My cooking ambitions are modest. I want to be a good, simple cook. I have no pretensions of being Julia anybody. I don’t want to be a food snob. I just like to eat, and want recipes that are easy to make, taste good, waste little, and cost as little as possible. I love trying new foods, as long as I don’t have to go broke doing so!
As I’ve said before, I read cookbooks for fun, and I was a used book dealer for more than 20 years so I have a lot of older cookbooks. Here are reviews of four cookbooks I’ve been looking at lately. I’ve written a more detailed explanation of why I do or don’t like the books, and gave each a rating, up to 5 stars. [Not pretentious at all. . . excuse me while I trip over my hypocrisy.]
Klinger, Judith – The Food Inflation Fighter’s Handbook (1980 Fawcett Columbine, 320pp).
One of my favorite books to browse. I’ve been flipping through and reading this book for years, still find new things in it. Nicely organized, I wish there was an updated version!
A keeper, *****
Brooks, Patricia – Meals That Can Wait ((c)1970, Gramercy Publishing, 223pp).
This one hails from the late 60s to early 70s and has those pretensions…. ingredients lists were usually longer than 10 ingredients, lots of herbs/spices. There’s a few (5-15) recipes I’ll try from this book and probably modify quite a bit. Mostly I’ve kept this book to look for techniques, food that can be reheated a lot is food that won’t go to waste as it’s only good immediately after cooking.
A technique book with only a few recipes I’m likely to try, ***
Taylor, Mary L.R. – Economy for Epicures (1947, Oxford, 526pp).
One I use quite a bit. So much, in fact that I’m cross-indexing it. The author numbered all her recipes r. 1-r. ? and references recipes in others, back & forth, although whoever indexed the book should have been fired, they did a LOUSY job! My copy is all marked up in pencil, nearly completely indexed.
She uses left overs as part & parcel of her recipes, also drippings/fat, outer leaves of cabbage, etc. Her vegetables are almost all overcooked, but that’s what was common in the 1940s, so I just ignore it (Green beans cook in boiling water 12-15 mins.? Shudder!). The pretensions here are about making good food, and that’s fine with me! Her quirks are easily ignored. This book also has the best approach to baking recipes I’ve ever seen: charts. Clean, tidy, easy to understand and about 8-12 recipes fit on a single page.
A keeper. **** (downgraded because of the index problem)
Polvay, Marina – Energy Saver’s Cookbook (1980, Spectrum/Prentice-Hall, 309pp).
My most recent acquisition and except for a short chapter on saving energy with certain types of appliances, this book isn’t very useful. It’s simple foods, with instructions for making them using less electricity than an electric range:with crock pot, crock plate (Never heard of this?*), hibachi, wood stove, electric skillet, etc. I bought it thinking I’d use it when we had a power outage, but I probably won’t keep it long enough to use it at all. I may go through the recipes to see if there are techniques that pertain to electric skillets, hibachis, etc. (I have an hibachi but not a skillet.)
*Apparently a short-lived appliance from Rival, a sort of electric skillet. Like this:
A technique book only **