Americans have long relied on cookbooks for inspiration and practical guidance in the kitchen. But cookbooks also serve as interesting historical documents, reflecting the trends, fads, immigration patterns and changes in American agricultural practices. Kojo explores the “American cookbook canon” and the evolution of food culture in the 20th century.


  • Marian Burros Food Columnist, New York Times; Author, "The Elegant but Easy Cookbook" (1967)
  • Joan Nathan Food writer and cookbook author, "Jewish Cooking in America" (1994)
  • Clark Wolf Co-editor, "101 Classic Cookbooks: 501 Classic Recipes" (Rizzoli)

Classic Recipes From “101 Classic Cookbooks”

Julia Child’s Famous Sticky Fruitcake

A Christmas Cake from “From Julia Child’s Kitchen.”

This cake isn’t sticky at all, but it started out that way during my first Experiments, and the name has remained, as a family joke. I decided to work up a very fruity and nutty mixture that was easy to do all alone, with no friendly helping hands, and this is it. It’s not a budget cake, unfortunately, since a large amount of fruits and nuts can never be an economy affair. But it is so rich and filled with good things that only a small slice should suffice, meaning that one luxury cake can go a long way. It is my habit to make a large amount of anything like this, particularly since it keeps for months and small fruitcakes make wonderful gifts, but you may cut the recipe in half or in thirds if you wish.
For 16 cups or more of fruitcake batter, to fill a 16-inch angel loaf pan 4 1/4 inches deep, or two 9-inch 8- cup pans, or whatever combination and size of pans you wish, including miniature 1- cup loaf pans

The fruit and nut mixture:
(to be macerated 12 hours)

4 pounds (2 quarts) diced mixed glaceed fruits:
part of this may be diced dried dates, pitted
tenderized dried prunes or apricots, or raisins,
or currants
1 pound (2 cups) prepared store-bought mincemeat
1 pound (1 quart) mixed unsalted whole or chopped
nut meats (such as walnuts, pecans, almonds,
cashews, filberts)
2/3 cup dark Jamaican rum
1/3 cup Cognac or Bourbon
1 Tb instant coffee (espresso coffee suggested)
1 cup dark molasses
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp each: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, mace
1 tsp salt

The dry ingredients
30 cups all-purpose flour (measure by dipping drymeasure
cups into flour and sweeping off excess)
1 Tb double-action baking powder
The remaining ingredients
1 pound (2 sticks) butter
2 cups white sugar
1/3 cup light-brown sugar
2 Tb vanilla
6 “large” eggs

Optional decoration after baking
1 to 1 1/2 cups apricot glaze (apricot jam pushed
through a sieve, boiled to the thread stage [228
degrees] with 2 Tb sugar per cup of strained jam)
A dozen or so glaceed cherries
A dozen or so whole pecan or walnut halves

Macerating the fruits and nuts.
Turn the candied fruits into a very large mixing bowl, pour on boiling water to cover, stir about for 20 to 30 seconds, then drain thoroughly; this is to wash off any preservatives. Return fruit to bowl, add the mincemeat, nuts, liquors, instant coffee, molasses, spices, and salt; stir about. Cover airtight, and let macerate for 12 hours (or longer).

Completing the cake mixture.
Stir half the flour into the fruits and nuts, sprinkle over the baking powder and the rest of the flour, and stir to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars together in a separate bowl until light and fluffy, then beat in the vanilla, and the eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds after the addition of each egg. Blend the egg-sugar mixture into the fruits.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Butter your cake pan (or pans), line Bottom with wax paper, butter that, roll flour around in the pan to coat interior, and knock out excess flour. Turn the batter into the pan, filling it to within . inch of rim (and mold any extra cake mixture in a muffin tin). Bake in middle level of oven for 2 to 2. hours or longer, depending on size and shape of pan. Cake will rise about . inch, top will crack in several places, and it is done when it shows the faintest line of shrinkage around edge of pan in several places; a skewer, plunged down into cake through a crack, should come out clean (or, at most, showing a residue of sticky fruit). Remove cake from oven and place pan
on a rack to cool for 20 to 25 minutes; cake should shrink a little more from sides, showing it is ready to unmold. Turn cake upside down on rack and give
a little shake to unmold it. Peel paper off bottom, and turn cake carefully right side up—you will need some fancy maneuvering if this is a big cake, like boards for bracing and turning.

Additional flavoring.
If you wish more Cognac or rum or Bourbon flavoring, pour a spoonful or two over the cake 2 or 3 times as it cools. *Storing the cake. When cold, wrap in plastic, then in foil, and store in a cool place. Will keep for months, and flavor matures with age, although the cake makes delicious eating when still warm from the oven.

Optional decoration.
If you wish to make a luxurious spectacle of this cake, first paint the top and sides with warm apricot glaze (be sure glaze has really boiled to the thread stage, so it will not remain sticky when cool). Press halved glaceed cherries and nut meats into the glaze and, for a loaf cake, make a line of cherries down the center flanked on either side by nut meats. Paint a second coating of glaze over the fruits and the top of the cake. Let set for half an hour at least. allowing the glaze to dry and lose its stickiness. (Although you can still store the cake after glazing, I usually glaze it the day I serve it.)

Joan Nathan’s Potato Knishes

From “Jewish Cooking in America,” Mama Batalin’s Potato Knishes. Don’t be intimidated by this strudel dough. It is easy and fun to make. Try doing it with a friend.

4 large onions, sliced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 pounds russet (baking) potatoes
Salt to taste
1 large egg
1 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

2 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil plus additional for
rolling the dough
1 cup water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour

Yield: approximately 60 knishes

  1. Slowly cook the onions in the oil in a skillet, covered, over a low heat. Let the onions “sweat”for about 20 minutes, or until they are soft. Then remove the cover and let fry over a medium heat until golden brown. Don’t drain.

  2. Meanwhile peel the potatoes and cut them in half. Put them in a large pot filled with cold water and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down, and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain and cool for 5 minutes.

  3. Mash the potatoes and add the egg, the parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the onions with the oil and mix well with your hands. Set aside while preparing the dough.

  4. Beat the eggs and reserve about 1 tablespoon of egg for the glaze. Mix the rest with the oil, water, vinegar, and salt. Add the flour gradually, beating first with a spoon and eventually your hands as you knead the dough. Continue to add enough flour to make a smooth dough. Shape into 4 balls and let rest, covered with a cloth, about a half hour to relax the gluten.

  5. Roll each ball of dough out as thin as possible into a flat rectangle. Flour well and place between 2 sheets of waxed paper. Let sit for about 15 minutes.

  6. Using your hands, carefully stretch each rectangle as thin as possible, about 12 to 14 inches long by 4 to 5 inches wide. Spread one quarter of the filling (about 1. cups) onto approximately one third of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border.

  7. Holding onto the waxed paper, roll up the dough like a jelly roll, brushing oil across the top a couple of times as you roll. Using the side of your hand like a knife, divide the roll into 2-inch knishes. Then pinch the open ends shut. Repeat with the remaining balls and dough. Place the knishes, flat side down, on a greased cookie sheet, leaving a 2-inch space between each. You will have to bake in batches.

  8. Mix the reserved tablespoon of egg with a little water. Brush the tops with the egg wash and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Marion Burros’ Chicken Florentine

From Burros and Levine’s “The Elegant But Easy Cookbook.”

Yield: 6 servings


Cook according to package directions 2 ten-oz packages frozen chopped spinach. Drain well. Then melt 1 tablespoon butter. Cook in it and stir constantly. 1 clove garlic, mashed. Dash basil. Dash marjoram.

Add and mix well 1 tablespoon flour. Add 1/2 cup medium or heavy cream. Place mixture on bottom of casserole. Cover with meat from 1 five-lb stewed chicken

Melt 3 tablespoons butter. Add and blend well 3 tablespoons flour. Stir in and cook until thickened 1 cup cream. Salt and pepper to taste. 1 cup chicken stock.

Pour sauce over chicken. Cover with 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Refrigerate or freeze. When ready to serve, return to room temperature; bake at 400° F for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbling.

James Beard’s Oyster Stew

From “American Cookery” by James Beard. If there is a traditional Christmas Eve dish in the United States, it is oyster stew. This may be made with cream only or with milk.

5 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
2 cups cream
1 pints oysters and liquor
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped parsley or paprika

Heat soup bowls. Add a good pat of butter to each bowl. Keep piping hot. Drain the oysters, then heat the milk, cream, and oyster liquor to the boiling point. Add the oysters and bring again to the boiling point. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Ladle into the hot bowls and add a sprinkling of chopped parsley or of paprika.

Sautéed Oyster Stew.
Combine the oysters and butter in a skillet and cook until the edges curl. Add the hot cream and milk, and bring to the boiling point. Season, ladle into hot bowls, and serve with crisp biscuits or buttered toast.

Joan Nathan’s Gâteau de Hannouka

From Joan Nathan’s “Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France”

Makes: 8-10 servings


1 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing pan
5 apples (3 Fuji and 2 Granny Smith, or any combination of sweet and tart apples), peeled, cored, and cut into ½- inch pieces (about 6 cups)
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup walnut halves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped almonds
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease a Bundt pan or a 9- by-13- inch baking pan. Toss the apples in a large bowl with the zest and juice of the lemon, the walnuts, and the cinnamon.

  2. Pulse together the flour, baking powder, salt, almonds, and 1¼ cups of the sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. With the food processor running, add the eggs, oil, and almond extract, processing until just mixed.

  3. Spoon 1/3 of the batter over the bottom of the pan. Scatter the apples on top, and cover the apples with the remaining batter. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar (you’ll need less if using a Bundt pan).

  4. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. The cake will take a shorter time to bake in the shallow rectangular pan than in the Bundt pan.


  • 13:06:41

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's Food Wednesday. You can tell a lot about home cooks from the books on their kitchen shelves, the ones that really matter tend to have a couple tell-tell signs. They're the ones that tend to look a little worse for wear, dog-eared, tattered and stained with remnants of delicious meals past.

  • 13:07:23

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut what's set a great cookbook apart from all the others? Some iconic American cookbooks like James Beard's "Fireside Cookbook" or "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child, changed the way Americans think about our food. Other books have changed the way we think about our history and identity.

  • 13:07:43

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut for many home cooks, the books that matter are the ones with recipes and techniques that somehow become our own, meal after meal, day after day, year after year. This Food Wednesday, we're exploring the history of American cooking in the 20th century as told through its cookbooks. And joining us in studio is Joan Nathan, food writer and cookbook author. She's the author of numerous books including "Jewish Cooking in American" and most recently the "New American Cooking." Joan, great to see you again.

  • 13:08:15

    MS. JOAN NATHANNice to see you, Kojo.

  • 13:08:17

    NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Marian Burros. Marian Burros is, well, a Washington legend. She's a cookbook author and food columnist with "The New York Times." Her cookbooks include "The Elegant but Easy Cookbook" and most recently "Cooking for Comfort." Marian Burros, pleased to meet you.

  • 13:08:35

    MS. MARIAN BURROSIt's very nice to meet you finally as well.

  • 13:08:37

    NNAMDIThank you for joining us in studio. And joining us from the studios at KRCB in Rona Park, Ca. is Clark Wolf, co-editor of "101 Classic Cookbooks: 501 Classic Recipes." In his day job he runs a food and restaurant consulting firm and serves as chair of the advisory committee to New York University's Department of Nutrition and Food Studies. Clark Wolf, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:09:04

    MR. CLARK WOLFIt's my pleasure.

  • 13:09:06

    NNAMDIThis "Food Wednesday" we're exploring the cookbooks that truly matter. If you'd like to join the conversation, call us at 800-433-8850. Do you have a favorite cookbook? Clark, I'll start with you. On the most basic level many people think of cookbooks as a kind of how-to manual but this new book represents or presents these "101 Cookbooks" as a collection of interesting historical documents.

  • 13:09:32

    NNAMDIAllow me to quote from James Beard, 1949, when he wrote, "There is absolutely no substitute for the best. Good food cannot be made of inferior ingredients masked with high flavor. It is true thrift to use the best ingredients available and to waste nothing. What does that quote say to you about American food culture between then and now?

  • 13:10:00

    WOLFIt really says that Alice Waters, or one of your top chefs in D.C. could of said the same thing yesterday. The fact is that this book comes from the collection at NYU, the Food Studies Collection, which has 56,000 volumes and is now the largest in the country and was a real desire to show people that we don't have to start, you should excuse the expression or enjoy the expression, we don't have to start from scratch when learning about food.

  • 13:10:25

    WOLFThere's just simply too much and there's a great resource in our history and in our food writers and in our books where we can begin to see these things in front of us. and so this collection really was a desire to represent the range and the depth of the other collections, show what the 20th century offered to us and do it in a way that it's not only a celebration of the artifact that is the cookbook, of the cultural history piece of the beautiful in hand. But also has 501 recipes from across that entire history that really do make for some really good today's cooking.

  • 13:11:05

    NNAMDIMarian Burros, Joan Nathan, you were both recognized in this collection for writing influential cookbooks. We'll talk about those books and the cultural landscape when they were written but first I'm curious, where did you first, Marian Burros, develop a passion for cooking? What were the cookbooks that influenced you the most?

  • 13:11:23

    BURROSWell, I really learned cooking from my mother. She was, yes, there are people left still...

  • 13:11:32

    NNAMDII looked surprised.

  • 13:11:34

    BURROSWith good reason. But the book that was most influential for me was "Mastering" and "The Joy of Cooking." "Mastering the Art of Cooking" was something I always looked, the Julia Child book, and thought, if I had enough time to do all that cooking, it's so wonderful. Irma Rombauer and "The Joy of Cooking" wrote recipes so that you could really understand them which was fairly rare in those days.

  • 13:12:01

    BURROSAnd she did it in such a way that it was easy to figure it all out. So she had an enormous influence, in fact, her influence was so great, that my style of writing a recipe is exactly like hers. I borrowed it from her.

  • 13:12:14

    NNAMDISecrets of the writer. Joan Nathan, what were your influences, what gave you your passion for cooking?

  • 13:12:21

    NATHANWell, it wasn't my mother because as she said, she's 99 now that she signed a clause that she didn't have to cook. But it was my aunt who came from Germany and I would love to go over to her house and learn things like cooking brains and cooking German cookies. But the cookbook that really mattered the most to me when I started cooking myself, was originally was the Craig Claiborne cookbook and actually the way that I write is the way that he wrote recipes, which is, I never discuss that or even thought about that before, Marian.

  • 13:12:55

    NATHANAnd I remember when I just got out of college every week he'd have these recipes and the times and that's what we would. We couldn't afford to go to restaurants and people weren't going out to restaurants the way they are today anyway in the '60s. So we would cook his recipes and that's the way I learned to cook.

  • 13:13:14

    NNAMDIWhat influence did the "Elegant but Easy Cookbook" of 1967 have on you?

  • 13:13:19

    NATHANWell, definitely had an influence. My, first of all, it must -- what year did it come out, Marian?

  • 13:13:24


  • 13:13:25

    NATHAN'67, so my mother...

  • 13:13:26

    BURROSWell, there was an earlier version of it.

  • 13:13:27

    NATHANRight. There's a mimeograph version that I happen to have. I found it in a bookstore in Silver Spring.

  • 13:13:31

    NNAMDIAllow me to explain to our listeners what a mimeograph is. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:13:38

    NATHANAnd I didn't know Marian in those days and luckily I met her when, I guess, I came here, and we've been friends ever since and I just love the shortcuts and she just made cooking fun. And my mother loved it too because my mother didn't cook, you know. Now, she cooks.

  • 13:13:59

    NNAMDII was going to say, she does like reading it.

  • 13:14:01

    NATHANRight. But it was -- it's still a great cookbook. Even I know that the pastry baker, Ann Amernick, uses your strudel dough, which is an easy cream cheese strudel dough, all the time.

  • 13:14:15

    NNAMDIClark, I have a, I guess, a two-part question for you. One is the influence of the "Elegant but Easy Cookbook" on you and also for you to tell about your first truly eye-opening experience with food? "Working on the railroad, going downtown..."

  • 13:14:32

    WOLFWell, you know, "Elegant but Easy" is one of those books where you discover that you can do the kind of wonderful thing that was probably done in many homes in American, in the nicer homes in American before World War II, and then after, people wanted it. I got to spend some time with Chuck Williams, who's now 942 years old, but still goes to work every day, the founder of Williams Sonoma and he said that his store and so much of what happened in that period of time came from the post-war inability to have a whole staff of servants and cooks and all the rest of that kind of stuff.

  • 13:15:07

    WOLFBut still the desire and the need in social environments and in kind of a business community to have those kinds of meals. So people began to learn to do it themselves and when Marian's book came on the scene, when I was just a small child, it was that...

  • 13:15:23

    BURROSI resent that.

  • 13:15:25

    WOLFThank you so much. You'll always be my big sister. Well, it was when people wanted to do those things and have that kind of experience but didn't have the hours and hours and the grandmothers and the aunts all helping and pitching in to make it possible. So it was kind of a plea to keep things wonderful but do them in a timely fashion.

  • 13:15:45

    WOLFNow, for me, my mother was a terrible cook. I mean, she was a concert pianist, bless her heart, and a wonderful talented person, grew amazing roses and in southern California. We always had bountiful fruit trees out back. She had a green thumb, but basically she overcooked tater tots and it was really pretty rough.

  • 13:16:03

    WOLFAnd so I was a master at Kraft dinner when I went to college. I could make it in seconds. but when I got out of college. I got a job as a waiter on the railroad between Oakland and Chicago. And truly I was often the only Angelo working, and we would go two and a half days there and 26 hour layover and two and a half days back. We served 600 people in 48 seats in under two hours at 90 miles an hour. And it was such terrible food. but these old black cooks made food for us that opened my eyes. I mean, I had gumbo and jambalaya and ham hocks and sausages and baked oysters and I have to tell you, all right. so here I'm telling you how old I am, some of the equipment that I worked on was, had a wood-burning stove in the dining car. Yes, how old am I, right. It would now be all the trendy thing. but then it was just old.

  • 13:16:53

    NNAMDIProbably had a mimeograph machine on the train. too.

  • 13:16:56

    WOLFThey both smelled really good, yes. You remember the smell of the mimeograph?

  • 13:16:59

    NNAMDIYes, I do very clearly.

  • 13:17:00

    WOLFYes, the wood-burning stoves were better.

  • 13:17:03

    NNAMDIWe're talking with, go ahead Clark.

  • 13:17:05

    WOLFIt was a revelation. What I realized is early on, and James Beard says it very well, and then when I got back to California I ended up opening a cheese and wine shop, there was a sign in the window and I got to open this shop and then I ended up helping open another store that in 1980 we brought arugula to California, yes, I admit it. And so I got very clearly focused on the ingredients themselves.

  • 13:17:30

    WOLFWhat I found out from the cooks on the train I realized later and from all of the amazing people who came in, the Alice Waters and the Elizabeth Davids and James Beards and all these people who came into the Oakville Grocery in San Francisco is it was about finding the great ingredients. It was about then knowing what the traditions were preparing but boy, if you couldn't find the good stuff to begin with you really were starting from less than scratch.

  • 13:17:55

    NNAMDIWe're talking with Clark Wolf, he is the co-editor of the book "101 Classic Cookbooks: 501 Classic recipes." He runs a food and restaurant consulting firm and serves as chair of the advisory committee to New York University's Department of Nutrition and Food Studies.

  • 13:18:11

    NNAMDIJoan Nathan is a food writer and cookbook author. She's the author of numerous books including "Jewish Cooking in America" and most recently the "New American Cooking." And Marian Burros is a cookbook author and food columnist with the New York Times. Her cookbooks include "The Elegant but Easy Cookbook" and most recently "Cooking for Comfort." If you'd like to join the conversation, call us at 800-433-8850. How did you learn to cook? You can also send email to

  • 13:18:39

    NNAMDIMarian Burros, what makes a good cookbook to you? Is it the food itself or the instructions?

  • 13:18:45

    BURROSWell, in this day and age and not so long, about say even 20 years ago, you needed to tell people how to cook because they didn't know how. Some people just simply didn't how to boil an egg. So you couldn't, as they used to do in the olden days, and I mean truly the olden days, add some water to flour and mix until it is the right consistency. People knew what that meant, they don't know what that means anymore.

  • 13:19:15

    BURROSAnd so you have to be very specific. So to me, what makes a good cookbook if you want people to cook from it. If you want them just to look at the pictures and get a sort of culinary door, that's a different story. So that's very important and let's for the last, let's say the last 20 years I've been more influenced by sustainable and local agriculture than I ever had been before. I always tried, I didn't use very many prepared products. I mean, if somebody has a really old cookbook of mine they'll probably find some.

  • 13:19:49

    BURROSBut it embarrasses me today. I want to use fresh ingredients. I want to use local ingredients whenever possible, but I certainly don't want to use prepared products. And to me, what makes up a good cookbook is somebody who has a good palette, can write a recipe and knows that the freshest ingredients as James Beard said so long ago, which most of us didn't even understand back then, the best quality ingredients.

  • 13:20:16

    NNAMDIJoan Nathan, the term cookbook is a very loose descriptive term. Almost all of them have recipes and most have images of some sort. But cookbook authors often set out to achieve very different things. What are you trying to do when you write a cookbook?

  • 13:20:29

    NATHANWell, I agree with Marion that the recipes have to be clear. You have to be really specific because people don't understand today. But for me a cookbook is something more. It's representing culture and history of a people. And I think that Jewish Cooking in America really struck the American Jewish public and regular public because it went to where we were from, who we were and how we -- how Jews affected food in America and how America affected Jews. And that's what I tried to do in this particular book.

  • 13:21:06

    NATHANAnd things have changed, like last week there was a dinner that Marion and I were at and so was Clark, where the (word?) in Washington made food from these -- from this one book, which is of course many, many books. And I made the Eggplant Coco that's in here. And my assistant, who's in her 20's, helped me make it. And she said, you know my generation would never make this. Because what you do is you cook the eggplant, you cook -- sauté the peppers and the onions and it's really good. However she said we would never gussy up regular ingredients. We would cook them to make them -- taste the ingredients but not mix them altogether.

  • 13:21:48

    NATHANAnd I thought that was really a statement about what's going on today that we're going back maybe to the original good sort of bread pudding kugels way back when, but not the ones that are mixing everything from boxes or even mixing ingredients.

  • 13:22:05

    NNAMDII know a man, he is Jewish, he was raised in California and he grew up thinking that Jewish food was something to be endured rather than appreciated. His name, Clark Wolf.

  • 13:22:16

    WOLFI have to tell you, it was the kind of thing that sat in your stomach for, I don't know, the rest of your life. In the book...

  • 13:22:21

    NATHANIt doesn't. It doesn't. We got a bad rap.

  • 13:22:26

    WOLFI -- well, you know, it wasn't until I moved to New York in 1982 that I fell in love with pickled herring and smoke salmon and all those other things that I began -- and there's a new generation doing gefilte fish to blow your mind. I mean, it's kind of amazing. We asked -- I got to ask a series of really wonderful talented authors in the book, on page 306 by the way, about recipes. Marion Burros was one of those, Madhur Jaffrey, Rick Bayless, Lidia Bostianich, Michael Bauer from the San Francisco Chronicle, wonderful people about what made the books in their library special and important.

  • 13:23:01

    WOLFAnd for me, I guess with the department, with the library and at the library I do something called critical topics in food. Periodically we have a conversation amongst really smart people about some simple thing that's very important that has to do with food. There's no way to know everything about food and that's the good news. That's the relaxing part of all of this.

  • 13:23:20

    WOLFSo what you want are benchmarks. What you want is to be able to go to Joan and say, I want to learn about Jewish food and I trust you. To go to Marion and talk about American food and how it's practical and applied now, how people use it in their lives. To Rick Bayless about an American who traveled extensively and is really a cultural anthropologist and a heck of a good cook about what is being done in Mexico.

  • 13:23:44

    WOLFSo what we try to do in the book is collect those individual volumes that represent kind of the lifework of individual people who made a contribution. And I have to say, Kojo, this is not 101 best books because that's not fair. There's no way we would ever presume to say these are the best. We picked 101 that went from Fannie Farmer to Thomas Keller, the great chef so that we covered the decades and we covered the topics.

  • 13:24:11

    WOLFAnd of course with Rizzoli they had to be good looking too, a little bit here and there. And we represented the covers, the title pages the way the recipes looked. Gave you a collection of recommended recipes which came from real study from the master's kids that work for me from that food studies department. They really pulled out historically all the different references. And believe me, this is beyond Google, of which recipes from each of these books was most reported on, most repeated, most republished, most touted, most beloved. And then I formed it into a cookbook so that the 501 recipes actually represent a cookbook of a century of their own.

  • 13:24:47

    NNAMDIAnd we got an email from Carl on Capitol Hill who says, "It is my opinion that Fanny Farmer's Boston Cooking School Cookbook, particularly the 10th edition is the archetypal example -- archetypal simple comprehensive book about American cooking. I'm surprised that you didn't mention it among those in your introduction." I have to tell you Carl, it's recipe number one in this book. Carl says, "By the way I also learned to cook from my mother who was a solid yet not overly imaginative cook."

  • 13:25:17

    NNAMDIWe've got to take a short break but you can still call us, 800-433-8850. What do you think is the importance of cookbooks to our culture, 800-433-8850? Or you might just want to mention what your favorite cookbook is. You can send us an email to Send us a Tweet at kojoshow or you can go to our website and join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:27:27

    NNAMDIWe continue our Food Wednesday conversation with Clark Wolf, coeditor of "101 Classic Cookbooks: 501 Classic Recipes." He runs a food and restaurant consulting firm and serves as chair of the advisory committee to New York University's Department of Nutrition and Food Studies. Marion Burros is a cookbook author and food columnist with the New York Times. Her cookbooks include "The Elegant and Easy Cookbook," and most recently "Cooking for Comfort." Joan Nathan is a food writer and cookbook author. She's the author of numerous cookbooks including "Jewish Cooking in America" and the "New American Cooking." Her most recent is "Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France."

  • 13:28:07

    NNAMDIYou can call us at 800-433-8850 with your comments or questions. I'll start with Richard in Alexandria, Va. Richard, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:28:17

    RICHARDHi, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. I certainly enjoy your joy and I'm enjoying it even more so today because cooking is one of my passions. I as fortunate enough to attend Louisiana State University and like Clark I got into the food business and met some wonderful African American cooks who taught me secrets in just how to plain season with salt and pepper and garlic. And those ladies and gentlemen could do some magical things. But I haven't read Clark's book yet. It will go on my Christmas wish list.

  • 13:28:47

    RICHARDBut I'm wondering if the panel is familiar with the River Roads series of cookbooks from the Baton Rouge, Louisiana Junior League. My understanding is that they are the most accessible series of Junior League cookbooks in America. I know they are extremely hard to come by and they're coveted and passed out from generation to generation. I learned a lot from those, and those three cookbooks especially are three of my favorites, River Roads I, II and III. Thank you very much.

  • 13:29:12

    NNAMDIMarion Burros, how familiar are you with those cookbooks?

  • 13:29:14

    BURROSI'm very familiar with them and they are good. And the kinds of recipes you get in those books when they are well done are family recipes that you're not necessarily going to find elsewhere. And a lot of them work out very well.

  • 13:29:28

    WOLFAnd if I may say, Kojo...

  • 13:29:29

    NNAMDIPlease do.

  • 13:29:30 of our books in this collection is the Junior League of Augusta, old and new recipes from the south from 1940. It was very difficult for us to pick which Junior League, you know, book to do but we wanted to have one that was in the collection at NYU and that was representative of the kind of range of personal recipes that those represent. We also have Edna Lewis' wonderful book "The Gift of Southern Cooking." And an essay -- the book has a dozen essays by really smart people about these topics and about these experiences and writers.

  • 13:30:02

    WOLFExcuse me -- so Alice Waters writes about Richard Olney and Scott Peacock, the wonderful chef and author writes about working and cooking with Edna Lewis. And Florence Fabricant writes about Craig Claiborne. So we absolutely do respect that and we know that the Junior League was big and is.

  • 13:30:17

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Richard. We move on to Amy in Silver Spring, Md. Amy, your turn.

  • 13:30:23

    AMYHi, thanks for taking my call. I love cookbooks. I love the feel of them and just as a tactile possession. My oldest daughter is 21 and she is passionate about cooking. She's in college and is a very good student. She's very, very smart and does well in school. And I think her whole life she sort of -- I hope I didn't do it to her -- but she never really thought about going for a career in cooking because she was so smart and did so well in school.

  • 13:31:00

    AMYSo she follows recipes in cookbooks and doesn't trust her -- oh, I couldn't be a chef. I can't come up with recipes on my own. And anyway, I just wondered what -- I would like to give her some encouragement to follow her passion. I mean, she's passionate about cooking and pouring over the recipes. At this point in her life where would she begin, I guess.

  • 13:31:27

    NNAMDIJoan Nathan.

  • 13:31:29

    NATHANWell, at this point in her life I guess maybe with Bittman's.

  • 13:31:33

    BURROSYou mean what books -- you think what books she should start with?

  • 13:31:37

    AMYYeah, I think she needs to learn the basics and then if she were...

  • 13:31:41

    NATHANWell, I think it's really good to start way back with Rombauer's...

  • 13:31:48

    NNAMDI...which we mentioned earlier.

  • 13:31:49

    NATHANRight. There are a lot of them. I actually -- there's one book that I might start with today that's not in here because it just came out, which is the "Smitten Kitchen." And it's a young girl -- oh, she's young -- she's young compared to us I guess -- in New York City. She had a blog and I've just looked at the book. It just came out and it's beautiful and the recipes are easy. And she walks you through them with her -- she took all her own photography, step-by-step photographs. And that's -- this generation likes to look at those photographs. And I think that I would go there. I would go with her.

  • 13:32:28

    NNAMDIAnd Amy, in a couple of weeks we'll be doing a year in review on cookbooks, so you might want to tune in to that and get some more ideas for your daughter. Thank you very much for your call.

  • 13:32:37

    BURROSCan I say something as well?

  • 13:32:38

    NNAMDIPlease do, yes.

  • 13:32:39

    BURROSAnd that is that there are all kinds of young people who are very smart who go into the food world. That might not always have been true. That goes back to the -- you know, the French chef who never went past the school -- the age 13. And that just isn't true anymore so she may feel very comfortable in that world.

  • 13:33:01


  • 13:33:02

    NATHANYou know, that makes me think of something, that when I started writing cookbooks my heroes were Maida Heatter, Madhur Jaffrey, Marcella Hasan, Julia Child. They were cookbook writers -- and Marion Burros. And cookbook writers were the queen -- I mean, that was -- and then Julia had her show on the French -- what was it called, the French Chef. And it changed. So now all these chefs are, you know, the super stars. And cookbook writers -- but I think they're coming back.

  • 13:33:40

    NNAMDIAnd increasingly perceived to be the smartest people around. Marion, Julia Child has a recipe for French baguettes that's over 20 pages long.

  • 13:33:48

    BURROSTwenty-three, I think, actually.

  • 13:33:50

    NNAMDIThat doesn't give you a lot of chances to mess it up. Do you like that sort of precision in a recipe?

  • 13:33:56

    BURROSFor that -- something like that? Definitely. Making bread is difficult. But somebody has to be willing to take the time to do it.

  • 13:34:02

    NNAMDIPeople are so scared of experimenting that it's something that has to be done by a cook with a lot of confidence, doesn't it?

  • 13:34:07

    BURROSWell, you can't blame them. First of all, what a waste of ingredients. Then you have this mess on the floor and you can't serve it to anyone and there's no dinner. So people are very hesitant to...

  • 13:34:18

    NNAMDIToday, Marion, is it possible for a busy mother or father to prepare a meal for their kids in -- it is possible -- in a matter of minutes using the microwave and prepared and semi-prepared food. These food products are designed for convenience, but is it really cooking?

  • 13:34:33

    BURROSNo, but I'm going to give a plug to a book I wrote several years ago called 20 minute cooking -- "20 Minute Meals" is the name of it. And you can put the meal together in 20 minutes and it used only raw ingredients. It had to do with your style of cooking and how you did one thing while another was going on and how simple you made the recipes. It was very popular.

  • 13:34:56

    NATHANAnd I remember one of Marion's books -- I can't remember which one or else an article that she had written that struck me when my kids were little, that she would cook on a Sunday afternoon or a Sunday evening, soup and other things that you could use all week. Basically one night of preparation lasted for the week. And I thought, that's brilliant. That's what I'll do.

  • 13:35:18

    BURROSWell, that's what a lot of people do do, right?

  • 13:35:20

    NATHANRight, yeah.

  • 13:35:21

    NNAMDIClark -- I was about to ask you a variation on that issue, Clark, because that's one of the tensions that exists within American food culture for at least, oh I guess, the last half century the tension between convenience and the benefits of making something from scratch. What were you going to say?

  • 13:35:39

    WOLFI was actually going to say exactly that the French are not necessarily all great cooks. They are great shoppers and that's what's happening in America today. We're learning to go and find a ripe tomato in season. We're learning to know when asparagus ought to be there. How to ask for the origin of that animal and that cut of meat in a way that we never have before. We have been so reduced down to the thing in plastic in the grocery store. What we want is good slow food but we need it fairly quickly. And that means planning and that means shopping.

  • 13:36:09

    WOLFAnd I want to say to that woman again, food is the largest industry in the world. It's the only thing we can't live without. You know, when we study these things one of the reasons we haven't studied it really as much as we are beginning to now is because it seems so vast. But there's so much to dig into. And that tension is going to continue because we want home style food when we're out in restaurants. And we want professional ingredients and equipment when we work at home. It's beginning to all come together.

  • 13:36:37

    NNAMDIHere is Daniel in Logan Circle in D.C. Daniel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:36:43

    DANIELYeah, hi Kojo. Thanks. With regard to the Jewish cuisine conversation that you guys were having, I'm Ashkenazi Jewish extraction, Eastern European Jewish extraction. And it seems that in the United States when one speaks of, one hears of Jewish food the conversation is relegate pretty much to, you know, latkes and gefilte fish. Latkes I love, gefilte fish I find abhorrent. And generally I find Ashkenazi food to be either boring or equally abhorrent.

  • 13:37:18

    NNAMDIJoan Nathan is figuratively choking you. But go ahead.

  • 13:37:20


  • 13:37:23

    DANIELNo, no. I should say I'm a New Yorker originally and 2nd Avenue Deli Actually made a gefilte fish that was fairly palatable but that's about as close as I ever came to appreciating gefilte fish. But my question was, why in this country when we talk about Jewish cuisine do we almost always talk about Ashkenazi cuisine when Sephardic or Eastern -- or, you know, Middle Eastern Jewish food from Iran, from Morocco to Yemen whatever is so beautiful. You don't generally associate that with -- count that as being Jewish cuisine.

  • 13:37:55

    NATHANWell, first of all I take issue with the gefilte fish. You better come to my house. Marion's been there and Kojo's been invited. Maybe this year you'll come for Passover. But if you...

  • 13:38:06

    NNAMDIBut I've heard about the gefilte fish.

  • 13:38:08

    NATHAN...but if you make it homemade it's really good. That's number one. I think that Ashkenazic food is good but what we've -- again, we've had this watered down cuisine that we think is Jewish food. And it's not necessarily what was really Jewish food. And even the deli -- I don't know if you've been to the, I think it's DGS Deli on, yeah, I think -- it's brand new -- maybe GDS, I don't know. But anyway it's on Connecticut Avenue just south of DuPont Circle. And they make their own pastrami, they make their own corn beef. It's really good.

  • 13:38:45

    NNAMDIIt is the GDS Deli.

  • 13:38:45

    NATHANIt just opened. So there is good food. I think that the problem is that three-fourths of the Jews in America come from Eastern Europe or Central Europe. And so that's what they -- you know, there's home cooking. That's what you grew up with and that's what you make jokes about. Jews have been great for jokes about their own cooking for years since Vaudeville, since the Catskills. And unfortunately, you know, it gets a bum rap.

  • 13:39:11

    NNAMDIBut before I let Daniel go you have to tell him about your mother-in-law's attitude towards gefilte fish. Maybe Daniel will learn something from this.

  • 13:39:19

    NATHANWell, you have to make it from scratch and also it's -- and I think a lot of these recipes are stories about a people and about a family. And I think Sephardic food is definitely increasing everywhere. And look at all the chefs that are doing Sephardic cooking in Zahav in Philadelphia, Alon Shaya in New Orleans and all the -- look at Yotam Ottolenghi's "Jerusalem," and plenty -- believe me, it's a lot of Sephardic Middle-Eastern food.

  • 13:39:54

    NATHANAnd I think that also with intermarriage of not just, like in France where I just was doing my book, a lot of Ashkenazic and Sephardic have married, and in every single case, Sephardic food wins. And a lot of the Ashkenazic French have said when I was writing my last book, they pleaded with me to find the old Ashkenazic recipes which I did find.

  • 13:40:21

    NNAMDIDaniel, thank you very much for your call. Clark, I want to talk to you a little bit about process. This book is called "101 Classic Cookbooks," but you don't rank these books exactly. Tell us about the process in selecting these books. Did you have your own set of criteria for what was important?

  • 13:40:37

    WOLFYes. Actually, we were too smart to pick them ourselves. I mean, Marvin J. Taylor, who is the curator of the food studies collection there at NYU at the Fales Collection of Rare Books and Collections, also wrote all of the text. He wrote each entry for each of these books. So he did a lot of research as well. But it's not a clearly simply academic book. We gathered a group of really extraordinary advisors, and at the front of the book you'll it's Michael Bower and Pat Brown who was, for 20 years, the head of the James Beard Foundation Book Awards committee, and the wonderful Marian Burros, and a food historian called Dalia Carmel, and Mitchell Davis of the James Beard Foundation, and Meryle Evans who's a food historian, Florence Fabricant of the Times, Barbara Fairchild who used to be at Bon Appétit.

  • 13:41:20

    WOLFJonathan Gold who won the first and only Pulitzer Prize for writing about food who called Mark Bittman's book "The Dude's Joy of Cooking," which I thought was wonderful. Jennifer Lang, Dr. Marion Nestle, Scott Peacock, Michael Pollan, Ruth Reichl, Laura Shapiro, Marvin -- Alice Waters and myself. I mean, we gathered up the first 60 or 80 from off of my shelves in a logical list, and then we sent it out to these amazing people and asked them to have their suggestions added, to which, you know, we know we could have added another 500.

  • 13:41:51

    WOLFBut at the back of the book you have the complete 200-and-something list. Also the bios of all these people who are on the advisory committee, and we know that again, it covers a whole hundred year period, a whole century in American cookery, and it covers the collection that we're trying to represent, and then from there we just kind of had of to try to cover the different bases. Going to what Joan was saying, we have Pat Wells' "Bistro Cooking" in this collection because it was only recently that America discovered that French cooking could also be casual and gutsy and homey, not just grand and fancy and regal.

  • 13:42:26

    WOLFSo the thing about Jewish cooking is really a natural process that you see in these books in America. First we say Chinese food, and it turns out to be mostly Cantonese. Then we realize this huge place called China has regions, has traditions, has styles. Even in Italian food we are just beginning to learn the different regions and the different traditions. So be confident, my friend. We will find all the different kinds of Jewish foods that we can.

  • 13:42:50

    NNAMDISame thing with Indian food. It's now northern and southern food. We have to make that distinction. We've also got to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation on Food Wednesday. If you have called, stay on the line, but all the lines are busy. So if you're still trying to get through, send us an email to, or if you can do it in 140 characters, send us a Tweet @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:44:53

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking with Marian Burros, cookbook author and food columnist with the New York Times. Her cookbooks include "The Elegant but Easy Cookbook," and most recently "Cooking for Comfort." Joan Nathan is a food writer and cookbook author. She's the author of numerous cookbooks, including "Jewish Cooking in America," and "The New American Cooking." Her most recent is "Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France."

  • 13:45:15

    NNAMDIAnd Clark Wolf is co-editor of "101 Classic Cookbooks: 501 Classic Recipes." He runs a food and restaurant consulting firm as his day job, and serves as chair of the Advisory Committee to New York University's Department of Nutrition and Food Studies. We're getting so many calls I feel compelled to go back to the phones for Lee in Haymarket, Va. Hi, Lee.

  • 13:45:37

    LEEHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call.

  • 13:45:38

    NNAMDIYou're welcome.

  • 13:45:39

    LEEI'd just like to point out that one of the values you can get from a cookbook is something more than just a list of recipes, because, you know, if you just have a list of recipes, then you're not going to really learn what's happening in the food. And one of the books that pointed that out to me is "I'm Just Here for the Food" by Alton Brown, which takes a scientific look at what's happening inside the food. It talks about heat transfer and a breakdown of proteins and things of that nature, and I've never used a single recipe out of the book but it's a favorite of mine because it taught me how to actually look at what's happening in my food, and it made me a better cook because of that.

  • 13:46:15

    NNAMDIWell, there are so many interesting stories in cookbooks, Lee. Joan Nathan, recipes are often the product of fascinating journeys by people. You gave us an interesting Hanukah recipe from your adventures in France. Tell us about Le Gateau de Hannouka.

  • 13:46:30

    NATHANWell, Le Gateau de Hannouka is an apple cake, and many of us in this country know it as Jewish apple cake which is in my "Jewish Cooking in America," which is cake that I learned from Christian cookbooks here, and I realized that especially in Maryland, I think the first time I saw it was in "Smith Island." Remember "Smith Island," Mrs. Kitching, her cookbook. And it was called Jewish Apple Cake. And I realized the reason it was called Jewish Apple Cake it was -- there was oil rather than butter in the cake, and it was very smooth.

  • 13:47:02

    NATHANAnd when I married my husband, I realized that this is the Polish cake that his mother always made. It's just apples with batter, with flour and sugar and eggs, and you just mix I up and you bake it, and, of course, they would do it in a rectangular pan, but sometimes we'd do it in a bundt pan, and it's delicious. Everybody always loves it. So when I was doing this book on France, a woman came up to me at a hotel and she had overheard me talking about my journey for French-Jewish recipes.

  • 13:47:33

    NATHANShe knocked on my shoulder and she said to me, you know, my mother's a hidden child, and --was a hidden child during the war, and she never will talk about anything of her past with us, and she'll never give us recipes. And if you would come to my house, I'm sure she'll open to you. And I, of course, that's all I would need. So I went to her house, and she talked about being hidden during the war in the Alps, and that maybe the reason that she clung to these recipes is that she'd been gone from her family since infancy until about four or five years old, and then she came back to her family and she never wanted to leave her mother.

  • 13:48:12

    NATHANSo she showed me this battered rectangular pan, and she said, I'm going to make you Gateau de Hannouka, and she made it for me with -- first she -- she said the first thing you have to do is taste the apple, if it's good. So French. But you realize this is a Polish recipe that came to Belgium, then to France, but my mother-in-law's recipe came from Poland to the United States, okay? Same -- probably same period.

  • 13:48:41

    NATHANSo first you taste the apples, and she said, have two kinds, but they have to taste good. Then her batter was much less than our -- much less flour, much less sugar than the Jewish Apple Cake in the United States. Why? Because the companies wanted to use flour and they wanted to use sugar, and everything in America was richer and sweeter, and then they didn't -- the French don't necessarily use vanilla. They use almond extract, and then they also use two different kinds of nuts, not just one kind of nut.

  • 13:49:14

    NATHANAnd so -- and it was still though in her mother's battered rectangular pan. And it's delicious, and it's, you know, it's a recipe that I make at Hanukah and all through the year.

  • 13:49:27

    NNAMDIAnd you could find that recipe for Gateau de Hannouka at our website, where we also have, Marian Burros, a copy of your recipe for Chicken Florentine from the "Elegant but Easy" cookbook of 1967. Talk a little bit about why you wrote that book and how you approached it.

  • 13:49:44

    BURROSWell, I wrote the book because -- the book was written with someone else. I did a number of books with this woman, Lois Levine, and she and I decided that -- we had been married before most of our friends, so they decided that we knew how to cook because we gave as -- in those days you gave engagement gifts, and we couldn't afford anything but copying the recipes into a little card file, the five by -- what is it, five by seven or something, or three by five.

  • 13:50:17

    BURROSPut them in that little box, usually metal, and give that as a gift. And we have these recipes. Well, so everybody who had never even looked at a stove thought this is fantastic. You really know how to cook, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You should write a cookbook. Fools that we were, we took them up on it. I told my stepfather what we were doing, and he said, well, if your time is worth 25 cents an hour, and even in those days that was not very much money, I guess you should go ahead and do it, but otherwise I think it's a waste of time. Turned out to be my whole career. And we put all these recipes together, and then of course we couldn't get a publisher, except one of those self -- those vanity publishers.

  • 13:50:59


  • 13:51:00

    BURROSAnd for a large sum of money we could get it published. We decided to do it ourselves. So back to the mimeograph machine. Her husband was in business, and decided to try out a new mimeograph machine, which was really for us. I did the typing because she didn't type very well. She ran the mimeograph machine. We put all the pages on her bed, moved the bed to the middle of the floor, and ran around the bed and collated all the pages. Had a friend down the street put it together in a binder, and sold it door-to-door to all the -- here in Washington there were many bookstores in those days, and I would go with a little pile of books and they would buy the books.

  • 13:51:43

    BURROSThen my college alumni organization decided to take it on as a way to raise money here in Washington. So you could buy the book through Wellesley College, and that's how it got known all over the United States. And then somebody came to us and wanted to publish it.

  • 13:52:03

    NNAMDIWell, I said at the beginning of the broadcast that Marian Burros is a legend in Washington. The legend began with five by seven cards...

  • 13:52:09

    NATHANRight, exactly.

  • 13:52:10

    NNAMDI...and a mimeograph machine. Clark...

  • 13:52:13

    WOLFKojo, it's artisan blogging. That's what it is.

  • 13:52:18

    NATHANIt's absolutely -- you know, you're right. It is.

  • 13:52:21

    NNAMDIClark, over the last year, quite a few cookbooks have focused on butchery and the idea of cooking with the whole animal. But it occurs to me that many of the earliest cookbooks in your collection already dealt with those topics pretty comprehensively. Do you ever find yourself wondering whether we even need a new cookbook about -- well, a certain topic, or whether it would be better to just republish a classic?

  • 13:52:43

    WOLFYes. On a regular basis, actually. You know, one of the topics that we discussed in our critical topics in food series at the library at NYU was food writers of Greenwich Village, because there have been many wonderful ones, and, of course, it was an excuse to talk about James Beard. And it was eleven o'clock in the morning on a Friday in February in the pouring rain, and the room was packed.

  • 13:53:02

    WOLFAnd the fact of the matter is, one of my friends, who was my editor for my cheese book at Simon and Schuster, suddenly realized that they had the rights to "The Fireside Cookbook" by James Beard, and she went back to the office and the republished it. The fact is that there's so much out there that's already been done that's wonderful, and it's great to have things updated. You know, it was mentioned earlier by a caller that the tenth edition of Fannie Farmer was seminal for them, and Marian Cunningham updated it and did it -- the 11th, I think, and the 12th even.

  • 13:53:33

    WOLFSo it's important to go back to these benchmarks and maybe update them. But so much good work has been done. Let's grab those things. Let's hold onto them and share them, and not necessarily make a new bunch of bad recipes.

  • 13:53:44

    NNAMDIRick and Manassas, Va. Rick, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:53:49

    RICKYes. I'm sure I'm not the only one with the problem. Lots of us go to restaurants to buy, among other things, coleslaw, potato salad, or barbecue, and you don't have the slightest idea what you're going to get because of all the variations. Can't somebody write a definitive cookbook that gives all the different types of barbecue and coleslaw and potato salad classified by their main ingredients, so if I go to a restaurant that says barbecue 100, I know it's vinegar based, 200 I know is molasses based. I mean, it's awful the way things are now.

  • 13:54:25

    WOLFWelcome to America. Welcome to America. I would look at "American Cookery" by James Beard, but I have to tell you, the only disconnect in all of that is the American chef wants to do whatever the heck they want to do.

  • 13:54:35


  • 13:54:35


  • 13:54:36

    NATHANYou can tell them to ask for a sample.

  • 13:54:39

    NNAMDIThat's a good idea. Ask for a sample, Rick.

  • 13:54:42

    LEEThank you.

  • 13:54:43

    NNAMDIYou're welcome. Here now is Benedict in Fairfax, Va. Benedict, your turn.

  • 13:54:48

    BENEDICTYes. Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon, Kojo. First I would like to thank all of you for bringing such insight into the cooking world that most people are not (unintelligible). Internationally, Mr. Wolf made a comment in reference to China. My family came from China, and it's really amazing that they came to the Caribbean basin and the food that is so incredible from island to island, and when you come to North America, Chinese food is different.

  • 13:55:18

    BENEDICTIt's really, really incredible how food around the world touches everyone in different ways, and here we are today with great chefs like Jose Andres and a lot of others that is really pushing to help open people's eyes about cooking.

  • 13:55:36

    NNAMDIWell, you know, it's funny, Benedict. I grew up in Guyana, South America loving Chinese food. It took me coming here to realize that Chinese Food was American, but that's a whole...

  • 13:55:44

    WOLFYes, exactly. Exactly.

  • 13:55:45

    BENEDICTAnd remember cassareep?

  • 13:55:48

    NNAMDIOh, of course.

  • 13:55:48

    BENEDICTOh, pepperpot.

  • 13:55:50

    NNAMDIWe still use pepperpot to make cassareep, Benedict, as a matter of fact. But Clark Wolf, if you look at the list of these cookbooks, somewhere around the 1970s there's an explosion of international recipes. Why the sudden attention on the way other cultures eat?

  • 13:56:07

    WOLF...began to travel again. I mean, people who had been in Europe during the war came back and they settled in, and then in the '70s we began to kind of explore and have personal expression, and it was okay to be less assimilated in America. Quite frankly, also, James Beard was a real proponent of other people's talent of Madhur Jaffrey. He introduced Julia Child around to everyone. It became more prevalent, more popular, more doable, more accessible, more down to earth, and we were just exploring. Now, some of the exploration led to something we like to call the '80s.

  • 13:56:42

    NNAMDIWere the '80s a blight on cooking in America?

  • 13:56:46

    WOLFMarvin Taylor writes in the book, ah, the '80s, you know. One of the beloved books is the "Silver Palate Cookbook," and I love Julee Rosso and the late Sheila Lukins, but we used to joke that you would take the recipe, remove five ingredients, and serve. You know, it was just -- we were trying everything all at once. It was our adolescence as a culture in cuisine, and you've seen it around the world.

  • 13:57:09

    WOLFSpain has done all this molecular gastronomy, and some of it's delicious, and some of it's just nuts. And that's okay. That's how we learn and that's how we grow. You remember adolescence. It was embarrassing and messy. And so I think what we see now, and getting back to the other question about what books do we need, we don't need...

  • 13:57:25

    NNAMDIYou only have about 20 seconds.

  • 13:57:27

    WOLFWe don't need another book about butchering meat. We need about all the different cuisines of the regions of the world. Tell us yours.

  • 13:57:33

    NNAMDIClark Wolf. He is co-editor of "101 Classic Cookbooks: 501 Classic Recipes." He runs a food and restaurant consulting firm, serves as chair of the Advisory Committee to New York University's Department of Nutrition and Food Studies. Clark, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:57:46

    WOLFThank you so much, Kojo.

  • 13:57:48

    NNAMDIJoan Nathan is a food writer and cookbook author of numerous books, including "Jewish Cooking in America," and "The New American Cooking." Her most recent is "Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France." Joan, good to see you again.

  • 13:58:01

    NATHANGood to see you, Kojo.

  • 13:58:03

    NNAMDIMarian Burros is a cookbook author and food columnist with the New York Times. Her cookbooks include "The Elegant but Easy Cookbook," and most recently "Cooking for Comfort." Marian Burros, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 13:58:13

    BURROSMy pleasure. Thank you.

  • 13:58:14

    NNAMDI"The Kojo Nnamdi Show" is produced by Brendan Sweeney, Michael Martinez, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff, Tayla Burney, Kathy Goldgeier, and Elizabeth Weinstein, with help from Stephannie Stokes, Jessica Guzman, and Ryan Mixson. Our engineer today, Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker is on the phones. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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