These cookbooks stand the test of time

Silver Palate CookbookCookbooks that sell into the hundreds of thousands are not as rare today as they once were. Fewer cookbooks were published years ago, and there were no Instagram feeds or food blogs saturated with gorgeous photographs to spark a sensation. Nevertheless, a handful of books managed to become huge hits, selling millions of copies over the years. How well have they stood the test of time? Charlotte Druckman of The Washington Post chronicles three volumes that still hold up today

The first of these is The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. Over thirty years have passed since it first debuted with an initial printing of 37,000 books. Over 2.7 million more have since found their way into several generations of households. Cookbook store owner Bonnie Slotnick says that people still use this general-purpose book in lieu of other standards. "They don't have Fannie Farmer, 'Joy of Cooking' or Betty Crocker," she says. "Not only do people continue raving about it, but they continue to buy . . . copies to replace the ones they've worn out, and they're buying it for their children." 

Entertaining by Martha StewartAnother volume dating to the early 1980s that stands the test of time is Entertaining by Martha Stewart. It was the model-turned-caterer's first cookbook, and it launched an empire. Instead of being a general purpose tome containing recipes of all types, as was the standard at the time, Entertaining included planned menus and themed dinners. Stewart was inspired to write the book because she felt that if she didn't somehow memorialize what she had been doing, "in some way, the ephemeral nature of catering would just make everything disappear."

Victory Garden CookbookThe third cookbook discussed by Druckman isn't as obvious. The Victory Garden Cookbook would be on point in today's vegetable-focused culinary world, but back in 1982 it was a game-changer. The book came about as a companion piece to a PBS show titled "The Victory Garden." After viewers of the program learned how to grow vegetables like leeks and asparagus, they clamored for ideas on how to use them. Author Marian Morash was the wife of one of the show's producers. At her husband's request, she appeared in a segment on the show explaining how to prepare the garden's bounty. This caught the eye of esteemed Knopf editor  Judith Jones, who approached her with a book deal. The resulting cookbook was a huge success and remains relevant to this day.

1 Comment

  • catmommy9  on  10/13/2017 at 3:11 PM

    I have all three of these books and love them. Silver Palate was one of the first cookbooks I ever bought, and I still use it. It is shameful that the Victory Garden book is out of print, but fortunately, there are new and used copies still out there for purchase. My original copy somehow got lost in one of our moves (we moved twice in two years), but I was glad to find a replacement on Amazon from a third party seller.

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