A greeting card I received says, “Get Out Those Cookbooks and Cook Up a Storm.” Why? October is National Cookbook Month. You probably know by reading my columns, I am celebrating.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a cookbook as a “book containing recipes and other information about the preparation of food.” I find them to be so much more; learning about traditions of different cultures, appreciating food photography and reading about recipes prepared across different regions of the U.S. The latter can be found in myriad Junior League, church and other nonprofit organizations’ fundraising cookbooks.
The vintage recipe booklets that take me back to another place and time, and single ingredient cookbooks, are among my favorites. Those pamphlets from the 1950s are retro in design, with the front cover often showing a picture of a well-coiffed woman wearing a dress and a fancy apron while sporting some jewelry, standing by the stove. Some of those recipes just might not be the most appetizing today (think gelatin molds encasing vegetables, American Chop Suey and other creations of the era). Not all are unappealing; recently, some of those comfort foods popular in years past have made a resurgence.
I would rather read a cookbook that tells a story than a novel. For some, it might be a beautiful coffee table book, where not one recipe is used, but the cover has gorgeous visuals. Others have a few on display as a “prop” in their kitchen. Perhaps some of you would appreciate this quote by comedian Rita Rudner: “I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and say to myself, ‘well, that’s not going to happen.’”
For whatever reason one buys or collects cookbooks, they are not going away, as some might think. The internet gives access to millions of recipes, but what is missing are the stories and people behind of the recipes.
Henry Notaker, a food historian, doesn’t think cookbooks will become a thing of the past. After all, many of the food blogs, electronic food media and food television shows are now extending their presence with a cookbook. And, with self-publishing, it is affordable to publish and preserve family heritage recipes and give copies of the cookbook to family and friends.
I recently had new bookcases built to house my ever-expanding collection. It gave me an opportunity to visit titles that have been tucked behind others. I thought revisiting and sharing some of my “finds” would be a fun way to celebrate. To help you celebrate, check out the quizzes below, revisit one of your old favorites and prepare a recipe, or buy that cookbook you always wanted.
1. Cookbooks have been with us for a very long time. The oldest known cookbook was written on clay tablets and dates from the 18th century BCE. Which culture left it for us?
2. Who was the French “king of chefs and chef of kings” who published his “Guide Culinaire” in 1903, which is still in use today?
A. Frank Beard
B. Paul Bocuse
C. Wolfgang Puck
D. August Escoffier
3. While she was living in France, after working for the OSS in World War II, Julia Child attended which famous cooking school before collaborating with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle to create her famous cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”?
A. International Culinary Center
B. The Cordon Bleu
C. French Culinary Institute
D. The Culinary Institute of America France Campus
4. When this woman wasn’t touring as part of her and her husband’s rock ‘n’ roll band, she was a cookbook writer and food impresario in her own right. She was an ardent vegetarian, once saying, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls the whole world would be vegetarian.” Who was she?
A. Judy Collins
B. Stevie Nicks
C. Linda McCartney
D. Joan Baez
5. Whose 1896 “The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book” has stayed in print for over a century, and is often referred to only by the author’s name?
A. Rose Elliott
B. Fannie Farmer
C. Susie Fishbein
D. Richard Kimball
6. Who wrote the popular cookbook, “30 Minute Meals”?
A. Martha Stewart
B. Emeril Lagasse
C. Bobby Flay
D. Rachael Ray
7. This cookbook, by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, has become so familiar that its title was modified to become the title of a bestselling book by Alex Comfort. What is this cookbook’s title?
8. Which of these cookbook titles are not real?
1. “Microwave Cooking for One”
2. “The Male Chauvinist Cookbook”
3. “Manifold Destiny: The One! The Only! Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine”
4. “Cooking in the Nude”
5. “The Pyromaniac Cookbook”
6. “The Dracula Cookbook”
7. “Revolting Recipes”
8. “Special Effects Cookbook”
9. “Serial Killer Cookbook”
10. “Ugly Food”
11. “Season to Taste with Human Tears”
12. “The Carrot Cleanse: 50 Detoxing Carrot Recipes”
(Answers: B, D, B, C, B, D, “The Joy of Cooking,” and 11 and 12)
These are some of the unusual or unique titles that I have been looking through since they recently came to the front of the shelves. Some might be out of print, however you will easily find them used online.
Fans of the game show might not know that there is a cookbook, “Wheel of Fortune Collectible Cookbook” (2015, Cogin Inc.), with more than 160 recipes, behind-the-scenes photos and fun facts about the show. You’ll enjoy Vanna White’s foreword, too.
In “Real Food Has Curves: How to Get off Processed Food, Lose Weight, and Love What you Eat,” by Bruce Weinstein & Mark Scarbrough (2010, Gallery Books), the authors share a fun and ultimately rewarding 7-step journey to rediscover the basic pleasure of fresh, well-prepared natural ingredients: curvy, voluptuous, juicy, sweet, savory and sumptuous, recipes included. Find out how to shop better, savor your meals and eat yourself to a better you.
Forty-nine master chefs from America’s greatest restaurants share their favorite trucs (French for “tricks”) in “Trucs of the Trade,” by Frank Ball & Arlene Feltman (1992, Harper Perennial). Learn how to string-cut a cheesecake, cook fish in paper and tenderize meat with wine corks, but please remember to remember to remove the wine corks!
This one will make you laugh. From the creator of the blog cakewrecks.com came “Cakewrecks: When Professional Cakes go Hilariously Wrong,” by Jen Yates, (2009, Andrews McMeel). There are grammar and spelling goof-ups, accidentally suggestive messages written on the cake, and some cakes that are plain ugly.
Most of us don’t have large kitchens with the latest kitchen gadgets and equipment. If so, “Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens,” by Jennifer Schaertl (2010, Health Communications), brings space-saving techniques and recipes to those who are kitchen impaired. Jennifer says, “just because you cook in a crappy little kitchen does not justify a crappy meal!”
Entertainer and Hollywood music manager Bob Blumer created “The Surreal Gourmet” (1992, Chronicle Book), providing a fun approach to cooking for those with a zest for living and a love of food. He combines his love of food and art in this cookbook that is as fun to read as the food it describes is to eat. Each recipe is accompanied by his off-beat artwork.
“Never Eat More than you Can Lift, and other Food quotes and Quips,” by Sharon Tyler Herbst (1997, Broadway Books), includes food quotes, recipes, anecdotes, history and cooking tips. Here are a few examples: “The two biggest sellers in any bookstore are the cookbooks and the diet books. The cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food and the diet books tell you how not to eat any of it,” noted Andy Rooney; “A recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation,” said Madame Benoit; “Recipe cooking is to real cooking as painting by number is to real painting: just pretend,” according to John Thorne
These titles are a few of my favorites. “The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs,” by Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg (2008, Little Brown), teaches how to work intuitively and effectively with ingredients, discovering which flavors work best with one another and how to intensify flavors through layering of specific ingredients and techniques.
I am thrilled that my collection includes every Pillsbury Bake-Off booklet. It took years, but it is now complete. I still had to have “Best of the Bake-Off Collection: Pillsbury’s Best 1000 Recipes” (Wiley). This is a reproduction of the 1959 book containing the first 1,000 recipes from the famous competition that began in 1949. This classic gives me a nostalgic look back to an earlier era.
Sheila Thomas does it again with “More Recipes Worth Sharing: A Second Helping of Recipes and Stories from America’s Most-Loved Community Cookbooks” (2010, Favorite Recipes Press). These hand-picked treasures from community cookbooks are the foundation of down-home American cooking. The recipes, for every season, represent the food culture from hundreds of communities throughout the U.S. If you enjoy those recipes on index cards, napkins and scrap paper as much as I do, this collection is for you. This quote in the introduction says it all (adapted from Old North State Cookbook, Junior League of Charlotte, N.C., 1942): “If a community cookbook could talk ... it would deny that it was just a cookbook. It would say, ‘Here, in my pages, it is true that you will find the best recipes of your neighbors, but my purpose is not solely to indulge the appetite. I also inform the mind. … I serve both historical notes of value to the reader as well as recipes that afford a peep into the good eating of present and the days that are gone forever. … But best of all, I know that I have an intrinsic value, for it is through my success, assured by the excellent recipes contributed by interested people that I help the (organizations and volunteers) to carry on their services to the community.’”
Enjoy these recipes from Thomas’ book.
Mary’s Coconut Pie
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 (9-inch) pie shell
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine all of the filling ingredient well.. Pour into the shell and bake for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Check often. Remove from oven when pie is lightly brown and center is firm. Cool before serving. Garnish with whipped cream.
Hot Spiked Cider
2 quarts apple cider
1 cup dried apricot halves
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried apple slices
3/4 cup peach or ginger-flavored brandy
2 cloves, wrapped in cheesecloth for easy removal
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup bourbon
2 cinnamon sticks
Mix first eight ingredients in a large stainless saucepan. Let stand at room temperature for at least one hour. Heat mixture over medium heat until hot. Remove from heat, discard cloves. Stir in bourbon. Serve hot. Garnish with cinnamon sticks. Serves 16.
BASTA Trattoria, 1006 Chapel St., New Haven, 203-772-1715, Pasta Trio, menu at bit.ly/2WPnmwy, choose three different pastas and three different sauces for $20 per person. Served for lunch (noon-3 p.m.) Saturdays and Sundays for dining indoor or outdoor. bastatrattoria.com
Geronimo Tequila Bar and Southwest Grill, 271 Crown St. New Haven, 203-777-7700, happy hour from noon to 4 p.m., with $1 sliders, $1 drafts and $2 cans and bottles. These specials are available for dine-in only (indoor or outdoor). bit.ly/2ZW5cek
Shell and Bones, 100 S. Water St., New Haven, 203-787-3466, re-introduces happy hour, Monday through Thursday from noon to 4 p.m, offering $1 oysters, half-price bottles of wine and $1 drafts. Specials available for dine-in only (indoor or outdoor). shellandbones.com
What chef would you like me to interview? Which restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? Which food products do you have difficulty finding? Do you have cooking questions? Send them to me: Stephen Fries, professor and coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College, at email@example.com or Dept. FC, Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven 06510. Include your full name, address and phone number. Due to volume, I might not be able to publish every request. For more, go to stephenfries.com.