Choosing one cookbook to define each of the last 6 decades

Chicken Marbella

The Kitchn recently took a stab at naming the defining cookbook for each of the last 5 decades, plus the current one. Their  criteria was to choose those  cookbooks - and their signature dishes - that defined a decade and became the go-to source for dinner party menus. Here's their list with our comments and alternate suggestions - feel free to contribute your own:

  • The 70s: The New York Times' International Cookbook by Craig Claiborne. It's easy to remember how very influential Claiborne was, but we're not sure his cookbooks were that important - and even then, the original New York Times Cookbook, although it was from the 60's, was more seminal. Instead, we'd vote for the 1975 edition of The Joy of Cooking - it was the best-selling edition, the one truest to Rombauer's original version,  and a cookbook everybody owned and learned from. And it solidified the rediscovery of an  American way of cooking that included international influences, but got away from the Frenchified aura that defined fine dining at the time.
  • The 80s: The Silver Palate Cookbooks by Sheila Lukins and Julee Russo. We'd have to agree, if for nothing else than the ubiquity of their Chicken Marbella recipe, plus everybody  we knew had a copy of, at least, the first one. A symbol of "gourmet" home cooking that introduced a lot of new flavors to the kitchen.
  • The 90s: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. This was definitely the decade when the crave for eating fresh, locally, and even in a flexitarian style (though it wasn't called that) began. And Madison's book was more popular than anything by Alice Waters - plus more focused on vegetables and fresh produce.
  • The 00s: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judi Rodgers. While she redefined a roast chicken - no mean feat - we're at a loss to think of another world-shaking recipe from that book (and we own it). Instead, we'd argue that this was the decade of the celebrity chef - defined by TV. To that end (though it's cheating by one year since it was published in 1999), we'd nominate The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver as a representation of the genre. Something by Rachael Ray or Emeril Lagasse might also fit, but Oliver reigned strong over the entire decade and represents the move to embracing chefs regardless of which country they call home - just as long as they master social media.

Photo of Chicken Marbella, from The Silver Palate Cookbook


  • Jane  on  9/2/2013 at 12:33 PM

    Since The Kitchn is US-focused, not surprisingly this list is very US-biased apart from Ottolenghi. For the UK I would say: 60s French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David (or maybe Penguin Cordon Bleu Cookery by Rosemary Hume and Muriel Downes); 70s The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan; 80s Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course; 90s Either How to Eat by Nigella Lawson or The River Cafe Cookbooks by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers; 00s The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater (or maybe Appetite) and agree with the 10s being Ottolenghi's decade (so far). I feel bad missing out Jane Grigson, Jamie Oliver, Claudia Roden, Fuchsia Dunlop, and Madhur Jaffrey but I didn't feel that just one of their books was definitive of a decade.

  • ellabee  on  9/2/2013 at 1:41 PM

    The selection of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone to represent the 1990s is a little odd, since the book wasn't published until 1998. Even with big initial sales, I'd have to guess more copies were bought in the 2000s than in the nineties. For the 1970s, I'd want to mention both Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook and Anna Thomas' Vegetarian Epicure -- both were massive sellers, published early in the decade, and influenced a big generation of cooks (boomers old enough to have been exposed to real home cooking but interested in moving away from a "meat-and-potatoes" diet).

  • ellabee  on  9/2/2013 at 2:00 PM

    @Jane: Just noticed on clicking back to the Kitchn article that it was actually inspired by a UK-centric piece in the Financial Times... <g> Would be fun to compare your list with the original.

  • Kringler  on  9/30/2013 at 11:02 PM

    _The Silver Palate Cookbook_ was published in 1979. It was great, and to me, it personifies the '70s. The Eighties belong to Martha Stewart's _Entertaining_. Nothing else comes close to this gorgeous book that was different from anything that came before and has influenced everything since. I remember the first time I saw it. I was blown away by Martha's country kitchen, her chickens, her bees, her gardens, her parties, and on and on and on.

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