Saturday, March 27, 2004

Lost Recipes Cookbook


There are two kinds of cookbooks. One kind often features beautiful photography, and has recipes written by famous chefs from even more famous restaurants. These cookbooks are likely to weigh a lot, and cost a lot. While amazing works of art, bound to impress, they aren't really very practical for the home cook. Sure they may be a nice reminder of a once-in-a-lifetime meal, they may sit proudly on a coffee table, but live in the kitchen? Probably not.

The other type of cookbook was written with the cook in mind. Not the chef, the cook. That person who everyday decides what to serve to family and friends. It's possibly not even written by a "chef" but by a non-professional cook. Someone without a drop veal demi glace on hand. No white truffles in the fridge, no support staff of any kind unless you count a spouse or kids who might set the table or wash the dishes now and again.

Lost Recipes--Meals to Share with Friends and Family by Marion Cunningham is exactly that second kind of book. Filled with recipes for things that while they may have fallen out of fashion, are in the truest sense comfort foods, dishes like potato salad, cream of tomato soup, meatloaf and strawberry shortcake. Certainly not trendy but worth seeking out Cunningham seems to be reminding us.

Marion Cunningham looks like someone's grandmother. She has a kind, sympathetic face, glistening silver hair tied back in a neat bun and more often than not is photographed wearing an apron. If you read the introduction to her latest cook book, she expresses a concern for people not cooking and sharing meals at home as they once did. Her hope, Cunningham says, is to lure you back into the kitchen. And while my grandmother was a lousy cook, she certainly would have shared this sentiment. To accomplish this task, Cunningham has gathered simple-to-make, good-tasting and inexpensive dishes from our collective past. Unlike my grandmother, she actually has the culinary skills not to mention credentials to pull this off.

American through and through this book would make a fine addition for someone discovering American cuisine or rediscovering it. A masterful cookbook writer; Cunningham's recipes are easy to follow for even a novice cook. They are straightforward, and never complicated. And trust me, this cookbook will live in the kitchen, not on the coffee table.