Recent Cookbooks


It hardly seems quite a no-cooking formula when the No Cooking Cookbook by Lillian Langseth-Christensen (Coward, $4.95) lists an ingredient of a chicken recipe as “2 cold cooked broilers” or “1 cold roast broiler, quartered.” Allowing the chicken to grow cold is probably not to be counted as cooking, yet somewhere along the line a human agent, one suspects, is required to go through certain motions which would bear a close resemblance to what passes for broiling or roasting.

The author of this book seems to suffer an occasional twinge of conscience about her title. In the chapter on eggs she comes right out and admits that most of her egg recipes call for a bit of boiling, and she includes some egg instruction in the forepart of her book for those who are entirely unlettered on eggs: How to Hardcook an Egg, How to Peel a Hardcooked Egg, How to Rice a Hardcooked Egg, How to Beat Eggs, etc. (Is beating cooking?) And making sure that first things are correctly understood as first, she even has a paragraph headed “How to Boil Water”: “Place [?] fresh water in a clean saucepan, do not fill more than ¾ full. Cover saucepan and place over heat. When water reaches the boiling point, add salt, if the recipe requires.” A final item must be mentioned before turning to the bona fide virtues of the book, a recipe for oxtail soup which begins, “2 cans oxtail soup.”

For all its air of revelation (How to Press Juice from Oranges, Lemons or Limes) and its desperately serious approach to its mission and its slightly too sanguine title, the No Cooking Cookbook is a useful guide to the preparation of canned, frozen, or, in some cases, delicatessen varieties of food, in many novel combinations. Its assortment of cold soups runs to scores. All in all, it’s worth a place on the kitchen shelf.

Peggy Harvey’s latest, A Bride’s Cookbook (Atlantic—Little, Brown, $4.50), is full of easy and attractive recipes, put forward with her characteristic good sense. Her recipe for Cheese Monkey begins, “This is a sort of fake cheese soufflé. If you haven’t the nerve or the proper equipment to make the McCoy, try this.” The book begins with lists of kitchen equipment, staples, supplies, and herbs, which any kitchen, bride’s or bachelor’s, really ought to contain. A Fannie Farmer and a Joy of Cooking are indispensable, and so is Peggy Harvey. Her new book is goodlooking and a helpful gift for the beginner; her earlier book, Season to Taste (Knopf), continues to be the most frequently used and the most rewarding cookbook on our fairly sizable shelf. I took some pains recently to compare several recipes for beef à la mode, and of the lot, Peggy Harvey’s — which produced one of the best dinner-party dishes ever to reach our table — was the only one to include a chill-and-skim requirement, which resulted in a rich and completely nongreasy sauce.

Few kitchens could be expected to stock the full list of herbs, spices, and seasonings which are called for in the Spice Islands Cookbook (Lane Book Company, $6.50), but it would be a fine thing if they did. Sponsored by the Spice Islands Company and prepared by its home economics staff, the book offers some hundreds of recipes, in addition to being the comprehensive, perhaps unique, account of its specialty. Many spices are prescribed, but none in any excess. The recipes that I tried from it — German meatballs in caraway sauce, for example — were excellent. The extra lift for the meatballs came from a teaspoon of grated lemon peel. The color illustrations by Alice Harth are delightful, and so is the appearance of the book in all other respects.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child, divides its subject into ten major categories and deals comprehensively with each. It makes a big book and represents Alfred A. Knopf’s idea of what a ten-dollar book on French cookery ought to look like; designed by Warren Chappell, it is a distinguished book, even for Knopf. The index alone, incidentally, runs to xxxii pages. I found the book extraordinarily interesting reading, full of good information and advice. So far, I have lacked an opportunity to try out one of its classic recipes, but I am assured by one of the best cooks I know that they are altogether successful.