An observation of a recent cookbook

Let’s face it. I read a lot of cookbooks.
A lot.
And I read a lot of cookbook reviews.
A lot.


The Pollan Family Table: The Best Recipes and Kitchen Wisdom for Delicious, Healthy Family Meals by Corky Pollan, Lori Pollan, Dana Pollan , Tracy Pollan, Michael Pollan

This one stood out for me.  I loved the colour photographs. I loved the personalize approach to cooking as a family activity.  However, I will admit a personal connection to this book. Not only is Micheal Pollan, author of the The Omnivore’s Dilemma   a brother of the Pollan sisters,  though one of the sisters is a neighbor of mine. Can you guess which one?
Yes, while living in Vermont,  our neighbors were  the Fox/Pollan household.  Much of the cooking listed in this family cook book is indiciative of the simplicity of cooking  we enjoyed while living in Vermont. Corky, Lori, Dana, and Tracy Pollan bring the reader into their  inspiring kitchens, sharing their family’s best recipes.
For generations, the Pollans have used fresh, local ingredients to cook healthy, irresistible meals. Michael Pollan, whose bestselling books have changed our culture and the way we think about food, writes in his foreword about how the family meals he ate growing up shaped his worldview.
This practical cookbook gives readers the tools  and inspiration  needed to bring the Pollan food philosophy in their everyday lives. This isi a cookbook about  making great,nourishing,  meals which bring families back to the table.

 The Pollan Family Table includes the Pollan’s top cooking techniques, time-tested shortcuts, pantry lists that make shopping for and preparing dinner stress-free. Destined to become a kitchen classic,  this cookbook helps the reader cultivate traditions that improve health, well-being, and family happiness.  And in my opinion,  remind me of  the simplicity  and goodness of life in Vermont.

Pies and Tarts. Meeting Kristina Migoya.


A pastry crust can be viewed as a blank canvas.  The holder of something special  to come.  Flaky paper-thin goodness.  A skill in which to be mastered.

Meeting Kristina Migoya today was a deeply honored pleasure. Meeting a Culinary institute  of America graduate, owner of local Hudson Chocolates shoppe, a baking and pastry instructor at the Institute,author of the recently published Pies and Tarts,  local business woman and talented chef was an exciting privilege for me.

Ms. Migoya   and her staff were  kind and welcoming the moment I walked into her shop.  She graciously signed our  LaGrange Library copy of Pies and Tarts  ( one of 6 in our Mid Hudson Library System).

Months ago,  while scouring my Library Journal periodical,  deciding which new books to purchase for our LaGrange Library collection,  I found  an entry for Pies and Tarts.  After reading the review, I was inspired to don my apron and reaching for my pastry blender. Personally, there is something very nurturing, yet noble about pie making. It is my personal quest to improve my pastry making ability.

Migoya’s volume begins with a primer on tools, equipment (from bakew10345777_10203953626188153_7188620322873431760_nare to digital scales) and ingredients (including a chart on the seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables). She follows with more than a dozen recipes for crusts, with step-by-step instructions for the aspiring pie-maker.  Classic  apple/ cherry/pumpkin pies are represented;  though a savory section  of quiche  to beef pot pies can be found. Guidance on icings  and meringues and use of creative garnishes  is addressed.

Ms. Migoya’s  shoppe, which she co-owns with her husband, fellow CIA  alum Francisco Migoya,  opened in  March 2013. Pies and Tarts is her first published cookbook for the home baker an emphasising use of volume as a unit of measurement.  It was a project initiated by the Culinary Institute’s publishing department, geared to the home baker.   An impressive pre-order of 4 000 is worth highlighting.  Of course, I simply had to  pick her brain  with the most basic of questions.  

What  type of pie plate do you prefer?  

Metal.  it is the best conductor of heat to create a crispy bottom.  Aluminum  is another  good transfer of heat.    Ceramic  take time to heat up   but does not create the crispness of the pastry.

Do you have a flour preference?

King Arthur.   Easy to obtain for both the professional and the home baker.   Out west,  near St. Louis,  Red Rose  is  sought after as that it is a constant protein make up.  ( I, too , favor King Arthur flour!)

What is your favorite pie flavor?

A difficult question….like which child is your favorite.   Balsamic strawberry, custard pies with a crisp bottom.

Pies and Tarts is a helpful cooking guide is laid out in an attractive fashion, dotted with colour photos.  It is both an informative cookbook,  yet a practical cookbook for  the novice  home dessert baker (like me.)


James Beard 2013 book awards

Food matters. It is nutrition for our bodies, but also economics , entertainment, part of our culture, our family life. Some could claim it to be fashionable.  The James Beard Foundation is dedicated to exploring and celebrating  the way food enriches our lives. The James Beard 2013 Book Award winners were announced in New York City on May 3rd, 2013.

American Cooking
southern cookingMastering the Art of Southern Cooking
by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart

With more than 750 recipes and 650 variations, making a perfect piecrust, a heavenly biscuit, mouthwatering vegetables, or crispy fried chicken is attainable for any home cook. The recipes and directions are easily accessible to kitchen novices as well as seasoned cooks-there is plenty here for everyone.

Baking and Dessert
Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza
by Ken Forkish

Flour Water Salt Yeast is more than just a collection of yeastrecipes for amazing bread and pizza—it offers a complete baking education, with a thorough yet accessible explanation of the tools and techniques that set artisan bread apart. Featuring a tutorial on baker’s percentages, advice for manipulating ingredients ratios to create custom doughs, tips for adapting bread baking schedules to fit your day-to-day life, and an entire chapter that demystifies the levain-making process, Flour Water Salt Yeast is an indispensable resource for bakers who want to make their daily bread exceptional bread.

winegrapesWine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours
by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, and
José Vouillamoz

Wine enthusiasts everywhere rejoice! Wine Grapes provides absolutely everything the connoisseur wants to know about the succulent, remarkable fruit that care, love, skill, and time transform into humankind’s most beloved beverage—and presents it all in a stunningly beautiful, gorgeously illustrated package. The dazzling co-creation of Jancis Robinson, one of the world’s best known wine authorities, Julia Harding, who passed the Master of Wine exams at the top of her class, and internationally renowned botanist José Vouillamoz, Wine Grapes is the first complete compendium in more than a century to all grape varieties relevant to the wine lover. An exquisite gift book—and a must-own for anyone in the food and wine industry—Wine Grapes charts the relationships of the grapes (with some astounding family trees), discusses in fascinating detail where and how they are grown, and, most importantly, what the wines made from them will ultimately taste like.

Cooking from a Professional Point of View
Toqué! Creators of a New Quebec Gastronomy
by Normand Laprise
(les éditions du passage)

Focus on Health
cookinglightCooking Light The New Way to Cook Light: Fresh Food & Bold Flavors for Today’s Home Cook
by Scott Mowbray and Ann Taylor Pittman
An Instant Classic! Inspired by fresh, local ingredients; and infused with bold, authentic flavors, Cooking Light The New Way to Cook Light is a celebration of healthy cooking and eating in America today. The more than 400 mouth-watering recipes, tips, and techniques in this book represent the new way to cook light–fresh, healthy, and–most importantly–delicious. With Nine Simple Principles of Cooking Light as a guide, this beautiful collection contains recipes that are as fun and satisfying to cook as they are to eat. Enjoy a wide variety of dishes, including quick weeknight meals and special occasion dishes perfect for the holidays.

General Cooking
Canal House Cooks Every Day
by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimercanal
From the award-winning authors of the beloved Canal House Cooking series comes Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton’s Canal House Cooks Every Day. This magnificent cookbook, inspired by Christopher and Melissa’s popular daily blog Canal House Cooks Lunch,offers a year of seasonal recipes for the home cook.

Jjerusalemerusalem: A Cookbook
by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
In Jerusalem, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi explore the vibrant cuisine of their home city—with its diverse Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. Both men were born in Jerusalem in the same year—Tamimi on the Arab east side and Ottolenghi in the Jewish west. This stunning cookbook offers 120 recipes from their unique cross-cultural perspective, from inventive vegetable dishes to sweet, rich desserts. With five bustling restaurants in London and two stellar cookbooks, Ottolenghi is one of the most respected chefs in the world; in Jerusalem, he and Tamimi have collaborated to produce their most personal cookbook yet.

katieWhat Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits & Pieces
Photographer: Katie Quinn Davies

Sharing more than one hundred simple culinary recipes drawn from Katie’s travels, dinner party cooking and foodie haunts,What Katie Ateemphasizes seasonal ingredients and irresistible flavors. Featured dishes range from Wild Mushrooms on Toast with Parmesan and Herbs to Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apple, Prune & Pine Nut Stuffing and Cider Cream Gravy. What’s for dessert? Temptations include Coffee Hazelnut Frangelico Cake and Honey Baked Peaches with Vanilla Bean Créme Fraiche.

Perfect for entertaining, this gorgeous cookbook minimizes the time spent in the kitchen and maximizes the time spent enjoying the meal with friends and family. Bringing together easy-to-cook recipes (using standard American measurements) with gorgeous world-class food photography,What Katie Ate will indulge all of your senses.

Reference and Scholarship
artoffermThe Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World
by Sandor Ellix Katz
The Art of Fermentationis the most comprehensive guide to do-it-yourself home fermentation ever published. Sandor Katz presents the concepts and processes behind fermentation in ways that are simple enough to guide a reader through their first experience making sauerkraut or yogurt, and in-depth enough to provide greater understanding and insight for experienced practitioners.While Katz expertly contextualizes fermentation in terms of biological and cultural evolution, health and nutrition, and even economics, this is primarily a compendium of practical information-how the processes work; parameters for safety; techniques for effective preservation; troubleshooting; and more.With full-color illustrations and extended resources, this book provides essential wisdom for cooks, homesteaders, farmers, gleaners, foragers, and food lovers of any kind who want to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for arguably the oldest form of food preservation, and part of the roots of culture itself. Readers will find detailed information on fermenting vegetables; sugars into alcohol (meads, wines, and ciders); sour tonic beverages; milk; grains and starchy tubers; beers (and other grain-based alcoholic beverages); beans; seeds; nuts; fish; meat; and eggs, as well as growing mold cultures, using fermentation in agriculture, art, and energy production, and considerations for commercial enterprises. Sandor Katz has introduced what will undoubtedly remain a classic in food literature, and is the first-and only-of its kind.

Single Subject
ripeRipe: A Cook in the Orchard
by Nigel Slater
Britain’s foremost food writer Nigel Slater returns to the garden in this sequel to Tender, his acclaimed and beloved volume on vegetables. With a focus on fruit, Ripeis equal parts cookbook, primer on produce and gardening, and affectionate ode to the inspiration behind the book–Slater’s forty-foot backyard garden in London. Intimate, delicate prose is interwoven with recipes in this lavishly photographed cookbook. Slater offers more than 300 delectable dishes–both sweet and savory–such as Apricot and Pistachio Crumble, Baked Rhubarb with Blueberries, and Crisp Pork Belly with Sweet Peach Salsa. With a personal, almost confessional approach to his appetites and gustatory experiences, Slater has crafted a masterful book that will gently guide you from the garden to the kitchen, and back again.

Vegetable Focused and Vegetarian
Roots: The Definitive Compendium with More Than 225 Recipesroots
by Diane Morgan

From the author of more than 14 cookbooks comes this comprehensive guide and collection of recipes using root vegetables. Discover the fascinating history and lore of 29 major roots, their nutritional content, how to buy and store them, and much more, from the familiar (beets, carrots, potatoes) to the unfamiliar (jicama, salsify, malanga) to the practically unheard of (cassava, galangal, crosnes). The best part? More than 225 recipes–salads, soups, side dishes, main courses, drinks, and desserts–that bring out the earthy goodness of each and every one of these intriguing vegetables. From Andean tubers and burdock to yams and yuca, this essential culinary encyclopedia lets dedicated home cooks achieve a new level of taste and sophistication in their everyday cooking.

Writing and Literature
yeschefYes, Chef: A Memoir
by Marcus Samuelsson

World-renowned chef chronicles his life, from his birth in Ethiopia, his adoption in to a Swedish family at age three, learning to cook from his Swedish grandmother, working at the most demanding and cutthroat restaurants Switzerland and France, and the opening of the beloved Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem.

Who was James Beard?

A cookbook author and teacher, James Beard was a champion of American cuisine who helped educate and mentor generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. Today the Beard Foundation continues in the same spirit by offering a variety of events and programs designed to educate, inspire, entertain, and foster a deeper understanding of our culinary culture. These programs include educational initiatives, food industry awards, an annual national food conference, Leadership Awards program, culinary scholarships, and publications. In addition to maintaining the historic James Beard House in New York City’s Greenwich Village as a “performance space” for visiting chefs, the Foundation has created a robust online community, and hosts conferences, tastings, lectures, workshops, and food-related art exhibits in New York City and around the country.

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Kitchen connected

I  will admit that I am addicted to my Ipad.  I read  ebooks off of it, connect with my email, Facebook and various social media, blog,  take quick photos, utilize it for library duties, even give Accelerated Reader tests to my students  on this device.

Sometimes I prop it  up in the my kitchen (carefully)  to cook from, or watch a cooking demo by my hero , Martha Stewart.  All the while, nervous of errant splatters, or granular sugar scratches appearing on the screen.  Ultimately, I prefer my traditional paper cook books, many of which are stained with flour and memories of the dish and the occasion it was prepared for. Or with whom is was prepared with……often I think of my Grandmother Rivier when I pull out her  cookbook and read her hand written notes in  the various margins.   See previous post, click here.

Thankfully, Williams and Sonoma are keeping up with the societal shift to the Ipad, by offering a kitchen stand,    blue tooth speaker   and  splatter screen cover  in their Christmas sales catalog.  Tech savy cooks can consult a recipe , watch/listen to   cooking demos,  crank on a tune from their  Spotify channel…and perhaps a panicked  Facetime  consultation with Mummy  (in Canada)  when  the yeast is not rising properly….all while whipping up  supper…without fears of cooking spatters on said electronic device.

Further proof of  the Ipad’s cemented  integration into our daily lives.  Maybe,  I would like one?  St. Nicholas, are you reading this?

An ubber cool job….Food Network Librarian

I am often asked what is my favorite book.  This is a diffciult question to answer.  So many great children’s  novels, who could one pick out a single title?  Sigh.

I will answer this question by claiming that my favorite section is the 641.5 section…the Dewey Decimal Section for cooking.  I am proud to say that our CCL collection of cookbooks has grown over the years and is quite popular, particualrly with our grade 5 children, and around Christmas time.

Having said that,  I have come across an interesting interview with Jonathan Milder, Research Librarian for the Food Network.  While many librarians work in traditional settings,  such a school or public libraries, Mr. Milder works in a corporate library, centered around the topic of food, assisting researchers and show production.  How ubber cool is that?

Before the Food Network, Jonathan was living in Chicago working on a doctorate in Performance Studies.

“I was living on my own and responsible for my own care and feeding for pretty much the first time in my life. My mother, who must have wondered how I’d manage to sustain myself, gave me a copy of Julie Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ The New Basics Cookbook. Next thing I knew I was using my paltry stipend to buy Arborio rice, trimming artichokes, shelling fava beans. Then she sent me Anne’s Willan’s La Varenne Practique, and there I was having friends over for quail, slaving over tarte tatin, spending entire weekends in total dereliction of my studies making veal stock. Grad school never had a chance. My shelves started to fill with M.F.K. Fisher and Alice Waters and Paula Wolfert.

That was the start of it all (or the end, depending on how you look at it). I read and reread compulsively and in the end basically wound up substituting the pursuit of one form of knowledge for the pursuit of another tastier one. In an odd way, my interest has remained ‘academic’. I’ve never had a burning desire to become a chef or work in restaurants. My desire was and remains to crack open a book, immerse myself in its world, take it into the kitchen, and try to, in some small way, experience that world. My qualification for my current job is really little more than that—years of a very particular kind of learning, coupled with grad school-given research skills—which, lucky for me, was just what the job called for.”

How did you get your job with FN & how long have you worked there?

Jonathan started at the Food Network (FN) in 2003 as a production assistant and then later moved into his current position that same year.

“My entree (please disregard the pun) was a chef/culinary producer I met in a writing class. We became friends, and he, recognizing both interest and underemployment, brought me in to help out on Sara Moulton’s show Sara’s Secrets and Gale Gand’s Sweet Dreams. The move to research librarian was part good timing and part demonstrated ability as a researcher and writer. There are few jobs in this world I’m a really, really good fit for. This is one of them.”

What does the Food Network Librarian Do?

“In a nutshell I function as a librarian, an archivist, a researcher, a trend tracker, and a writer. My primary role is to curate and disseminate relevant and reliable information on culinary topics and food trends. “

Jonathon also oversees a library collection of 5,500 books that approaches food from a very wide angle. His library’s collection includes items from the latest best-selling cookbooks to rare books on food science and animal husbandry, obscure cookbooks on the cuisines of Fiji and Nepal, entire sections on table manners and napkin folding.

“It all serves as a grand well of culinary content for our shows, magazine, and websites to draw from.”

Instead of a traditional library system, FN has improvised its own systems for cataloging and tracking books and articles with the help of web-based cataloging and archiving software. They rely heavily on and

Check out the FN online catalog at (Note: the catalog is a work in progress and only represents a fraction of our collection.)

What’s the best part of your job?

“The opportunity to make a living of burying my head in cookbooks. That and working on Iron Chef America.”

What’s the most challenging?

“Staying on top of trends. Keeping a finger on the ever-quickening pulse of American food.”

Do you like to cook and if so what’s your favorite thing to make or eat?

“I do, I love to cook. I am an inveterate kitchen tinkerer. I can’t start a dish without succumbing to the temptation to use it as an occasion to make a comparative study of how different authors have approached it. I like it when cookbooks talk to one another. This makes me rather slow to get food to the table, but it also ensures that I am always learning something from the experience, that I am always cooking in conversation with cookbooks.

I can’t lay claim to a favorite or a signature dish. My cooking is too improvisational and my tastes too far-ranging. But I can lay claim to an ingredient, or family of ingredients. I like greens. A lot. Dark, leafy, bitter, pungent greens. Mustards and dandelions and collards and cabbages. I like to cook them. I like to not cook them. Sometimes I think I could eat them exclusively. I make no secret of this love of mine (clearly!), and friends who come over for dinner generally know they’re wading into a bushel of kale.”

What might TV fans of FN not realize about a show or production that is key to your work?

“Well, few viewers of Iron Chef America are likely aware that the wealth of information offered up by the show originates—or much of it does; Alton Brown is something of a walking encyclopedia—here in the library. I spend several months of each year gathering facts, tips, and tales to enrich the show. This work is invariably the highlight of my year.”

How can fans contact you?

Jonathan can be contacted via email at or via LibraryThing. “The site is a great place to chat about cookbooks and I always love recommendations!”

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My(current) favorite app

It has become part of the accepted lexicon of my students…”there’s an app for that.” Every need is anticipated and filled via an application on an iPad, or smart phone device. Need to locate the nearest Starbucks? Want to play a game of magnetic poetry? Fill you time with Sudoku? There’s an app for that…..
My current fetish lies with the newly released Martha Stewart cookie app. Since Christmas baking is my next Holiday endeavor, Martha has come to the rescue by releasing an app which features a ‘cookie run way’ showcasing some of her best recipes from the recent cookie book. Everything is straightforward and easy to use, but where you’ll really want to spend your time is with the screen that Martha Stewart refers to as the “cookie runway.” This scrollable visual display shows an example of every cookie you can make on a clean white background. The treats are classified for traditionalists, little ones, grown-ups, those far away, those near and dear, health conscious, and hedonists.

To get to any specific recipe you click on the cookie. The instructions themselves are clean and warm. If you’re partial to the beautiful layouts of magazine style recipes, the aesthetic beauty of designing on the printed page is not lost here.

Featuring a shopping list builder, ingredient sorter and kitchen tool index.      You can also tag recipes you like with a heart, automatically add your cookie ingredients to your grocery list, add notes via a button on the upper part of the recipe, click to play videos embedded in specific parts of the instructions, and start an in app timer that automatically sets itself for the recommended baking time. When the timer goes off, it squeals like a classic, high pitched timer loud enough that you probably won’t miss the right time to bring the cookies out to cool.

Of course, I applaud Martha for furthering her marketing platform to yet another medium. Upon closer inspection of the tool index, Martha conveniently includes links to her line of baking tools available from Macy’s.

Cynicism  aside, the cookie app will be loaded onto  our iPad, folded cover to sit conveniently on the counter for ease of reading the directions. My money is on the chocolate crinkle cookies…one of my favorite recipes.

Demy Kitchen Safe Touchscreen Recipe Reader

recipe reader

I’m not sure this is a solution to the recipe storage problem, and since it will cost  three Benjamin Franklins ,  chances are  I’m not likely to find out. The Demy, claimed to be the first and only kitchen-safe recipe reader and will be available before Christmas  2009.  What does kitchen safe mean…exactly?  Microwave-proof? Oven safe up to 400 degrees?  Wipeable? And in whose kitchen was it tested in?  Perhaps the Kitchens of the Culinary Institute  of America are more demanding that my simply kitchen…….

Cited as a  November 2009 “Good Thing”, a monthly column in the  Martha Stewart Living magazine, this device can store  up to 2500 recipes, and is sync-worthy with your account at  Crafted by Key Ingredient, this device contains a sealed 7-inch display, storage for up to 2,500 recipes and USB connectivity for syncing with your PC. Furthermore, it provides three kitchen timers, a measurement conversion calculator and an ingredient substitution dictionary to get cooks out of a pinch if they are one special ingredient short. Yes, but does it wash the dishes  and take out the garbage?

As I have cited in a previous blog, I love my cookbooks; they are my guilty pleasure in life. Some cookbooks bindings have collapsed under repetitive consultation  on a given page.  Many of them are stained from  grease spatters, flour sprinkles and such over the years, and in the case of a few books in my collection, over the generations.   Many are even  written on  index cards, in  my Grandmother Rivier’s careful handwriting.  Part of the cooking experience, is  in re-experiencing her handwriting  and reliving the memories of  preparing that particular recipe with her in my childhood.   Much of my  treasured recipes are mostly not online.

In the current rush to  make documents available on-line, e-books , Kindles , e-readers and now the nook, I do not feel motivated to give up on my  cherished cookbooks in their traditional form.   Not until someone explains  the term kitchen-safe to me, anyway……..
inspired by

My guilty pleasure … my cook bookshelf

Like many people, I try to read for pleasure during the summer months.  As professional hazard,  I am addicted to books and read and  basically how literacy has become a lifelong learning tool.   Through the many books which pass through my hands, I have travelled to many places and eras in history via my imagination. As a result, I tend to borrow  books from either the local library, or the library in which I am working it at that point in my life.     Could you imagine  what my house would look like it I actually purchased the many books  I read?  My home would be a real life version of Sarah Stewart’s The Library! Yikes!

As I am enjoying Julie and Julia, I find myself scanning my personal book shelf….which is located in my kitchen.  While I purchase very few books  for my joy of christmas cookiesown personal ownership,  I do succumb to purchasing cookbooks.  Many wonderful Christmas gifts sit on these shelves calling to me when my busy schedule permits. A number of my students have kindly given me book shoppe gift cards  at Christmas time.  The purchase resulting from these gift cards  are normally cook books.   So many great books have traveled with me over the years, during my many moves motivates by employment and marriage.  While I cannot claim to be on par with Martha Stewart, Bonnie Stern, James Barber,  Julia Child’s, nor Julie Powell, I do find enjoyment in the kitchen when creating a dish.  So many great books which have enhanced our Christmas celebrations.  The Joy of Cooking’s Christmas Cookie book can fall open on the counter to  the gingerbread recipe. (I swear by this recipe… always successful!). The lemon curd bar recipe provides a lovely light zing  option to   the popular chocolate flavorings of the season.

king arthur flourMy stay in the state of Vermont has brought a profound appreciation for the quality of King Arthur  Flour company’s flour as well as its award winning cookbooks.  I proudly own the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion (2003), The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion (2004) and the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking (2006). This  company has been around since1790 and produces a both a fine  quality of flour as well as trustworthy cookbook.

And most importantly, one cookbook on my shelf hold a position of reverence.   Another flour company (with yet another medieval theme) sponsored cookbook The Robin Hood Flour Cook book. While I can remember my mother cooking from this book, I am honored to possess my Grandmother Rivier’s copy of this very book. In Canada, it was a popular manual to cooking for many home makers in the 50s through to the 70s. So many recipes,  which are not fashionable by today’s nutritional standards,  it is an artifact of my childhood.  Many pages are gritty under my fingers  as I feel flour, egg yolk stains  and other stray kitchen counter ingredients.  All bring back memories  of my childhood, cooking with my Grandmother,   recipes which taught me  how to measure properly, how to not over beat an egg, how  to cook.

M.F. K. Fisher

M.F. K. Fisher

As food commentary novels, M.F.K.  Fisher’s The Art of Eating,  How to cook a wolf and Gastronomical Me document Fisher’s  food experiences in France. Much like Child’s, Fisher was an American living in Paris.  Fisher’s writings depict food as not only a personal taste but as a social and emotional force within life. These volumes exist on my shelf as that they transport me to another time and place, where food is viewed a not a means to sustain life, but as an enhancement of one’ s life experiences.

My eyes also stop scanning my cookbook shelf at the Rose Levy Beranbaum series: The Cake Bible (1993), The Pie and Pastry Bible ( 1998)  and more recently , the award winning Bread Bible (2003). Ms. Beranbaum’s first book, The Cake Bible makes for an interesting read.  While it is a cook book, it came about  as part of her Master’s Degree in Home Economics —- wrote her master’s thesis on the effects of sifting on the quality of yellow cake..   As a kitchen chemist extraordinaire , the author  includes lengthy discussions on ingredients and equipment and concludes with a special section on the chemistry of cake baking. I will  confess that my autographed copy of The Pie and Pastry Bible comes off the shelf as a confirmation that , yes, indeed, I can make the need pastry to  fashion my Christmas tourtiere pies. ( Or ‘torture pies’, as my non French Canadian husband calls them). Pastry making is a skill which has eluded me.

In this regard, I can relate to Julie  Powell, author of Julie and Julia .  Her desire to create is great, a motivation to connect to the cookbook author by recreating their recipes.  The journey in which to learn is never perfect, though is a learning process neither the less.  Culinary failures are  still positive learning experiences about cooking as well as herself. Cooking has always given me  a comfort of place. .. of being in my kitchen, of creating, sometimes successfully, other times not.  Much like Julie Powell, I have learned much about myself  though the journey of cooking in my kitchen.  And my cook book shelf is a testament to this journey.

Transcending Julia Childs

juliejulia2)My mantra in life is to read the book before seeing the movie version. In anticipation of the August release of  Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Stanley Tucci, I am currently enjoying Julie and Julia (2005) by Julie Powell.  Vaguely, I can remember the author being interviewed on Oprah a few years ago.  Of course, I have given it little thought since then. While I have not finished reading this fiction novel, I am enjoying the  the author’s determination. As a mediocre cook, I am  joining in with the author’s  culinary successes and heartbreaking food  failures.  The reader cannot help but admire Powell’s ambitious endeavor to cook her way through Julia Child’s  536 recipes as listed in  Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) in 365 days in her small cramped  New York -Queen’s borough kitchen. Unlike Martha, the Barefoot Contessa,  Paula Dean and other current Food Network  cooking stars, Powell is not afraid to admit that her kitchen gets dirty. She has  cooking failures.  She often transcends Julia Child, as the diary format reverts back to Julia’s own experiences and philosophies in her Cramped French apartment  with a kitchen on the third floor.   In the end, I surmise, Powell will find an element of satisfaction in her life by  completing this project, diverting her focus on a mid  30s crisis of self belief.


Julia Childs

While Powell has become a bit of an Internet celebrity, her current blog documents  her work within the foodie community, her interest in foods.  And the blog entry which started it all seems much less polished. Powell’s increased technology skills and polished writing skills are more evident. One cannot help but celebrate her successes.