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, 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…” (now Home Depot?)

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


Some people call them “canapes

And some say “appetizers

But a  little bit is a lot

Make these tidbits little misers;

While the elite watch what they eat,

To avoid too many curves,

And at a party they eat hearty

Passing hot hors d’oeuvres;

Call them tidbits, spreads or dunks

–Pates, wraps or fondues,

Party starters everywhere;

Can be just whatever you choose.

They might be nachos, finger foods,

Bruschetta or Zakuski,

Nice to have at cocktail time

With white wine or some brewsky;

They’re party starters everywhere.

And something you should try;

Sushi Bites will sure delight,

I bet they make you sigh;

Those folks down  South

Say “shut my mouth!”

And to avoid a spat,

They just point to the party tray

And say “I’ll have some of that!”

Tapas are snacks or finger foods,

Quite famous throughout Spain,

They vary much from town to town,

You won’t go home again!

They may be cold (olives, cheese)

or warm (such as Chopitos),

They may be battered baby squid,

That you can eat with Fritoes!

In Central America, such snacks are more

simply known as bocas;

That’s because the natives there

Don’t want you to lose your focus;

The Japanese like uncooked fish,

That the locals call Sashimi

(It may not be to my taste

but others think it’s dreamy!)

Tiny puffs stuffed with shrimp,

Egplant Shigiyaki,

When your mouth is full,

Don’t try to much to talky)

The Chinese call it “Leng Pan”

While the Japanese say its “Zensai”

Everywhere throughout the world,

Small canapes to try,

Chips and Dips and party fare,

The hors d’oeuvre tray is yummy,

But a little or a lot,

leave some room in your tummy–

Dinner’s coming

take your drink

and waddle to the table;

I think they’re having prime rib roast

to eat when you are able!


Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted January 12, 2012

Updated August 22, 2018




Say “antiquarian cookbooks” and most people imagine that anything they consider old—cookbooks over 30 years old, for instance–to be “antiques”. Strictly speaking, a thirty year old cookbook isn’t an antique; however, many cookbooks published in fairly recent decades may be extremely valuable to a collector. If, for instance, you have a first edition copy of “Joy of Cooking” – the very first copies, the true first editions, were self published by the author in 1931, making one of those 80 years old. It has been in print continuously since 1936 with more than 18 million copies sold. In 1936, Bobs-Merrill began publishing “Joy”. A first edition of “Joy” was listed recently by ABE books for $3,000.00.

Many cookbook dealers call themselves antiquarian book dealers while most of the cookbooks they are offering for sale are not truly antiquarian…but may be merely out of print or scarce. And remember the #1 golden rule of cookbook collecting or trying to sell some of your books—a cookbook is only worth $3,000.00 (or even $100.00) if someone will PAY that price. As a collector you have to decide for yourself whether the asking price of a book is worth that much. (Heck, it took me the longest time to complete my collection of The Browns cookbooks but I was missing their Vegetable cookbook—I had seen it listed by antiquarian dealers for $90.00  (this was probably about a decade ago)– and to MY mind, $90.00 was too steep. I thought even $50.00 would be too much –but offer it to me for $25.00 and I would start writing a check. (After originally posting this article a few years ago, someone from the Browns’ family DID find the Vegetable Cookbook and I was able to purchase it for $25.00!

Personally, I think most dealer prices are too pricey; I find most of my treasures in thrift stores and other out-of-the-way places where the prices are often more reasonable. On the other hand, I HAVE paid rather high prices for cookbooks I have coveted too much not to own them. And in recent years, I have been doing a lot of my searching on Amazon.com.

So, you ask, what IS an antiquarian cookbook? To be truly an antique, it should be over one hundred years old.

We are fortunate that cookbooks, over the centuries, have enjoyed a high enough status to have been collected and preserved.

The earliest cookbooks were handwritten manuscripts, prior to the invention of the printing press in 1455. All books were handwritten manuscripts.  The Gutenberg Bible, as we know, was the first book printed on the printing press, but cookbooks also played an important role in the development of printed books.

Per Esther Aresty in her 1964 “The Delectable Past” (Simon & Schuster), the first cookbook printed on the printing press originated in Italy. It was written by a Vatican librarian named Bartolomeo de’ Sacchi and was titled “DE HONESTA VOLUPTATE” which loosely translates to mean “Permissible Pleasures.”

England’s first printed cookbook, “The Boke of Cokery” (sic) was published in 1500; “The Good House-Wive Treasure” (sic) was printed in 1588; “The English House-wife” (sic) by Gervase Markham was printed in 1615. Along with other cookbooks being published during that period of time, all were written by men – women were not thought to be competent enough to write cookbooks!

Also, these books were owned only by the wealthy or royalty—bearing in mind, it really was a man’s world; most women in medieval times did not have the luxury of an education.

From Betty Confidential I learned that the very first female cookbook writer is believed to be Sabina Welserin of Augsburg, Germany. Her Kochbuch of 1553, however, remained in manuscript form until modern times.

Also from Betty Confidential, “Anna Weckerin’s  in Köstlich new Kochbuch (A Delicious New Cookbook) of 1598 is the first cookbook published by a woman. It went through many editions up through the 17th century. She was the wife of a prominent professor of medicine, Johann Jacob Wecker, and not surprisingly, was health conscious. Her recipes include a roast salmon with a sour sauce, an eel pie, as well as more familiar German dishes like Bratwurst and Lebkuchen.”  Betty Confidential also refers to “One of the most delightful and least known of antique cookbooks is ‘Rare and Excellent Receipts’ by Mary Tillinghast published in 1690. (This is the first I have ever heard of Mary Tillinghast’s cookbook).

In my original article for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 1993, I noted that “Possibly the first English cookbook with a woman’s by-line appeared in London in 1681 and was titled “The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet” by Hannah Wooley. While searching on Google to re-verify my 1993 notes, I came across the earlier references to Sabina Welserin and Anna Weckerin.

Another of the earliest female cookbook authors was Mary Kettilby who, in 1714, published “A Collection of Above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick (sic) and Surgery; For the Use of All Good Wives, Tender Mothers and Careful Nurses.” But one woman writer who was to greatly influence English cookbooks and to prove that women were just as capable as men when it came to compiling cookbooks was Hannah Glasse, whose book “The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy” was published in 1747.

These early cookbooks were scarcely JUST cookbooks—they contained everything from household hints to directions for making up one’s own medicines, instructions for managing the household servants and proper etiquette, to directions for concocting perfumes, wines, cordials, soap, yeast – just about everything.

Early cookbooks began with the premise that first you had to KILL the animal that was to be eaten, and provide gory details for dismembering and preparing meat.  I remember one old cookbook’s directions for cooking calf’s head—first you had to hold it by an ear and dip the head in boiling water! Still think it was so great back in the good old days?  Calf’s head jelly was a forerunner of Jello gelatin—but Calf’s head was also cooked to make “mock turtle soup” – when you didn’t have a turtle but did have a calf’s head laying around. Ew, ew. Directions for killing a turtle to make authentic turtle soup are so gruesome that I, for one, am grateful for mock turtle soup. More recent versions of mock turtle soup are made with…ground beef.

Many seventeenth and eighteenth century cookbooks found their way across the ocean—ALL cookbooks first available in this country came from Europe. Not that it mattered very much; pioneer Americans were learning to adapt to a wide variety of new foods and one can suppose that even if the lady of the house COULD read and write, much  of the discourse on managing servants would have been useless to early pioneer women.

The first American cookbook was printed in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1742, and reprinted there in 1752. According to “The Delectable Past”, however, this book was American by imprint only for it was actually Eliza Smith’s “The Compleat Housewife” (sic) which, at the time, was the most popular cookbook in England. The same book was reprinted in New York in 1764. (There was a lot of plagiarism ‘back in the day’ and apparently, it was done with impunity.)

In 1772, a cookbook published in Boston was Susannah Carter’s “The Frugal Housewife,” followed in 1792 by Richard Briggs’ cookbook “The New Art of Cookery”.  However, these first “American” cookbooks were actually English cookbooks; none contained recipes using Native American foods. Cookbooks were not in great demand in this country. In the south (and in the homes of some of the well-to-do) hostesses kept manuscript recipe journals and guarded their treasured recipes carefully, while in pioneer households across the land, young girls learned to cook by watching and helping their mothers in the kitchen.

The first cookbook written by an American woman was Amelia Simmon’s “American Cookery” which appeared in print in 1796. Amelia, according to cooklore, was an orphan and is credited with also being the first American cookbook writer to use American recipes with American ingredients.  Her book was enormously successful—so much so that many of her recipes turned up later in Susannah Carter’s book “The Frugal Housewife” which in turn was plagiarized later in a reprint edition of Hannah Glasse’s book for American readers!  But as noted earlier, these aren’t the first instances of plagiarism—stealing other cookbook authors’ works was a common practice that goes back hundreds of years.  Even Alexander Dumas, famous for having written “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers” was guilty of plagiarizing when he was compiling his “Le Grand Dictionaire de Cuisine”. This was such a common practice, one can only assume that in the absence of laws protecting writers, authors had no compunctions against lifting material from other writers’ works.

The publishing market was replete, throughout the 1800s, with cookbooks written by women (bearing in mind, it was one of the few things a respectable “lady” could pursue as a source of income).

One written by a man was “The Art of Cookery Made Easy and Refined: comprising ample directions for preparing every article requisite for furnishing the tables of the nobleman, gentleman and tradesman, by John Mollard. (Presumably, in Mr. Mollard’s world there were no women in the kitchen).

From the previously mentioned Susannah Carter, in 1803, was “The Frugal Housewife: or, Complete Woman Cook: Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands is Explained in Upwards of Five Hundred Approved Receipts” (Has anyone ever wondered how those long titles ever fit on the cover of a book?)

Sometimes the author of a cookbook, if a woman, would write anonymously to preserve her dignity and reputation. “A New System of Domestic Cookery,” published in 1807 “by a Lady” was later identified when the book was reprinted. (Presumably, you couldn’t maintain your status as a “lady” and write a cookbook as well).

And, in 1808 Lucy Emerson is credited with “The New-England Cookery, Or The Art of Dressing All Kinds of Flesh, Fish, and Vegetables—etc etc” and if it sounds familiar, it’s because Lucy plagiarized the 1798 cookbook by Amelia Simmons.

I was curious about copyright laws and when they went into effect, so – digressing and sidetracking, which I am known to do, I Googled a number of websites. I learned this:

The world’s first copyright law was the Queen Anne Statute, or “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned”. It was passed by the English Parliament on 10 April 1710.  The purpose of this was to protect work of authors, but copyright laws have now extended to all forms of media. The Queen Anne Statute was the origin of all modern copyright laws.  In the US, the basis for both copyright and patent law is established in Article 1, section 8, clause 8 of the US Constitution (adopted 17 September 1787).  The first actual US copyright legislation was passed by the Congress on 25 May 1790 and signed into law by then-President George Washington on 31 May 1790. While Benjamin Franklin is rumored to have birthed the idea of copyrights, it can be seen that it was present in the UK well before then.

Well, despite the existence of copyright laws, would-be authors went right on plagiarizing, or pirating, other authors’ works.


In 1815, Priscilla Homespun published “The Universal Receipt Book” (do you think that was really her surname?) and in 1819,”The New Family Receipt Book” was published by Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell, who published a number of other cookbooks in her time.


In 1820, Rundell published “The New Family Receipt Book” while (same year) Mrs. Frazer published “The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, Confectionary, Pickling, Preserving…”


There was, in 1830, “Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats” by “A Lady of Philadelphia”—in 1832, a reprint identified the Lady of Philadelphia as Miss Leslie of Philadelphia.


One of the first of these that I actually recognize and remember reading about elsewhere is “The Virginia Housewife, Or, Methodical cook”, published in 1838 by Mary Randolph….I could spend hours typing up all the references to cookbooks published in the 1800s, but you get the picture.


From Feeding America, we learn that “by 1860 more and more cookbooks were being printed, and American cookbooks had become an integral part of the publishing business. The upheaval of the Civil War caused a decline in the publication of all books, including cookbooks. Then, in the 1870s, three major cookbooks explosions occurred, the effects of which are still with us. The first was a Civil War legacy: cookbooks compiled by women’s charitable organizations to raise funds to aid victims of the War – orphans, widows, wounded, veterans. When the Civil War ended, these organizations turned their charitable attentions to other causes. The trickle of these early books published in the 1860s and 1870s has become a flood today, as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of charitable cookbooks to benefit every conceivable cause are published in the United States each year…(another) important development was the growth of the cooking school movement. It began with the cooking schools started in New York City by Pierre Blot and Juliet Corson and intensified with the great cooking schools and their teachers – Mrs. Rorer in Philadelphia and Mrs. Lincoln and Fannie Farmer in Boston. These schools dominated American cookbook publishing for the remainder of the nineteenth century and early into the twentieth”.


So, fast forward a little bit – to the latter 1800s, when along came Fannie – Fannie Farmer. Fannie was born in MedfordMassachusetts in March, 1857, the oldest of four daughters, born into a family that highly valued education and expected Fannie to go to college. However, when she was just sixteen years old, she suffered a paralytic stroke and was unable to continue her education. For several years she couldn’t walk and remained at home with her parents.  During this period of time. Fannie took up cooking, eventually turning her mother’s home into a boarding house that developed a reputation for the quality of the meals they served. At the age of 30, Fannie – now walking with a limp – enrolled in the Boston Cooking School.  Fannie trained at the school until 1889 learning what were then considered the most important elements of cooking, nutrition, diet for convalescents, cleaning and sanitation, chemical analysis of food, techniques of cooking and baking, and household management.  Fannie was one of the school’s top students. She was kept on as assistant to the director, and in 1891 took on the job of school principal. Fannie published her best-known work, “The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book”, in 1896. Her cookbook introduced the concept of using standardized measuring spoons and cups, as well as level measurement.


“The Boston Cooking School Cookbook” was actually a follow-up to an earlier version called “Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book, published by Mary J. Lincoln in 1884 under Fannie Farmer’s direction.  Fannie Farmer’s cookbook eventually contained 1,849 recipes. Fannie also included essays on housekeeping, cleaning, canning, and drying fruits and vegetables, and providing nutritional information. The book’s publisher (Little, Brown & Company) didn’t expect good sales and limited the first edition to 3,000 copies, published at the author’s expense. The book was so popular in America, so thorough, and so comprehensive that cooks would refer to later editions simply as the “Fannie Farmer cookbook”, and it is still available in print over 100 years later. (Sandy’s cooknote: Yes, Virginia, a first edition of the 1896 cookbook would be worth some bucks especially since only 3000 copies were published).


Fannie Farmer’s book listed ingredients separately from directions, presented readers with accurate, level measurements.  Earlier cookbooks would instruct the cook to “use butter the size of an egg”. (What size egg? Small? Medium? Jumbo?) or to “heat the oven until you can only hold your hand inside for 15 seconds, (or until you have a second degree burn?)  or might call for “a teacup of flour” (what size teacup?).

Actually, Ms. Farmer wasn’t the FIRST to list ingredients separately from directions; Sarah Tyson Rorer had done that some years before, in her book “Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cookbook” (where Mrs. Rorer had a cooking school of HER own), but the concept of level, accurate, standardized measurements brought science into the kitchen.

Why are these old cookbooks so fascinating to read?  Certainly they often lack usefulness in today’s kitchen; the recipes are generally vague about directions and quantities needed. However, they provide us with a stunning glimpse into the past, in an area (the kitchen) that most of us are familiar with.  We see – perhaps better than most historians – just how time consuming and difficult a housewife’s role was a hundred or two hundred years ago. With the vast amount of work required in the kitchen, it’s a wonder that the lady of the house managed to accomplish so many other things as well. I have been reminded that families were often large and it was not uncommon for a maiden aunt or a grandmother or other extended family members to live in the house and thereby providing extra helping hands (confirming the axiom that many hands make light work).

Middle to upper class homes one hundred years ago might easily have had a maid or two, or a housekeeper or cook as well.  I think we can safely assume that not ALL households had extra aunties or grandmothers, nor did all families have maids and cooks. Meals alone were a full time task that began at sunrise. If the lady of the house had a wood-burning stove, it meant laying the wood for the fire, keeping it hot, baking breads (which started with making one’s own yeast and sometimes getting the yeast starter going the night before) and then preparing meals for the entire family.  Although wood stoves were commonly used, gas and oil stoves and ranges were available from the late 1800s. Miss Parloa, the author of a cookbook titled “Miss Parloa’s Every Day Cooking and Marketing Guide”, copyrighted in 1880 and published by Estes and Lauriat, judiciously expounds on the virtues of gas and oil stoves and ranges; she writes that the two products were so near perfection that it was difficult to imagine how they could be improved upon.

Miss Parloa deplored, however, the commonly used refrigerators of her time. She claimed that the food developed a peculiar odor due to the wood used in the construction of refrigerator’s interior and shelves. As most of us know, these “refrigerators” were actually “ice boxes” which contained blocks of ice (which you purchased about once a week from an ice man). The food was stored, literally, on ice. A few years later, a “better” ice box came along. The ice was stored in a separate compartment with vents on either side to allow air on either side to flow freely through the upper compartment, where the food was kept.  What would Miss Parloa think if she could see our modern refrigerator/freezers with automatic ice cube and cold water dispensers on the doors?

Another of Maria Parloa’s cookbooks was “The Original Appledore Cook Book/Practical Receipts for Plain and Rich Cooking” published in 1872 and reprinted in 1881. My copy is in a truly battered, tattered, condition with the binding falling away from the contents, but what is intriguing are the last dozen pages or so, all covered with handwritten recipes that are so faded, it’s almost impossible to decipher the script. (When I began collecting cookbooks, I’d buy anything in any condition—just to have the books.)

And then there were the Beechers. Father Lyman was a Presbyterian minister. Daughter Harriet Beecher Stowe was the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, published in 1852.

Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book: Designed as a Supplement to her Treatise on Domestic economy” was published in 1850 by Harriet’s sister, Catharine Esther Beecher.  But there is an intriguing story behind the Domestic Receipt book—as told in Cookbooks-A-La-Carte:

“Catharine Beecher invited to tea one afternoon in 1846—twenty years after their graduation from the Hartford Female Seminary—two dozen of her former students. They listened with interest and sympathy as she described how the year before, promising to write a new cookbook, she had taken an advance from Harper & Brothers to send her gravely ill younger sister Harriet to the Brattleboro Spa in Vermont and of how, now, with only the first of over twenty projected chapters written, the deadline was fast approaching—which, if not met, would result in a severe financial penalty.

There was a solution . . . if each of those present would write a chapter, with a sufficient number of receipts—recipes—for the projected book, the whole book could be completed in a week! Never doubting their wholehearted support, she had the titles for the chapters ready on little slips of paper in her hand–meat, fish, vegetables, soups, pies, bread, breakfast and tea cakes, cakes, preserves and jellies, pickles, food for the sick . . .   The completed assignments were quickly assembled into Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book, which soon became one of the nineteenth century’s most successful cook-books. Far ahead of its time, it warned about the dangers of animal fats and excessive sugar. Today there is, perhaps, no more detailed picture of what Americans were eating a hundred and fifty years ago and how it was cooked. In helping organize the kitchen and its work properly, Miss Beecher intended to enable women to lead longer, happier lives…”

In 1874 there was Marian Harland’s “Common Sense in the Household: a Manual of Practical Housewifery.”  My copy is literally falling apart and is one of the oldest cookbooks in my collection. Marion Harland’s life was so interesting, it would be worth a post just about her. After writing 15 novels, starting at the age of 16, Marion wrote her first cookbook, “Common Sense in the Household” and continued writing many more books before her death at age 91.

There was also “English Bread-Book for Domestic Us, Adapted to Families of Every Grade” by Eliza Acton in 1857 and in 1877, “Buckeye Cookery, and Practical Housekeeping: Compiled from Original Recipes” – which has been reproduced in a facsimile edition.

Buckeye Cookery was the great mid-American cookbook of its day. It began life as a charity cookbook when, in 1876, the women of the First Congregational Church in Marysville, Ohio, published a cookbook to raise money to build a parsonage. They named it The Centennial Buckeye Cook Book, in honor of America’s Centennial.

The author, Estelle Woods Wilcox, who grew up in Marysville had moved with her husband to Minneapolis, where he managed the Minneapolis Daily Tribune. From Minneapolis, Mrs. Wilcox edited the contributions of the Marysville women and wrote the introductory essays to each section. The book was published in Minneapolis and the ladies of Marysville accomplished their goal by raising two thousand dollars for the parsonage.

Throughout the last years of the century, cookbooks continued to be published—more of Miss Parloa’s, some of Marion Harland’s, the White House cookbook by F. L. Gillette which led to numerous reprints over several decades (and is worthy of a post all its own), right up to 1899’s Catering For Two; Comfort and Economy for Small Households by Alice James, and Marion Harland’s “Bits of common Sense Series”.

And then there were all the cookbooks published in the 1900s….but, as you know, except for those published between 1900 and 1911, the rest don’t qualify as antiquarian cookbooks. However, that being said – there were cookbooks like the Settlement Cook book, Sarah Rorer’s New Cookbook, a Manual of Housekeeping published in 1902, Fannie Farmer’s “Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent” published in 1904, Maria’s Parloa’s “Canned Fruit, Preserves, and Jellies: Household Methods of Preparation” also published in 1904, The Blue Grass Cookbook, by Minerva Fox, was also published in 1904, as was German National Cookery for American Kitchens, by Henriette Davids. The Times Cookbook by California Women was the result of a series of recipe contests in the Los Angeles Times and published by the Los Angeles Times in 1905, while the Good Housekeeping Family Cookbook was published in 1906- and the list goes on and on.

Collecting cookbooks is such a fascinating hobby—and it can be a valuable one, too. I bought a #1 Pillsbury Bake Off book at a flea market in Palm Springs one year, for $1.00. I almost didn’t buy it—the box of booklets on a table had a sign “books, 50c each” but when I held it up to the vendor, she said “Oh, I need a dollar for that one”. Grumbling, I paid her a dollar. It wasn’t until we were back in the car that I realized what I had—I had never before seen a picture of the first bake off book.  They’re scarce and worth about $50.00 give or take a little depending on condition.

It’s an addictive kind of hobby as other collectors will testify.  A few months ago, I began writing the current price of some of my old cookbooks on post-its to stick on the flyleaf, when I came across some of the going prices. The idea was for my family to have some kind of idea what some of the books are worth.

Did you know that Laura Bush collects vintage cookbooks?  So do many top chefs including the Food Network’s Cat Cora. Booksellers throughout the country say that vintage cookbooks are in constant demand. A first edition of American Cookery by Amelia Simmons may be worth as much as ten thousand dollars—but I don’t think it’s the value of a book that attracts a true collector, as much as just HAVING a particular book. My having the #1 bake off booklet makes my collection of the Bake Off books complete even though they’re nowhere near being vintage cookbooks. Neither is the Vincent Price cookbook (which I do have)–one in good condition can be worth up to $200.00.

(Cookbooks written by the rich and famous is another whole ball of wax.  I have several shelves-full of these books, dating back about 50 years. One of these days I will write about those).

Collecting cookbooks can pretty much take over your life, if you let it. (We have wall to wall bookshelves filled with cookbooks, inside the house. Bob had to convert half of our garage into a library to house all of our other books).

And when you aren’t reading antiquarian cookbooks, you can do as I do—WRITE about them!

Sandra Lee Smith (http//sandyscookbookchatter.wordpress.com)

(Originally posted 5/29/11–Updated June 27 2018)


To everyone following sandyscookbookchatter – I have been posting some of my poetry for the past few months, trying to get back into the groove of writing and posting; the poetry has been going very well, thank you very much to everyone who reads and comments on it.

It was my intention back in 2009 to write about cookbooks; I have a collection of cookbooks numbering in the thousands – so there’s plenty to work with. I don’t want to abandon my poetry though, now that I’ve gotten into it – so I am thinking of maybe doing a cookbook review once a week and stay focused on my poetry. It has amazed me that there are so many poets “out there” in the universe. I really do appreciate your feedback. – sls


In the Introduction to ALL AROUND THE WORLD COOKBOOK, author Sheila Lukins writes, “Much of my childhood was spent in awe of the magical songs, stories and mysteriously foods that my grandparents brought with me when they emigrated to America from Russia. My grandmother would tell me wonderful tales about growing up in Kiev, as she nimbly made tiny meat pastries or crepes to be filled with cherries or sweetened cheese mixtures…”

She continues, “I can’t remember which came first, my desire to visit their far away land, or my wish to cook like my grandmother. Throughout the years, these memories blended”.

Thinking back on those times, Ms. Lukins realized that is was then that her book was born. ALL AROUND THE WORLD COOKBOOK, published by Workman, (1994) is a big, thick, wonderful culinary magic carpet ride.

Sheila Lukins lived in Paris by the time she was in her late twenties; later she would form her own catering service which grew into a partnership to open The Silver Palate Specialty food Shop. A line of packaged foods and three cookbooks followed and eventually the Silver Palate business was sold.

Lukins explains how, after a trip to Spain, she was having lunch with her publisher and editor, “waxing ecstatic about tapas bars, olives, and the new influence of Mediterranean cuisine that was taking America by storm” when her publishers proposed to send her “AROUND THE WORLD” to “adopt, assimilate adapt and create” for her next cookbook. (Don’t you just love it?)

Ultimately, Ms. Lukins visited 33 countries over a two year period. She says she sometimes encountered political hot spots, including her first stop, Russia, the home of her grandparents.

I hardly know how to fit this enormous, wonderful book into a brief review—nothing I can say will do it complete justice. I was delighted to find a number of unusual condiments and spices, recipes for preserved lemons and Thai pickled carrots, tomato apricot chutney and salsa…you know how partial I am to “accompaniments”. There is even a recipe for kiwi salsa! (It wasn’t too long ago that most Americans didn’t know what kiwi was – nor did we know, a few decades ago, how diverse “salsa” can be…we’ve come a long way, baby.)

But in case your taste buds lean in another direction, there are hundreds—some four hundred and fifty—of other recipes ranging from angel berry trifle to chicken satay, from tapenades to banana bread, and from Andalusian Steak Rollos (a beef steak with Serrano ham) to Dublin’s corned beef and cabbage.

Sheila Lukins fills the pages of her cookbook, not just with recipes but also with stories and anecdotes, tantalizing bits and pieces of her travels to whet your appetite. She tells, for instance, of marketing in Budapest. Budapest! My paternal grandfather came from Budapest!!

She writes, “Budapest’s Grand Central Market, to my great disappointment, was closed during my visit. This grand iron and red brick structure built in 1895 at the foot of the Liberty Bridge, will be closed for major restoration for several years. But I did find a small cozy makeshift market in some old warehouses where a handful of the vendors had set up shop. I knew I was in the right place when I saw all the dried peppers strung outside the entry way…” (by now—lo these many years later—the Grand Central Market and Liberty Bridge should be back in business!)

Under Island Secrets, Lukins tells us, “In Montego Bay, I spent lots of lunchtimes at the pork pit, sitting with the locals at green picnic tables under palm trees, heavy with ripe coconuts, eating jerk pork and chicken…at this roadside joint (literally) with trucks and buses rattling by, the great Jamaican barbeque was served up in plastic baskets lined with paper. Along with the pork and chicken, I devoured yellow yams roasted in foil and deep fried cornmeal crullers….”

I almost feel like I went along for the ride. ALL AROUND THE WORLD COOKBOOK is the kind of cookbook you will treasure for years to come. It has a delightful easy-to-read and enjoy format and is also a good companion cookbook to Sheila Lukins’ U.S.A. COOKBOOK, published in 1997. A few of my favorite recipes from ALL AROUND THE WORLD COOKBOOK would be Island Grilled Red Snapper, Jerk Pork Ribs Jamaica, the Indonesian Sweet Garlic Sauce and Casbah Carrot Soup from Morocco. This cookbook will surely use up an entire packet of those little square post-its as you choose recipes to try. And, having mentioned Sheila Lukins U.S.A. Cookbook, I’ll have to provide you with a review of that cookbook as well.

Amazon.com has ALL AROUND THE WORLD COOKBOOK priced at $1.32 & up from which to choose. Remember that pre-owned copies are $3.99 for shipping, in addition to the low cost.


Review by SandraLee Smith






















The Grand Prize in the first Pillsbury Bake-Off contest held in December, 1949, (then called the Grand National Recipe and Baking Contest) and hosted in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City — was $50,000. The only required ingredient in the early contests was Pillsbury’s BEST Flour. (FYI- that $50,000 winning recipe was called No-Knead Rising Twists and it was submitted by Mrs. Ralph Smafield of Detroit, Michigan).

In the Second Pillsbury Baking contest (not yet referred to as a “Bake-Off) was also held in New York City. (In 1957 the competition left New York for the first time and headed for Los Angeles. Since then, Bake-Off contests have been held in Washington, D.C. Florida, Texas and California.) The 1st Prize Winner in that Second Grand National Contest was Mrs. Peter Wuebel of Redwood City, California for her Orange-Kiss-Me Cake. Her first prize was $25,000.

Since 1996, the Grand Prize has been $1 million. The first $1 million prize was won by a man (Kurt Wait of Redwood City, CA), and that year 14 of the 100 finalists were men. Kurt’s million dollar recipe was Macadamia Fudge Torte.

Until 2002, CBS televised the event. Hosts have included Arthur Godfrey (1949–1950s), Art Linkletter (1960’s), Bob Barker (1970’s), Gary Collins (1980’s), Willard Scott (1990–1994), Alex Trebek (1996–1998), Phylicia Rashad (2000), and Marie Osmond (2002). In 2010, the winner was announced live on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The 2004, 2006, and 2008 contests were not televised. The television airings were produced by Mark Goodson Productions. Bob Barker was the first host to have a male category champ in 1978. Willard Scott & Marie Osmond also had male category champs (1990 & 1992 for Willard) while Alex Trebek had the pleasure to witness history when Kurt Wait won the 1996 Bake-Off with his million dollar recipe.

A lot of us collect the Bake-Off cookbooklets, which originally sold for twenty-five cents. (Curiously, the FIRST Bake Off cookbooklet doesn’t have a price on it anywhere. The Second Bake Off cookbooklet is priced at 25 cents). The price for the 13th Grand National Bake Off cookbook was 35 cents and the price went up to 50 cents when the 16th Grand National Bake Off booklet was published. The recently published 45th Bake Off cookbooklet was $4.99.

The FIRST bake off cookbooklet gives no indication that it was going to be the first of a series – I don’t think Pillsbury realized yet what they had a gold mine on their hands. The most elusive #1 booklet at all to find and yet – I found mine at a flea market in Palm Springs and paid a dollar for it. I’ve heard of people paying $75 for one. I buy extra bake off booklets anytime I find them—just in case I find someone who needs one.

You know, if you have collected Pillsbury Bake-Off cookbooks for any length of time, how sometimes a Bake-Off recipe becomes really famous. A good early example is the Tunnel of Fudge cake recipe. The original Tunnel of Fudge Cake, created by Texan Ella Helfrich, didn’t even win the grand prize—it came in second place! (Even so, the tunnel of Fudge cake recipe is featured on the cover of the 17th Bake-Off Cookbook collection).

Two unexpected events occurred at that 17th annual Bake-Off Event; one, a famous new dessert was born, and two, the people at Nordic-Ware, the creators of the Bundt Pan, discovered they had a hot selling item on their hands.

Many of us have had the vague impression that Bundt pans—or something very much like them—had European origins and have been around for ages. Didn’t our grandmothers have something sort of similar? Actually, they did.

Food writer, Marcy Goldman, writing for the Washington Post, a few years ago, explained that the Bundt pan, as we know it, was actually designed in 1949 in Minneapolis—but, she says, the story of the Bundt pan is made no less interesting by its recent origin.

Writes Goldman “It was in 1946 that a young engineer, H. David Dalquist, Sr., returned to Minneapolis from his World War II duties, and with his brother started a small company, Northland Aluminum Products, in the family basement, to cast aluminum into industrial products” (One can imagine that products made of aluminum would have been a hot commodity now that aluminum was no longer rationed after the end of the war.)

As Dalquist developed his expertise in aluminum casting, he began to branch out into a few consumer products, including cake pans that he sold by mail order through advertisements in decorating magazines.

As Dalquist himself told the story, one day in 1949, a trio of “very nice ladies” from the local Hadassah chapter of Minneapolis approached him. They described a handmade ceramic baking mold that the chapter’s president had inherited from her European grandmother. The ladies explained that it was used to make bundkuchens, party or ‘gathering’ cakes. It was round and scrolled and like several other European baking pans, had a tube running up the center of the mold…they wanted to know if Dalquist could make them such a thing in metal. Dalquist could and he did. The ladies of Hadassah were happy and Dalquist was pleased enough to add the pan to his “Nordic Ware” line. The cake pan did well right from the beginning, say the people at Nordic Ware, mostly because women’s magazine used the pan for pretty cake photos.

Gerry Schremp, author of KITCHEN CULTURE/FIFTY YEARS OF FOOD FADS, says that sales were slow until the 1960 Good Housekeeping cookbook featured a color picture of a pound cake made in a Bundt pan. Twenty years later, sales took off even more when a lighter-weight Bundt pan was created.

Nordic Ware today is no longer being created in someone’s basement; they have a 270,000 square foot state of the art manufacturing facility with 14 molding pressers, 16 metal forming presses and six high production coating lines.

After Ella Helfrich created Tunnel of Fudge Cake—which has gone through a number of revisions since the original 1966 creation—every woman in America had to have a Bundt pan—and the people at Pillsbury were no slouches; Dalquist began entertaining the big wigs at Pillsbury…serving, of course, elegant Bundt cakes for dessert, and a deal was cooked…er, baked up.

If you browse through your old Bake-Off cookbooks, starting with the 16th Bake off contest, you will find American ingenuity at work, as contest finalists created a myriad of Bundt cakes, from Hideaway Chocolate Cake, in the 17th edition, to Fudge Brown Ring Cake, in the 24th. On the cover of Bake Off #23 is a prize winning photo of Butterscotch rum Ripple Cake and, of course, it was baked in a Bundt pan.

Gerry Schremp says that, by 1972, eleven of the top hundred winners in the Bake-Off contest had recipes which called for a Bundt pan; the grand prize THAT year was a Bundt Streusel Spice Cake.

The Pillsbury people have always been ever-vigilant when a good thing comes along. In 1974, they published PILLSBURY’S BEST BUNDT RECIPES, 100 delicious bread and cake recipes to make in your new fluted tube pan. Then in 1977, Pillsbury came out with 100 NEW BUNDT IDEAS, which manages to incorporate recipes for main dishes, salads, breads, desserts, and cakes—all made with the versatile Bundt cake pan. As I leafed through these two booklets, I discovered a wealth of exciting recipes including recipes for “scratch cakes” – you know, those cakes some of us still make without using a mix.

With the advent of Issue #26 of the Bake Off books, another creative cook produced chocolate toffee crescent bars, made with crescent dinner rolls and a whole flurry of new recipes were created with crescent dinner rolls as the basic ingredient—but that’s another story we’ll have to pursue another time.

However, the upshot of the 1966 Tunnel of Fudge Cake recipe was that Pillsbury created an entire line of Bundt Cake mixes, and offered the housewives of America a sweet deal – Nordic Ware Cake pans together with its cake mix.

Dalquist said that no matter how many pans Pillsbury ordered, the amount was underestimated. For about 18 months in the 1970s, in a kind of Bundt-mix-mania, Nordic Ware was working to capacity, manufacturing 30,000 Bundt Pans daily to keep up with the demand. (By the early 90s, more than 40 million of the pans had been manufactured).

Eventually, Pillsbury took the Bundt cake mixes out of the product line. However, instructions for making a Bundt cake can still be found on the boxes of cake mixes and most of us still have a Bundt cake pan or two on our pantry shelves. (Actually, I think I have half a dozen including my Angel Food cake tube pans—in more recent years Nordic Ware began manufacturing some brand-new wonderfully designed Bundt pans). For those of us who still want to make Bundt cakes from scratch or have a myriad of Bundt cake mixes in our recipe files, Nordic Ware put out a Bundt cookbook which was available directly from Nordic Ware.

Some of us still have the little Nordic Ware recipe booklet that came with our original Bundt pan; it contains quite a few Bundt cake recipes, including one for Tunnel of Fudge cake..although my booklet offers the original recipe and you can no longer buy Creamy double Dutch Frosting Mix (an essential ingredient in making the original Tunnel of Fudge cake).

Some time ago, I mentioned a Bundt cake to my daughter in law, Keara, who had no idea what I was talking about. I gave her an extra Bundt cake pan that I had (still in its original box) along with a fistful of recipes to try. She was enchanted with the cake pan – Pillsbury people take note – there’s a whole new generation of prospective cake bakers coming along—but she was especially pleased to discover its other possibilities. She called me one day, excitedly, to say “This Bundt pan makes a great Jello mold!”

Meanwhile, time marches on. The theme for the 38th Bake-Off contest held in Orlando Florida was “Quick & Easy”. The winning one-million dollar recipe was Salsa Couscous Chicken. You don’t need a Bundt cake pan or a package of Crescent rolls to make it.

The $1 million Grand Prize recipe for the 43rd Pillsbury Bake-off contest was, Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies, created by Carolyn Gurtz of Gaithersburg, Maryland

Now fast forward to the 45th Bake-Off contest which features, on its cover, a Carrot Cake Tart. That is not the million dollar first prize winner. THAT went to the                       person who created Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream. You don’t need a Bundt cake pan or a package of crescent rolls to make it. I miss the good old days.

And if you want to try your hand at making the not-tunnel-of-fudge-cake but a close imitation, try the following which I came across somewhere in my travels. It’s from as newspaper clipping:


  • 1 3/4 cups margarine, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and white sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Gradually blend in 2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Beat in the flour and 3/4 cup cocoa powder. Stir in the chopped walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 1 hour, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
  4. For the glaze: In a small bowl, combine 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa. Stir in milk, a tablespoon at a time, until desired drizzling consistency is achieved. Spoon over cake.

I have been collecting the Bake Off cookbooklets for years – and consequently, have duplicates of quite a few.


Updated  May 7, 2018


A type of cookbook that I am greatly enamored with is the trend of cookbooks that offer recipes using as little as seven or eight ingredients – or even as few as two or three. Obviously, I’m not the only one who appreciates and enjoys using this type of cookbook – even many famous chefs, such as Rozanne Gold, have latched onto the ease of these recipes. (One chef pointed out—why spend the time putting together something like a salsa to add to a recipe, when so many really good salsas can be found in the supermarket?).

One of the cookbooks in this genre is something called “1001 4-INGREDIENT RECIPES” by Gregg R. Gillespie, published in 2001 by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, but distributed by Workman Publishing Company.

In its Introduction, Gregg explains, “I love cooking and eating great food but, like everyone else, I don’t have the time to juggle complex, multi-ingredient recipes on a daily basis…”

Gregg decided he could have his cake and eat it too, so to speak, and the quick and easy way of cooking would be using a minimum amount of ingredients.   He writes, “One day, I went into the kitchen and didn’t come out until I’d devised the absolutely simplest way to prepare great homemade foods,. I stood at the counter, tossing and turning chickens, potatoes, pasta, pork, and any of the basics I could get my hands on, along with wonderfully prepared (store-bought and homemade) sauces and seasonings. Fewer ingredients mean more time at home and less time at the market; more time with family and friends and less time washing, peeling, cutting, chopping, slicing, and dicing….”

In the end, Gregg created more than a thousand dishes, using only four ingredients—and not sacrificing any flavor.

“How can such great food be made with only four ingredients?” he asks. “Easy. Cooking great food is never dependent on the quantity of ingredients you use. In fact, the simpler the cooking, the better the food. The main ingredient in simple and quick cooking is knowing the basics abut how to create flavor and texture….”

Gregg believes that once you realize how well garlic imparts great taste and bacon adds moisture, once you understand the versatility of poultry, and how olive oil yields more taste than vegetable oil, how vinegar and lemon can perk up a sauce and how flour thickens it, you will be able to cook with less because you know how each ingredient contributes to making a balanced recipe.

Gregg points out what I’ve discovered, what other famous chefs have noted -–our grocery stores and supermarkets stock an enormous variety of quality dressings, easy to use canned beans, zesty salsas and sauces.

Gregg goes a step further with the 4-ingredient pantry and provides lists of what he calls the Basic Pantry and the Optional Pantry. The Basic Pantry contains such products as sugar, salt, dried herbs, seasonings, soy sauce and a few other non-perishables; foods you should try to keep in stock at all times to simplify your cooking life so that you don’t have o run to the store every time you cook a meal. These pantry items are not counted as any of the four ingredients, however; they’re items you should always have readily available. Water is not listed as an ingredient; it is indicated in the directions.

However, the Optional Pantry lists items which would be convenient to keep on hand but not necessary to have around at all times, such as canned beans, bottled salsas, seasoning blends. Gregg says that, if your local store doesn’t carry something like a Honey Soy Sauce or Ginger Dressing, with this list in mind you will be alert to picking up these items whenever you do come across them.

Your Basic Pantry contains everyday essentials such as butter, milk, mayonnaise, ketchup, soy sauce, honey and garlic; vinegars such as distilled white vinegar, red or white wine vinegars. Your Optional Pantry will have a selected of beans which includes chickpeas, black beans and white beans, an assortment of dressings, sauces such as barbecue and chili sauce, chutney and pepper jelly, staples such as rice and various types of pastas. Gregg also lists a variety of seasoning mixes with recipes so that you an put together your own All-purpose seasoning mix or Cajun Seasoning Mix. He offers recipes for mixing together your own curry powder, fine herbs, herb blend seasoning mix and five spice Powder, Oriental Spice Mix and Poultry Seasoning Mix.

(And, while Gregg doesn’t say this, I’ve found that you can save up a wide variety of little jars and bottles when you use up the last of a seasoning or a bottle of dressing; scrub the bottles and jars, remove the old labels and you will have the perfect containers to store your homemade seasoning mixes. Lacking this, I’d suggest buying a box of half-pint-size canning jars to store your homemade seasoning mixes).

One of the greatest features of “1001 4-INGREDIENT RECIPES” is that every single recipe is accompanied by a photograph of the finished product. Say what you want—I consider myself a pretty good cook—but I like to see a picture of the finished dish.

What a fabulous cookbook! You can make dishes as elegant as chicken breasts wrapped in bacon, Chinese Style Stew, or Chinese Pot Roast

Orange-Glazed Corned Beef or Hawaiian Roast Pork. You can put together Huevos Rancheros or Eggs Baked in Sour Cream, Eggs Florentine or Hawaiian Ice Salmon – four ingredients! Imagine – Zucchini Pie, Stir-Fried Celery or Tiny Corn Casserole – four ingredients! As a matter of fact, “1001 4-INGREDIENT RECIPES” has a complete table of contents, ranging from Appetizers and Snacks to Eggs and Dairy, Salads, soups, Poultry, Meat, Pasta, Vegetables and Desserts – plus more. As an added bonus, Gregg has even included a chapter devoted to Sauces, Dips, Condiments and Dressings—this section alone would be worth the price of the cookbook. You can learn how to make all sorts of basic dipping sauces, relishes, your very own Chinese Mustard, Cilantro Pesto, Homemade Zucchini-Pineapple Preserves, Parmesan Cheese Sauce, Mushroom Sauce or Mornay Sauce – not one recipe takes more than four ingredients. I’m impressed.

Gregg Gillespie, the mastermind behind the successful 1001 series of cookbooks, has Owned, operated, and managed retail and commercial baking establishments in New England and California. He lives, cooks, and collects recipes in Reno Nevada

However, that was over a decade ago and as you and I both know, cookbooks can now be found for a fraction of the original cost (most of the time—except when you are searching, as I was recently, for the Vegetable cookbook by the Browns and the only one available was $25.00. Yes, I bought it—it completed my collection of their cookbooks).

Once you get hooked on these “X number of ingredient cookbooks, you won’t want to stop. I have an entire shelf of them now. J If you enjoyed reading about this one, let me know & I will share more of this genre with you!





As promised, here are another assortment of old church and club cookbooks.

One cleverly compiled and tastefully decorated cookbook is “MacCooking in MacKAlamazoo”, subtitled “A Hotch-Potch of Scottish Recipes and Blethers from the Caledonians of Kalamazoo, Michigan—and it really DOES present many Scottish recipes that you may not find anywhere else outside of Scotland. From Hotch Potch or the more commonly used ‘hodge-podge’ (which means something mixed up) there is a fine lamb stew but you will also find recipes for Scotch Broth, Cock-a-Leekies, Lamb & Leek Casserole, Finnan Haddie, Potted Salmon, Scotch Eggs—and oh, so many more. Amongst the biscuits, sweets and desserts you will find recipes for shortbread, marmalade, lemon curd (one of my favorites) and many others you may not be familiar with.

There is a well-prepared interested introduction, the likes of which you seldom find in a little church-and-club cookbook. The Caledonians are a Celtc/Gaelic/Scottish Heritage organization that was founded in 1986 by a group of Kalamazoo native Scots and those of Scottish descent. Why Caledonian? They are named after the people of Caledonia or Caledon, this being the ancient name of what we now know as Scotland.

There are a lot of native recipes in this cookbook—some you may never want to consider trying—but the Scots are famous for their Scottish Shortbread. To make Shortbread, you will need

1 cup butter (margarine never appears in any of their recipes)

½ cup brown sugar

2 ½ cups all purpose flour.

Cream the butter with the brown sugar, then gradually add the flour, mixing lightly only until the dough resembles pastry dough. On a lightly floured board, gently press (do not roll) the dough to a thickness of abut ¾”. Chill the dough for about an hour, pick it all over with a fork, then place it on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake at 275 degrees for about an hour, or until the shortbread is very light brown. (Sandy’s cooknote: all of the shortbread recipes I have ever encountered were shaped in a round cake pan, and when the shortbread has baked, would be cut into wedges. Another recipe in this cookbook bakes the shortbread in an 8×8” pan and then it is cut into squares while still warm.)   **

St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lodi, California, is another American church with a long history; work to establish the church in Lodi began in 1896. The church was then called St Matthew’s Mission but on September 13, 1906 St John’s Mission was established with services being held in the Odd Fellows building. The old church building, made of redwood, was erected in 1910. In 2002, a new church was built – but I have been unable t find out anything about Priscilla’s Pantry. Maybe a church member will enlighten me. Meantime, here is a recipe for Bobbie’s Oatmeal thins cookies on the most stained page in the cookbook:

To make Bobbie’s Oatmeal Thins, you will need:

1 cube (1 stick = 4 ounces) butter

1 cup light brown sugar

1 egg slightly beaten

1 tsp almond extract or 1½ tsp grated orange peel

Melt butter in 2 quart saucepan. Add rest of ingredients. Grease and flour cookie sheets* drop by small teaspoon, well spaced (they spread a bit) and bake 8 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool slightly (about 5 minutes0 remove cookies to rack

(Sandy’s cooknote: if you use parchment paper, you won’t need to grease and flour the cookie sheets).

“WHAT’S COOKIN’ IN DISTRICT 23, Compiled by the Texas Graduate Nurse’s Association, in Borger Texas, was first printed in September, 1960, and has the distinction of ads from local businesses with telephones using a prefix instead of all numbers. Barney’s Pharmacy, Cretney Drug Stores, Jim’s Grocery and Market al have telephone numbers starting with BR (was the BR for Borger?) we may never know.

Here is a recipe for Sweet Potato Pudding made the way I like it (no marshmallows!):

To make Sweet potato pudding you will need

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes

1 cup sugar (or less, per your own taste)

½ cup melted butter

Blend the mashed sweet potatoes, butter & sugar.   Then add & mix well:

2 eggs

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1 cup evaporated milk

Blend well and pour into a greased baking dish; bake at 350 degrees* until hot and bubbly.

(Sandy’s cooknote: I changed the temperature of the oven and the baking time. I don’t believe in baking anything in a glass baking dish over 350 degrees. If you are using a pan, you can bake the sweet potato recipe at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. I also like to top the dish off with a sprinkling of brown sugar and chopped pecans.)

COOKBOOK compiled by THE WOMEN’S GUILD OF ST JOHN’S EVANGELICAL REFORMED CHURCH, OF Nashua, Iowa, C. J. Weidler, Pastor, offers a lovely photograph of the church and still managed to get all the above print on the cover. It was published in 1955. Google failed me this time; I couldn’t locate the church and have no idea if it is still standing (Perhaps someone who knows will write to me). It saddens me to think this sweet white church may not still be around.

Here is someone’s recipe for Wacky Cake.

1 ½ cups flour

1 cup sugar

3 TBSP cocoa

½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

Sift the above ingredients into a ungreased pan. Make 3 depressions. Into one, put 1 TBSP vinegar. Into the second put 1 cup cold water, and into the third put 6 TBSP melted butter. Stir well. Bake at 350 r until it shrinks from sides. Make an icing of:

1 tsp vanilla

3 TBSP cream

1 square melted chocolate

3 TBSP melted butter

½ lb powdered sugar

Mix well and spread on top of the cake (presumably after it has had time to cool)             **

125th ANNIVERSARY COOKBOOK OF FRIENDS AND FAMILIES FAVORITES was compiled by the First Lutheran Church of Rural Ossian Iowa. The church was organized in 1850 by the first     Norwegian pastor ordained in America. It chose its name because it was the first Lutheran Church in Fayette County and the first Lutheran Church of Norwegian descent in the State of Iowa. At its height, in 1884 there were 538 baptized souls.

Originally a log structure was built at the present cemetery site. The second building, located at the present site was built in 1870, was destroyed by a storm and rebuilt. The present church was built in 1924. The following recipe is that of a Norwegian Coffee Cake:

½ cup butter

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1½ cups flour

1 level tsp baking powder

¾ cup milk

Cream butter & sugar together; add eggs. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately to mixture. . Bake in a shallow buttered 9” pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes.


“MEETINGHOUSE MANNA” was presented by the Ladies Benevolent Society to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the First Church in Weymouth, 1973. The cookbook was compiled by the Book Club in 1972.

“MEETINGHOUSE MANNA” was an industrious undertaking – it’s a thick cookbook that appears to have been compiled, completely, by the Book Club in observation of the church’s 350 anniversary in 1973. They also have one of the nicest, most interesting websites I’ve ever come across. Visit http:firstchurchweymouth@webs.com to learn more. Here is a church member’s contribution for making Corn Tomato Casserole:

3 TBSP butter

3 cups ½” bread cubes (6 slices equals 3 cups)

1 lb can whole kernel corn (about 2 cups)

#2 can tomatoes *

1 small onion, minced

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

½ cup grated American cheese (2 slices = ½ cup)

Melt butter, bread cubes, and toss lightly; reserve. In a 1½ quart casserole, place alternate layers of corn and tomatoes with two cups of the buttered bread cubes.   Add cheese to the remaining 1 cup of bread cubes and sprinkled over top of mixture. Bake in moderate hot oven 375 degrees for 30 minutes

(*Sandy’s cooknote – how big is a can of #2 tomatoes? Does anyone know?)

One final note – I still have a stack of these old church and club cookbooks that deserve a second look. Will post some more as time permits!










In 1995, John Ash’s new cookbook was FROM THE EARTH TO THE TABLE, (subtitled John Ash’ s Wine Country Cuisine) was accompanied by so much fanfare that I was, in all honesty, more than a little intimidated. It was written up In Publisher’s Weekly, featured in Cooking Light, heartily praised in the Los Angeles Times by Dan Berger, the Times wine Writer) and given a warm write up in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, perhaps understandably since Mr. Ash’s restaurant is in Santa Rosa.
I wondered –was this cookbook too highbrow for the likes of you and me? The answer was no!

What I did was set aside any preconceived notions about what I think makes up a GOURMET COOKERY and then began checking out the recipes.(although I do a lot of cooking and baking—I have never considered myself a ‘gourmet’ cook).

You have to admit, this gourmet chef comes with great credentials. Not only does he have his own restaurant in Santa Rosa which has gotten many rave reviews, he has written or co-authored several other cookbooks.

Mr. Ash, to quote Publisher’s Weekly is “a passionate advocate of cooks knowing where, when, and how their food is grown and raised…he urges readers to eat seasonally and locally, instead of using tasteless tomatoes in a salad in December , he suggests the likes of Warm Red Cabbage Salad.

“FROM THE EARTH TO THE TABLE: John Ash’s Wine Country Cuisine” was nominated for both a 1996 Julia Child Cookbook Award and a 1996 James Beard Foundation Book Award.

Mr. Ash is also Culinary Director of the Fetzer Vineyards’ Wine Center at Valley Oaks, California, where he draws from the bounty of Fetzer’s five-acre organic biodynamic garden to invent recipes that are high-flavor, innovative and healthy (and where he has the pick of a thousand varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs and edible flowers grown there) and although he is no longer involved in the day to day operation of John Ash & Co. Restaurant (adjacent to Vintner’s Inn, just north of Santa Rosa, about two hours north of San Francisco) he retains the title of consulting chef, working with the executive chef on recipe and menu development.

This is probably a far cry from the John Ash who, according to the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, was once too shy to leave the kitchen to meet diners who wanted to compliment him.

Prior to embarking on a restaurant career and writing cookbooks, John Ash was a photographer and medical illustrator in San Francisco. He eventually was hired by Del Monte Foods to head up new product development (and where he came up with the idea of pudding-in-a-cup). He tired of corporate life, however, and then toured Europe, taking courses at cooking schools such as the Cordon Bleu in London. When he returned to San Francisco, he operated a small catering company, which in turn led to the opening of John Ash and Co., his restaurant in Santa Rosa.

Describing FROM THE EARTH TO THE TABLE, the publishers explain that the book contains over 300 recipes featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients in distinctive flavor combinations. The book is organized by course and main ingredient, with sections devoted to Salads and Soups, Pastas, Pizzas and Risottos; Poultry, Fish and Meats, Vegetarian Main courses and of course, Desserts, Breads, and Beverages.

One feature I especially like about this cookbook is the author’s informal explanations of things which sometimes overwhelm us – for instance, he says there is really no difference between focaccia and pizza…both are flat round breads seasoned with oil and cooked in the oven or over embers—and are called pizza in the south and focaccia in the north. Semifreddos, he explains, translates to ‘half frozen” in Italian….mmmm check out the recipe for Ginger, Fig and Cranberry Semifreddo!

Since this is a cookbook from the wine country, many recipes feature the judicious use of wine and there are some good lessons to be learned by all of us. Ash says that cooking for a winery has taught him to cook differently, to be more sensitive to what the food will taste like with different wines and specific wines. We can all benefit from the lessons learned by the master chef.

One lesson I learned many years ago is that a pantry or refrigerator filled with sauces chutneys, vinaigrettes – things I make myself and keep on hand to dress up meals – makes all the difference between a simple unadorned meal and one that looks fancy, tastes great and impresses the heck out of dinner guests.

Consequently, one of the features I appreciate most about FROM THE EARTH TO THE TABLE are the many wonderful new ideas to incorporate in my own culinary repertoire. There is, for instance, a red pepper chutney, wonderful marinades such as mustard, Thai-style and basil-parmesan…a sun dried cherry sauce, poblano chile sauce – or how about a warm garlic dipping sauce?

In 2008, my Canadian girlfriend, Sharon, and I took a California Adventure road trip which started at the coast in Ventura and took us all the way to the redwoods where we spent a couple of days exploring—but reading about Santa Rosa made me think—Sharon and I spent a night in Santa Rosa when we were unable to book a room anywhere in San Francisco and continued north until we reached Santa Rosa where we found a nice motel and wonderful restaurant food, telling ourselves this was a place that deserved more exploration—but after the Redwoods we traveled south and then inland to go to Yosemite, so we didn’t make it back to Santa Rosa – much to my regret, especially after reading about John Ash’s Santa Rosa.

John Ash is the culinary director of Fetzer Vineyards’ Wine Center, which happens to have a huge organic culinary garden. With that as well as the produce and other ingredients available in abundance in California’s wine country, he creates dishes like Orecchiette with Red Wine-Braised Chicken, Fresh Cherry Flan, and other delicious combinations. There are lots of sidebars on ingredients, and Ash suggests substitutions for seasonal or hard-to-find ingredients. Most recipes are accompanied by informative wine notes that explain the particular food-wine match.


FROM THE EARTH TO THE TABLE, by John Ash and Sid Goldstein, originally published in 1995 originally sold for $29.95. You can receive a hardbound copy for $10.99 on Amazon.com, with a variety of preowned copies starting at $1.59. I was nonplussed to see a copy listed at $1500.00. I wonder if that’s the same first edition that I have on my shelves?

THE WINE LOVERS COOKBOOK: GREAT RECIPES FOR THE PERFECT GLASS OF WINE, Sid Goldstein, Paul Franz-Moore and John Ash, published 1999,

COOKING ONE ON ONE, John Ash, published 2004

SALMON: A COOKBOOK by Diane Morgan, John Ash and E.J. Armstrong, published in 2005, pre-owned copies available on Amazon.com.

Wild Alaskan Seafood: Celebrated Recipes from America’s Top Chefs by James O. Fraioli, Jessica Nicosia-Nadler and John Ash, Feb 1, 2011


–Review by Sandra Lee Smith



MADHUR JAFFREY, author of numerous cookbooks, wrote A TASTE OF THE FAR EAST back in the 1990s but it will still knock your socks off today…Ms. Jaffrey is one of those talented people being referred to when someone says “If you want to get a job done, ask a busy person”…in addition to being a superb cookbook author, she is also an actress who has starred in many award winning films, including Shakespeare Wallah, for which she won the best actress award at the Berlin International Film Festival. Along with writing cookbooks and being an authority on Indian cuisine, Ms. Jaffrey is also a children’s book author, journalist, illustrator and-–director! Jaffrey directed her first film, Cotton Mary, in the 1990s.

If that were not enough, A TASTE OF THE FAR EAST won the James Beard Award for Best cookbook of the year, in 1994.

A TASTE OF THE FAR EAST needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. The photography is exquisite. Location photography was done by Michael Freeman, while studio photography was done by James Murphy.

Mr. Freeman is an established photographer who specializes in studio reportage, landscape and wildlife photography. His books include 35MM HANDBOOK, THE IMAGE and CAMERA AND LENSES.

Mr. Murphy is one of Britain’s leading food photographers who has worked with a number of prestigious cookbook writers and whose work has appeared regularly in GOOD HOUSEKEEPING and HOUSE AND GARDEN as well as other publications.

The recipes featured in A TASTE OF THE FAR EAST are from Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, Viet Nam, Korea and Indonesia.

In its introduction, the publishers lure us with the following, “Chicken flavored with lemon grass and ginger; a fish stew, aromatic with dill; okra in a sambal sauce; slices of duck pan-fried with scallops ice cucumber meade…these are just some of the flavors of the Far East that Madhur Jaffrey brings to her classic evocation of the region’s food and drink…” They continue with, “On a gastronomic tour…she delves deeply into local traditions and history to describe wit knowledgeable enthusiasm the cultural and culinary influences that have shaped each nation’s unique cuisine.

In A TASTE OF THE FAR EAST Ms. Jaffrey provides 150 recipes that include suggestions for accompaniments and advice on serving. There are also separate sections on equipment and techniques and descriptions of ingredients called for in the recipes—even substitutions where necessary—so that if you aren’t all the familiar with Far East cuisine, you won’t be intimidated by it.

I must confess, until fairly recently, I was one of those timid creatures where Far East cuisine was concerned. A number of factors changed my attitude over the past decades, not the least of which was acquiring a Filipino girlfriend whose son is now my godchild.

When my friend would come to visit, she sometimes brought along an entourage of Filipino girlfriends who, unabashedly, took over my kitchen and produced many mouth-watering Filipino dishes.

Another factor, certainly, is living in southern California, where Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Filipino restaurants abound. Little Asian grocery stores can be found throughout the San Fernando valley as well.

I am particularly intrigued with Ms. Jaffrey’s comments, in the Introduction, about the way foods travel…sometimes more easily than people. She writes “No country’s cuisine is written in stone. As foods move, they are changed, adapted, and remodeled in other images. Take Sushi, the little canapés   of raw fish and rice that we think of as quintessentially Japanese. They originated elsewhere, in the little villages tucked inside the much warmer regions of south-East Asia. Cooked rice, when put together with raw fish, preserves it for some magical reason. The ancient Thais knew this.” Ms. Jaffrey goes on to say that she found herself by chance in a tiny village in north-eastern Thailand. “Here, as they have done for centuries, they were putting rice to ‘pickle’ in layers of cooked rice. The rice would be thrown away and the preserved fish eaten. It was this dish that first traveled to Kyoto and was adopted there. Then, it began changing. The first step was to eat both the pickled fish and the preserved rice. They still do that in Kyoto today. In Tokyo, it was discovered that, with refrigeration, fresh fish could be put on top of freshly cooked rice and served immediately. Only, it was decided to add a little vinegar and sugar to the rice to give it a faint pickled taste in memory of what it had once been. Hence was born the sushi we all know and love today. So, while foods travel, at some point they get stamped with a national image.”

Ms. Jaffrey goes on to explain that the purpose of her book, A TASTE OF THE FAR EAST, was to give us some of the best recipes from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan—some quite unknown in the west*, others somewhat different versions of old classics—but to put the foods in their settings, to take us into the homes and restaurants and to give us a little bit of the culinary history of these eight nations.

(*A TASTE OF THE FAR EAST was published in 1994—and I suspect that most of the recipes within its pages would be far more familiar to most western cooks in 2012. I have seen so many Far East dishes on programs such as the Food Network in the past decade and last night watched a Food Network program on chefs in Thailand shopping for groceries on the water canals in Thailand.)

What to look for in A TASTE OF THE FAR EAST? How about Prawn/Shrimp Curry or Hot and Sour Chicken Soup, from Thailand…Grilled Chicken with Lime Juice and Lemon Grass, or Steak and Onions, Vietnamese-style, or Bananas Flambe, from Vietnam…a Grilled, Dressed Fish or Pan Grilled Chicken, from Korea, Fragrant Prawns, a quick mixed pickle or pineapple cake from Malaysia…a steamed soup-custard with chicken and prawns, rice canapés or quick cooked pork with garlic, from Japan…Chicken and Asparagus with Portuguese Sauce, or Diced Chicken with Peanuts in Chili Sauce, or perhaps Sichuan-style Shredded Beef with Spring Onions from Hong Kong…Vegetable and Prawn Fritters, or Skewered Pork Kabobs or Quick Stir Fried Cabbage   from Indonesia? These, of course, are just a sampling of the recipes to be found in A TASTE OF THE FAR EAST.

Each chapter is preceded with an informal introduction to each of the Far-East nations, and you will come away with a much better understanding of that country than you will find in any tourist guidebook.

For those who enjoy the combination of culinary history and recipes…for those of us who appreciate beautiful photography—for those of us who are armchair travelers, A TASTE OF THE FAR EAST meets all of this criteria.

Ms. Jaffrey is the author of numerous cookbooks including AN INVITATION TO INDIAN COOKING, MADHUR JAFFREY’S COOKBOOK and MADHUR JAFFREY’S INDIAN COOKING, SPICE KITCHEN, and MADHUR JAFFREY’S WORLD OF VEGETARIAN COKING. My Google sources credit her with writing over 15 cookbooks; she has appeared in over 20 films.

Jaffrey also wrote Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India.
Her credits are enormous—best bet is to Google her and read what Wikipedia has to say about this versatile author/actress/director.

A TASTE OF THE FAR EAST is available on Amazon.com for $59.95 new HARD COVER , and starting at $2.59 for a pre-owned copy WITH 38 additional copies from which to choose.

review by Sandyscookbookchatter


Review by Sandra Lee Smith





“CAJUN MEN COOK”, subtitled “Recipes, Stories & Food Experiences from Louisiana Cajun Country” has the distinction of, first, being published in 2003 by Wimmer Cookbooks, a company whose cookbooks are generally a cut above many other publishers. It is also a Tabasco Award Winner.

The Tabasco® Community Cookbook Awards, as you may know, were established about 19 years ago by the McIlhenny Company to recognize the role these books play in chronicling and preserving local culinary traditions. The Walter McIlhenny Hall of Fame was created to honor qualified cookbooks which have sold over 100,000 copies, contributing substantially to charitable causes.

CAJUN MEN COOK” has been compiled by the Beaver Club of Lafayette, Louisiana. If I may digress for just a moment, the Beaver Club is an offshoot of the Lafayette Lions Club, the “mother club” established in 1939, and chartered by Lions International in 1940.

Fundraising during the World War II era was modest and directed primarily towards the Lions’ eyeglass and children’s assistance programs, but shortly after World War II, the Lions Club “took a momentous step which would transform the club into Lafayette’s premier civic organization. This project involved the creation of a city park; all the club had was a single truck. Almost all of the clearing was done by hand with axes and cross saws, with members and their families turning out en masse on Saturdays to do the necessary work.

In 1959, the group had reorganized as the “Beaver Club”, the name symbolizing the club’s eager-beaver involvement in parks. The success of their first TV fundraiser led the Beavers to undertake their first major project as an independent club. As explained in the introduction to “CAJUN MEN COOK”, “the airport grounds in 1960 included a low, heavily wooded area along the Vermilion River. The Beaver Club proposed to transform this area into another major city park, and, with approval of the city administration, the organization did just that! Playground equipment, picnic areas, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, a fishing lake, and a boat launch site transformed this once abandoned area into a citywide recreational center…”

The Introduction to “CAJUN MEN COOK” also offers a detailed explanation to the title and the impetus for a cookbook by and for Cajun men (well, and presumably for anyone else who likes Cajun food!).

“Few places in this country”, they explain, “exhibit such a widespread preoccupation with the preparation and consumption of food. This is because cooking and eating are integral components—some would say the most important ingredients—of major Cajun social rituals. Cajun men are the best practitioners of Acadiana’s culinary arts, and some of their best recipes appear within these pages…”

They offer a bit of history so that we can have a better understanding of the people. “The Indians were here first,” they say, “and they had their own cuisine, based on locally available foods. Then came the Spanish, French, Italians, Africans, native-born free people of color, refugees from Hispaniola, Acadians from Nova Scotia, and ‘les Ameriains’ as English-speaking settlers from the East Coast were called—each with their own distinctive cuisine.

The first Acadians had emigrated from France to Acadie (present-day Nova Scotia) in the early 1600s. These French pioneers established themselves as farmers and they soon prospered, despite frequent invasions and the repeated transfer of the colony between France and Great Britain. Acadie became a permanent British possession in 1713 and the colony’s name was changed to Nova Scotia. In 1755, Governor Charles Lawrence of Nova Scotia, acting without necessary royal authorization, ordered the expulsion of the colony’s large Acadian population, ostensibly because they refused to renew their oath of allegiance to the British monarch. Some escaped to modern-day New Brunswick, but most were deported to the British colonies along the East Coast and, later, to France. Many exiled Acadians eventually traveled to south Louisiana, where they attempted to reunite scattered families.

In Louisiana, the Acadians came into contact with Creoles, Indians, Spaniards, Africans and other groups that they had not previously encountered in their long North American experience….”

The Acadians borrowed survival skills from their new neighbors and the resulting exchange of culinary techniques, “when married to new foods found in Louisiana” gave birth to both Cajun and Creole cuisines.

It may interest you to learn, also, that the term “Creole” is a French corruption of the Spanish word “criollo”, a term meaning native or indigenous to an area. However, the term came to mean anything         born, grown, or developed in the Americas, including people, tomatoes, onions, ponies, and cuisine. The best Creole cooking reflects African influences to a greater extent than its Cajun counterpart.

The recipes offered in “CAJUN MEN COOK” are sure to please all cooks, whether male or female, and the book has been written in a style sure to make you happy–it’s the “kind of cookbook you can read like a novel”. (how often have you heard cookbook collectors say that?) – but it’s true. Read it first like you would a novel, to appreciate the history and the wealth of information. “CAJUN MEN COOK” provides detailed instructions for making a smoke house, preparing and smoking meat and the history and instructions for making a Roux. (So many Cajun recipes begin with the instructions, “first you make a roux” that one group, the Les Vingt Quatre Club for the Lafayette Museum Association named their cookbook, published in 1954, “FIRST – YOU MAKE A ROUX”).

Learn how to make jerky, read about the King Cake tradition (and how to make your own King Cake) and discover a bit about Cajun families. Learn about the Spanish contributions to Cajun Cuisine and the Ace Duck Camp Hunt…and when you have savored all the stories and history that “CAJUN MEN COOK” has to offer, go back and begin reading the recipes—and what recipes!

From Crawfish Dip to John’s Crab Dip Supreme, from recipes for Pain Perdu (Lost Bread) to recipes for Gumbo, Jambalaya, or Cajun Paella – “CAJUN MEN COOK” offers us all a tasty exposure to a regional cuisine unlike most others to be found in this country. As explained by a chef of a Lafayette restaurant, “one of the things that makes Cajun cooking so special is the fact that it was developed using only the ingredients which Cajuns could grow, hunt or catch themselves. Cajuns make for wonderful farmers and agriculture is still a mainstay of the economy of South Louisiana…with Crowley, Louisiana positioning themselves as the Rice Capital of the World….”

For those of us who love seafood, especially shrimp, “CAJUN MEN COOK” provides a wealth of recipes—but if you are a steak & potatoes kind of guy (or girl), you won’t be disappointed either. Try Don’s Barbecue Brisket or Cabbage Rolls, oven style. Check out the recipe for Peppered Beef or Lazy Cajun Brisket. There are lots of chicken recipes, including such interesting titles as “Wife Went to Bed Sick Chicken Dinner” and Grandma Claudia’s Smothered Chicken. Mmmm!   There are also in “CAJUN MEN COOK” a generous dose of game recipes, for Cajun men are known for their hunting and fishing skills. There are recipes for Squirrel, Trout, rabbit, quail, deer, duck and catfish – I bet you haven’t seen most of these recipes elsewhere!

I’m happy to report, there is also a section of celebrity recipes from the Blue Ribbon chefs of Cajun country, and – a glossary of terms, eminently useful in a cookbook which uses such regional seasonings as file’ and crab/crawfish/shrimp boil. However, you probably have most of the seasonings in your kitchen cupboard for spices and seasonings such as Dill Weed, Celery Seed, Bay Leaf, and Marjoram are fairly universal.

“Cajun Men Cook” can still be purchased new, from Amazon.com, for $30.19/prime with 51 preowned and new copies starting at $1.89 each.

review by sandyscookbookchatter