Cafe Society

Mouthing Off

Book 'em: Trying to cook up gift ideas? The cookbook-publishing business is healthier than Microsoft, with thousands of new titles appearing over the past couple of years--to the point where there's a cookbook for virtually every food item and there soon will be nothing new to write about. Cooking With Parsley, anyone?

Local cooks have been adding to the mix, with several slim works coming out of such places as the Evergreen Women's Press, which recently published Her Day Begins Flamingo Pink ($12.95), a collection of poems and recipes from Colorado women. And these aren't your mother's church-group casserole recipes, either: smoked salmon with blackberry chutney, baby carrots bourbonnaise, walnut-date meringues. The poems are fun to read, too; Betty Chancellor's "Dinner Dated" is all about an eighty-year-old and a seventy-year-old, companionship and who's doing the cooking. It's available at area bookstores or through the Women's Press, at P.O. Box 244, Evergreen, 80437-0244. Give it to your groovy aunt.

Then there's the second edition of the Mountain Man Cookbook ($8.95), by Thomas L. Canino, an accountant-looking guy who "enjoys several outdoor sports; hunting and fishing have been lifelong endeavors," according to the back of this thin, plastic-ring-bound work. Since his motto is "Waste no doe; save a buck," it's not surprising that the recipes include such attractive items as deer heart with noodles and tongue with mustard sauce. To get a copy, send $12.50 (this total includes postage and handling) to P.O. Box 3372, Englewood, 80155, or stop by the Tattered Cover. Give it to the manly man in your house who exhibits Grizzly Adams tendencies.

Also on the wild--and tiny--side is The Buckhorn Book ($12), a little number from the Buckhorn Exchange, 1000 Osage Street, the Denver institution that boasts "Colorado Liquor License No. 1" and sports hundreds of animal heads on the walls. Twelve bucks is a little much for six recipes, a smattering of the restaurant's history and a few photos, but fans of the place might appreciate learning the ingredients for the prime rib of buffalo with seven seeds. Give it to the relative who's seen every PBS special on the Old West more than once.

Along those same lines but on a much larger scale is the latest from a true historian: Sam Arnold, owner of the Fort restaurant in Morrison. Arnold recently put out The Fort Cookbook ($30), which includes a history of the Bent's Fort replica and a lot of the recipes served there. Fans of the Fort's guacamole, Rocky Mountain oysters, broiled buffalo marrow bones and buffalo tongue with caper sauce will learn how to re-create the dishes at home (although I suspect the Fort's ambience adds some important flavor). This is a must-have for cookbook collectors, especially those interested in true American cooking.

Nothing's more American than our obsession with steaks, which makes The Steaklover's Companion ($20) perfect for people who consider a meal at Morton's the equivalent of a trip to Mecca. Written by Fred Simon, who's better known for his association with Omaha Steaks, the Companion is just that: a guide to cuts, grades and the best ways to prepare beef, arranged by country (the U.S. is broken into regions). Also born in the U.S.A. is Sheila Lukin's U.S.A. Cookbook ($19.95), a fun read full of American classics: Parker House rolls, Thousand Island dressing, ham steak with red-eye gravy and creamed dried beef on biscuits.

To balance out all of that, two excellent low-fat cookbooks made their debut in 1997: Fabulous Fat-Free Cooking ($27.95), by Lynn Fischer, famous for her healthy-cooking shows on the Discovery Channel and PBS, and the American Medical Association's Family Health Cookbook ($30). Fischer's book includes only dishes that contain less than one gram of fat per serving, and it's proof that low-fat cooking has improved immensely over the past few years. I've made the potato salad with caramelized onions, the winter-potato-and-fish chowder, and the turkey and black-bean stew--all good. The AMA's volume is more highfalutin', and while fruited noodle kugel, fusilli with Moroccan lamb and chickpeas, and Cuban-style saffron rice with smoked ham and peas may all sound fatty, they're not.

In the ethnic arena, the beloved Italian chef Marcella Hazan has put out what she says will be her last cookbook. Titled Marcella Cucina ($35), the hefty guide to updated Italian classics might disappoint those who have Hazan's other works--there are some repeats here--but for Italian-cooking novices, this, like her previous books, is an ideal introduction to the country's cuisine. It also contains a few surprises: When I recently pulled out the copy I'd bought for my Hazan-loving husband earlier this year, I found bits of old potato wedged within the pages. He confessed that several things we'd eaten recently had come from the book--including the chicken fricasseed with capers and Jerusalem artichokes that I'd raved about.

While it sounds like it might be French, Home Bistro ($24), by Betty Fussell, is a collection of recipes from all over the world, "done in a simple bistro style." Actually, I can't figure out what's bistro about this book, but the dishes are enjoyable and, even better, really easy to prepare, with few taking more than three steps. And the offerings are diverse, ranging from pears in Chinese hot sauce to rabbit mole.

Truly French, and not even a recent release but an old favorite, is Jacques Pepin's The Art of Cooking ($35), which someone recently gave me as a gift. There are some great over-the-top things in here--deep-fried eggs (Gott in Himmel! This recipe would give the healthy-cookbook authors heart attacks!), a souffle of mussels and basil, goujonnette of catfish--and everything's presented in Pepin's inimitable style.

Newer (but in the same buttery mindset) is the All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed No-Holds-Barred Baking Book ($13.95), by Rosie's Bakery owner Judy Rosenberg. I made all of my Christmas cookies this year from this volume, and I made her incredible molasses-injected pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Quite simply, it's the best baking book I've come across--if, of course, cholesterol is no object. And even if it is, these are the holidays. Cheat a little.


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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner