How would you like to have access to 150 years of great recipes? The next question is, what would you do with them?
Amanda Hesser, the New York Times food columnist, didn’t seem to have any hesitations tackling the project of selecting and then testing more than 1000 recipes for The Essential New York Times Cookbook. It took six years and she had twins during the project. Now that’s serious multi-tasking.
But what’s developed is a great collection of doable recipes. She started by querying readers as to their favorites over the years. She ended up with 6,000 responses, trimmed that down to 1400 recipes and started testing. Then she went to phase two which was to investigate the historical recipes from times before email existed. And, as if her culinary skills are not sufficient enough, her writing is whimsical and her wit dry. The book is a hoot to read and everything we’ve tried is a winner.
Most recipes are quite simple. We’ve tried Spinach with Sour Cream (absurdly simple), Caramelized Endive, and Bulgur Salad with Pomegranate Dressing and Toasted Nuts (enough to feed an army, but fabulous), to name a few.
She didn’t set out to be an historian, but there is an inherent historical development. After all, most people who read the Times in 1870 probably had servants and the concept of the “working wife” would have been something out of a sci-fi novel. You’ll also find inclusions from many a famous chef and authors of the preceeding generations – Maida Heatter, Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, to name a very few.
Finding a great new cookbook is like finding a true friend. It doesn’t let you down. It keeps you amused, and you look forward to being in its company. This friend has some serious heft, but it’s well worth the weight. (Pun intended.)
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