I never tire of the SILVER PALATE cookbook. In fact, I recently saw a perfect hardback copy at a used bookstore and snatched it up to put away for when my paperback copy -almost 30 years old-dies. Or for when one of my children or good friends loves something I’ve made and I want to hand them their own copy. My bent-paged, tattered covered, stained, smeared, and spilled-upon copy is one of the loves on my cookbook shelf. Within are notes, memories of special times, thoughts, re-writes (heavier salt back then and more ingredients available now), dreams, and just plain stuff that is still fun to look at and/or cook. Written back when women were just seriously beginning to need a reason to not cook (actually that’s when the shop hit it big in NY), it hit the market with a big keBANG and, I think, opened up a whole world to a whole lotta people. Funny, huh?
Think of it. My cookbookshelf before 1980. Julia. James. Betty Crocker. Joy. Galloping Gourmet. I think there were Reader’s Digest and Good Housekeeping books my mom threw in when I got married. I had a recipe box with 4×6 cards and I was a lot better off than many friends who had 3×5 cards. GOURMET. BON APPETIT. I had those. When I could afford them.
People cooked from newspapers and church cookbooks. A lot. More often, people cooked from scraps of paper quickly scribbled while you visited someone else and wanted a copy of a recipe they had made. Or, as with my Aunt Marie (Dad’s sister), you sat and wrote recipes while she talked. That’s how I got my grandma’s pound cake recipe. I never met my grandma; she died about 1938. Thank God for my Aunt Marie’s memory. Thank God for my mom’s memory because the imprints in my mind of watching her cook were of the times she cooked out of her head. Were there copy machines? Sure, but only in offices or libraries. And, if you did copy something onto that filmed sort of paper, what did you do with that piece of paper? If you were a very organized person or a secretary by profession, you might have punched them and put them in a 3-ring binder with your other typed recipes. Big if. I met one person like that in my life. And I cooked. People didn’t really have typewriters until (or if) they went to college, and those were wretched machines. If you wanted to type seriously you used the IBM at work after hours. If, by chance, you worked.
I thought I had truly made it to heaven food-wise when I made Sheila Lukins’ Cream of Asparagus Soup out of SILVER PALATE. One of the first times, it was the day before my daughter Sarah’s baptism (86) and I was cooking for a big celebration. My sister Helen, who flew in for the occasion, was serving as both sous chef and dish washer. Not for the first or last time. It wasn’t just a celebration of Sarah and her blessed baptism in Spokane, Washington, but it was also a celebration at having another live child. In 1978, God was good indeed and we had our first lovely boy, Sean. In 1979, I had had a miscarriage. In 1982, our daughter Elizabeth died—–SIDS–on July 20. In March of 1984, our son Ryan was stillborn. 9 pounds 2 ounces. Sarah, an adopted child, was one who might escape our run of horrific luck and live. Our families came. We cooked. We laughed. We bought a beautiful white dress and shoes. We celebrated. We went to church and laughed. Came home and ate. And what we ate was from the SILVER PALATE COOKBOOK! Cream of Asparagus Soup. Chicken Marabella. Things that later became very famous, indeed.
And Sarah lived.
Over the interim years, I’ve made that soup many times in many variations. I’ve switched the veg to broccoli and added parmesan. I’ve made it cold and I’ve made it hot. It’s been in paper bowls and china bowls. It’s been a starter and it’s been a main course. It’s been cooked for invalids and small children who don’t like vegetables, but who will eat this soup. This year, it’s in sweet, tiny cream soup bowls Dave bought me for our 36th wedding anniversary last week; he had to buy them used. (Below @ Margarita at Pine Creek dinner to celebrate!)
Our friends Susan and Charles came to dinner last weekend; I made nicoise. (Above at their son’s wedding-Charles is hidden)