Kirkus Star


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Fannie Farmer leaving Little, Brown? Well, the Dodgers left Brooklyn, which might remind you that such events are not always mere changes of address. In fact, this new incarnation should stand as some sort of milestone in the history of American taste. The venerable classic--never a universal favorite, if the truth be known--spent many editions as a monument to the third-rate, its overall dreariness accentuated in latter years by a singularly ugly format. Rather than trying to salvage much from recent versions, Cunningham and Laber have thrown out most of the mess and started where a basic cookbook should start: with how to make sense out of food. Gone are the jellied ginger-ale fruit salads and canned-soup combinations that blighted so many childhoods. Cunningham and Laber's judgment is excellent and their approach straightforward, with a propensity for terse directions and a healthy distrust of gimmickry. Recent trends are represented with discretion--that is, yogurt and whole grains are judiciously in evidence, but hymns to food processors and microwave ovens are conspicuously absent. The backbone of the selection is traditional American cooking, with much restraint in the ethnic-variety department. The authors include an occasional pleasant foreign fancy like vitello tonnato or bulgur salad, but make no attempt to recast the melting-pot. On the whole this soft-pedaling of exotica is commendable. Mediocre versions of bouillabaisse and borscht (which Cunningham and Laber omit) are a dime a dozen; simple flourless versions of pan gravy (which they include) are all too rare. Among current kitchen bibles, this work plainly surpasses the Doubleday Cookbook (which spreads itself too thin in pursuit of eclecticism) and is more comprehensive and up-to-date than the James Beard Cookbook. The Joy of Cooking has a more impressive range of basic information, but Cunningham and Laber come close to equaling its nersonal piquancy and are at least as sound in general judgment. Fannie, thou art redeemmed.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 1979
Publisher: Knopf