strawberries.

One day during that visit, Bunny made cream of asparagus soup for us—asparagus was in season and we all liked this vegetable. Bunny consulted her “JOY OF COOKING” cookbook for the recipe and I was enthralled, seeing such an old copy of a famous cookbook. This edition was published in 1963, and in the Dedication page, Marion Rombauer Becker writes “In revisiting and reorganizing ‘The Joy of Cooking’ we have missed the help of my mother, Irma S. Rombauer. How grateful I am for her buoyant example, for the strong feeling of roots she gave me, for her conviction that, well-grounded, you can make the most of life, no matter what it brings! In an earlier away-from-home kitchen, I acted as tester and production manager for the privately printed first edition of ‘The Joy’. Working with Mother    on its development has been for my husband, John, and for me the culmination of a very happy personal relationship. John has always  contributed verve to this undertaking, but during the past ten years he has, through his constant support and crisp creative editing, become an integral part of the book. We look forward to a time when our two boys—and their wives—will continue to keep ‘The Joy’ a family affair, as well as an enterprise in which the authors owe no obligation to anyone but themselves—and you.” – Marion Rombauer  Becker

Could the Rombauer clan ever imagined – even after ten years of THE JOY OF COOKING being published, that it would continue, year after year, to exceed everyone’s greatest expectations?

I am a Johnny-come-lately to “The Joy of Cooking” – even though I began collecting cookbooks in 1965, my focus was then and still is today on community cookbooks although I have branched out a bit. Sitting down with Bunny’s worn, stained, cover-falling-off copy of THE JOY OF COOKING was a revelation to me. Part of the original dust jacket was folded up inside. Also folded up neatly inside are a package of typed recipes – chili parlor chili, Skyline Chili, Beef Bar-B-Q, Hungarian Goulash, as well as perhaps a dozen or more other family favorites that cry out “Cincinnati”. There is a copy of a recipe for Skyline Chili in a handwriting that I don’t recognize. For those not familiar with Cincinnati Chili, Camp Washington Chili Parlor, Skyline Chili, Empress Chili – they are all variations of a particular chili dinner that all Cincinnati children grow up  with—we were weaned on 4 way or 5 way chili or a couple of Coney Islands. A four way is spaghetti, topped with Cincinnati Chili, a mountain of grated cheese and oyster crackers. For a 5-way add a serving of kidney beans to the dish. Coney Islands are Cincinnati’s version of a chili dog – but the specially made small hot dog comes from Kahn’s – “the weiner the world awaited”- and is topped off with mustard, chili, some chopped onion and a huge mound of grated cheese—all piled onto a hotdog bun. I can eat three of these in one sitting but can’t budge for a few hours after.

Another clipping inside the book is a seasoning for fish, chicken or steak, in my brother Jim’s handwriting. Next I found an intriguing recipe for Blackberry Brioche that was clipped from a newspaper –and I can’t wait to share it with my penpal Bev, who keeps me supplied with Oregon blackberries. This is followed by a small little stack of newspaper clippings—the kind you only find in old recipe boxes or packed within the pages of a family cookbook. There is, I was happy to see, an article from my favorite food writer, Fern Storer, for a Lemon Pound Cake; next is a recipe for a ham loaf – an old clipping; the back of the recipe is an ad for 6 large 12-oz bottles of Pepsi Cola for 15 cents (plus deposit). I found a recipe for making a Swiss Steak Sauce that was published in the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1960. Then I found a recipe for Chipped Beef Skillet Lunch that appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer in October, 1958—(oh wait! I thought – Jim & Bunny didn’t get married until 1963. Were these recipes originally in her mother’s possession?  Was the cookbook originally her mother’s?  who can I ask? Who would know?)

From a Cincinnati Enquirer clipping dated January 21, 1960. O found a recipe for Casserole Lasagna, that I am interested in trying; then I uncovered a  recipe for Broken Glass Torte (made with three kinds of Jello)  followed by small clippings for  Banana Nut Bread, a Tangy Dressing for Tangy vegetable slaw, plus a few others that are too battered to decipher.

On a page  somewhat spattered, I found Bunny’s recipe for Cream of Asparagus Soup:

Wash and remove the tips from 1 lb fresh green asparagus, simmer the tips, covered until they are tender in a small amount of milk or water.

Cut the stalks into pieces and place them in a saucepan. Add

6 cups of veal or chicken stock page 490

¼    cup chopped onions

½ cup chopped celery

Simmer these ingredients, covered,  for about ½ hour  rub them through a sieve.

Melt:

3 Tablespoons butter

Stir in until blended

3 Tablespoons flour

Stir in slowly:

½ cup cream

Add the asparagus stock. Heat the soup well in a double boiler. Add the asparagus tips. Season the soup immediately before serving with salt, paprika, and white pepper. Before serving, garnish with:

A diced hard-cooked egg    **

I imagine that a bookstore dealer would toss Bunny’s Joy of Cooking into the trash, considering it unworthy of resale. I think much the same often happens to an individual’s recipe box – the contents are thrown into the trash and the box is put up for sale.

I don’t pretend that I am the owner of Bunny’s Joy. I think of myself as a steward, waiting for a daughter or a grandchild to come along and ask “Do you know where my mother’s or grandmother’s Joy of Cooking is?” to which I can reply “I’ve been saving it for you”.–Sandra Lee Smith

Bunny & Sandy, July, 1984, Florida