Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Cookbook. Illustrated by Andy Warhol. From the personal files of America's foremost etiquette authority. A basic cookbook with easy to prepare recipes for both simple and festive meals. Hardcover 1961.
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Release Date:December 1960
Publisher:Doubleday and Company. Garden City, New York.
People were afraid of spices in the 50's - 60's...
Published by SharonA , 5 months ago
People were afraid of spices in the 50's - 60's...literally everything in this cookbook reflects that. They were probably quite tasty to the sensitive palates back then...when "Soul food" cooking came upon us (finally) and woke us all up things started taking off as far as cooking with spices goes. I got this book for Warhol's illustrations.
No one who recommends this cookbook has ever made anything from it.
Published by Jack Avery , 9 months ago
A copy has sat on my bookshelf for the past four years as a curio: the cookbook produced by the paragon of etiquette, illustrated by the great Andy Worhol (before he got famous). I recently decided to try out a few of the recipes, and each thing I tried left me more disappointed than the last.
Bland. Lacking flavor or any sort of vivacity. The epitome of anti-climax. The sort of thing you’d serve to unwelcome guests to ensure the after-dinner conversation didn’t last too long. Food that makes me ashamed to be white. I could say that all these statements describe the meals I created from this cookbook, and all of them would be too forgiving.
I finally had enough this evening. I made a chicken and rice dish (Chicken Scallop, p. 158, for those of you keeping score at home). The recipe was straightforward enough, but after noticing that the extent of the spice that this dish called for was “1/8 teaspoon poultry seasoning” I knew that intense intervention was in order. By changing the method of preparing the rice (I cooked it sauteed it with onions and carrots before adding chicken stock; not my recipe, I got it from America’s Test Kitchen – The New Best Recipe, p. 216, for those of you who want to actually eat well), and adding orders of magnitude more spices of diverse form, I was able to rescue this recipe from being as bland as everything else I had made from this cookbook. Alas that I didn’t foresee how dry it would turn out, and I was nevertheless disheartened by the outcome. The only good parts of the dish were those where I had blatantly disregarded the recipe.
I don’t read food blogs. I don’t care about the personal significance of a recipe to a stranger (such conversation even with a confidante can be tedious). I prefer my cookbooks to be encyclopedias. When I’m attempting to make something for the first time, I want to know what works and why. I want to know what to look for in produce, in cutlery, in technique. My two favorite cookbooks to date are America’s Test Kitchen’s New Best Recipe (as cited above), and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Perhaps my expectations are too high, but I tend to think that a recipe should only be added to a cookbook once it’s been tested, and only if people like it, and with adequate instructions for consistent results.
I thought Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook would reach such a standard. With the introductions, the added menus, the how-to’s, and reference tables, it seemed like a shoe in. But I guess they were right that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Or its introductions. Or menus, how-to’s, and reference tables. And especially not the notoriety of the author.
In a rage I read a slew of reviews for this cookbook. Imagine my tremendous surprise at discovering only star-studded positive reviews! So many people had only good things to say about the cookbook. Many remember the cookbook from as many as 60 years ago, from which they learned to cook, or found the personal anecdotes endearing, or referenced religiously in the early years of their marriage. One woman gave the cookbook to her newly married daughter-in-law. She clearly didn’t want the marriage to last.
Come to think of it, divorce has been steadily on the rise since the printing of the book. And the American obesity crisis has only emerged since the book went out of printing. It turns out people eat more when the food is actually edible.
I have racked my brain trying to account for the utter shame that this book brings upon the entire American people, and the only viable alternative hypothesis I can come up with is that Amy Vanderbilt was in actuality a subversive feminist mastermind. By instructing the homemakers of America to serve truly wretched meals, she created an atmosphere where the working men would be willing to let women leave the household and enter the workforce, thereby undermining the patriarchal hierarchy that held women in submissive roles. God bless her.
But in all honesty, I
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