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Cookbook, Spring 1978

ISSUE:  Spring 1978

There have been a great many books published recently on the techniques of cooking. None is as informative or as useful as The Making of a Cook by Madeleine Kamman. This should be on the shelf of everyone who really wishes to understand cooking.

COOKBOOKSCuisiniers à Roanne, by Jean and Pierre Troisgros. Robert Laffont (Paris)

The great chefs concede that the Troisgros are the best cooks in France. It seems to us remarkable that they would publish this collection of their recipes, just as they are prepared at their restaurant. They have only three secrets: perfect ingredients, simplicity in using them, and “harmony” in the resulting combination of tastes. It is a great object lesson for those who believe fine cooking consists of piling up many ingredients in complicated ways. Do not be deceived by the apparent ease of these brief recipes. Unless your butter is pure (and it is not here), your shallots exactly the right ones from Brittany (probably they are not), your vinegar the right brand and age, and your veal half glaze a masterpiece, your Filets Mignons aux Echalotes will be very disappointing. Such is the refinement of this cooking that no part of it can be less than perfect. This is not for the average cook with average ingredients, but it is a book for all who are serious about cooking.

COOKBOOKSPaul Bocuse’s French Cooking, by Paul Bocuse. Pantheon $20

We have written at length before on the great merits of this excellent book, now available in an American edition. More than a thousand recipes are presented, and not one is without interest. This is classic French cooking revised for today’s taste for freshness and lightness. The translator has honestly tried to render the whole text,

not an easy job. Unfortunately, there are, here and there, serious mistakes. The great Madeira Sauce, for example, is given with the wine reduced instead of the stock, a procedure that obviously would remove the flavor from the sauce. Bocuse insists that soups be served immediately to capture their whole flavor. Here we read, “The longer it stands . . .the better the soup.” Despite some errors so obvious that all good cooks will spot them, the translation is very welcome and more faithful than one usually finds. This is one of the few very great modern cookbooks.

COOKBOOKSFrench Provincial Cuisine, by Christian Delu. Barron’s $15.95

We were immediately delighted with this true provincial cookbook. It presents the daily fare that appears on most tables in France. There are sturdy soups and stews based on potatoes, beans, cabbage, and the cheaper cuts of meat that are the foundation of country cooking. These dishes are economical, nourishing, and delicious. The fish and shellfish sections present, as expected, more delicate dishes which require few side ingredients to enhance their perfect flavor. A clue to the authenticity of these recipes lies in the one for chocolate mousse, which is here, and this is very rare, given correctly without cream. Each recipe is illustrated with unusually handsome color photographs done by the author, a great help in presenting the dishes. The best book we have seen recently on the real cooking of the French.

COOKBOOKSOù Est le Garlic, by Len Deighton. Harper & Row $6.95

A charming and easy-to-follow introduction to French cooking. The organization and conception of the book are sound. If you will respond, you will have a very decent cellar and a good, menu. Preparations and terms of cooking are brought into focus. Fifty illustrated “strips” do a great deal to simplify the cooking. The recipes are basic and subject to variation. Especially made for shy people, it is a perfect gift for a bachelor or a beginning cook.

COOKBOOKSFrench Cooking Simplified with a Food Processor, by Ruth Howse. One Hundred One Products $4.95 paper

The first generation of food processor cookbooks failed because they attempted to adapt too many dishes to the machine. The reward for a few tricks along the way often turned out to be mush. Here the approach is more thoughtful. These recipes succeed because the machine is only an accessory in their preparation, The dishes are easy to prepare and quite good. We tried, with pleasure, the Pork Chops with Red Cabbage and the Pâté à la Colmer. On the other hand, we still do not believe that a proper Béarnaise or Hollandaise can be prepared with the machine. The egg yolks must cook to give a proper consistency to the sauce. Adding hot melted butter to the mixture does not provide enough heat.

COOKBOOKSPates for Kings and Commoners, by Maybelle Iribe and Barbara Wilder. Hawthorn $7.95

What a splendid idea. Yet, alas, imperfectly realized. Its virtues are obvious. There are many recipes for all sorts of pâtés, and these are cleverly selected from the different regions of France. Here you can see how variations in spice and proportion of ingredients will yield a different result. Difficulties arise when we see that the dough for all of these is the same. It is a good recipe, but doughs vary as pates do. Each pâté” should have its own dough. Moreover, a pie cover will not bake the same way a wrapping dough will, or a moulded one should. The book will please the party cook, but it will not satisfy the serious epicure. The illustrations are egregious.

COOKBOOKSThe Key to Chinese Cooking, by Irene Kuo. Knopf $15

One would hardly think there was room for another Chinese cookbook. Yet we at once placed this volume on our basic shelf. The author has intelligently organized the book around the techniques of cooking. The introduction of more than 100 pages covers all the basic information one needs, including the “white-cut” and “velveting” techniques seldom found in other books. The recipes are as genuine and authentic as the introduction. The results are surprisingly good. For example, Mrs. Kuo uses Chinese vinegar frequently. Its remarkable character gives a full new flavor to dishes we thought we knew well, like Pepper-Ginger Chicken. A word of warning: these dishes are so good that they will rarely serve as many persons as the author indicates.

COOKBOOKSThe People’s Republic of China Cookbook, by Nobuko Sakamoto. Random House $10 cloth, $6.95 paper.

This offers an excellent selection of dishes, presented by region, from three cookbooks currently available in mainland China. All the recipes are good. Some, from the Imperial Palace, are most unusual and not to be found elsewhere. The regional approach allows one to compare dishes, say the Mu Hsu Pork from Shantung with that from Hangchou. Many of the presentations are exceedingly attractive, and the symbolism of the food, as it is explained, is most interesting. This volume will be a refreshing change for all those who have eaten too much American Chinese food.

COOKBOOKSFood in Chinese Culture, edited by K. C. Chang. Yale $20

The aim of this work is to demonstrate that “at least one of the best ways of getting to a culture’s heart [is] through its stomach.” Indeed, it would be fascinating to understand fully someday why China had produced a highly refined and diversified cuisine as soon as the Sung dynasty (960—1279), while the United States, which may be the richest agricultural country in the world, has yet to evolve an art of eating. This book provides at least the answer to the first part of the question with many interesting political, economic, and historical insights and fascinating information about food. The ways in which food plays its part in Chinese preventative medicine, for example, is most interesting. The book is divided chronologically into eight sections, each written by a different scholar, and this leads, we find, to the only flaw in the work. Some approaches here prove much more to the point than others. Of great merit are Frederick W. Mote’s study of food and sensuality and Michael Freeman’s intelligent introduction to the Sung period. Here we have thinking, not mere amassing of information. This book is a milestone in cultural history, one as important as Levi-Strauss’s earlier structuralist studies of food.

COOKBOOKSGreat Cooks and their Recipes from Taillevent to Escoffier, by Anne Willan. McGraw-Hill $19.95

This charming picture book is a pleasant and anecdotal survey of the development of cooking in the Western world over the last 600 years. There is much of interest, especially the accounts of the Italian cooks. On the other hand, there is nothing on the 20th century; a chapter on Ferdinand Point, the father of modern cooking, would have been a logical conclusion. The cooks chosen for the book tend to be codifiers or popular cooks rather than “great” cooks in the real sense of that term. Of the 13 “great cooks” here, five are English and four are women. Recipes are given from each cook. While many are good, they are not always as attractive or representative as they might be. The book is a welcome beginning, but we will have to wait a bit longer, it seems, for a real history of cooking.

COOKBOOKSAncient Roman Feasts and Recipes, by Jon and Julia Solomon. E. A. Seemann $7.95

This delightful little book begins with an informative, charming, and light-hearted introduction. The recipes that follow have been adapted to modern cooking. They are easy to prepare and quite interesting. The basic “stock” for these dishes, called liquamen, is made of anchovies, oregano, grape juice, water, and salt. It gives a remarkable depth to sauces while losing its own overpowering flavor. We especially liked the chicken quenelles of Apicius. The book will please all interested in the history of cooking and eating.

COOKBOOKSThe Encyclopedia of Fish Cookery, by A. J. McClane. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $35

Here, surely, is all most of us will ever want to know about fish and shellfish. We have the history of the species, where it is found, how it is caught and marketed, and the best ways to prepare it. All is presented in an easy agreeable way enhanced by hundreds of lavish illustrations. We found here for the first time how to bone a shad properly, six different ways to smoke salmon, and the American method of cutting up a lobster. There are more than 350 truly international recipes, each of them taken from the place where the dish is found at its best, be it New Orleans for crawfish or the Basque country for tuna. Correct recipes for basic stocks and sauces are provided, and preparations and presentations are clearly and elegantly illustrated. This is by far the best book on the subject we have seen in English.

COOKBOOKSThe Mussel Cookbook, by Sarah Hulburt. Harvard $8.95

What a pleasure it is to read an expert who follows her subject with such ease and charm. There is nothing pedantic about the way she gives us the history of the mussel, its value for nutrition, and the ways in which it is grown. The recipes are gathered by categories: everyday fare, elegant dishes, and picnic dishes. They are authentic, clearly explained, and appear to be delicious. We say “appear” because we cannot obtain the mussels to try them. And here we confront the serious purpose of the book. We should have mussels. They can be grown at little cost all along the American coast to provide a true delicacy which is not expensive.

COOKBOOKSThe Crawfish Cookbook, by Norma S. Upson. Pacific Search Press $3.95 paper

The author has made a good beginning with a difficult subject. She is best in her discussion of West Coast crawfish. The section on Louisiana and the South would have benefited from more firsthand experience. A great many recipes are given, some of them very good. But when you consider that there are 29 different species of crawfish in Louisiana alone, you will realize that dishes will vary and must be adapted to local fish. Footnotes to the recipes contain a wealth of important information for enthusiasts.

COOKBOOKSThe Woman’s Day Chicken Cookbook, edited by Carol Truax. Simon & Schuster $8.95

This is good. Here, at last, is a clear and straightforward selection of recipes which will offer all cooks a great variety of chicken dishes. The international recipes are, by the way, excellent and must have been very well tested. Popular shortcuts, like the use of instant minced onion, are given occasionally to please those who lack time. But if you will follow the instructions with care and use real ingredients, these recipes will prove surprisingly and consistently pleasant. We recommend the Portuguese Chicken in Port and the Singapore Satay, as good as any presented in specialized Asian cookbooks. This is a modest book but one good enough to be in anybody’s kitchen.

COOKBOOKSAll About Meat, by Leon and Stanley Lobel. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich $6.95 paper

New York is the greatest city in the world? Right? These are the best butchers in New York. So, they are the best in the world? Right? Not on the basis of this book, which is the most disorganized commercial venture we’ve seen in some time. Carving and boning, basics, come in chapter 20 between leftovers and buffet. Much information is implied but what one really needs is lacking. We are told about grades of meat, but not about yields, which is the essential matter. The recipes given are mediocre. Had this been held to 200 pages and 10 chapters instead of 436 pages and 25 chapters, it would have been a household bible. As it is, the useful things it contains are too scattered to be of value.

COOKBOOKSThe Tomato Book, by Yvonne Young Tarr. Random House $5.95 paper

The opening sections on growing and preserving red and green tomatoes are excellent. A great many recipes for all kinds of tomato dishes follow. While these are not strikingly original, they are useful in their variety, quite safe and easy, and will please anyone. We found the barbecue sauce pleasant and the meatloaf made with it an agreeable change.

COOKBOOKSThe Hot and Spicy Cookbook, by Moira Hodgson. McGraw-Hill $9.95

An excellent idea for a book and one that is very well done. The recipes are truly international, and they provide a delightful bird’s-eye view of many exotic cuisines. The author has obviously had these dishes on the spot, and her versions of them are authentic. Most ingredients are easily available, and the preparations are not complicated. The introduction is interesting and intelligent. We go to this cookbook often for a change of pace, and it has yet to disappoint us. The sates are excellent for summer.

COOKBOOKSThe Picnic Gourmet, by Joan Hemingway and Connie Maricich. Random House $12.95

If you are uneasy and want to put up a really good picnic, this is for you. Tired of cold wild duck? Now you can try it again with a bit of gin, a splash of brandy, shallots, and wild mint. It will be quite good. Most of the recipes here are. For regular use, many readers will discover excellent soups for summer and cold buffets with new combinations of ingredients. Not for the budget minded but interesting for all those determined to eat well even at the tip of the Matterhorn or on the chase.

COOKBOOKSMichael Field’s Cooking School, by Michael Field. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $10

First published in 1965 and reissued now in response to today’s demand for books on cooking skills, this holds up very well. The method is to teach dish by dish rather than by technique, a procedure now thought old fashioned but one suited to the temperaments of most cooks. The recipes are international, rather simple, and sound. The “afterthoughts” which follow each preparation contain the wisdom of the book, and they are valuable. Field’s is an additional, not a basic, text. There are not many recipes, and most of them are better explained versions of fairly common dishes.

COOKBOOKSFeast without Fuss, by Pamela Harlech. Atheneum $12.95

New York Magazine has pointed out that many of these recipes have been taken without acknowledgment from Gourmet. They have not been particularly well chosen to provide a hostess with a simple dish to serve without fuss. To go to other dishes, we hesitated over the Earl of Gowerie’s steak (served cold with raw leeks), the Countess of Drogheda’s Eggplant with Crab (2 big eggplants, 6 ounces crab), or Lady Victoria Waymouth’s pudding (one loaf Pepperidge Farm bread, Vz pound cheddar cheese, etc.), but finally chose the Filet Mignon with Mustard Sauce, which seemed to be the author’s. We followed directions exactly. It was inedible, an unusual result from a cookbook. A few menus are given. They lack taste and imagination.

COOKBOOKSThe Carter Family Favorites Cook Book,by Ceil Dyer. Delacorte Press/Eleanor Friede $8.95

It is almost surprising that something like this, filled with many pictures of the Carter family, would be worthwhile. But you have here good simple family cooking. As might be expected, it is a gathering of basic Southern dishes, with not a few of them calling for peanuts in their preparation. These are quite interesting; the Cream of Peanut Soup is one of the best we’ve seen. This will not displace the best of the Southern cookbooks, but it is a good deal better than most regional recipe books.

COOKBOOKSThe International Cooks’ Catalog, by Beard, Glazer, and Wolf. Random House $19.95

This is as handsome and as carefully done as the earlier, very successful Cooks’ Catalog. That splendid volume covered all the indispensable equipment you will ever need. The international addition presents interesting and informative introductions to different foreign cuisines by such experts as Jacques Pepin and Florence Lin. Major sections are devoted to China, France, Hispanic Countries, India, Italy, Japan, Middle East and Africa, Middle and Eastern Europe, Northwestern Europe and Southeast Asia (excluding Vietnam). If the items in the catalog are not necessary, most are tempting. You will want some of them for yourself or for gifts for your friends. There are wonderful inexpensive spoons and baskets and extravagant and expensive things like the copper and brass pommes vapeur pot. As before, prices and the names of suppliers are provided. And, again, there are entertaining snippets about cooking and eating and a wide range of good recipes. We would have welcomed information about sources for the ingredients of these dishes. Anybody interested in exotic cooking will want this, and they will use it.

COOKBOOKSThe Complete Food Catalog, by Jose Wilson and Arthur Leaman. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $6.95 paper

The success of the Cooks’ Catalog probably has inspired this useful endeavor. It seeks to provide information about places where different kinds of food and things for the kitchen can be obtained by mail. Unfortunately, this is wanting in the feature which made the earlier catalog a success: we do not find any comment on the merits or defects of the items listed. There is a wonderfully long list of suppliers with notes about their catalogs. The index is helpful and the recipes, added along the way for interest, decent. The tips on using and storing food are, most of them, excellent. The idea is good, and this is the best of these kinds of books we’ve seen so far; but we still need a more organized and critical approach to this vast field.

COOKBOOKSThe Catalog of Food, by Jeffery Feinman. Doubleday $6.95 paper

This food catalog is less comprehensive than the Holt offering. On the other hand, the author does present some useful comments on the products. One has the feeling that the book has been much extended by many illustrations and multiple entries on the same supplier. It is hurt by not having an index, but it is more clearly presented than the other catalog.

COOKBOOKSWhere to Eat in America, edited by William Rice and Burton Wolf. Random House $5.95 paper

This is commendable and will be of great value if we all take it seriously. When we checked the food catalogs, we discovered places formerly offering free price lists now asking $1.00 or more for their advertising. When we tried some of the restaurants here we found, in some cases, that the recommended specialties had disappeared, and the prices had been increased. The editors have anticipated this and invite comments from diners. If you will write, subsequent editions of this guide could turn the woeful corner in America’s restaurant offerings. The selection here, from 30 of the most traveled cities in the country, is a good start. We would add La Grenouille in New York and the Gumbo Shop in New Orleans.

COOKBOOKSThe Gourmet’s Toolbox, by Led Jossel and Gail Peterzell. McKay $4.95 paper

We expected this to be a detailed discussion of cooking equipment. It turns out to be a collection of black-and-white still life photos of things for the kitchen the authors have found either useful or pretty. While the photographs are pleasing, they do not take us very far. We are told that everything sells for less than $25.00, but no brand names are provided, no descriptions for use, nor names of suppliers. Three scales are shown. Which is the best, and why? Apparently the book has sold well. This should tell us something, but we are not sure what.

COOKBOOKSThe Cocktail Party Cookbook and Guide,by the Faculty Club of the Indiana School of Medicine. Indiana $12.50

Hire the musicians. Sweep the roof. Make a new dress and buy accessories. Wash walls, shampoo upholstery, strip and wax the floors. Polish the plants. Prune, clip, mulch, rake, weed, and deep water your garden. Bring up last year’s dried professional flower arrangement and renew. Arrange fresh mangoes and passion fruit with a few orchids in the middle of the table. Sprinkle a beef tenderloin with tenderizer and baste with Good Seasons French dressing and Kitchen Bouquet. Provide three drinks per person. Do not encourage guests to eat something that appeals to no one. If guests fail to depart, be hospitable, but yawn and remove your shoes. Give a warm farewell. Take Alka-Seltzer.

COOKBOOKSQuick Guide to the Wines of All the Americas, by Robert Jay Misch. Doubleday $4.95

This should be regarded as a handy source for the names and addresses of wine growers in California and New York. There are brief descriptions for the other states. The information on wines in all the other “Americas” suggests they are terra incognita to the author, who throughout makes no serious attempt to describe the virtues or weaknesses of the wines he lists.


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