Originally uploaded by norvegal
I've just rediscovered another reason to love my grandma.
Not only did she instill the knitting bug in me, which is a pretty big thing since that has since become my passion and my career. But she also taught me the pleasures of cooking well. When I'd visit her in the summer, every single day we'd go to the fish market to see what was fresh (how I loved making those "scrod" jokes), and then we'd stop at the vegetable stand and pick up whatever looked ripe. Her salad dressing was always homemade, whisked together in the bottom of a big, perfectly seasoned wooden salad bowl. In her later years she pretty much gave up on desserts, so we resorted to boxed ice cream and Pepperidge Farm cookies. But the rest of the meal would be fantastic.
She is still with me in my kitchen -- in my baking sheets, my measuring cups and spoons, my cast-iron frying pan, my rolling pin, my dishes, my spoons, and most definitely in my cookbooks. She liked to have duplicates of things, "just in case," which is how I ended up with two copies of Larousse Gastronomique (one in French, one in English), two copies of Craig Claiborne's NY Times Cookbook, three dog-eared copies of Fannie Farmer, and two, count 'em two entire sets of the Time Life Foods of the World series (which is actually a great read--did you know MFK Fisher co-wrote the Cooking of Provincial France volume?).
Today I glanced over at one of my shelves and rediscovered this gem lurking in the shadows. Curnonsky was apparently the pen name for French writer Maurice Edmund Sailland, aka the Prince of Gastronomy. He was a prolific writer (including as a ghostwriter for Colette's husband) with a penchant for food -- writing about it and EATING it. He was a large, large man who, rumor has it, needed to be carried by six friends when he went out to restaurants. His gastronomic exploits were cut short when, at the age of 84, he leaned too far out a window and became a victim of gravity.
But anyway, the book is a great big time capsule with wonderful old black and white pictures and recipes for improbable and not-entirely-appetizing concoctions that require strange organs encased in gelatin, fish that don't exist here, and fresh bunny rabbit flesh. Other recipes use more familiar ingredients and are remarkably simple, many taking only five or six sentences to explain.
I spot a recipe for Les Sables de Caen (those irresistibly delicious butter cookies) and shall stock up on extra butter for the weekend just in case.