Book Review: “Hong Kong Dim Sum 60″ by Various Authors

The cover of “Hong Kong Dim Sum 60.”

This book review is going to be woefully short on text, since I don’t read or speak a lick of Chinese. I’ll try to make up for it with pictures. I found “Hong Kong Dim Sum 60″ while I was browsing through Kingstone Bookstore inside Richmond’s Pacific East Mall (perhaps better known as the “99 Ranch Mall” by some). This cookbook was a serendipitous discovery — as many times as I’ve visited the Pacific East Mall, I had never before recognized Kingstone as a bookstore. Honestly, this little shop is surrounded with so many Hello Kitty knickknacks that it’s easy to overlook the main book section in the center.

Recently published in Hong Kong, “Hong Kong Dim Sum 60″ is a beautiful paperback collection of 60 dim sum photos, food created by Hong Kong’s most revered dim sum chefs. Of [… read more …]

Vintage Kitchen: Carnation’s Noodle Ring with Creamed Chicken, 1935.

Why, yes, these are noodles. Thanks for noticing.

I turned up a copy of the “Carnation Cook Book” at a used-book shop in Santa Rosa the other day, and for a measly $2, I had to rescue it. Written by Mary Blake in 1935, this promo pamphlet is chock full of product placement, bound with staples, and just under 100 pages long. I believe this little cookbook was probably a giveaway, or perhaps cheap mail-order fodder, but I’m not totally certain about how it was originally distributed. As the author, Blake is credited as being Carnation’s “Director, Home Economics Department,” which fascinates me as a chef. Corporate recipe testing, and in that era — I wonder what the kitchen looked like, and how Mary Blake had become accomplished as a cook. Or did she cook anything, and only supervise a staff?

The photograph above is what sold me. [… read more …]

1961: “Gourmet’s Basic French Cookbook” by Louis Diat


Truffled Capon.

Vintage food photography continues to fascinate me, especially the quaint-yet-complex aesthetics of 1960s-era French cookery. Within an historical context, the early 1960s proved to be a pivotal era for both French and American cuisine: In France, the death if Fernand Point in 1955 marked the passing of a legend, but at the same time, Point’s legacy and influence would become even more widespread, thanks to his impressive stable of proteges (among them, Alain Chapel, Georges Perrier, the Troisgros Brothers, and Paul Bocuse). Meanwhile, in the United States, Americans were slowly becoming aware of French cuisine in the early 1960s. Helping to foster this awakening, Craig Claiborne began his stint as the “New York Times” Food Editor in 1957, while Julia Child made her television debut in 1963.

As for “Gourmet” magazine, the now-defunct publication was just 20 years old when “Gourmet’s Basic French Cookbook” made its [… read more …]

Vintage Cajun: “The Justin Wilson Cook Book” by Justin Wilson


Being in my 30s — and not being a native of Louisiana — my first exposure to Justin Wilson was from a Ruffles commercial in the mid-1980s. For better or worse, that was also the first time that I’d ever heard the Cajun dialect, a quirky easygoing patois that now has many associations for me, having lived and cooked in New Orleans since then. During the same few years that Wilson was landing these national ad campaigns, his Louisiana-based cooking series began to appear on California public television stations, and Wilson himself began doing cooking demos on several morning talk shows. At least that’s how I remember it, growing up in Northern California.

As a semi-serious collector of vinyl LPs, I would later discover Wilson’s comedy albums from the early 1960s, languishing in the dollar bins, alongside so many copies of “Staying Alive.” Although I never purchased any of [… read more …]

Book Review: “Everyday French Cooking” by Henri-Paul Pellaprat

Lobster Russian Style: Garnished with hard-boiled eggs and black truffles, though the book allows black olives as a substitute for the latter.

I meant to snap some food pics from Berkeley and the East Bay this week, but my camera battery was drained. Among the missed opportunities: a grilled bockwurst from Top Dog, a falafel pita from Fa-La-La, and a plate of yellow curried rice from Bua Luang. On the upside, I did find several great used cookbooks at Pegasus Books, including “Everyday French Cooking” by Henri-Paul Pellaprat. Originally published in America in 1966, Pellaprat’s book is an obvious response to Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” which was first published in 1961. Much like Child’s seminal work, “Everyday French Cooking” aims to assist the American housewife, as the book states in its introduction (the book’s original French title is “Le Nouveau Guide Culinaire,” published in [… read more …]