Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tales of Creation, Not Murder

Feeling overwhelmed by all the tributes to Haute Cuisine by my colleagues here and on Jungle Red, I took a look at some old friends, Fannie, Pierre, Craig et co.…

Saw them as they really are: not utensils, like pots and pans, but as Books! Stars! Celebrities. On TV and the Big Screen. Lauded by eminent authors in the Grey Lady. The eminences grises of the culinary world!

I opened my ancient Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Fannie Merritt Farmer (as of 1935—1,686,000 copies sold) and selected a few lines to share with you!

"With the progress of knowledge the needs of the human body have not been forgotten... the time is not far distant when a knowledge of the principles of diet will be an essential part of one's education."

"A flavor should appear only once on a menu."

"Nothing adds more to the attractiveness of a table than a sense of space."

"Certain foods possess health-giving factors, although other foods of nearly identical chemical composition do not possess them."

"A cupful of liquid is all the cup will hold."

"Baking is cooking in an oven."

"Tea is used by more than half the human race."

"Coffee made with an egg has a rich flavor which egg alone can give. Many use a pinch of salt to bring out the flavor of the coffee."

"Cold water, being heavier than hot water, sinks to the bottom, carrying grounds with it."

"To cook pancakes, heat griddle or frying pan; grease or rub over with a cut turnip."

"To stir, hold the spoon upright and move it in wider and wider circles until all is blended." (Sounds like a dance routine!)

" To split a live lobster—cross large claws and hold firmly with left hand. With sharp pointed knife, held in right hand, begin at the mouth and make a deep incision and with a sharp cut draw the knife quickly through body and entire length of tail."

N.B. Here I drew the line and turned to Pierre Franey!

"Most of the first rate chefs I've known are gentle and meek. They like to ski and dance and make love."

"Some things are made for each other, like Moet and Chandon, Lea and Perrins and Crosse and Blackwell."

"The time to start to cook is before you start to cook."

"In kitchens, as elsewhere, the motto is—don't do as I do; do as I say!"

Another delightful book I have read often is by Vogue columnist Henry McNulty—Drinking in Vogue!

Introduced to alcohol at age 3, when his parson father mixed the communion wine with water, he long associated alcohol with health and well-being.

"Alcohol relaxes the nerves and so a judicious quantity will improve most social occasions."

His skills go from Aperitifs to his affair with coffee in various forms. His style is charming and fun. Chapter titles include Whisky or Whiskey; Vodka - It's Wonderful!; The Bold Approach to Sherry Drinking; Champagne, Psychological Magic; A Liquid Form of Summer; and How to Be Happy But Temperate!.

His humor and grace are so contagious you may want to order this book for yourself or a dear friend!

Now, I've shared my little kitchen secrets with you… So, tell me who you turn to in your culinary flights of fancy and high cuisine!

Thelma Jacqueline Straw


  1. Thelma, I absolutely loved this blog post!!! Wonderfully tasteful and refreshing!! I love to read cook books while I'm struggling with plot, theme and character development. I adore the vintage writing of early recipe book authors, sensible and grounded, they give me a sense of peace. And on this rainy Sunday before the Eve of 2014 I think I'll take from my bookshelf at random, one of my oldies, perhaps, "June Platt's Party Cook Book" Copywrite, 1936. Now that should be a fun read. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. Mercy me, I never thought of reading cook books while struggling with those gremlins of plot, theme and character! But, that can take the little grey cells off them! So, Margaret, enjoy the last wee hours of 2013 with your sensible grounded authors. At least, they produce terrific sales for the brick and mortars!!! tjs

  3. This was wonderful, Thelma! Alas, I am counterdomestic and rarely read cookbooks. (I do imbibe "judicious quantities of alcohol") During the time I was dating my husband he told me I had the most extensive collection of takeout menus he had ever seen.