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Posts Tagged ‘cookbooks’

Love Story

June 26, 2014 | by

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From the cover of Barbara Cartland’s The Romance of Food.

“The hallmark of Camp is the spirit of extravagance.” —Susan Sontag, “Notes on ‘Camp’”

Too much camp is bad for the soul. It’s unwholesome, lacking in spiritual nourishment—like eating only processed foods. Irony is no substitute for feeling, detachment no replacement for intellectual engagement: enough camp begins to eat away at both. After a steady diet of midcentury educational films, salacious memoirs, and Florence Foster Jenkins recordings, one begins to feel oneself morphing into a sort of soulless Lord Henry Wotton, and the only remedy is beauty, spareness, and fresh air. Part of the problem is that earnest camp is heartbreaking; in order not to cry, one needs to put up defenses, and this is in itself exhausting.

Periodically, I need to go on cleanses. In these virtuous moods, I resolve to listen to only the finest music, read the best books, watch films worthy of the term. I banish my collection of 1930s Love Story magazines. I shun the “High Gruck and Outsider Art” playlist on my Spotify account. The words “Russ Meyer” are not to be mentioned in my hearing.

The problem is that in the midst of this, your copy of Barbara Cartland: The Romance of Food arrives in the mail from England and tempts you like a rosy-hued she-devil. And then it follows you everywhere, with the promise of easy laughs and garish pictures and oddity nonpareil. You can hide it in the closet. You can stick it under the kitchen counter with the other cookbooks. Still you hear its siren song, which is sort of quavery and backed by a lot of lush strings. Read More »

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In Earnest

May 8, 2014 | by

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Albert Edelfelt, Läsande Kvinna (Reading Woman), 1885

“Every time I buy a book here, it changes my life,” the man told me earnestly. He was not the bookseller, but he was minding the stand on Broadway and Seventy-Third Street while the proprietor got a fruit juice from the nearby cart. He clearly wanted to do right by his friend, the owner, in his brief absence, and I was eager to help him. There was not much that appealed to me, but I finally found a hardcover, lavishly praised the interim salesman to the returned proprietor, and handed him the five-dollar bill that would, he remarked, cover the cost of the mango drink he was now sipping.

I did not really think that The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Cookbook (1992) would change my life. If I’d thought more about it, I might have hoped to share the book with a few likeminded friends, where we’d marvel at the dated food styling and speculate about the quality of “Liza’s Salade de Provence,” which involves corn, raw mushrooms, pink grapefruit, and hearts of palm. In short, I guess you could say what interest I had was ironic.

But then I sat down at home and opened it, and I was reading it, and the act of reading—the process of assimilating letters and sounds and translating that into meaning—is not ironic, is it? In fact, in the absence of other people, there isn’t much irony at all. I might have tweeted something about Joan Collins’s menu planning—“Extravagance is the only way when it comes to buying beautiful dresses and to making salads”—or shared a picture of the “Smoked Salmon Bruschetta” that was allegedly a specialty of Elle Macpherson’s. But instead, I just read, and thought, and maybe smiled a little at some things, but not at anyone’s expense. We were in it together. Read More »

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Good Taste

April 7, 2014 | by

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Chef Frédéric Piepenburg, of Murray Hill’s Chez le Chef. Photo via MeSoHungry/MightySweet.com

Over the weekend, Kitchen Arts and Letters, the wonderful culinary bookshop on New York’s Upper East Side, held a sale. I scampered over and, among other treasures, came away with something called The Eccentric Cookbook, by one Richard, Earl of Bradford. The 1985 cover showcases the author sporting one of those aprons made to look like a lady’s body—or, in this case, her brassiere and garter belt.

As promised, the cookbook is idiosyncratic. It is a strange combination of anecdotes and recipes, and the eccentrics profiled within run the gamut from historic figures, to folkloric oddities, to vaguely wacky people in the author’s social circle. The recipes that follow these either do, or don’t, have anything to do with said eccentrics. Read More »

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There’s Not an App for That, and Other News

February 13, 2014 | by

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Do you really want to write like this guy, anyway?

  • The last thing the world needs is another Hemingway imitator, but a new app purports to help you write like Ernest Hemingway. It lops off adverbs and corrects instances of passive voice, but “it’s pretty tricky to distill instructions into computer code and make a machine into an editor.” Phew. Job security.
  • Why are writers such inveterate procrastinators? “We were too good in English class.”
  • Another question: Why do literary biographers insist on portraying “a positive moral image” of their subjects, many of whom were ethically lax?
  • The Tournament of Cookbooks has begun. There will be blood. And bruised egos. And bold Mediterranean recipes.
  • An 1882 pamphlet—“The Nonsense of It!”—sunders the flimsy arguments against giving women the vote. “‘The polls are not decent places for women at present.’ Then she is certainly needed there to make them decent … the presence of one woman would be worth a dozen policemen.”

 

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Surprised by Joy

October 30, 2013 | by

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“Soybeans really need an uplift, being on the dull side but, like dull people, respond readily to the right contacts.” —Irma S. Rombauer, The Joy of Cooking

 

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Conspiracy Theories, and Other News

January 15, 2013 | by

  • Literary conspiracy theories, anyone?
  • Paragraph is a new app that curates great short stories. (Yes, we are represented!)
  • And, inevitably, iambic pentameter bots.
  • What would Jesus eat? The subgenre of Christian cookbooks.
  • And ... the National Book Critics Circle finalists are announced.
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