Monday, November 24, 2008

Heirloom Cooking With the Brass Sisters

I mentioned in my first post how I would include other subjects in this blog, but due to my overwhelming obsession to opera, I’ve not posted anything but. That changes today.

I recently received a preview copy of what may be the most perfect cookbook I’ve ever encountered: “Heirloom Cooking” by the Brass Sisters. Affectionately (and accurately) referred to as "The Queens of Comfort Food," Marilynn and Sheila Brass are an American culinary treasure and “Heirloom Cooking” is one of the most lovingly put together collections of recipes, colorful American food-style history - and fun jammed between two covers. Culling over 6,500 cookbooks, thousands of handwritten family recipes passed down from generation-to-generation, recipes cut from magazines and newspapers nearly a century old. There are classic American staples as well as “exotica” reflecting the very best melting pot influences of immigrant cooking with adaptations for the new world.

Following a lengthy introduction as enlightening as it is entertaining, the book is divided up beautifully into sections from which one can sensibly (and deliciously) build a simple meal or a feast.

No, this is not a fancy food cookbook where one can look up things one will never make (nor should have never been invented) like Fois Gras, grape and pistachio stuffed Poussin over Asparagus Risotto with a champagne and ginger reduction. No, the recipes here evoke a cozy, simpler time with flavors you already know and aromas that serve as their own appetizers. A sampling of some of the recipes:

· Alice McGinty’s London Broil;
· Blue cheese and walnut crackers;
· Stuffed Cabbage with Salt Pork Gravy;
· Lizzie Goldberg’s One Bowl Babka;
· Fried Cheese balls with Chili Mayonnaise
· Auntie Dot’s Chopped Liver;
· Beer Baked Beans with Short Ribs;
· Billionaire’s Macaroni and Cheese;
· Swedish Meatballs;
· Vermont Corn Chowder;
· Sauerbraten;
· Mystery Stuffed Mushrooms
There’s even a terrific recipe for one of my favorite things in the entire world: Red Velvet Cake.

I used to make my living in a kitchen so have collected an embarrassing number of books on cookery over the decades, but none has offered so much joy, so quickly as “Heirloom Cooking.” It is a book that should delight experts and novices alike, all of the recipes laid out beautifully, sensibly and often accompanied by gorgeous color photographs. Other photographs include labels, cooking utensils and hardware no longer used in the modern kitchen but an insight into the aesthetics of our past revealing a healthy obsession for both form and function.

The Brass Sisters truly know - and share - the joy of cooking!




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