Updated: Apr 27, 2021
First things first! From the foreword of my new cookbook:
"I’m a guy that’s fascinated by home cooking, its techniques, and its customs. The “gateway cocktail” for me was vintage cookbooks. I have a treasured mid-century collection. Almost all of them rigorously hail from “my period,” 1945 to 1965. There is a charming artistry, simplicity, and enthusiasm in the way the visuals and the methods are presented. There is always context. Who is the party for? What if company comes unexpectedly? How about this astonishingly-themed menu for your occasion?"
The above is from "The Infinite Feast: How to Host the Ones You Love—Recipes from the Big Easy . . . and Beyond" by Brian Theis, 2020 Click here for more :-)
Now, let's get on with the show! The GFK '59 cookbook is one of the greatest. It does what all terrific books of that sweet spot in cookbook history do. It BOILS THE OCEAN. By this I mean it gives you endless holiday recipes, big and small party recipes, "hip" international recipes (also including plenty of New Orleans gumbo and jambalaya recipes, which became big on the scene in the late fifties), money-saving and diet recipes, special occasion recipes for weddings—and everything-else, you-name-it occasions, recipes for gleeful groups of ladies, men, kids, not to mention awesome yet doable ideas for routine breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. AND, endless, surprisingly useful, upbeat commentary and advice on all of the above.
They offer menu choices galore. This is one of the precious few (but outstanding) big color plates, a big old roast leg of lamb.
The delightful cover.
Photographs by George Lazarnick. Drawings by Mary Ronin.
Let's kick off with frozen limas, shall we? Three kinds of cheese'll make ANYTHING taste good. The cream makes the fish supreme. And you know Dad'll never eat his risotto unless Mom puts the brown-and-serve sausage in it.
Saucy cavalcade, next two pages. Some hits, a few misses, lots of inspiring ideas.
Another of George L.'s enchanting color plates. This one pops up a lot on "retro food" sites. Captions like: "The Wilsons never suspected sister Sarah was really a spaghetti-cooking body-snatcher," etc.
As mentioned, "hip" foreign fare was all the rage. And some of it's not entirely awful. You can improvise a lot of these recipes with your own sensible contemporary ingredients. And apologies, this next page doesn't continue on, you'll have to get your hands on a copy of the book to find out what "Angel Beauty" is.
Who can resist anything ending is "Surprise?!" And omigerd there's those frozen limas again.
Another "Supreme!" Paging Miss Ross?! The Potato Salad sounds kinda supreme actually. And I'd for sure try these Calypso Bars.
I'm not scared of this Coq au Vin. Well done, GFK's.
Coq, con't. And avez-vous dit «Chocolat»?!? I really like the idea of these sea shells. Two words: Garlic, butter. I admit I had to google the reference to the prophet and his honor.
One of my fave color plates. "Try a Danish smørrebrød - it's a sandwich feast with beauties like these (page 157), lavishly topped and delicately glazed"
D'oh, it's a third Supreme! And the "Unusual Green Beans" I guess were still considered unusual in '59—the green bean casserole smothered in packaged onion rings (aka "the mother of all comfort foods") was invented by Dorcas Reilly at Campbell's in 1955, and it survives to this day.
Since we'll be needing a menu for one of these in just a matter of weeks . . . Say cheese! And remember, don't skimp on the man-size chunks!
This is one of the important unforeseen challenges of hosting the ones you love. Being sunny and resilient will say a lot about you. Don't be a fussy fuddy-duddy. Roll with the changes, you'll be glad you did.
What to do with that leftover turkey. You're welcome.