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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, Norway, Timeless Recipes

Norwegian Gravlax Salad: Lessons in austerity


At 17, I was a bonafide Norwegian fish monger. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite the fishmonger my ancestors would be proud of. There was no hawking of my wares from a gently swaying boat along the harbor to hungry housewives. Instead, I mostly sold to tourists who mostly bought small opened faced sandwiches, and sometimes gave me a hard time for selling whale.

In my booth, there were no foul-mouthed sailors staring out to sea to ensure their safe voyage back home. I sold fish with Santiago from Uruguay, always drinking mate, Eduardo from Barcelona, always smoking and sometimes singing “Singing in the Rain” with me when the weather was really terrible — which was most of the time. Out of 15 employees, there was one other Norwegian. 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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