It’s fashionable to cook retro right now, and to do it using old recipes from outdated cookbooks.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT Blame it on Julie & Julia (both the book and the movie) if you want to, but it’s fashionable to cook retro right now. Who could have guessed that when New Yorker Julie Powell spent 365 days in the early oughties cooking every dish from Julia Child’s 1961 classic, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking (volume one), that both her book and Child’s classic would reach the top ranks of The New York Times bestsellers list—and that curious cooks across North America would take a new interest in making old dishes from recipes found in outdated cookbooks?
I first took an interest in old and out-of-print cookbooks in early 2009 when Market, the posh eatery by international celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten opened in Vancouver’s elegant Shangri-La Hotel. Vongerichten’s French/Asian-inspired cuisine, which is both sophisticated and uncomplicated, inspired me to think I might be able to recreate my own humble versions of his exquisite dishes at home. So I searched online for his cookbooks and found Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef coauthored 11 years ago by Vongerichten and The New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman. The price for this hardcover book was less than $5 (plus shipping) on Abebooks.com, and there were plenty of copies to choose from.
Where To Find Vintage Cookbooks On Line
Abebooks.com, which was started in 1995 by two couples in Victoria to facilitate the sale of used, rare and out-of-print books, is now an arm of amazon.com and currently displays 438, 335 results when you type cookbooks into their search box. If you can’t find the old cookbook you’re looking for there (I just found an old version of The Joy Of Cooking there for $1.00) you can always try amazon.com proper (they had another book I was looking for, The Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichel, for $2.05), or another favourite of mine, Powells, the original purveyors of new and used books side by side.
I’ve been thinking it could be cool idea to give my foodie friends preowned cookbooks for Christmas, particularly very old and obscure ones by interesting long-gone chefs or ones featuring esoteric dishes they may not have tried: food for thought. —C. Rule
Photo: C. Phaisalakani