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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

back from brooklyn

So, I haven't cooked anything in the 48 hours since I've been back from my trip to Brooklyn (where I ate Trinidadian food--oxtails--yum!), so instead, I'm offering you a different sort of post today.
One of the things I love about my collection of old cookbooks is the delightful illustrations. I've been meaning to post some for a while, but I was afraid of running afoul of copyright law. (Can you tell I'm in law school?) After consulting with a friend who is an expert in intellectual property, I learned that I can post a group of the illustrations if I offer insightful critical commentary on their artistic merit.Such as, isn't this bunny picture adorable? I just want to squeeze its little tail! (Drew just called me a pervert.) No, seriously, I love the playful humor of these two pictures. The turtle one accompanies a recipe for turtle soup, and the bunny one is for a salad. Both are from the Esquire Cook Book, illustrations by Charmatz. Now, this picture can be found in My Stove is My Castle. (How much do you love the title of this cookbook? It was published in 1956 and has amazing authentic Mexican recipes for ceviche and huevos rancheros.) I cannot tell you why on earth there is a picture of a woman covered in birds in this cookbook, but I like it despite, or perhaps even because, it's such a non sequitur. The illustration is by Jacques Dunham.
This picture is so gorgeous. I love the stylized pen and ink, as well as the repetition of pattern and shapes. It reminds me of my days when I was an art teacher in Quitman County, Mississippi, desperately trying to teach my students the elements of art. This is from A Basque Story Cook Book, from which I cooked my roasted chickens and chickpeas. The illustrator is Marian Ebert. I think I picked this one for two reasons: first, because I love stippling, and second, because I am absolutely repulsed by frogs. This repulsion has spawned an equal fascination--like watching a train wreck, as they say. I can't look away. The detail amazes me. But I promise that I will never cook the Frog Legs Provencal recipe that this picture accompanies. Both the picture and the recipe can be found in The New York Times International Cookbook, illustrations by James J. Spanfeller.

Finally, I leave you with this beautiful picture from The Spice Islands Cookbook, illustrations by Alice Harth. Drew and I love the pictures in this one so much (though unfortunately not the recipes) that we cut them out with a razor and matted and framed them to hang in our kitchen. The style of illustration reminds me of the style of animation in my two favorite animated movies--The Rescuers and Gay Purr-ee. (I love Gay Purr-ee. Newsweek said of it in 1962, "There seems to be an effort to reach a hitherto undiscovered audience - the fey four-year-old of recherche taste.")

In sum, I wish cookbooks were a showcase for artists like they used to be. I promise that should we publish a cookbook, we will fill it with fun, kitschy illustrations. In the meantime, enjoy these instead.


  1. Were you drinking wine by chance when you wrote this?

  2. Your love of art has been deeply embedded in you and I, for one, couldn't be prouder. Love you...Momma