Here are recipes that readers have clipped from the pages of The New York Times and treasured for decades. Amanda Hesser sifted through 150 years’ worth of food columns from the newspaper, and polled thousands of readers to compile a collection of about 1400 keepers. She looked for recipes that represented their era or that inaugurated a food fad, such as David Eyre’s Pancake or Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread. There are classic dishes (even one for tuna salad) and far out dishes (Eggs Suffragette). Above all, the recipes are interesting, varied, and thoroughly tested. Follow them and you will make wonderful food.
Not in the mood to cook? The book makes lively bedside reading. Hesser introduces most recipes with witty commentary about the history of the dish—or about the quirks of the food writer who originally published the recipe. Each chapter opens with a timeline tracing food fashions through the decades. The vegetable timeline includes
1880s—fried eggplant is a staple
1940s—the decade of spinach
1950s—nothing good is happening in veggie-land
2008—the year of the Brussels sprout
So far, I have made Amazing Overnight Waffles (they’re not kidding), Madame Laracine’s Gratin Dauphinois (the apotheosis of the potato), Boeuf Bourgignon I (incroyable), and Puree of Peas and Watercress (the greenest dish you will ever eat, and one of the most delicious).
So why is our copy languishing on the shelf? Could it be the lack of color photographs? Gorgeous pictures are de rigeur in today’s bestselling cookbooks. They’re not limited to photos of a finished dish—you’re just as apt to see a full-page glamor shot of a radish. I’m as susceptible to food porn as the next person, but after all, it’s just fluff. On sheer substance, Hesser’s book beats everything else out there—hands down.
Check the WRL catalog for The Essential New York Times Cookbook