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Out with the new and in with the old?

old cookbooks

Modern recipes usually include a detailed list of ingredients accompanied by explicit instructions, both painstakingly assembled to ensure that your finished dish is the best it can be. These recipes are often written in a very direct manner, with the ingredient list at the beginning, followed by straightforward, workman-like instructions. In the past, recipes used to be written in more narrative way, and that method has a lot going for it, says Tamar Adler of The New York Times Magazine.

Adler laments the shift from narrative prose to the taut verbiage in today's recipes. She believes there is a lot to learn from the old method. As an example she provides a 1774 pudding recipe, which she describes as "more specific and harder to forget than any contemporary pudding recipe I can think of: 'Scald your quinces very tender, pare them very thin; scrape off the soft; mix it with sugar very sweet, put in a little ginger and a little cinnamon. To a pint of cream you must put three or four yolks of eggs, and stir it into your quinces till they are of a good thickness. It must be pretty thick. So you may do apricots or white pear-plums. Butter your dish, pour it in and bake it.'"

What we lose, says Adler, by removing all of the "binding" in recipes like noting the season or providing descriptions like "a good thickness",  is a broader connection to the world around us. She believes we would develop our senses more--and thereby become better cooks--if we relied less on the precision of modern recipes. 

Do you agree with her assessment? Or do you believe that modern recipes provide us with much better meals than the older recipes which, although quaint to read, don't produce great results?

Author interview with Amelia Saltsman

Amelia SaltsmanSince the publication of her first book, The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook, Amelia Saltsman's fans have turned to her for fresh, intuitive, seasonal cooking. She is regularly sought out for her expertise by such national publications as Vegetarian Times, Bon Appetit, The Jewish Journal, and Cooking Light magazine. She has just released her second cookbook, The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen. (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the book - US only, and check out our Cookbook Calendar of Events for book tour dates.) Saltsman sat down with EYB to answer questions about her latest book:

Jewish cooking varies a lot depending on the regional origins in the Jewish diaspora e.g. Ashkenazi is very different to Sephardi.  Can you explain the main cuisines within Jewish cooking for our members who are not familiar with it? 

Ashkenazi food of Europe and Eastern Europe evolved in a Christian milieu, where pork, beef, and butter were important foods, along with cold-weather grains and cereals like buckwheat. The term, Sephardic, is used describe all other Jews, even though it more specifically refers to people of the Iberian peninsula. Sephardic cooking evolved in primarily Arab regions where olive oil and hot-weather crops were abundant. This is a huge generalization, of course, because each country or micro-region developed its own food traditions within the practice of Judaism. What I wanted to do is open up the diversity of culinary experience, so you'll find flavors and dishes that are Italian, French, Iberian, North African, and more in  The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen

Your book focuses on seasonal cooking.  How much is traditional Jewish cooking already linked to the seasonal availability of produce?

If we get to the heart of the matter, very linked. Most holidays have agricultural, therefore seasonal, beginnings, which are reflected in our traditional foods. Rosh Hashanah comes with a cornucopia of seasonal foods to symbolize wishes and blessings for a good, sweet year. Pomegranates, apples, quince, dates, early root vegetables, and winter squashes are all showing up in markets and all figure prominently in traditional holiday foods. The new year custom of eating a "first fruit" to mark the holiday comes at a perfect time of year--the beginning of the autumn harvest season. This is really about noticing what's been hiding in plain sight--seasonality + tradition.

Traditional Jewish cooking is quite rich and starchy. What traditional recipes did you lighten up in your book?

I would disagree with that statement! Although sadly, this is how many people think about Jewish food. I'm here to change the basic premise! Good cooks have always made delicious food, certainly true when I think of my grandmothers' elegant touch in their kitchens. That said, how we want to eat has certainly changed over the generations for most cooking, Jewish or not. There are many recipes in the book that are true to the spirit of a traditional dish, but reflect how we eat today. My Roasted carrot and sweet potato tzimmes is a perfect example. Carrots, sweet potatoes, dried fruit, citrus zest, and fresh orange juice--tossed in a large pan and shoved in the oven. No flour, meat, sugar, or long stewing to mask the great ingredients. And easier to make, and lighter to eat. 

There are many traditional dishes served on the high holidays such as latkes, tzimmes, etc.  Have you included modernized versions of these dishes? 

In some cases, as with the tzimmes, yes. With others, like Pure and simple brisket or My mother's chicken soup, I've given readers what I consider excellent classics that match our modern sensibilities. My Best potato latkes are crisp, not greasy, and my other latke recipes are rediscovered dishes--like the ones made from summer squash--or innovative, like those with parsnips, or butternut squash and sweet potato.

Does your book follow kosher rules of not mixing meat and dairy? 

Yes. I simply left those combinations out of the mix. I leave it to readers to mix and match recipes to build a meal according to their philosophy. I also chose not to include pork or shellfish, but I don't think anyone will miss their absence, and certainly there are many dishes that can be adapted to include them if desired. 

What is your own family's culinary history?

Very diverse! I'm the daughter of an Iraqi father and Romanian mother who were raised in Israel and met in the Israeli army. They emigrated to California where I was born and raised. To say my food history is eclectic would be putting it mildly!

There has been a growing interest in Israeli cooking with the huge success of Ottolenghi's books, especially Jerusalem. Which of your recipes reflect Isreali spices and ingredients?

I'm grateful to Yotam Ottolenghi for bringing attention to some of my favorite flavors. Israeli food is very diverse, since it is a true melting pot of cultures, Jewish and not. So, too many recipes to mention here! But I will say this, that if you've cooked from my first book, the Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook, or enjoyed any I've written for magazines or my blog, you've already cooked Israeli food! It's much more than hummus and falafel, you know. 

If you were putting together a dinner party from the book, what would be your dishes you would cook?

That would depend on the season!

Cookbook giveaway - The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen

The Seasonal Jewish KitchenIn The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen, Amelia Saltsman takes us far beyond deli meats and chicken soup to explore a universally appealing world of flavors ideal for modern meals. She traces the delicious roots of Jewish cooking from ancient times and also showcases the global nature of Jewish cuisine, which evolved as migrants and immigrants encountered the local ingredients in their new homes. Read our author Q & A with Saltsman, plus check out the World Calendar of Cookbook Events for tour dates.

We're delighted to give away 3 copies of the book to EYB Members in the US only. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments to this blog post:

What is your favorite traditional Jewish dish?

Please note that you must be signed into the Rafflecopter contest before posting the comment or your entry won't be counted. Entries from non-Members or from Members outside the US will be discarded. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends September 25, 2015.

Me & my cookbooks - Elizabeth Winslow

We're pleased to present another installment of the "Me and my cookbooks" series. Many EYB members have told us they enjoy meeting members and special guests through this feature. We'd love to introduce more people, so if you'd like to be featured, just email us at info@eatyourbooks.com.

Elizabeth Winslow

EYB Member Elizabeth Winslow is a food writer, a successful entrepreneur, and a cookbook lover. A member of Les Dames d'Escoffier, she is a frequent writer for Edible Austin. Elizabeth is happiest at the farmers' market and around the dinner table with her husband Thomas and their two children. She discusses how her love of cookbooks developed:

On the morning of my eighth birthday, I woke up to pancakes and a special present from my godmother: Many Hands Cooking, a cookbook for girls and boys produced in cooperation with UNICEF. Inside the spiral bound book were recipes from countries all over the world. I loved the colorful drawings of children from 40 different countries, and the recipes were straightforward but interesting. What I loved most, though, was the very idea that a book could be a doorway into the markets, kitchens, and dining rooms of the world, where I could connect to the culture and history of other children. Even more exciting, it must mean that we had culture and history in our kitchen as well! Suddenly the world seemed very large and delicious, and I was hooked.

As a restaurant owner and chef, culinary entrepreneur, and food writer I'm often asked where I went to culinary school. I've never been formally trained, but I've cooked with the best. I've learned all about Southern cooking from Edna Lewis, Julia Child has held my hand through learning the mother sauces, and I've traveled through Southeast Asia, India, and China with Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford. I've made pasta with Marcella Hazan and cooked sweetbreads with Fergus Henderson. Deborah Madison has inspired a love for seasonal cooking and David Chang has pushed me out of my comfort zone. I've been to a tiny, mountaintop French village with Roy Andries de Groot and cooked over a fire in Patagonia with Francis Mallmann. The truth is, I connect to these mentors on the page. The moment I opened the cover of Many Hands Cooking, I fell in love with cookbooks, and I turn to them again and again for instruction, for pleasure, and for the joys of losing myself in another person's food stories.

My collection, now numbering over 400, includes comprehensive classics like The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham and Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. Vegetarian books like Feast and Vegetable Literacy share space with The River Cottage Meat Book and A Girl and Her Pig. Favorite chefs David Lebovitz, Diana Henry, and Suzanne Goin are well represented. Some of my most-loved books are as good as memoirs-I can read a Nigel Slater cookbook late into the night. Others mark chapters in my life: striking out in my first adult kitchen with The Silver Palate books, or finding my kids' favorite banana bread recipe in The Way We Cook.

A lifetime of reading cookbooks has inspired many endeavors in food. I write a blog called Market Fresh, am a regular contributor to Edible Austin, and founded Farmhouse Delivery where I created the blog that allows our customers to stay inspired to cook locally and seasonally with their deliveries. My personal blog is Winslow + co and I just started a new business called Kitchen Underground, an online marketplace where home cooks can offer cooking classes in their own kitchens. Our Meetup group is really taking off - the event people are most excited about is a Cook the Book Potluck we hope to make into a regular event. Our first gathering will focus on Tara O'Brady's Seven Spoons!

All of my projects are inspired by cookbooks, and I could never manage the library I've amassed over the years without Eat Your Books - EYB is one of my most essential tools for cooking and creativity.

August 2015 cookbook roundup

 Every month Jane and Fiona wade through hundreds of cookbooks, selecting and reviewing all the best new releases of U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand cookbooks. The only thing left for you to do is to add them to your Bookshelf.


August sees a bit of an uptick volume, and a few small trends. Subjects on the trend list include citrus, Jewish cooking, and huge names in restaurants and in chocolate.

cookbook collageThe Yellow Table by Anna Watson Carl - Something magical happens when people come together to share a meal-and this cookbook, named for the beloved wooden table in Anna Watson Carl 's childhood kitchen, celebrates that joy and conviviality. Carl is a NYC-based food writer and private chef, and the creator of The Yellow Table blog. Look for her new column in Saveur magazine.

The Desserts of Jordi Roca by Jordi Roca: Celebrated pastry chef Jordi Roca, of the award-winning restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, in Girona, Spain (recently rated the #1 restaurant in the world), presents more than 80 tempting dessert recipes that take readers on a journey through the seasons.

Einkorn: Recipes for Nature's Original Wheat by Carla Bartolucci: A cookbook for wheat lovers with gluten sensitivity, features einkorn, the only wheat in existence that has never been hybridized or modified. Author Carla Bartolucci came across it when searching for an alternative grain for her daughter Giulia, who was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity in 2008. Amazed by her daughter's health transformation, Carla became a champion of this little-known, nutrient-packed grain.

Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton Hachisu: From an American expat who has lived in Japan for nearly 30 years, this book introduces Japanese methods of salting, pickling, and fermenting that are approachable and easy to integrate into a Western cooking repertoire. Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the book and visit the World Calendar of Cookbook Events to view details of her book tour.

collageCitrus: Sweet and Savory Sun-Kissed Recipes by Valerie Aikman-Smith and Victoria Pearson: This sunny, citrus-infused collection showcases lemons, oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, and limes as well as out-of-the-ordinary kumquats, pomelos, Buddha's hand, and yuzu in everything from breakfast to dinner, drinks to dessert.

Sweet and Tart: 70 Irresistible Recipes With Citrus by Carla Snyder: This is quite possibly the only time two citrus-based books appeared in one monthly roundup. Sweet and Tart focuses on treats, with recipes for frozen desserts, cakes, pies, breads, and favourite citrusy accents such as marmalade and curd. 

The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen by Amelia Saltsman: Saltsman takes us far beyond deli meats and chicken soup to explore a universally appealing world of flavors ideal for modern meals. She traces the delicious roots of Jewish cooking from ancient times and also showcases the global nature of Jewish cuisine, which evolved as migrants and immigrants encountered the local ingredients in their new homes. Watch for an upcoming promotion for the book, plus check out the World Calendar of Cookbook Events for tour dates to be added soon.

The New Kosher by Kim Kushner: The New Kosher boasts that it has redfined kosher cooking, and is filled "with healthy recipes, exquisite flavors, and a fresh sensibility for the modern lifestyle." The book follows another forward-looking book, The Modern Menu.

collageA Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets by George Greenstein: Are you sensing another theme for August? This follow-up to the author's James Beard award-winning Secrets of a Jewish Baker is a charming collection of European-style bakery classics, such as coffee cake and strudel.

Guittard Chocolate Cookbook by Amy Guittard: Another offering from a famous name in the food industry, this book presents tried-and-true favourite recipes from five generations of Guittards, who make chocolate praised by the likes of David Lebovitz and Alice Medrich.

Slice Harvester: A Memoir in Pizza by Colin Atrophy Hagendorph: Over the course of two years, a twenty-something punk rocker eats a cheese slice from every pizzeria in New York City, gets sober, falls in love, and starts a blog that captures headlines around the world--he is the Slice Harvester, and this is his story.

Canadacomplete chicken cookbook

Canadian Living: The Complete Chicken Cookbook: Based on frequent requests from readers for meal ideas featuring chicken, the Canadian Living Test Kitchen has gone through hundreds of their Tested-Till-Perfect recipes and brought together more than 180 of their favourite dishes. The book is organized in easy-to-use chapters around the part you want to use-such as breasts, thighs, cutlets, drumsticks, ground meat or the whole bird.



collageEveryday Super Food by Jamie Oliver: The uber-popular author is back with another healthy eating book. This one is divided into breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and every meal is nutritionally balanced so that any combination over the day will bring you in under your recommended daily allowance of calories, with room enough for snacks and drinks on the side.

Gizzi's Healthy Appetite by Gizzi Erskine: Another healthy eating book, this time from the author of Cook Yourself Thin. Unlike health food books from previous decades promoting bland foods, this one is filled with a variety of flavours and tastes, with entries like Roasted Baby Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce & Crispy Shallots, fresh Tuna Tataki with Yuzu.

Eating Well Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale: August is filled with trends, and this book follows along on the healthy eating bandwagon. Bestselling TV chef Pascale is back with her most comprehensive book to date.

Mezze: Small Plates to Share by Ghillie Basan: Middle Eastern food authority Basan returns with a collection of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dips, bites, salads and other small plates to share, to enjoy as appetizers or light meals.

collagePrashad at Home by Kaushy Patel: Since winning everyone over on Ramsay's Best Restaurant, Prashad has grown in size and reputation, and so too has the Patel family. In this, their second book, Kaushy returns the focus to the heart of Indian home cooking. Traditional recipes have been simplified using readily available ingredients. These are the quick dishes that can be prepared in the evenings when you're tired after work or to leave bubbling away while you relax at the weekend.

A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones: Jones' previous book, A Modern Way to Eat, was a bestseller. The follow-up features acollection of delicious, healthy, inspiring vegetarian recipes for the time-pressed cook who still wants to eat healthy. 

The Hairy Bikers' Meat Feasts by Si King and Dave Myers: Vegetarians need not read this book, which is a big and bold celebration of meat, jam-packed with mouth-watering recipes for traditional favourites such as shepherds pie and chilli con carne, as well as everything from soups and salads to pies and curries.

Anna Mae's Mac n Cheese by Anna Clark and Tony Soloman: Anna Mae's are London's legendary purveyors of mac 'n' cheese, and here they show you how to pimp your mac, to make it something truly exciting to cook at home. The book answers burning questions like whether to bechamel or not to bechamel, and includes options for accompaniments from meat to vegetables.

collageVenison: The Game Larder by Jose L. Souto: Venison is experiencing an unprecedented growth in popularity with the British public as a delicious, healthy and increasingly available dish. In this volume you will find over 50 recipes from Senior chef/Lecturer in Culinary Arts at Westminster Kingsway College.

Chicken and Other Birds by Paul Gayler: In addition to covering the versatile chicken, the book delves into lesser known birds like duck, guinea fowl, poussin, pigeon and quail. In addition, Chicken and Other Birds offers a visual tour of the birds, showing their relative sizes and discussing the differences between them, plus a buying guide - what to look for and how much to allow per person.

Fermented by Charlotte Pike: A beginner's guide to making your own sourdough, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and more, Fermented  covers fruit and vegetables, milk, pulses, baking and drinks. You'll find recipes for pickles, sauces and chutneys with fermentation that will have endless uses, fully stock any kitchen cupboard or make an excellent homemade gift.

The Modern Preserver by Kylee Newton: Kylee Newton is a passionate self-taught preserver with stalls at London's Broadway, Maltby Street and Peckham markets under the name Newton & Pott. Here she includes both simple recipes and immersive projects, and her recipes make stylish gifts and reassuringly natural homemade treats.

collageIt wouldn't be a cookbook roundup without the usual slew of GBBO finalists, winners,  and judges...

Bake It Great by Luis Troyano: A finalist from 2014, Troyano wowed the nation with his striking and ambitious creations and now he wants to pass on his knowledge of how to make your bakes outstanding. A graphic designer by trade, Troyano is not content with making something taste great, he wants it to look great as well, and includes instructions on how to make every baked good look stunning.

B.I.Y: Bake It Yourself by Richard Burr: Another finalist from the 2014 GBBO, Burr narrowly missed out on the Great British Bake-Off crown. Affable and laidback, with his trademark pencil tucked behind his ear, Richard had been the favourite to win. As a builder, Richard has a unique approach to his cakes and bakes.

Quinntessential Baking by Frances Quinn: The winner of the 2013 series impressed the judges with her imaginative showstoppers and extraordinary baking skill. The book features striking design and photography that includes Frances' own illustrations sprinkled throughout.



Classic Cakes by Linda Collister: One of four books in a new series under the rubric "Bake It Better", Classic Cakes includes recipes for traditional classics and modern bakes, and progress from simple through to more challenging showstoppers. It also features expert advice about ingredients, equipment and techniques, and easy-to-follow step-by-step photographs.

Bread by Linda Collister: This entry in the series focuses on bread, and follows the same formula: traditional classics and modern bakes, with a progression from simple through to more challenging recipes and techniques.

Biscuits by Annie Rigg: More tried-and-tested recipes to help bakers develop their  skills and repertoire, this one focusing on individual treats. Again, the book moves through different levels of challenge for the home baker. 

Pies & Tarts by Angela Nilsen: The final book (for now) in the series is built in the same mould as the others, with a lofty goal of becoming "the 'go to' cookery books which gives you all the recipes and baking know-how in one easy-to-navigate series."

IrelandThe Virtuous Tart

The Virtuous Tart by Susan Jane White: Until now, the options have been to a) indulge b) abstain c) tax your taste buds with 'diet' food. This book aims to show you how you can finally have your cake and eat it too by turning those pesky sugar cravings into a nutritional slam-dunk. In The Virtuous Tart, Susan Jane guides you through alternatives to refined white sugar such as coconut sugar, date syrup, maple and raw honey; and shows you where to use superfood flours like quinoa and teff.


Australia & New Zealand

collageMaggie Beer's Spring Harvest Recipes by Maggie Beer: Spring Harvest Recipes brings together all of Maggie's signature recipes from the spring chapter of Maggie's Harvest, including detailed descriptions of seasonal ingredients. Winter has already been released and expect the Summer and Autumn to be released in those seasons. Watch for an upcoming promotion on Spring Harvest Recipes.

David Herbert's Best Home Cooking by David Herbert: David handpicked 200 of the most-requested recipes from his popular column in the Weekend Australian. Covering everything from party food, soups, roasts and casseroles, fresh salads and pasta dishes, desserts and cakes, muffins and biscuits.

A Lombardian Cookbook by Alessandro Pavoni and Roberta Muir: Renowned Sydney chef Alessandro Pavoni, of Ormeggio, originally hails from Lombardy, home to some of Italy's most famous dishes, including osso bucco, bollito misto and panettone. In his first cookbook Alessandro reveals the secrets to these traditional classics, along with more than 100 of his treasured family recipes. Roberta Muir, has helped bring these recipes to the home cook and produce a beautiful book.

The Great Australian Cookbook by Various Authors: Featuring 165 recipes from 100 of Australia's favourite chefs and food writers. The Great Australian Cookbook is a celebration of local cuisine, featuring recipes from Margaret Fulton, Neil Perry, Kylie Kwong, Frank Camorra and more. All proceeds go to OzHarvest, the Aussie charity giving to the needy and fighting food wastage!

collageEast: Culinary Adventures in Southeast Asia by Leanne Kitchen and Antony Suvalko: East is a colourful exploration of the food and culture of these this diverse area, inspired by the authors travels and the culinary highlights they discovered in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Indonesia and Burma.

Wu Gu by Blue Eye Dragon: Taiwanese Cooking by Muriel Chen and Jade Chen: The people behind the successful Sydney restaurant, Blue Eye Dragon, bring 100 of their recipes to recreate at home. Using modern ingredients and fresh produce to maintain traditional Tawianese flavours but suit the modern day.

Finding Your Mojo in the Kitchen: More than 120 easy recipes to sink your teeth into by Paul Mercurio: Better known on the dance floor than in the kitchen Paul brings together 120 recipes for every occasion from entertaining a crowd when the footy's on to something for the kids, or impressing friends with your culinary skills.

Fried Chicken and Friends: The Hartsyard Family Cookbook by Gregory Llewelyn and Naomi Hart: As Australian-Americans, Gregory and Naomi have brought southern-style cooking to Sydney at their restaurant Hartsyard. Fried chicken has undergone a renaissance, and they show you how to create the best. Recipes include the ultimate buttermilk fried chicken, as well as aperol sours, oyster po' boys, waffles with bacon and maple syrup.

collageThe Raw Food Kitchen Book by Amanda Brocket: After personally experiencing the life-changing benefits of raw food, Amanda has become a passionate advocate of eating raw - fresh natural food that has not been heated over 44°C. In this book Amanda explains how to start incorporating more raw food into your diet as well as advice on ingredients, preparation, techniques and equipment.

Naked Cakes: Simply Beautiful Handmade Creations by Lyndel Miller: If you love making cakes but not so keen on the layers of frosting on the outside then you'll find loads of ideas for 'naked cakes' in this book. Information on choosing a style of cake; how to make sweet fillings, butters and frostings; a definitive listing of flavour profiles and combinations; beautiful cake toppers; and over a dozen assembled cakes for different occasions.

Nadia Lim's Fresh Start Cookbook: Cook Healthily, Lose Weight, Feel Great in 12 Weeks by Nadia Lim: Through her work as a dietitian, Nadia has learnt that people want specific instructions on how and what to eat. In her latest book she delivers carefully structured meals and plans that take all the pain out of dieting. By following the plan Nadia says you will lose between half a kilo and one kilo every week and feel great in just 12 weeks. And you'll keep that weight off.

My Garden Kitchen: Recipes from the Forest Cantina by Unna Burch: Popular NZ blogger named her blog 'Forest Cantina' after her urban kitchen in the woods, where she harvests honey, keeps 13 heritage chickens, and grows her vegetables. Her recipes include Indian curries, Mexican street food and Mediterranean-inspired salads and pasta dishes.collage

The latest from Australian Women's Weekly Weekly:

Almost Vegetarian



Cookbook store profile - Kitchen Witch

kitchen witch cookbook storeThis is the latest installment of the EYB feature highlighting independent cookbook stores. We hope you will discover (or get reacquainted with) a store near your home - or plan a new target destination when you travel. We keep an ongoing list of cookbook stores but we'd love to learn about more - especially those treasured by our members. So please share the names of independent cookbook stores that you know, love, and admire. Add a comment to this posting, or email us at info@eatyourbooks.com with the name, address, and owner (if you know it). We'll do the rest.

This month we travel to Louisiana to visit Kitchen Witch Cookbooks, a small book shop in the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Owners Philipe LaMancusa and Debbie Lindsey opened the store on the heels of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and have remained in the same location ever since. However, they are facing a rent increase situation similar to the one Bonnie Slotnick experienced last year. Debbie answered our questions about the shop and their current predicament:

You opened right after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans? Why, and how hard was it?

Because we ain't got a lick of sense!  Well, that's a given, however I guess it was part Philipe's dream, part the opportunity of this wonderful space being available, and a kinda of "what the hell, we made it through Katrina so why not!"  You ask how hard was it--Very Hard!  The city was still pretty empty.  We were one of the first new businesses to open after the Flood. But the volunteers spent money and the few tourists we had spent and shopped with passion--they gave back to the city with their tourist dollars.

I gather you are having some rent issues with your landlord right now.  What is happening and is there anything that cookbook store lovers can do to help? 

Our landladies have been wonderful for the past 10 years.  To begin with we dealt only with one of the four sisters who own this historic gem of a building.  She enabled us to open and stay the course through the recession, BP oil spill, road construction, minor hurricanes, and of course the slow but steady recovery from Katrina--she did this with extremely fair rent and a rent-controlled lease.  This is why we are so shocked at the 115% increase that will begin October 31 if we should renew our lease (which we can not begin to afford, nor is the location worth it).  We counter offered a figure that we deem fair and are waiting for a reply.  It is not looking good.

Debbie LindseyWhat is your own background with cookbooks?

Philipe LaMancusa, my business partner and sweetheart, is the cookbook expert.  He has been a professional chef for a million years and has been an avid cookbook reader and book collector for decades.  When we met (16 years ago) I didn't know MFK Fisher from Justin Wilson but when we went into this venture I began to learn, learn, and still have buckets of info to learn still.  However, I do have 42 years in the restaurant business, but mainly "front of the house"-- I left the cooking to the experts!

Does the store specialize in any areas of cookbooks?

We range from Asia to Alabama.  We have 10,000 cook and food related books--new, used and out-of-print. The prices range from $2 to $2,000 [USD].

What are the rarest and most expensive vintage cookbooks you have sold?

First editions of Julia Child and MFK, several White House cookbooks, The Anarchist's Cookbook, Apicus, Modernist Cuisine, and obscure little gems. 

What events do you offer in the store? 

Book signings, which are code for lots of unpretentious wine and beer!

What are your favorite and best-selling Cajun and Creole cookbooks?

Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen (the Bible--one of the best),  Richard and Rima Collins' New Orleans Cookbook, Cooking up a Storm, Austin Leslie's Creole-Soul, Gumbo Shop by Richard Stewart, anything by Chef Folse, John Besh or Donald Link.  A favorite local book of mine is Sara Roahen's Gumbo Tales (no recipes but great reading to learn about our food culture).

Are many of your customers professional chefs? What are the books that they are buying now?

Yes.  Out of town chefs buy many of the above local cookbooks.  And of course, Le Repertoire de La Cuisine, Escoffier, La Technique, and most food literature of course are popular choices. 

What type of books do you like to cook from yourself? Do you have a favorite cookbook of all time?

Heck, I don't cook!!  Why should I?  I have my very own personal chef, Philipe!  Seriously, I love all things to do with food, like I said I have served it for 42 years.  I am a dyed-in-the-wool waitress, grease makes up 90% of my being; I wear an invisible apron!  With this said I have two sentimental favorites:  The Mobile Junior League's Recipe Jubilee (was my Mom's go-to book) and Creole-Soul -- great book and I adore Austin Leslie (he passed as result of Katrina but lives on in his cookbooks).

When we had to abandon our home after Katrina (thinking we would never return or see our stuff again), Philipe had 5,000 cookbooks throughout the house and he could take only one--it was his duct taped together copy of The Escoffier Cook Book.  (Of course we returned, all was intact, and we used his collection as our opening inventory.)  I couldn't have done it without Philipe or his beautiful books.

Does it matter how we use our cookbooks?

Tim Hayward and Yotam Ottolenghi

Last week we posted about Prue Leith's disappointment with modern cookbooks. She was dismissive of books that she believe contained gorgeous photographs at the expense of quality recipes. Cookbook authors Yotam Ottolenghi and Tim Hayward have now weighed in with their thoughts on the controversy

Both authors agreed with Leith up to a point, with Hayward noting that a modern food book is "a beautiful object, not just a collection of recipes but something we buy to express our image of ourselves. It's the same reason we'd consume a popular novel or music album or buy a well-designed pair of shoes." But that doesn't mean that cookbooks aren't used or aren't valuable, he explains. It's just that they can be used differently, and that consumers want something different than what they had in the past.  

Ottolenghi concurs, saying food writers "are here to supply a certain demand, and what we sell is, indeed, a "lifestyle thing". There is no need to portray it as anything else, and it doesn't really help to hanker for a bygone era in cookery writing or feel guilty that we produce beautiful, popular books." But he disagrees that people aren't using new cookbooks. "They may not cook from all of them...but there are certain books, illustrated and beautiful (the original River Cafe series, for example) that we will always go back to, no matter how many more shiny spines are there alongside them on the bookshelves."

Hayward further wonders "whether we're selling our trade short by evaluating books so purely through recipes." He believes that food writing is, and should be, evolving into something more than just a collection of recipes. He believes many current books are too formulaic, and that "there's no space allowed for contextualising narrative." He further notes that it "seems bonkers to take a moral stance on how [cookbooks] should be enjoyed...Whether or not you actually cook from them, I'm proud that we produce beautiful books, and honoured that people want to buy them."

The food that takes you home


No matter how old you get or how long you've lived away from home, you will probably get a little homesick from time to time. This is especially true if you have moved far away from whatever location it is that you call home. I haven't lived in the town in which I was raised since I graduated from high school, but I can be instantly transported back there through a few simple foods. One of those foods is a soup that reminds me of my grandmother's kitchen.

The soup is called knephla soup and it is a staple of the town in which I was raised, a small farming community in North Dakota. Knephla soup is a creamy potato and dumpling soup with a punch of strong chicken broth. You might wonder why you would have dumplings and potatoes in the same soup, but it's easy to understand. The Germans who settled in the upper Midwest of the US believe that if one starch is good, two must be better.

Not only does the soup remind me of the farmhouse on the windswept prairie where I spent my summers, it also reminds me of my hometown. Every Friday afternoon during my high school years, I would eat the knephla soup at the Prairie Winds Cafe, one of only two restaurants in the entire city. The soup was thick and rich, containing copious amounts of cream, butter, potatoes, and dumplings.

When I moved away from home to start college, I was excited to learn more about the world and investigate new cuisines and knephla soup fell by the wayside as I tried Thai, Afghan, Argentinian and other foods. But even though I enjoyed learning about new foods, every once in a while I felt a twinge of homesickness for my grandmother's kitchen.

Now that the farmhouse has been demolished, I can no longer visit it; I can only conjure happy memories of the time spent there. Eating the foods that my grandmother prepared is one way I can be instantly transported back to the cozy house with its worn Formica table, eagerly anticipating a bowl of piping hot, comforting soup on a cold winter's day.

What foods remind you of home or take you back you to a place dear to your heart?

The icing on the cake

devils food cake

What's even better than cake? Cake with frosting! Unless that frosting turns out to be a goopy or curdled mess, that is. You can avoid these problems by following the tips and tricks to from indexed magazine Bon Appétit to make your frostings look and taste their best.

One key to icing success is choosing the right one for the job. The article does a decent job of explaining the differences between American, Italian, French, and Swiss buttercreams and which kinds of cakes each is best suited to cover. They also address making sure all of your ingredients are the right temperature. It's a lot like Goldilocks discovered - too hot and too cold won't work, leading to soupy and curdled frosting, respectively. All of the ingredients should be at cool room temperature for best results.

Perhaps the best advice the article has to offer is that patience will often solve an icing problem. Many bakers have walked away from a running mixer filled with what appears to be a disastrously curdled or broken buttercream only to return 10 minutes later to a perfect, creamy emulsion. Another excellent tip is to balance out the sweetness of the icing with something tart. Read the full article for additional tips and tricks.


Test your fair food knowledge

Funnel cake

State fair season is ramping up across the US, and among the many attractions at these end-of-summer festivals perhaps none is more celebrated than the food. People flock to stands selling a variey of goodies, more often than not deep fried and served on a stick. Some of the offerings are quite far-fetched, which led the St. Paul Pioneer Press to develop a quiz to test your state fair food knowledge.

It's difficult to spot the real from the make believe because all of the foods are quite over-the-top. For example, one of the following is real and the other fake: Italian Dessert Nachos: Cinnamon sugar cannoli chips smothered with sweet ricotta cheese filling, fruit, chocolate, nuts and candy toppings, or Upside-Down Spaghetti Pizza: Garlic pasta tossed in homemade red sauce and stuffed inside a thick slice of deep-dish pizza with choice of toppings.

Other items on the list include Mac & Cheese Cupcake, Deep Dish Popcorn Cheesecake, and Maple Bacon Funnel Cake. Can you tell which one of those is real? Take the quiz and see how well you do. And who knows, given the proclivity of vendors to out-do each other's offerings, by next year all of those items might be on the "real" list.

Photo of perennial state fair food favorite, Funnel cakes, from Leite's Culinaria

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