Yes, there were legends before her – I’m talking about you, Fanny Farmer and Irma Rombauer… and so many more. But… Julia. Some thought that, at forty years old, she was getting a late start.
No. Her timing was as impeccable as her omelet making instructions. Any earlier and the world would not have been ready for her. But when she met Louisette Bertholle and Simone “Simca” Beck in 1949, it was the perfect storm.
Did you know that traditional hand-hammered woks have become a rarity, even in China? Have you ever wondered what makes great stir-fried foods so much better than the average stuff we make at home? Have you ever heard of “wok hay”? Want to learn more? Well, I’ve got the perfect book for you!
We’re three books into our Spring 2022 season of cookbook club, Legendary Women Cookbook Authors, Part 1, and this time, our legend is a woman just hitting her full stride into the arena of legends. A woman whose impact is growing exponentially, even as I write this.
Grace Young is a Chinese-American cookbook author and culinary historian from San Francisco, although she calls New York City home these days. Grace Young has been called a “Stir-fry Guru,” a “Wok Evangelist,” and the “Wok Queen.” My favorite title for Grace came from food historian (another legend) Betty Fussell, who called her “Poet laureate of the wok” – it suits her well!
All those honors were sufficient for us to include Young in “part one” of our legends’ series. Then she raised the bar. Young’s work as a culinary author and educator is only surpassed by her activism in support of the AAPI community and Chinatowns nationwide. And that’s what’s getting recent attention.
Welcome to the second book of the Spring 2022 season!
When I started considering legendary women cookbook authors, Marcella Hazan was on top of the list. Maybe it was the fact that, for me, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking was the equivalent of the previous generation’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking was the first “real” cookbook I purchased on my own. From Kitchen Arts & Letters, nonetheless. It’s been back and forth across this country several times. It’s been in my kitchen through phases when most of my other books were in storage. The spine of my book is broken at the page for asparagus risotto, where I also found a Gourmet Magazine subscription card from 1992.
I knew nothing about Marcella Hazan, but I knew I wanted to cook and learn about “real” Italian food. I looked in the giant Manhattan phone book for a cooking school . I found a listing for the School of Classic Italian Cooking. It was blocks from my apartment. I called the number. Marcella answered herself. She gruffly informed me that classes were held in her home kitchen and no space was available. Her abrupt dismissal scared the heck out of me, and I lost my nerve to pursue the conversation any further.
I like alliteration. So, this introduction to Peruvian foods is about two things that Peru has in abundance – Peruvian potatoes and pisco. One is the national spirit, and the other is (are?) the region’s gastronomic gift to the world, and a prime example of Peru’s biodiversity.
first, a little about biodiversity
Peru is celebrated for its natural biodiversity. The country is number one in the world for the diversity of fish with over 2,100 species found in its waters (and it has some beautiful waters). And first for butterflies. There are over 4,000 unique species of butterflies found in Peru. In fact, Peru ranks in the top five in the world for most categories of flora and fauna.
Welcome to the first cookbook of Spring 2022. This season’s theme is Legendary Women Cookbook Authors. Before we dig into our first book, I think we need to address an important question…
what makes a legend?
I believe it’s something beyond fame. You don’t become legendary just from being famous. One must DO something to deserve that accolade. And, yes, it must be deserved. A legend is one who leaves an indelible impression on the lives they touch – an impression that leaves others better off and even wiser than they were before. A legend lives in accordance with their deepest beliefs, and they share those beliefs openly with others.
You’ll find legends working where their passions, talent, and values intersect.
And that is exactly where our first legendary woman cookbook author has thrived for decades!
Wander. Eat. Drink. Learn. Share. Enjoy. This isn’t just the tagline for this website, it’s the mantra for how I choose to live my life. It’s about learning the foodways of other cultures firsthand through local markets, street foods, and restaurants; through wandering on and off the beaten path; through conversations, art, music, dance…learning what people really hold dear and celebrating it.
In the past I’ve made these journeys alone. But the best part of any good adventure is sharing it with others. The wonder, the excitement, the new smells and flavors, and the familiar ones too! The conversations, the opportunities to open hearts and minds… that’s what this is all about.
It just happened to be International Women’s Day when the request came for the next seasonal theme for our cookbook group. It also happened that I was pondering how to incorporate the most requested cookbook of them all, simply referred to as “Julia“.
That’s a big, giant, elephant of a book to bring into a line up. That book is legendary. And the woman who wrote it, even more so. Only other legends could hold their own with her. Now there’s a theme… Legends. And women.
This season of 92nd Street Y and Kitchen Arts & Letters cookbook club begins on May 10, 2022 (click that link above for more information). As of the day I’m posting, there’s still time to register and receive your books so you can get cooking! I’ll personally get you caught up on the upcoming assignments and early discussion.
I’d love to have you join us live on Zoom if you’re able. But if not, I’ll be posting about each book as we go, so you can follow along here on Wander Eat and Tell too.
Let’s start with more about our theme, and of course, what books we’ll be cooking from…
I’m a bit late posting this one – apologies to those who’ve been waiting to find out where our journey Cooking Off the Beaten Path has taken us! For me, part of that journey was a cross-country move that, like this season of cookbook club, has come to a delicious close.
Our previous books, took us on a taste adventure from Portugal to the Baltic, then to Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Kurdistan in Taste of Persia. It’s been quite a journey! Our final book takes us to a very different world on another continent.
NOTE: For those of you who are eager to learn more about next season (starting May 10, 2022), you can click through HERE. I’ll share more at the end of this post as well.