Old Favorite Books
We Cook From…

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Elizabeth David Classics Mediterranean Food,
French Country Cooking, and Summer Cooking

Published by Jill Norman 1980 Hard Cover

There are some cook books you just have to have—anything by Richard Olney, MFK Fisher, and of course the grande dame Elizabeth David. Even if you never cook from them and just read them you will learn so much about what really matters in food and living. I still have my original bound trilogy of David’s three classics. This is a single volume collection of her first three books. Written in the fifties and published in Great Britain, which was still reeling from WWII and dreary rationing, David brings to life the delicious foods of the sunny Mediterranean. Free of any tedious tongue clucking, measurements are given in teacups and wineglasses but you always catch the vibe and spirit of the recipes. Although I must say it helps to know a little about cooking to fill in the blanks in the recipe directions. But this book will capture your imagination and inspire you. —Christopher

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Keeping Food Fresh, Old World Techniques and Recipes

Published by Chelsea Green, Centre Terre Vivante 1999 (now published as Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning Chelsea Green 2007)

Terre Vivants, an ecological research and education center in Southeast France, hosts courses and publishes books supporting a way of life respectful to the environment. This book is filled with ancient Mediterranean methods of food storage and preservation. It isn’t so much about the recipes but rather the preserving methods like lactic fermentation, sauerkraut, yogurt, cheese, preserving in oil, and drying. Published by the wonderful Chelsea Green, it is a must-have book. How else will we know what to do when/if the power goes off! With our reliance on the stove for canning and the freezer for freezing—energy— try some of these eco-friendly ways. —Christopher

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The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth
by Roy Andries De Groot

Published by the Bobbs Merrill Company, Inc 1973
(republished Harper Colllins 1996)

Back in the mid nineteen-eighties I found this book languishing as an unassuming paper back in the magazine and book section of my local grocery store. I remember thumbing through a few pages then sliding down to the floor and reading it for 30 minutes as shoppers wheeled their carts around me. It was spell binding. Of course I love cookbooks but a book on food and travel is irresistible. De Groot, a worldly culinary writer and wine critic (who happened to be blind), sets off on a journey to write about the Carthusian monks and the making of the liqueur Chartreuse. On the way he stumbles into an old inn in a village at the top of an Alpine Valley. There, two women cook beautiful little menus of seasonal food in the simplest of kitchens. This beautifully written tale tells of a now lost way of life. But cook through the recipes and you’ll fall under the spell of this fairy tale of a book. —Christopher

La Technique by Jacques Pépin

Published by The New York Times Book Co. 1976

Famous chef Jacques Pépin is a wizard of the kitchen. Now teaching at the French Culinary Institute in New York City he shares his vast knowledge with the students there. I never attended FCI but through the pages of La Technique chef Pépin taught me most of my finer French culinary moves. My thirty-plus-year-old copy is a bit dog-eared but I would never give it up. I’ve poured over those slightly fuzzy black and white pictures to learn how to dismantle a lobster, properly prepare sweetbreads and how to roll chocolate cigarettes. I remember making his Poached Salmon Glazed with Aspic for a big party at the Casa Madrone in Sausalito when that was a very groovy place. Following his directions it took me two days but the salmon, with tiny-diced vegetables suspended in the delicate shimmering aspic was a thing to behold. I placed it on the floor of my car to transport it, blithely turned on the heat only to arrive at the party with it sloshing around on the platter. But we served it anyway. Look for this treasure online or in used bookstores. Everyone needs his or her own copy—who knows when you’ll have to trim a saddle of lamb. —Christopher

The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater

Published by Fourth Estate, 2005

We’re big fans of the Brits and their gutsy, natural, earthy style and approached to food and cooking. Any of the books by food writer Nigel Slater are an inspiration, but The Kitchen Diaries is the one to be stranded with simply because Slater cooks and eats and writes so deliciously we could keep ourselves quite happily sustained one day at a time for at least a year if not a lifetime reading and cooking from this gem. —Melissa

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Love, Time & Butter by Joe Hyde

Published by Baron, 1971

We cooked the most beautiful filets of grey sole from the farmers’ market at the Canal House for lunch the other day. Done simply, meurniére-style, served with a pile of buttery parslied peas. It reminded me of this beloved cookbook, an important book to me when I was a novice cook with wobbly confidence in the kitchen. In the preface, Hyde, a French-trained American chef, caterer, and cooking teacher tells about sneaking his first cigarette at age eight while summering on Martha’s Vineyard and missing out on his favorite meal his mother used to make, “flounder pan-fried in butter with exquisite fresh peas and a platter of large slices of vine-ripened tomatoes literally covered with chopped parsley…” That meal, the simplicity of it, and the humanness of the story appealed as much to me some thirty years ago as it does today. As does the book—for its delicious recipes (a mixture of classic French, Italian, and American), its opinionated instruction and guidance to the 7 basic cooking methods (broiling, roasting, baking, deep-fat frying, sautéing, braising, and boiling), and for its humor and soul. It’s a treasure. —Melissa

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A Mediterranean Feast by Clifford A. Wright

Published by Marrow, 1999

Anyone who, like us, is deeply interested in the foods and cultures of the Mediterranean should have a copy of this rich and intriguing tome.  Part culinary evolution/history book, part encyclopedia, part cookbook for some seriously delicious food, Wright’s opus covers over a thousand years of the culinary histories of the various cuisines of the Mediterranean region including, of course, North Africa and stretching as far as the Near East. Surely you’re interested in knowing the culinary history of Morocco’s famous pigeon pie, or why the fork was invented, or maybe how to cook rice, and to pronounce certain words in Arabic, Catalan, Serbo-Croatian, or, say, Latin. If you are, this book is a must for your collection. —Melissa

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Italian Cooking in the Grand Tradition
by Jo Bettoja and Anna Maria Cornetto

Published by The Dial Press, 1982

We went to school on the Italian cookbook classics from M. Hazan and G. Bugiali to L. Bastianich, but this seasonal menus Italian cookbook is particularly appealing to us and one we’ve been cooking from for years. Through Bettoja’s and Cornetto’s series of menus, some as simple as an “Informal Winter Dinner” others more elaborate like the “Roman Easter” feast, we are always seduced by the food and style in which these two women (one a Romana di Roma, the other a Georgian who married into an Italian family) celebrate the seasonal rhythms and Italian traditions. —Melissa