Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cookbook of the week #11: The Spice Cookbook

Since I just finished reading Spice: The history of a temptation by Jack Turner, I decided to review one of the three spice cookbooks in my collection. I chose the one I find the most interesting. I came across it at the charity shop where I have acquired many of my books, and knew I had to have it. It was published in 1964 and the authors are Lillie Stuckey and Avanelle Day. The illustrations are by Jo Spier. The book appears to have become collectible, but I doubt my copy would fetch a high price, since the dust cover is missing and there are food stains on the cover. The image below is of the title page and will give you an idea of the wonderful and quirky artwork scattered throughout the book.

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This is one of those big, ambitious cookbooks that make one wonder if it is meant for the kitchen or to be kept on a lectern somewhere to have recipes copied from for use. It doesn’t help that it is necessary to turn a page to finish reading some of the recipes, which is always a disadvantage with cookbooks since it causes stains and eventual tattering of pages with much-used recipes. The book is in a large format and weighs a whooping 1600 grams (over 3 lbs.). I certainly can’t see myself standing by the stove, stirring a sauce with one hand and holding the book in the other.

As we know, few recipes are totally free of some sort of added flavouring (imagine such a recipe, free even of salt – a terrible thought, isn’t it?), and many recipes feature at least one herb or spice, but this book seems to be an attempt to give examples of the typical use of spices and herbs in recipes from around the world. There are also short chapters outlining the history of the spice trade, profiling the spices and herbs featured in the book, one on how to cook with spices, a spice and herb chart outlining the sorts of food the spice/herb is good in, followed by over 1400 recipes for all sorts of foods from entrées to desserts. Since I am one of those people who get hungry from reading cookbooks, I really don’t think it would be good for my waist-line to read the book from cover to cover, so I intend to skim over it, stopping to read recipes that sound interesting, and choose a few at random to give as samples. I only wish I could show some more of the wonderful artwork that decorates the book, but I think it’s still copyrighted.

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