Cookbooks Of The Third Kind (Starting With Momofuku)

johnliu_gwFebruary 25, 2013

Sometimes you read a cookbook to find a recipe for a dish that you already have in mind. Examples on my shelves: Joy Of Cooking, Larousse Gastronomique.

Sometimes you read a cookbook to find a dish for a flavor or theme or ingredient that you already have in mind. Examples: Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook (bistro), The Greens Cookbook (vegetarian), Fish & Shellfish by James Peterson (self-explanatory).

And sometimes you read a cookbook to find out what you have in mind in the first place.

That third kind of cookbook is what I'm looking for now. Part inspiration, part recipes. Usually there is a compelling story, about a person or a people, that gets you intrigued about their food. Context, to help you place the tastes and smells and colors. Recipes and dishes, to help you bring a little of those people and their passions to life in your own kitchen. Challenges, techniques you haven't tried, or ingredients you think you don't like.

I'll mention one I am reading now, and then ask if you might have others to recommend.

Momofuku, by David Chang. I had only heard of him in passing, but his substantial-looking book caught my eye in City Lights bookstore on my last trip to San Francisco. Leafing through it, I immediately got interested in the story: raw young Korean-American kid with a passion for ramen goes to Japan, knocks around some good New York kitchens, then starts a hole-in-the-wall noodle joint serving halfbreed lovechildren of Asian street food and high-end culinary school riffs. The ingredients and dishes all sounded like big-flavor late-night stoner munchie food. Miso butter. Bacon dashi. Pickled shiitakes. Apple, kimchi, and maple syrup. Oysters and riesling gelee. Pig head torchons. I don't know what I'll make from this book, but that's because there is more that I want to make than I can hope to make, and that means the book is doing its job.

There is my contribution to what I hope will be a thread full of the third kind of cookbook. Can you please suggest some other books?

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Great thread idea johnliu. I look forward to seeing what everyone's 'third' is!

I have read through the Momofuku book several times, though haven't made a thing from it yet. Have bookmarked quite a few of the recipes though, and hope to make something from it soon. I find that everytime I go through it, I'm bookmarking more recipes.

The third kind of cookbook for me right now is, 'Secrets of the Best Chefs: Recipes, Techniques, and Tricks From America's Greatest Cooks',

About a law student, turned cook, who started a blog,, then wrote a cookbook, sharing experiences, recipes and tips from some of the great chefs he actually cooked alongside of. It's very Entertaining and informative, and while there are some recipes I have no desire to make, there is an ample list of ones I can't wait to try.

This is actually his second book, and he even worked on Food Network for awhile. He has a nack for writing, which is evident in his blogging.

Great selection of both recipes, and experiences, and some of the tips are incredibly useful!

Lidia Bastianich,Alice Waters,Nancy Silverton, Melissa Clark, Sara Moulton, Susan Feniger, Tom Douglas, Elizabeth Falkner to name a few.

I find it to be a great read, as well as cookbook. :)

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 12:54AM
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Those both sound like fascinating books.

A little more specific, I picked up from Half Price Books the cookbook, Classic Turkish Cooking, by Ghillie Basan. I never would have even considered picking it off the shelf, but I heard or read a reference to it on Splendid Table. When I saw it, I had to get it, and it was only $6.00. It goes into the history of the region and all the different cultures that influenced the cuisine. It's fun to learn about different cultures; food is one of the best ways to learn about them.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 9:36AM
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A timely post, as I'm currently engulfed in a cookbook that is intriguing though not always appetizing to me. It's written by a man who at the ripe old age of 40 retired from his position as CTO of Microsoft to pursue his true passion: cooking. I'm speaking of course of Nathan Myhrvold, and the book is Modernist Cuisine at Home.

I've been skipping around the book since it arrived on Friday morning, and I'm thinking that at some point I'll just settle down and read it cover to cover. Many (most) of the cooking techniques break away from long-standing traditions, and as such it's difficult not to read it with skepticism. Many of the recipes involve sous vide, which I'm skeptical of because my first-hand experience to date has left me somewhat unimpressed. But the growing popularity of this method keeps my interest up, and that's exactly why I bought it the book.

It's an interesting read, and it wasn't long before I started questioning whether I should have saved my $100 and put it towards the purchase of the full six-volume edition. On the other hand, I'm not sure how much of this stuff I'll actually use.

There are definitely ideas that I look forward to trying. Sodium citrate turns any cheese into something that melts as well as American cheese? Sign me up. I had heard about an incredible creamed spinach recipe. Comte cheese is the cream, but the real secret is xanthan gum. 0.4 grams of it, to be exact. (1.5 tsp of Wondra is an acceptable substitute, but I've been wanting a precise pocket scale for a while now anyway, so xanthan gum sounds like more fun.)

Many of Myhrvold's recipes would make Chris Kimball's team over at America's Test Kitchen look like a bunch of just throw it in the oven type cooks. Take chicken, for example. Both camps like to brine their chicken, and air dry it in the fridge for 24 hours to achieve a crisper skin. But MCaH takes it a few steps further: The brine needs to be injected so that you don't gum up the skin. You must cut off the joints at the end of the leg bones, and later wrap the frenched legs with aluminum foil - together this aids in heat transfer, to cook the dark meat faster. The whole chicken is blanched then dropped in an ice water bath. This process is done three times. It is brushed with soy sauce prior to air drying - this aids in the development of color (but I'm leery about what it does to the taste!) After roasting, the bird rests for 45 minutes, not more and not less, before being finished off under a broiler.

Eggs sunnyside up must of course be cooked in two parts: the egg white is steamed in the oven, the yolk has been prepared sous vide. The two are reunited on the plate.

I could go on and on, and I will at some point after I've had a chance to try some of the recipes and techniques. In the meantime I'm just trying to keep an open mind, and deciding what equipment I really need to buy (pressure cooker is first on my list) and what I can get away without.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 9:40AM
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John, as I read your post, Jennifer McLagan popped to the front of my mind as a beacon of Third Kind books. I have read all of her books, starting with Bones: Recipes, History and Lore through Odd Bits: How To Cook the Rest of the Animal.

Her books are interesting and thought-provoking and have definitely influenced my cooking.

Here's a link if you'd like to browse through them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Jennifer McLagan's books

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 10:40AM
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John, my favorite cookbook author is Paula Wolfert. I have most of her cookbooks. I use The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen a lot, but love her books for the depth of detail on Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. I discovered Moroccan cooking through her Food of Morocco. What I enjoy most is her slightly manic insistance on authenticity. I'll never make nettle soup, but she gives all the nutty instructions on how to gather stinging nettles and turn them into a delicious meal. If you ever have an urge to make trahana from scratch, she gives you step by step directions.

I also like Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail for some interesting offbeat ideas. And I second Ruthanna's rec of Jennifer MacLagan's books. My favorite is Fat for a enthusiastic approach to good cooking and eating.

I have the Momofuku book too. Unfortunately I've been disappointed by just about everything I've cooked from it. The exception is his recipe for bo ssam, but you can find that online.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 10:57AM
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foodonastump I LOVE Modernist Cuisine at home. I am constantly looking through it. I have made a couple of recipes from it, and both turned out very well. The mac and cheese was excellant, and I have made the pressure cooked carnitas, twice, they were that good!

Looking forward to looking through some of the other books mentioned in this thread.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 12:07PM
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Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook. Braised Stuffed Pig's Head with Sauce Gribiche. Right up your alley? I will stick with simpler fare, such as Pecorino Toscano with Roasted Sweet Peppers and Arugula Coulis or Cream of Walnut Soup.

There was a web site where some compulsive gal worked her way through making every recipe in the book - including the pig's head. I can just imagine giving my dog the scraps from that meal. He'd probably do back flips.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 1:34PM
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Cheryl, (OT-thanks for the advice on pig processing, BTW) I agree that Paula Wolfert is worthwhile reading. She knows Mediterranean stuff really well. I have the first version of her Couscous book.

I am crossing from cookbooks to literature, though, when I recommend MFK Fisher's 'The Art of Eating'. It does have some recipes in it, although they serve the purpose of underscoring the point she was making in the text.

'The Art of Eating' is actually an anthology (784 pages!) of five of her works: "Serve it Forth," "Consider the Oyster," "How to Cook a Wolf," "The Gastronomical Me" and "An Alphabet for Gourmets."

Of all of those works, I find 'How to Cook a Wolf' the most interesting. Not really instructions on how to fricasee a specimen of Canis lupus, mind you, but rather articles on how to keep the wolf from the door in times of penury. It was written during a time of privation during WWII and some of the info is dated, but it's a terrific read nonetheless.

I found a copy at a used book store for around $4.

Here is a link that might be useful: the art of eating by M F K Fisher

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 3:19PM
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Claudia Roden - The Book of Jewish Food. While I love the standard ashkenazi foods that my family eats (sometimes) I was fascinated by the stories and cuisines of jewish communities all of over the world.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 4:47PM
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My inspirational cookbooks tend to be out of print, because they're almost as old as I am, LOL! I can't include Larousse because I read my mother's original US edition Larousse when I was 18, so I never bothered to buy my own copy.

- James Beard's autobiographical "Delights & Prejudices: A Memoir with Recipes". Like Ralph Morrow's "The Fields of Home" but all about food, long before America actually discovered its own cuisine.

- The Tme Life Series "Foods of the World". I had every one of these. Culture, history, and scenic photography, mixed with great, complicated, time-consuming recipes. To this day, I consider the borscht recipe from the Russia cookbook to be the single finest borscht recipe ever. It takes 2-3 days and a lot of work, but it elevates borscht far beyond anything I'd encountered before or since. That borscht is elegant, delicate, deeply flavored yet stunningly clean in flavor and appearance. It deserves fine china and Riedel crystal. It's the kind of soup you'd serve Alice Waters or Paul Bocuse.

The Time-Life Vienna cookbook has the classic Rigo Jancsi recipe, a modest-looking chocolate cake that my friends still talk about although I haven't made one of them in 34 years. It was also the first place I read the term "mit schlag" - 'with whipped cream' - which is probably our house motto!

- Paula Peck's Art of Fine Baking. An amazing little book that introduced me to genoise, the easiest, most delightful cake ever.

- Mastering the Art of Fine Cooking Vol I and II. That orange mousse recipe is outstanding, but made with overripe bananas, it is KILLER. Like the most luscious banana ice cream ever, but better!

And the casseroled duck with turnips: what a revelation. I still don't like turnips, but roasted in duck fat, they are more than edible; they're delicious.

The only new-ish cookbook:
- New Vegetarian Food by Christine McFadden. We have a number of vegetarian cookbooks (a lot of friends/family are vegetarian or vegan) and I use this one most often. It has stunning color photos along with recipes that taste as good as they look. The quinoa-cucumber-pistachio salad is wonderful, and great for potlucks (also good made with couscous, as a sub). The recipes are not complex, but have well-balanced, interesting flavors.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 6:39PM
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Right now I have two big books that I'm reading for no purpose other than reading them. One of my favorites was sent to me as a "Random Act of Kindness" by Kat/rosewitch, it's "Tender" by Nigel Slater and is packed with recipes using various garden produce.

The second one Elery got me for Valentine's Day, it's the "Best" of Cook's Illustrated, 2000 recipes. I haven't even made a dent on that one yet.

I still have a soft spot for Ellie Krieger's "Comfort Food" since I bought it after seeing her make a presentation and she autographed it for me. She's married to a guy from Michigan.

I also like Eric Villegas' "Fork in The Road" which was also the name of his PBS television show. I'd wondered what happened to "Uncle E", and now I find him running "Michigan Venison". Somehow he got licensed to sell venison and he's living in Traverse City getting that business started. Nope, I don't have any interest in his company and don't really know him personally, but if you want to buy some venison, he's your guy.


Here is a link that might be useful: Michigan Venison Company

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 7:11PM
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Mine would be The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa by Marcus Samuelsson (a present from Lee and her friend). I like what I've made from the book so far, and my friend Eury (who was born in Senegal, although her mother is Cabo Verdan and her father is Portuguese) copied a Senegalese fish recipe from the book because she said it was exactly like what she used to get in Senegal. I would like to get a book with more Algerian recipes, but they are hard to find. I don't especially like Moroccan food, but Algerian is one of my favorites. I would also like to get Exotic Ethiopian Cooking by Daniel Mesfin, but it is out of print.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 7:12PM
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I find it very fascinating to read about our presidents’ food and eating habits. Eating and cooking habits can tell a lot about each president’s up bringing, where he was from, personality,
Abraham Lincoln - "Family meals at the Lincolns' were routine. Early in the morning the President liked a "good hot cup of coffee." But often he would forget about breakfast until 9 or 10A.M. John Hay, one of Lincoln's privage secretaries, occasionally ate with the President. He noted that the frugal repast might consist of "an egg, a piece of toast, coffee, etc." On occasion breakfast was a single egg. *

John Kennedy - he did prefer orange juice, poached eggs on toast, crisp broiled bacon, marmalade, milk and coffee. For lunch, President Kennedy was particularly fond of soup--New England Fish Chowder was a favorite. He has been described as a "soup, sandwich and fruit" man for lunch--always soup though. For dinner there were no particular favorites, although he did like lamb chops, steak, baked chicken and turkey (white meat) and don't forget mashed potatoes. He also was fond of seafood and baked beans. *

Bill Clinton - "THE good news is, my husband loves to eat and enjoys it," Hillary Clinton said. "The bad news is, he loves to eat, even when things are not always right for him." Visits to nine restaurants here that his friends say are among Bill Clinton's favorites, as well as sightings around the country, confirm his wife's description of his eating habits. *

Of all the presidents’ meals, I am particularly interested in Thomas Jefferson, for he was the original foodie.

"Gourmet, scientist, traveler, farmer, diplomat: our third President was truly a Renaissance man. Biographers confirm Jefferson's love for native foods and passion for foreign fare. Jefferson's tables, both public and private, reflected his love for culinary adventure.
"Many of [Jefferson's] innovations are today an accepted part of our national diet...[he had an] adventurous palate and active interest in a wide range of foods...In his four years in Paris he sampled widely French cuisine, making copious notes of dishes he liked so he could serve them back home...In Holland he sampled waffles for the first time and was so pleased he immedately bought a waffle iron...A particular tea in Amsterdam appealed to him; he bought some to take along. In Nancy it was chocolate that caught his fancy, and in southern France he made notes on the differences in oranges in various communities he visited...Notes made on a visit to Rozzano included details of butter- and Parmesan cheese-making. He tasted a frozen delicacy and observed that "snow vives the most delicate flavor to creams, but ice is the most powerful congealer and lasts longer." Like many a traveler returning home, Jefferson missed the dishes to which he had become accustomed. To his valet returning after him he sent a request for him to "bring a stock of macaroni, Parmesan cheese, figs of Marseilles...raisins, almonds, mustard...vinegar, oil and anchovies."...President Jefferson was particularly addicted to intricate dishes and brought back from Paris...His bouilli, daubes, ragouts, gateaux, souffles, ices, sauces, and wine cookery...Jefferson confessed a preference for French cooking "because the meats were more tender."...He as especially fond of fresh vegetables and kept a careful chart of the season when certain ones would be available in the local market...A gourmet...Jefferson ate lightly...He preferred vegetables to meats and was particularly fond of olives, figs, mulberries, crabs, shad, oysters, partridge, venison, pineapple, and light wines. He was a connoisseur s well of delicate French pastries, souffles, light cakes...His table drinks were cider and malt drinks...his greatest field of expertise was wine...the president's favorite wine was Madeira..."*

I am reading “Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello” published by the Jefferson Foundation.

Also “Dining at Monticello” Edited by Damon Lee Fowler. This book has many Jefferson’s recipes. Half of the book was recipes.


*information taken from

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 9:57PM
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Well, a little while back I started looking for Easter recipes. I saw a beautiful picture online of a savory tart made with asparagus and gruyere cheese. Around the same time Lars posted a picture of a beautiful fruit tart that he had made. Since then I've dusted off my tart pans and have been hunting tart recipes. I just ordered the Pie & Pastry Bible this past weekend (I ordered two other tart pans too!). I'm hoping that I'll be able to experiment with some tart recipes soon!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 12:48PM
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An intriguing read is "In Memory's Kitchen." It's a book of recipes from women that lived in a concentration camp during WWII. These women would write down the recipes to remember them and their past; to "escape" the conditions they were living in even for just for a little while.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 12:57PM
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I spent this morning organizing my cookbooks and came in to sit a bit. Idly I searched GW for "best cookbooks" and this year old thread came up.

I thought it might be time--it HAS been a year since we responded to this idea of the "third kind" of cookbook.

Last year you folks led me to the pleasures of MFK Fisher, among others. I don't have anything new to offer, but I wonder if you do.

What food/cook books are delighting you THIS February?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 2:07PM
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I always pick a cookbook or two to explore during the coming year rather than classic New Year's resolutions. My book for 2013 was The Art of Dining by Sara Paston-Williams and published by the U.K.'s National Trust.

The book began with Medieval and Early Tudor Food and finished with Victorian and Edwardian Food. In addition to focusing on the availability of foodstuffs, cooking techniques and apparatus for different social classes, it also took me into the kitchens, food preparation areas and eating areas of houses for each era.

It was a fascinating and enjoyable read as I went from exploring rabbit warrens and dovecotes to how a pie a yard in diameter was kept from collapsing from its weight to the church adding fast days as a job stimulus program for the fishing industries.

Along the way, I did try recipes from different time periods but it was more of romp through dining history than a cookbook.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 3:24PM
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I just ordered this cookbook and should get it tomorrow (yeay, Amazon Prime!). I have no idea how useful it will be, but many reviewers said they loved all the little stories and anecdotes:

The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens, ppk (HC is out of print) $18.96.

Inside cover description: "To compile the recipes for this gratifyingly expansive cookbook, author Patricia Tanumihardja (whose grandmother hailed from Indonesia) served as cultural historian, recipe transcriber, and surrogate granddaughter. How else could she garner the recipes for such dishes as Water Spinach with Shrimp Paste and Chilies, Pan- Fried Tofu Simmered in Sweet Miso Sauce, or Grandma Yangja's Cabbage Kimchi? These are the authentic dishes you don't necessarily find in restaurants: Steamed Meatballs with Tangerine Peel, Gingered Oxtail Stew, 1-2-3-4-5 Sticky Spareribs, and Clay Pot Lemongrass-Steamed Fish. And if you believe that the noodle was invented by an Asian grandmother, you are ready for a bowl of Pancit (Filipino Fried Noodles) or Ohn No Khauk Swe (Chicken Coconut Noodle Soup). This beautiful culinary tour of Asian American kitchens makes many cultural stops, with a panoply of flavors and a bountiful menu of dishes along the way. So even if you aren't fortunate enough to have an Asian grandmother yourself, double happiness can be yours by sharing and enjoying these enduring recipes. "

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 4:07PM
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Well, it might be difficult to find this one, as it has been in and out of print. George Leonard Herter, an 'oddball know-it-all' in the words of the New York Times, ran a sporting goods company and he wrote most of the copy for the catalog. Check out this NYT appreciation of Herter's culinary and literary gifts:

Or, just read my review at Amazon; mine is the one that calls him 'The Cliff Claven of Cuisine'.

It's a hilariously off-base polemic by a self appointed food know-it-all. Priceless.

Here is a link that might be useful: Herter's Bull Cook

This post was edited by arley on Mon, Feb 10, 14 at 16:17

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 4:12PM
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Oh, Arley, this is perfect.
We still have copies of the old Herter's about, and a wonderful (to us) Herter's swan decoy sits by our fireplace.

I never heard of this gem before. Thanks to you, one is on its way here. It may well have to be hidden away until my husband's June birthday!!

This truly sounds like the ultimate cookbook of the third kind!

I have high hopes.
Thank you.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 4:42PM
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Jkom, the Time-Life Cooking of the Viennese Empire was my first thought for this thread.
And of Paula Wolfert books, The Cooking of Southwest France.
And though it's probably been superseded by all the artisanal baking books that are around now, I found Bernard Clayton's The Breads of France absolutely enthralling when it came out years ago.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 5:37PM
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Arley - Sounds like a trip, I might just have to order a used copy!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 5:50PM
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If you decide to order a used copy of the Herter's book, check out ebay before you commit to Amazon. I could have some some $$$ if I had done so.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 5:56PM
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I forgot to mention Madeleine Kamman's When French Women Cook, a memoir about women she knew when she was young, with recipes from many little-known regions of France.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 6:00PM
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Thanks for the tip, mom. Bought!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 9:38PM
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Another fine source for used books (including cookbooks) is Go to their home page, click on the 'Searching for Out of Print books' button, and do a search. Just now I see that copies of this Herter book start at around $5 plus shipping.

They don't sell books themselves; addall is just a meta-search engine that searches the inventories of several bookstores.

Here is a link that might be useful: addall

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 1:03AM
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ADDall is a great site for locating out of print books. Totally new to me. It's now on my search bar and will get many uses.

Thank you for the lead.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 9:26AM
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A great read (and a few good recipes) is Fannie's Last Supper where Christopher Kimball creates a 12 course meal based n the original cooing techniques used at Fannie Farmers Cooking School in Boston.


Here is a link that might be useful: Fannies Last Supper

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 10:10AM
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