Culinary History Collection


Current Editor: Cynthia D. Bertelsen

Issue 3 Summer 2002

Summer Reading

by Sandy Bosworth

For the readers of the Virginia Culinary Thymes, here are brief descriptions of cookbooks for the days of "company is coming!" or for just reading under the shade of the old apple tree.

Company is driving up to your house? You still have time to bake a cake!
The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn is just the book that you need. She has recipes for chocolate cakes, cakes with fruit, classic cakes, coffee cakes, cheesecakes, cakes with "spirit", and cookies. Plus lots of good tips for baking cakes, such as: Be sure to read the box label; Don't use a pudding-in-the-mix cake mix; Different mixes of the same flavor taste different; If you would like to have a moist tender cake buy and use pure flavors like vanilla, etc.

Anne also lists ten steps to sensational cakes. A hint for frosting cakes in a hot kitchen: place the first layer bottom side up, frost it, then put on the second layer bottom side down and finish frosting the cake and many other hints for successful cake baking.

My favorite cake and one that made frequently by students in the HTM [Hospitality and Tourism Management Department at Virginia Tech] laboratory class (Green Garden Cafe) is the orange dreamsicle cake. It is a favorite in the Green Garden and a great summer treat. It will definitely bring memories to your mind!

Patricia Wells at Home in Provence: Recipes Inspired by Her Farmhouse in France by Patricia Wells
This book is a James Beard Foundation Winner (published by Simon and Schuster). Patricia and Walter Wells purchased an eighteenth century farmhouse ("Chanteduc") located in northern Provence in 1904. The farmhouse was an ideal place for Patricia to develop her own style of cooking. One that reflects her philosophy of cuisine: "Keep it fresh, keep it simple, respect the seasons, and allow the integrity of an ingredient to shine through". Patricia prefers to use "whole foods" for maximum flavor (for example a whole fish, whole leg of lamb, not boned--just roasted). She prefers to serve fruit tarts using fruit that is in season. She also used extra-virgin olive oil. Menus include a wide variety of fresh items (whatever is available daily in the market). One of her recipes, "Provencal Roast Tomatoes" uses fresh herbs--parsley leaves, tarragon, basil and rosemary and tomatoes fresh from the garden to prepare this wonderful dish.

Is there a Nutmeg in the House? by Elizabeth David compiled by Jill Norman (published by Viking)
(Editor's note: This book is available in the VT library as part of the Culinary Collection--TX 652.9 D378 2001.)
"Along with M.F.K. Fisher and Julia Child, Elizabeth David changed the way we think about and prepare our food." An earlier compilation of her writings, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine (Editor's note: This book is available in the VT library--TX 725 M35 D38), was published in 1984. During the selection process for this earlier work, it became apparent that there were too many articles for one book so a future book was planned. Is There a Nutmeg in the House? is that long expected book and contains many additional essays written by the author over the past four decades. (Elizabeth David died in 1992). The book also includes 150 recipes from all over the world. My favorites are Madeleines – light French cakes baked in a scalloped mold, and tian mixtures – fresh vegetables and eggs baked in an open earthenware casserole. The tian recipe with spinach and potatoes is very tasty. You will certainly enjoy every page of this book whether you are under the old apple tree or in your kitchen preparing a meal with the bounty from your garden or the local farmer's market.

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Last modified on: 06.08.04 by Mark B. Gerus
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