The Flight of the Bumble Bee

The New American Cuisine

by the editors of Metropolitan Home
Harmony Books, 381 pp., $27.50

The Elegance with Ease Cookbook

by Fern Lebo
Hammond (Maplewood, New Jersey), 175 pp., $5.95 (paper)

Discover Brunch: A New Way of Entertaining

by Ruth Macpherson
Hammond, 160 pp., $6.95 (paper)

Cooking with Carrier

by Robert Carrier
A & W, 184 pp., $19.95

Robert Carrier’s Entertaining

A & W, 222 pp., $16.95; $10.95 (paper)

Too Busy to Cook?

Bon Appetit magazine
Knapp (Los Angeles), 216 pp., $19.95

The New York Times More 60-Minute Gourmet

by Pierre Franey
Times Books, 296 pp., $12.95

Fifteen-Minute Meals

by Emalee Chapman
101 Productions (San Francisco), 168 pp., $6.95 (paper)

The New James Beard

by James Beard
Knopf, 625 pp., $16.95

The Park Avenue Cookbook

by Sara Stamm
Doubleday, 262 pp., $19.95

The Helen Corbitt Collection

edited by Elizabeth Ann Johnson
Houghton Mifflin, 508 pp., $25.00

Pamela Harlech’s Practical Guide to Cooking, Entertaining & Household Management

Atheneum, 436 pp., $16.95

The World’s Best Food for Health and Long Life

by Michael Bateman, by Caroline Conran, by Oliver Gillie
Houghton Mifflin, 246 pp., $19.95

Kitchen in the Hills: The Hovel Cookbook

by Elizabeth West
Faber, 184 pp., $16.95

The Microwave Chinese Cookbook

by Lillian Chen, by Edith Nobile
Van Nostrand Reinhold, 157 pp., $10.95

Cookbook from a Melting Pot

An E. Paulucci Book, by Elizabeth Paulucci
Grosset & Dunlap, 288 pp., $11.95

The Nouvelle Cuisine Cookbook

by Armand Aulicino
Grosset & Dunlap, 295 pp., $7.95 (paper)

The French Cuisine of Your Choice

by Isabelle Marique, by Albert Jorant
Harper & Row, 356 pp., $16.75

Kitchen Science: A Compendium of Essential Information for Every Cook

by Howard Hillman
Houghton Mifflin, 263 pp., $11.95

Chinese Technique

by Ken Hom, by Harvey Steiman
Simon & Schuster, 345 pp., $16.95

Cooking Techniques: How to Do Anything a Recipe Tells You to Do

by Beverly Cox, by Joan Whitman
Little, Brown, 576 pp., $29.95

The Cook’s Handbook

by Prue Leith
A & W, 224 pp., $14.95

Judith Olney’s Entertainments: A Cookbook to Delight the Mind and Senses

Barron’s, 307 pp., $24.95

A new cookbook promises satisfactions beyond those of the table, promises both order and change, security and self-improvement. It is the ultimate readerly text; between its lines one glimpses unfamiliar worlds; compelled by its imperatives, the mind occupies itself in homely tasks, in imagination restocking the cupboards with raspberry vinegar, filling the freezer with brown sauce, veal stock, fish fumet. This gives a pleasant sense of prudence, a hoarding satisfaction, and notions of magical hope. The season’s new cookbooks suggest that hopes this year are entirely social and economic; mere eating is not the thing. Like lowered hemlines in hard times, the glossy and expensive volumes announce anxiety, the austere food a certain loss of appetite.

Perhaps every season brings dozens of showy new cookbooks filled with shiny pictures of elegant dishes. But a recent cover story in US News and World Report informs the business community that we are in a food boom, spending more money than ever before on restaurant meals, kitchen gadgets, and “gourmet” foods; that we are newly attentive to freshness, “real” food, lightness, healthfulness, and quality. And most of us can verify from our own attitudes to food and approach to cookery that a change has been going on and that we have in some degree, voluntarily or not, been a part of it. But what is it?

One of the handsomest big books, entitled The New American Cuisine, by the editors of Metropolitan Home, “successor to Apartment Life” (two magazines I had never heard of and rather question the authority of), boldly announces what most of the other books suggest, that there is a new American food attitude whose characteristics are “the freshest ingredients in the most stylish presentation with the most ingenious and efficient use of time.” This cuisine develops from a “truly American food sensibility…neither chauvinistic, regional nor diluted international, but the sum of our food experiences over the past three decades,” which were, we are told, the convenience food revolution of the Fifties, an interest in health food in the Sixties, “gourmet” experimentation in the early Seventies, and more recently the introduction of the nouvelle cuisine or cuisine minceur. The New American Cuisine (clearly based on the French) does not involve “snobbish rejection of the heritage of American food…. Tuna, rescued from bland noodle casserole, has new life in mousse and vitello tonnato.” And, finally, we have learned “that rapid preparations…could be as elegant as an elaborate all-day ordeal.” This accurately summarizes the dominant mood of the new cookbooks, but one might wonder, first of all, who “we” are, and what is meant by “elegant,” and, for example, what is being done with tuna now?

Elegance” is undoubtedly the operative word in jackets and prefaces: “All the Ingredients, Techniques and Recipes you need for Quick and Elegant Cooking” is the subtitle of The New American Cuisine. Cooking with Carrier: “A Collection of Step-by-Step Recipes for Elegant Dining.” Too Busy to Cook? “Create elegant and easy, delicious and innovative …

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