Wednesday, May 17, 2017

That 70's Show

The CC is absolutely obsessed with collecting recipe books that date back to the late-60's and early-to-mid 70's.

Why the 70's?

It's the first transformation of many of these societies into the modern consumer world and it set off a wave of rather "naïve" cookbook writers almost all women who were documenting the recipes of an earlier age.

The naïveté shouldn't be taken as a pejorative. It's actually a compliment. They were literally writing down what they knew without any filter. These are really amazing documents.

These cookbooks have been updated but they have never been bettered. They are actually the source of inspiration to most modern cookbook writers who all down to a fault refuse to acknowledge the immense amount of ideas that they have nakedly stolen from these earlier writers.

The CC is always collecting these things as he travels. (They tend to be rather cheap.)

There are a few commonalities which are just extraordinary.

One is that they all tend to be obsessed with a level of precision. It is very important to them that the reader make the dish perfectly. The instructions tend to be rather precise and detailed. (This, of course, just warms the cockles of the CC's cold analytical heart.)

The other is how they were marketed. Not through the traditional channels. Often via "nail salons" or "beauty parlors" which was the domain of women. It was word-of-mouth and viral marketing at its earliest and finest.

The third is the primitiveness of the publishing industry at the time. They are frequently published in indifferent editions. Pictures are rare. The print is not glossy. The binding is falling apart. Spelling mistakes abound. However, the passion just jumps off the page!

The fourth is a level of awareness of nutrition. It's not the modern gluten-free fat-free version but they are rather interested in the fact that in an era where budgets are tight that the food not only be delicious but also nutritious.

Last but not least is the obsession with the pineapple. No, the CC is not joking. Hawaii only became a US state on Aug 21st, 1959. There was a massive global marketing campaign to sell pineapple across the world. You can see the obsession everywhere from Life Magazine to newspapers and magazines in all the corners of the world. Think "Mad Men". These women were not exempt from the pull of the siren song. Rest assured that there will be a recipe or three for pineapple in these books!

The CC has had plenty of books go in and out of his kitchen but you will take these books out of his cold dead hands!

Here's an extraordinarily incomplete list — roughly going westwards:


Arto der Haroutunian (Middle-East at large)


Helen Saberi


Tarla Dalal (Gujarati vegetarian)
Ummi Abdulla (Kerala Muslim)
Joyce Fernandes (Goan)
Kamalabai Ogale (Maharashtrian)
S. Meenakshi Ammal (Tamil vegetarian)
Katy Dalal (Parsi)
Minakshie Das Gupta (Bengali)

Sri Lanka

Chandra Dissanayake


Fu Mei-Pei


Enriqueta David-Perez


Babette de Rozières

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