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Cookbooks in Context

Cookbooks in Context

Why the French and Americans use ‘entrée’ differently


When it comes to cooking, even Johnny Depp turns to the French .


For nearly two centuries, French has lorded over the culinary scene. We “sautee,” “julienne,” and “chiffonade” all in accordance with whatever rules the best French chefs codified into culinary technique at the turn of the last century. From “mise-en-place” to the 5 mother sauces every chef’s culinary training is filled to bursting with French culinary pedagogy. For nearly a century, French cuisine WAS haute cuisine.

The pervasiveness and prestige of French cuisine and culture took interesting shapes. In America, this meant that almost every menu presented, especially in more expensive restaurants, was littered with either French sayings or simply presented completely in French.After all, it was only to be expected that if you were dining at the Waldorf Astoria in 1899, you would speak French.

Waldorf-Astoria - 1899

This may seem like a stretch, but this is in fact a menu printed in America….

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Cookbooks, Cookbooks in Context

Content Marketing circa 1923: Dr. Oetker’s School Cookbook


There are many reasons to write a cookbook.

Perhaps, you are an aging 14th century Parisian compiling a housekeeping book to instruct your young wife on how to look after her lord, manage her newly-bestowed house and of course, prepare banquets.

Later during the 16th and 17th century say, you would probably be publishing as the chef to a nobleman or clergyman. This book would sell your own knowledge, raise acclaim for your benefactor and commit to posterity a record of the privileges of wealth.

Aspirational cooking has long been a part of how we cook.

Cookbook traditions follow cultural traditions. They move from medieval household manuals to renaissance instruction manuals. They develop over time from simple lists of ingredients to complex images of papal feasts with diagrams of the insides of kitchens and long lists of utensils (the first known picture of a fork, for example, only made its appearance find in a 16th century cookbook.)


Or perhaps your cookbook is just another marketing outlet. Continue Reading

Cookbooks, Cookbooks in Context, Il Cucchiao d'Argento, Italy, Timeless Recipes

Why One Italian Cookbook Only Uses Butter


Let me take you on a journey through Italy’s olive groves. 

We’ll start beyond the boot, across the strait of Mesina in Sicily. You’ll step sweating out of a broken-down dilapidated car and follow an old man in a newspaper boy’s cap up a dirt road. He’ll tell you in a dialect that seems more Arabic than Italian that here olives are grown up to 700-800m above sea level and this year alone they have grown olives on 160,000 ha.

You’ll look at the stout twisted porous trunks and the patches of yellow grass surrounded by dirt and wonder at the wealth of olives weighing down the branches to near breaking point. You’ll fix the car and continue. Across the strait in Calabria the rolling hills and huge olive groves continue. 

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