January 2010

Peter Mayle and Gerard Auzet, "Confessions of a French Baker"

I'll be honest up front, I'm not a big fan of Peter Mayle's writing.  It's just a little too treacly, as if everything he experiences is instantly captured in the golden late afternoon light of nostalgia.  I understand why people dig it, and I don't think he's bad or wrong for doing it, but it just isn't for me.

But I've been on a bread-baking kick lately, and this slim little volume called to me from the shelves at the library.  Despite my feelings for Peter Mayle's writing style, I have to give the man his props.  If anyone knows really good French bread, I figured it had to be him.  

Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

Meridith Publishing, N.Y. 1968.

I grew up using this cookbook, in the 1968 edition, since my mom had a copy. It's still in print, in the umpteenth version. Each edition has the same red-and-white-checks on the cover, and each of them after the very first has had "New" in the title. Successive editions have each been carefully adapted to the current era for each edition; as of the 2006 edition, we're at the 16th. This was the "go to" cook book for me when I was learning to cook, so much so that I asked for a copy when I left home for graduate school, and my mom cheerfully complied (she has equally cheerfully promised me I can have her copy of the 1968 edition). My spouse's mom had the earlier edition, the one with the spoons on the cover.

Victor Hirtzler, The Hotel St. Francis Cook Book

This is another wonderful historical cookbook archived by the Feeding America project.  Victor Hirtzler was the head chef of the Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco, one of the most prestigious hotels (and hotel restaurants) in the country.  His cook book was published by The Hotel Monthly Press in 1919.  

An interesting bit of history is archived here on the Preface, which initially confused me:

"The recipes in my book calling for wine and liqueurs for flavoring may be followed by those whose legitimate supplies are not used up; and where these cannot be had there are non-alcoholic substitutes available with the flavor near perfect."