10-23-2006 01:51 PM - edited 10-23-2006 01:51 PM
When cookbooks began to reach the popular market it would not have been unusual for a woman to own two books: a Bible and a cookbook. Many early cookbooks would more accurately be called household manuals with recipes for what a family might cook and eat, but also with instructions for cleaning, childcare and home remedies in books like Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.
Now, with cookbooks readily accessible, a serious foodie might cook a three-course dinner from three different cookbooks, perhaps consulting a few more along the way. We have cookbooks that specialize in making food from around the world accessible to the uninitiated like Indian Home Cooking; we have cookbooks that focus on a specific ingredient like The Onion Harvest Cookbook; and we even have those completely comprised of variations on a single dish like 101 Things To Do With a Casserole.
With such variety and specialization, it may seem there is little space for the old-fashioned comprehensive cookbooks containing more recipes than a family could cook in a year; a book that is the first one in your hand when you say to yourself, “I wonder how to make a…”; a book with a spot of memorable sauce just so on the edge of the cover; one that opens naturally to your signature dish. These are the books that rely on when cooking something new; our coach and confidant in the kitchen. In this Book Club we consider three of these classic go-to cookbooks: The Joy of Cooking, The Silver Spoon, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
The Joy of Cooking was first published in 1931 by Irma S. Rombauer and her daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker, and has since gone through a variety of changes. Devoted fans of the original may cringe when they see new recipes from around the world or the quiet cutting of some old favorites. An eagerly anticipated 75th anniversary edition will be released in October, 2006. One of the hallmark features of Joy is its recipe format, combining ingredient amounts and instructions in a narrative form.
The Silver Spoon, originally published in 1950, is often referred to as the Italian Joy of Cooking and, like Joy, a fixture in the home kitchen. It made a big splash in the US when an English translation was released in March, 2006. A behemoth of over 1,000 pages and 2,000 recipes, its editors brought together recipes from across the regions of Italy and adapted them for the home cook.
Finally, Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking is in a class by itself. Julia’s Book (as it is affectionately known) brought classic French cooking to the home cook in the English-speaking world in an accessible and entertaining way. Coupled with her legendary television show, the work is often attributed to the culinary revolution in the US, moving a special dinner from tuna noodle casserole to beef bourguignon.
What are your favorite recipes from these books? What are your thoughts on the new editions? Which recipes are your reliable favorites and which should really not appear in print? I look forward to a lively discussion!
Jonathan Deutsch, Ph.D.
Message Edited by BookClubEditor on 10-23-2006 08:11 PM
11-01-2006 09:31 PM
Silver Spoon is new to me, though I have other Italian cookbooks. Apparently we'll be adding to our library!
Mastering French Cooking...That's one I'm working on acquiring right now. After spending a lovely weekend in a B&B featuring French cooking shared by a chef who traveled and worked in France, I'm anxious to get better acquainted with the cuisine. My husband is very fond of Coquilles St. Jacques...and I've achieved a glowing "purr" for my rendition!
11-01-2006 09:35 PM
Barnes and Noble will be happy you're adding Silver Spoon to your collection!
11-01-2006 10:27 PM
We're both serious reading addicts.
We don't have a B & N in our town, so we tend to use this site a lot.
11-29-2006 07:01 PM
11-29-2006 10:36 PM
I bought the new Joy of Cooking for my daughter-in-law for the holidays so as soon as she tries some of the recipes, I can let you know. I thought this was the book that my mother had used for many years and was well worn in the kitchen drawer but discovered on a recent trip back home that she has used The Settlement Cookbook.
Thanks! I look forward to reading how it goes. The Settlement Cookbook, or The Way to a Man's Heart, for those who don't know, was published in 1903 and was very popular and influential. There's a good reproduction available. Some of the recipes may not seem appealing today but others, especially baked goods, are wonderful.