Managing a Maidless Dinner in the Rumpus Room

March 31, 2017

There’s something poignant about the drift of the “hints” in The American Woman’s Cookbook, written by Ruth Berolzheimer in 1941. Though her tips run the gamut – there’s a section on food for invalids, and a glossary of French cooking terms – Berolzheimer’s audience is the striving woman of modest means, eager to keep up with the Joneses.

If this looks ludicrous – and so much of it does – consider this: The American Woman’s Cookbook sold one million copies in its first year. Kind of makes me sad…..



More Housekeeping Hints: Circa 1965

March 29, 2017

Like Apicius before them, The Portuguese American Federation, a few centuries later, packed their cookbook with a robust “hints” section. No housekeeper, after all, should be caught with lumpy frosting or sad egg whites.

If such perfectionism is opposed to my own kitchen philosophy, the sheer variety of these pro-tips make them an entertaining read.


How to Be a Good Housekeeper, Circa 500

March 25, 2017

Housekeeping books seem to be all the rage. Just look at the furious popularity of Marie Kondo’s, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

But this is really nothing new.  Back in the fourth or fifth century (nobody knows when the Roman cookery writer, Apicius actually penned his tome), the author was already offering his readers advice on keeping a happy home. Want to turn that red wine white? Apicius is on the case!

Apicius, who’s best known for his manifesto-length recipes featuring ingredients like  liquamin, sea urchin, flamingo, sheep’s bladder, and healthy heaps of fresh frankincense, devoted an entire section of  De Re Coquinaria (sometimes translated  as “On the Subject of Cooking”) to the household arts. When he wasn’t busy inventing lasagna, it seems Apicius was puttering about the house.

 Here are a few of his more entertaining tips.

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Nonya Cuisine: Pineapple Curry with Prawns, Pork Belly with Chili..and More

March 22, 2017

If  you read about Peranakan cooking in the NY Times today, and you’re curious about this fascinating cuisine of the Nonya people of Singapore, you might want to know about this terrific little cookbook.  The Peranakans are the descendants of Straits Chinese people who settled in the Malay peninsula, and their food is a delicious blend of Chinese and Southeast Asian techniques and ingredients.

I got my copy of the book at Kitchen Arts and Letters; the store makes a point of importing interesting food books from foreign publishers; I doubt it’s available anywhere else.

If you’re interested in a little taste, here are a few of the recipes I find most enticing.


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