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by Diane Leach

11 Oct 2013


Rarely does a cookbook elicit a passionate response, but Mollie Katzen is a revered American cookbook writer. Author of the seminal Moosewood Cookbook, Katzen brought vegetarian cuisine—in 1977 still considered weird hippie food—into the mainstream. It can be difficult to realize what a feat that was, before farmer’s markets and the internet. Now even those of us living in remote areas can order unusual foodstuffs online, while people living in metropolitan areas take the wealth of produce, grains, and artisanal tofus on offer for granted. 

In 1977, Katzen had to explain tamari, mirin, and alfalfa sprouts to readers. Interested cooks had to search ethnic markets and health food stores, then few and far between, to find ingredients like wheat berries or quinoa. But Katzen’s welcoming voice and inviting food drew readers in. So did the books themselves. Unlike many of today’s glossy cookbooks, which seem destined for the coffee table instead of the kitchen, those Ten Speed Press books were well made, their bindings tight: cookbooks meant to sit open on the counter while the cook leaned over them, spoon in hand. And thousands of cooks did just that.

by Diane Leach

23 Jul 2013


Nigella Lawson has been an Italophile since spending her gap year—that is, the year between high school and college—in Italy. In each of her books, Lawson reaffirms her deep love of all things Italian, proclaiming her wish to be Italian herself. Barring that, each of her eight cookbooks abounds in Italian recipes. 

With the publication of Nigellissima, Lawson ostensibly delivers on her long-held promise: finally, the Italy Book.

by Diane Leach

20 Jun 2013

Photo (partial) by
© Colin Bell from FuchsiaDunlap.com

“I was once given an amazing lunch by a young woman whose mother had been unable to boil water but was quite able to employ expensive Chinese help. Everyone should have the good fortune either to be Chinese or to be rich.”
—Laurie Colwin, “Starting Out In the Kitchen”

For those of us who lack both Chinese blood and wealth, we should at least have the good fortune to find Fuschia Dunlop’s latest cookbook, Every Grain of Rice. I’d read Dunlop’s articles in various cooking magazines, but never her books until I found Every Grain of Rice on a recent cruise through my library’s cookbook section.

by Diane Leach

10 Jun 2013


In Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese, Tenaya Darlington, writer of Madame Fromage Cheese Blog and the Di Bruno Bros. official cheese blogger (Di Bruno Bros. is a Philadelphia market of long standing), is out to demystify cheese for the timid. Cheese being a magnificent food, Darlington’s efforts to permanently end the era of pasteurized processed cheese food is a good and noble thing. That she accomplishes this nimbly, with good humor, is all to the better.

Writing about cheese is like writing about wine: the writer is attempting to convey information about a nuanced, complex comestible. Darlington is writing for an audience who knows little about cheese beyond the occasional foray into rubbery baked brie, leaving her with the same adjectives used for wine: barnyardy, mushroomy, flowery, lemony, fruity, nutty. These adjectives trudge wearily between cheese and wine writing, wearing a path in the terroir. Darlington, a writing professor at Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s College, is well aware of this. She wants to lure you into tasting that scary, moldy round thing with the French name. She wants you to fork over extra money for the good stuff. She even wants you to eat the rind. To that end, she employs, if not quite the language of seduction, then certainly the language of the personal ad, ascribing human personalities and their attendant idiosyncrasies to cheeses. Mistress of the creative metaphor, her “cheese personalities” induce giggling. Where else have you seen a cheese compared to Pink Floyd? Or been instructed to tell your friends a new taste is the Lady Gaga of cheese?

by Diane Leach

9 Apr 2013

The Food Studies Collection at New York University’s Fales Library began at Marion Nestle’s behest. In 2003, Nestle approached Marvin Taylor, director of the Fales Library and Special Collections, suggesting he build a cookbook collection supporting NYU’s new program in food studies. Taylor, an avid cook, agreed to the idea.

The two visited Cecily Brownstone, longtime Associated Press food reporter. In 2003 the aged Brownstone lived in a four-story townhouse filled with cookbooks. She agreed to sell her 7,000 book collection to the library.  Thanks to a donation from chef Rozane Gold, The Fales also acquired Gourmet Magazine’s library just days before Condé Nast planned to throw it out.  (Note to S.I. Newhouse, again. Bring back Gourmet!!). 

The Ladies’ Home Journal donated their cookbook collection, as did the James Beard Foundation. Numerous private citizens with amazing collections followed suit. The result is a much-used, comprehensive collection of cookbooks, pamphlets, and writings about food. And 101 Classic Cookbooks.

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