Jan 2010: My culinary journey started when I was nine years old! Each week my friend, Elizabeth Quisenberry and I would cook at one or the others house in Bronxville, New York. We usually cooked recipes found on the back of the Bakers Chocolate box, or the Swansdown Cake Flour box. Generally, the recipes on containers are very reliable. Elizabeth and I loved our fudge, chocolate brownies, and marble cakes.
When I was thirteen, my family moved to Toronto, where I had use of the kitchen mostly when my mom was out of town. My recipes then came from various church and association cookbooks and my friend Sue Wells. I especially loved the molasses cookies from the back of the Brer Rabbit Molasses bottle and the sugar cookies from the Charleston Junior League Cookbook. Click here for Ginger-Molasses Cookies or Click here for Butter Cookies with Jam.
It was towards the end of high school and the beginning of becoming a young adult that I started collecting recipes from the free handouts at the supermarket and from magazines like FAMILY CIRCLE. I used to love to clip these recipes and paste them on colored paper with little cutouts of food from THE NEW YORKER. These I organized in plastic covers in large three-ring binders. Also, included in the binders were hand written recipes from my mom or one of my grandmothers. Grammie Snyder was not so much of a cook, but also organized recipes; and I remember Granny Risley for her pies and pickles. In addition to being a good cook, my Mom was an excellent provider. In Toronto in the 50′s, it was quite unusual to have steamed artichokes for dinner, or fresh spinach salad with sliced raw mushrooms; we had family dinners of meat, potatoes and vegetable almost every night; and there were always bowls of MacIntosh apples and homemade brownies on the counter at the ski cabin, not to mention smoked salmon on brown bread and roasted spareribs.
In 1968 Sue and I drove across Canada in a 1965 blue mustang. After a few years in the investment business in San Francisco, I decided to try my hand at teaching cooking. The year was 1973. No more plastic covered colored pages for me. Now, I started researching recipes in magazines and cookbooks. I would study what I called “the centerfold” of GOURMET MAGAZINE for ideas on how to plan menues — in other words, what goes with what. I would study say October, November, and December all at once to see the trends. (In those days you could send in your twelve magazines from the year before and GOURMET would send them back bound and indexed.) I also memorized the introductions to the chapters and recipes in MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING by Julia Child, et al. Usually, I would find a recipe for something like beef stew somewhere else because Julia’s recipes were too complicated. For the next five years I gave out copies of handwritten recipes to my students who came to classes once a week in my Leavenworth Street flat. I advertised these classes by passing out one page flyers at the local cooking shops. You can see from the photo here of me with my dog that I am holding a recipe—that means I have been giving out recipes since 1973.
When I started the full-time culinary school on Francisco Street in the spring of 1979, I had all my recipes transferred to a word processor. Now, I started researching food in more professional cookbooks, studying up on subjects like fish and pastry. I especially loved the photos and descriptions of classic French dishes in the TIME-LIFE GOOD COOK SERIES and Jacques Pepin’s LA TECHNIQUE. I also kept up with all the food magazines. What I used to do was tear pages out of magazines and file them in folders according to their subject for instance Desserts. And, I kept an index of the cookbooks with page numbers of recipes I wanted to remember. Generally, I typed up recipes when they were suitable for class and always tried to attribute them to their source. I can’t say for sure when I started publishing free recipes on www.tantemarie.com. However, there is now a really good collection of over 300 recipes that I hope you refer to and use.
After 20 years of collecting and organizing recipes as an enthusiastic amateur; I spent the next 20 years collecting and organizing recipes as a professional. And, then Simon & Shuster gave me the opportunity to publish THE TANTE MARIE’S COOKING SCHOOL COOKBOOK in 2003. I am very proud of this little book, because in it is everything an accomplished cook needs to know about western cooking. There are almost 200 techniques described in the index. If someone cooks their way through the book, they will really know how to cook. Or, it can be used as a reference about the theory and techniques of good cooking.
But, that’s not all! Now that it is 60 years since I first started cooking with Elizabeth Quisenberry, I still love to search out new recipes. Since the trend in the magazines is towards shorter and shorter recipes with fewer and fewer ingredients, I now concentrate more on new and old cookbooks. And, my source for cookbooks is still KITCHEN ARTS & LETTERS in New York for the latest in American, English, and French cookbooks OMNIVORE BOOKS in San Francisco is good too!
Over the years, the best place to research new recipes is still in the restaurants. It is the chefs who are the innovators. (It is really a shame that so few of the books by chefs are really written by them.) My joy now comes from reading the new cookbooks, eating in the good restaurants, and coming up with recipes for my Recipe of the Month. The recipes I send out each month are all tested by me and taste delicious. They are designed for you to produce at home with ease. (You may ask about researching recipes on the Internet, and I have to say that there are a lot of lousy recipes being put there now.) Anyway, please, please look over my revised Recipe Collection (with photos) and know that these are the best I can offer you—tell your friends. In the meantime, have fun cooking! Also, please feel free to contact me with comments and questions about food and cooking firstname.lastname@example.org — (please no donation requests or job applications.)
My favorite cookbook this year is INSALATA’S MEDITERRANEAN TABLE by Heidi Insalata Krahling, It’s a real glimpse into the life (and recipes) of a truly dedicated chef. What I have done is adapt her Roast Duck (Breasts) with Pomegranate Glaze for you, with a couple of healthful vegetables. (To say this is an adaptation is a real stretch but it’s a great book.) This would make a wonderful, comforting winter menu especially when served with a good red wine.