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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cookbooks in the Pantry


The pantry clean out was--and is--dispiriting. I don't even want to tell you what I threw out (not that much, but still). The second- and third-tier cookbooks are giving me trouble too.

But what do I do with a copy of Anna Thomas's The Vegetarian Epicure, that staple of the student kitchen circa 1975? Everything in that book tasted good, no doubt because of the pounds of cream, butter, and cheese that nearly every recipe contained. And how's this for a blast from her past: The two-hours-later course is especially recommended if grass is smoked socially at your house. If you have passed a joint around before dinner to sharpen gustatory perceptions, you will most likely pass another one after dinner, and everyone knows what that will do...

I do sometimes make her Russian vegetable pie, which is filled with mushrooms, cabbage, cream cheese, and hard boiled eggs.

Then there is another veggie fave: The Vegetarian Feast by Martha Shulman. There you will find a recipe for Oeufs Poches en Souffle a la Florentine. This dish consists of poached eggs placed on croutons, covered with creamed spinach, topped with cheese souffle. These pages are unmarked, except perhaps with my sighs.

Anna Thomas, who sold millions of copies of the book she wrote at 22, has resumed writing cookbooks. I am sorry to say the new ones are terrible. Martha Shulman has veered from the vegetarian path and is now writing a Recipes for Health column in the New York Times. She has wonderful recipes and is particularly known for her Tex-Mex.

I recently bought one of Shulman's books, though I haven't used it yet:

One neat thing you may not know about: if you link to a book on Amazon, often you can "search inside the book." Click on it, enter a search term, et voila. That way you can look at and even try a recipe--to see if you want to purchase the book. Not all pages are available, but I test-drive cookbooks all the time.


metscan said...

I have never had many cook books, perhaps because cooking is not one of my favorite things. If/when I cook, I get all mixed up, if I have to check the book every now and then. So I just mix a little of this and a little of that, and voila-there it is! Actually I am ashamed of my small interest in cooking. I threw away the old cook books, and now I only have a few left, seen in my blog, under I.D./ Kitchen.

Duchesse said...

Like you I have a shelf of second-tier cookbooks, in the basement. C/c occasionally I crave Veg Ep's Pizza Rustica, another savoury two-crust pie. My second tier are generally ethnic or regional books. Don't use the big bibles (like Joy of Cooking) for reference anymore, it's all online.

The books we keep at hand: Patricia Wells, James Beard. Madeleine Kamman.

Frugal Scholar said...

@metscan--Oh, don't be ashamed! Now that I think of it, I am ashamed of many things: my messiness, clutter, etc. You don't have those problems!

@Duchesse--Oh, I always wanted to make the pizza rustica. Maybe I will, if I can find someone to do the crust for me. The Joy of Cooking is a terrible book to cook from. Everything tastes terrible. The one edition that is good to cook from--1997, I think--was reviled because it was put together by foodies. I have several Kamman books, but have never used them. Now that I think of it, you remind me of Kamman--the way you write and think. Why is that, I wonder.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

My Joy of Cooking was where I learned to a bride in copy is tattered, stained, and falling apart....I will never part with cooking skills have improved exponentially since those early days.
I love the Barefoot Contessa series and Jamie Oliver...I go to Epicurious on line and the library for new recipes as one cannot possibly purchase all the great books on the market...heavens there'd be no room in the kicthen!
A clean out of cook books must surely be a difficult task.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Hostess--I use epicurious too--and I love reading Ina Garten (but her stuff is soooooo high fat generally). And I use the library. Then why do I have so many cookbooks??