Food For Thought: Old Cookbooks Are New Again | KNKX

Food For Thought: Old Cookbooks Are New Again

Jun 8, 2016

Nancy Leson was so excited!  "I just came back from Goodwill with the definitive Chinese Cookbook!"   I recognized the title immediately.  I've been using that one since it hit the shelves in the '70s.

It's "The Chinese Cookbook" by Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee.  The book by New York Times food writer Claiborne and famed cooking teacher Lee was, if not "definitive," as Nancy enthuses, definitely a step up from many of the Chinese cookbooks of the time.

I still consult it often, even today when "authentic" (whatever that means) Asian cookbooks abound.  It's old, tattered and in need of a thorough duct taping.  That fact alone, she claims, is proof of just how definitive a book it is.  I'm not sure about that but it does say how much use I've given it.

Leson's find inspired her to  look through her thousand-plus volume collection for older cookbooks which still have something for modern palates.  

"I found that some of those books, many of them from the 1940s, the 50s, the 60s, into the '70s. They're really wonderful historical records but they're also really great reads with terrific recipes.  Like "The Dione Lucas Book of French Cooking."  People think of Julia Child when they think of French cookery here in the U.S., but she was a precursor of Julia Child.  In fact, Julia Child was impressed by her and used her books."

"I'm not sure I'd write a good cookbook, but I might make a good cooking show." – Christopher Walken