Friday, May 20, 2011

My trusted, most used, and most dependable cookbooks

Continuing in the spirit of Moe's current cookbook extravaganza, I offer the following contribution. Please note that your purchase of cookbooks of $35 or more in value from Moe's broad selection will award you with a bag of restaurant/food coupons and a sample of excellent chocolates. Also visit our events section on this website to get the details on the cookbook discussion series that will kickoff Wednesday, May 25th with a presentation of favorite cookbooks by Chef Suzanne Drexhagen.

This is my shortlist, books that I truly turn to again and again, which is supplemented by a few other cookbooks that I consult with confidence on occasion.

Jasper White, Lobster at Home. I don't often eat lobster at home, but when I do, I consult this book.

Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, New Cantonese Cooking. I do cook Chinese food often, and this book is a treasure.

Ellen Schrecker, Mrs. Chang's Szechwan Cookbook. Ditto.

Bill Neal, Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie. The gold standard for baking books, at least for the type of baking I do most often. With astute historical and technical commentary, Neal was a national treasure and this book is a prize.

Paula Wolfert, The Cooking of Southwest France. A technical book with complicated, precise recipes, and a book that taught me more about French cooking, truly taught me through carefully following the suburb instructions, than any other book on the subject. There is much that is wonderful in this book.

Okay, that's the short list.

I will add here an addendum to the shortlist.

For foie gras, best book is Andre Daguin, Foir Gras, Magret and Other Good Food from Gascony.

For pesto, Fred Plotkin, Foods from Paradise. Excellent - always use a mortar and pestle. Same author's Authentic Pasta Book is also a first go to.

Raymond Sokolov, The Saucier's Apprentice. No great cooking without a knowledge of stocks and sauces. This is the bible.

Now, lastly, I will mention a few of my regular reference works. These are books that I don't use frequently but do consult when faced with cooking dishes I rarely cook or may never have cooked.

Jacque Pepin, La Methode, and La Technique (or a revised edition of these two seminal books, The Art of Cooking, 2 volumes). They will instruct you how to do things well.

Bruce Cost, Asian Ingredients. Need to know how to deal with dried fish bladder, or Luffa, or lily buds? Look no further. A knowledgeable and talented chef.
James Beard, American Cookery. Rather than Joy of Cooking, this is where I go when I need to know.

Hong Kong & China Gas, Chinese Cookbook, 1978 edition. Great book, but you need to be familiar with Chinese cooking, ingredients and technique to use it with confidence.

This is clearly a very personal list, but there it is for what it's worth. Bon appetite! Happy cooking!

I'll present a shot list of favorite “food literature” next time.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sometimes I Wake Up Eating!

I mentioned in my profile that I enjoy good food, like many of the citizens of Berkeley. Has anyone not heard of Chez Panisse? Many also know it is located in Berkeley's “gourmet getto,” not far from The Monterey Market (temple of great produce) just a stone's throw from Paul Johnson's Monterey Fish Market. Berkeley is also home of The Cheese Board Cooperative and the Acme Bakery, and world class wine merchants abound in this town, Odd Lots, Paul Marcus Wines, Kermit Lynch, North Berkeley Wine, and many more. Why even I, a mere aspiring bookseller, once worked as pantry chef at the storied Italian restaurant Oliveto, which is next door to Berkeley in Oakland.

Well, it's now the case that the whole San Francisco bay area is a hot bed/oven for food lovers (I have scars from both), and as if in answer to this raging epicurian hunger Moe's currently has a large and wonderful selection of cookbooks and food and wine literature. I do have a passionate interest and some experience in this subject area.

In fact, food and wine books are still pouring into the store, most recently with many thanks to Denis Kelly who permitted me to purchase at will from his extensive food and wine library. (Denis has a prominent place in Berkeley food history. He began Wine For the People in the early 70s at the west end of University Avenue, offering wine making equipment to the general public - grape crushing presses, barrels and the like. Eventually he was to team up with Bruce Aidelle to write Real Beer and Good Eats, Flying Sausages, Hot Links and Country Flavors, and The Complete Meat Cookbook, among others. Denis is a terrific scholar of food/wine and a man with endless tales of the bay area food and wine scene from the early days to the present.)

Allow me to highlight a few of the wonderful books we now have in this genre:

Helen Brown's West Coast Cooking

This is mid-century California cool at it's best, a book reprinted in the wonderful Knopf Cooks American series, and then again reprinted in Ruth Reichel's more recent reprint series of notable food literature of the 20th century.   

We have a copy of the original first edition published by Little, Brown in 1952, a handsome copy with the dust jacket for an affordable $35.

Authenticated American Indian Recipes

Written by Sylvester and Alice Tinker and published by Sam McClain in Pawhuska Oklahoma in 1955. We may infer from this book that Fred Lookout, Principal Chief of the Osage Tribe authenticated these recipes, and taking into account that the book was published in the mid-20th century we won't allow the presence of mid-20th century ingredients to detract from their authenticity.
Okay, this is for the niche collector - the stenciled pressboard cover alone assures this. Scarce!
MM#71086 $50.

Sushi gijutsu kyokasho : edomaezushi hen = [Textbook of Sushi Technique : Tokyo Style]

Written by Katogi Kazunai, this volume is only half the published set (the other half featuring Osaka Style) and the text is completely in Japanese, but the 39 color plates speak volumes in any language and the step by step black & white photo illustrations can function as an excellent guide for any chef with advanced knife skills. Anyway, it's a cool book so I was compelled to add it to this list.
MM#61349 $75.

Moving along to a few beverage related books, have you noticed how these days you can't throw a swizzle-stick without bonking some mixologist on the head? Around here in the 70s you couldn't throw a brick without hitting a psychologist, and then in the early 00s you couldn't throw a ink bottle without giving a graphic artist a black eye. Each of these professional population explosions brought increased competition and at this time the quest for cocktail knowledge is peaking. This is especially true for pre-prohibition era drink books, and we happen to have one published in San Francisco in 1904.

One Hundred and One Beverages

May E. Southworth compiled a number of titles in her 101 series – Entrees, Candies, etc. This book is divided into the following categories: Iced, Summer, Mixed, Hot, Sherbets, Punches, Cordial, Fruit. From Iced we have “Tiger's Milk. To a quart of milk put in a half-gill each of peach-brandy and apple-jack; sweeten with powered sugar, and put in two drops each of oil of cloves, cinnamon and orange, and grate a little nutmeg on the top. Beat the white of an egg to a stiff froth, whip it in and serve a once.” Or in the Hot section you might wish to try a “Morpheus. Boil one tablespoonful of ground oatmeal in one-half pint water; when cooked, add a tablespoonful of honey and one of cream; boil up again and add a glass of whiskey. Strain and serve hot.” More surprises follow.
MM#70761 $200

How about something on wine.

Richard Olney's Yquem.

Published by David Godine in 1986, this first edition of Olney's critically acclaimed book on the legendary Sauternes produced by Chateau d'Yquem is signed both by the author and by the owner of the estate, Comte Alexandre de Lur Saluces.
MM#59648 $250.00

E. H. Rixford, The Wine Press and The Cellar. A Manual for the Wine-maker and the Cellar-man
Payot, Upham & Co., San Francisco, 1883

First edition of this rare, influential book, our copy is from the library of Paul De Martini – he signed his name on the copyright page.

Born in Genoa in 1844, De Martini landed in the US in 1861 and made his way to the foot of Mr. Diablo in Clayton and eventually purchased the vineyards previously planted by Joel Clayton in 1872. By the 1880s the De Martini Winery was built and the enterprise matured into one of the most prestigious of 19th century California producers.
MM#71139. $1000.

And finally, for today, a true rarity of importance.

La Salle a Manger – Revue de la table et de l'office. - Chatillon-Plessis [Maurice Dancourt], redacteur en chef,
Au Bureau de l'Art Culinaire, Paris. 1890 -1893

Thirty-six issues from June 1890 to May 1893, complete, all published. Very rare.

This journal was founded by the same group of chefs and gourmands responsible for the professional journal L'Art Culinaire, Dancourt and his friends Phileas Gilbert, Auguste Escoffier & co. Seemingly intended for restauranteurs this short lived publication has all but disappeared from history. In addition to our copy we have been able to locate only one additional set, in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in the Netherlands, and reference to this journal in the secondary scholarly literature seems not to exist. (See Stephen Mennell, All Manners of Food, Blackwell, 1985, esp. pp. 169-177). This is very surprising for a publication from the hands of the paragons of late 19th century Parisian haute-cuisine . Approximately 615 pages, illustrated.


Good Lord! Stuffed and sotted; sometimes I go to sleep drinking!