For the first of each month, I’m going to try to do something special, mostly centered around books. Although this time it’s cookbooks, it won’t necessarily be cookbooks. Might be memoirs with food as an element; might be fiction with food as a plot key. (And April 1st will likely be in a realm of itself… I hope.)
Since this is the first of the First O’ The Month Specials here, I’m going to highlight my first few cookbooks, at least those still in my hands. I’ve moved around a bit, and may have lost one or two in the process.
The Starving Artist’s Cookbook, by Edgar Tharp & Robert E. Jaycoxe, may well have been my first cookbook, it at any rate was one of the first few. Gifted to me by my friend Margo late seventies, the language (hip ’60’s early ’70’s) may be dated, some of the recipes are still of interest today.
Dandelion greens, milkweed shoots — foragers and those interested in inexpensive foodstuffs — these are still growing out there. There’s also a lot of good cooking done with black beans. One of my most-repeated recipes from this cookbook was the barbeque sauce (though I always left out the sugar. Incipient lo-carber here???) There are also inexpensive organ meat recipes, and hamburger recipes (check your sources these days!)
I suspect this cookbook is not in publication at the moment. Ideas in it are often good, but the lingo was a fad.
An Invitation to Indian Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey. I’m not sure when I acquired this, mid or late 70’s or early 80’s. I think it has been reprinted. Even though early on I was unable to obtain many of the ingredients, I made a lentil dal and the cucumber raita from this book, often. (Over time, the cucumber raita transformed somewhat from her recipe, sort of an unconscious adaptation that happened because eventually I stopped referring to the source text. I thought I remembered things. I guess this is a process whereby recipes evolve.)
The Encyclopedia of Creative Cooking, ed. Charlotte Turgeon. My mother gave me this shortly after I moved out on my own. Real job and all. This book is superb, and was published in a time (1983) when “unpopular foods” could still get a hearing, and be inexpensive, before they suddenly vanished mid-80’s from our radar, and before some of them went from invisible to upscale in the last 5 years. Quite the spread of recipe concepts, and I used it early in the day for a variety of ideas.