"don't let me hear wails about not being able to get some of those special ingredients," warns the author of one of this year's more specialized cookbooks. "If you give yourself enough time you can mail-order or ask friends in Texas or California to send you "CARE" packages, you can get together with other africionados and cajol or bully your local supermarket manager into being more imaginative about the produce section."
Those who know Diana Kennedy, perhaps the world's foremost authority on Mexican cooking, will recognize the tone in her most specialized book to date. "Recipes From the Regional Cooks of Mexico" (Harper & Row, $12.95)
The book is definitely not for everyone-only those "into" Mexican cooking-way into it. But if you have decided, as many apparently have, to make a hobby-career out of cooking Mexican, there is no more authoritative guide than British-born Diana Kennedy. While this book offers all the cook needs in the way of basic information and technique to master the recipes, it is most likely to appeal more to those who have already enjoyed Kennedy's first book. "The Cuisines of Mexico."
But it also makes good reading, with delightful stories about how Kennedy came upon various recipes,, many of which probably had never been written down before. Kennedy has spent more than 20 years crisscrossing Mexico in search of the native cuisine, which, until she wrote her first book, enjoyed a poor reputation north of the border. When most Americans above the Rio Grande think of Mexican food, they think of Tex-Mex, the flavor of which ranges in subtlety from hot to hotter. Kennedy has done much to change that image. Convincing people that Mexican food is as subtle as French has become her crusade. But she is not above admitting a mistake:
"For years," she writes in her introduction to a recipe for sopaipilla . "I have been denying to aficionados of the sopaivillas of New Mexico that they have a Mexican counterpart. I have now discovered that they can be found, though rarely, in the state of Chi-huahua."
This latest book has 120 recipes with clear instructions and helpful hints.There are chapters describing the ingredients and their handling, another on cooking methods and one which lists a number of sources for the ingredients, including six stores in the Washington area.
If enough people take their Mexican cooking seriously, Diana Kennedy believes, "We shall get a more discriminating public who will demand better Mexican food (we are not talking about Mexican-American food, which is an entirely different thing) . . . At the moment the public is paying for an awful lot of stomach ache and heartburn."
Bernard Clayton Jr. may have had as important an influence on home-baked bread in this country as Diana Kennedy has had on Mexican cooking. In his first book, "The Complete Book of Breads," Clayton demystified the art. He spells out, in detail, how to make yeast breads without fear of failure. His instructions are meticulous. If you can read, not only can you bake bread successfully from that book, you probably will become so enamoured with the process that you will be anxious to go on to more. Clayton is now providing the "more," in The Breads of France"(Bobbs-Merill, $15).
And if you think that means what is described in this country as "French bread," the long narrow loaf with the crusty exterior, Clayton disabuses you immediately: "Like many Americans," he writes in his introductions, "I once thought a loaf of French bread meant just one thing-a baguette, a long golden loaf, with cracky crust and a honeycomb of irregular holes inside. It has been an adventure to learn that there are dozens and dozens more French breads-from every part of French-reflecting the characteristics of their regions . . . They range from such highly regarded breads as pain brie and pogne de Romans which have never moved out of their native regions, to the lovely croissant and brioche , which seem to belong to everyone."
The French do not have a tradition of baking bread at home as Americans do. So Clayton traveled from bakery to bakery, watching the commercial preparation. Then he went back to his home in Bloomington, Ind., and turned them into workable form for American cooks.
The recipes in the new book are just as meticulous as those in the first, but this time Clayton has put more of himself in the book. There are anecdotes about how he found certain recipes and stories that explain the history of some of the breads. More and more cookbooks are offering something beyond page after page of recipes. The better books, like Clayton's, make for good reading.
The editors of the Time-Life cookbooks have noted the emphasis on what might be called etnic cooking or possibly nostalgia recipes and have reissued their American regional cookbooks. Americans who consider cooking more than just a duty, have moved beyond classic French cooking.Not only are they exploring other cuisines, but they are looking back at their own heritage.
When the popular Time-Life series of international and American regional cooking first appeared, there were eight volumes on American cooking. Five hundred of those recipes, have been bound in one volume alone with some of the striking color photographs that illustrated the original books.
Don't expect anything out of the ordinary in the way of recipes in "The Time-Life American Regional Cookbook" (Little, Brown and Co.), but as a primer on American cooking, it is worth the $12.95.
If, like me, you were introduced to the glories of elegant dining, haughty waiters and rich food in the hallowed dining rooms of Locke-Ober's in Boston, you will enjoy "Boston's Lock-Ober Cafe," "an illustrated social history with miscellaneous recipes," (Atheneum, $12.95). Written by Ned and Pam Bradford (what better name could the authors of a book about a Boston historical landmark have!) it is more for reading than for cooking, though there are 100 recipes.
Not one of this year's crop, but nevertheless worth-noting, is "The Flavor of Jerusalem," by Joan Nathan and Judy Stacey Goldman (Little, Brown, $9.95). Nathan's work, as a free-lance writer who specializes in ethnic food, appears from time to time in this section.
There have been other books on the cooking of Israel, but none has captured the spirit of that country or the variety of its cuisines as well as "Flavor" does.
Of course, there is the ritual chicken soup from the former prime minister, Golda Meir, described by the authors as the "ultimate Jewish mother." But Jerusalem is a city where East meets West, and old meets new. There are also the Arab dishes, such as an upside-down eggplant-lamb casserole, a recipe for Ethiopian lemon chicken, an American hors d'oeuvre made with potatoes, chick peas, pine nuts, onions and tahini.
The stories the authors have to tell about the city's inhabitants and their rituals make delightful reading. Nathan, who went to Jerusalem just to see what it was like, ended up staying there for several years and working as Mayor Teddy Kollek's foreign press attache along with Judy Goldman. Nathan now lives in Washington with her lawyer husband, Alan Gerson.
Not everyone who is interested in food is interested in cooking. There are many who are concerned about the quality, quantity and safety of what we eat. Joan Gussow, chairman of the Program in Nutrition Education at Columbia University Teacher's College is among them. She is also one of the most articulate spokespersons trying to explain why we'd better start paying attention to the relationship between food and ecology.
Gussow has collected a book of essays, including some of her own, which deal with nutritional ecology. "The Feeding Web" (Bull Publishing Co., P.O. Box 208, Palo Alto., Calif. 94302, $9.95) is aptly titled because it is about the "impact of the American supermarket on the world food problem, about the relationships between thrown away beer cans and soil erosion."
In her epilogue to the essays, Gussow writes: "We have a generation of college graduates who do not know what to do with fresh spinach or a head of broccoli; we are well into a second generation of Minute Rice users, 'cooks' for whom Minute Rice is just like mother used to make. We are dependent upon experts to tell us what is nutritious, experts to tell us what is safe, experts to give us instructions on food acquisition and use. Mothers used to count on their senses to tell them whether a food was fit for their families.
"Are we not, in fact, more helpless than any people before us, less able to fend for ourselves, more cut off from the sources of nourishment? What would we do if we could not get to a supermarket?"
But Gussow is an optimist. There are people she believes, who are not only committed to what were once considered absurd notion, but who are putting them into practice. "The 'absurd' notion," Gussow writes, "that city people might even grow some of their own food becomes less absurd with the publication of The City People's Book of Raising Food, and took on a mainstream cast when agricultural extension agents were assigned to cities to teach food-growing to the urban poor."
Gussow feels most of the solutions to overconsumption will not come as the result of some grandiose scheme launched by the federal government, but from work at the local level, from individuals. "The ultimate solution is to come to terms with the fact that there is no ultimate solution-and that 'they' won't solve 'it' for us.
"They will not make things better. we must."
Maybe not Christmas reading, but surely "the Feeding Web" should be read soon after the first of the year.
"The Politics of Cancer" by Dr. Samuel Epstein (Sierra Club Books, 530 Bush St., San Francisco, Calif. 94108) hardly qualifies as light reading and much of it has nothing to do with food. But it is for those interested in what really happened when the Food and Drug Administration tried to ban saccharin, why it took so long to ban the artificial color, Red No. 2, why Red No. 40 is still on the market. Dr. Epstein, professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Chicago, also talks about nitrosamines and DES, fiber and fat, and in a chapter entitled "What You can Do to Prevent Cancer" he offers some sound eating advice.
It's the kind of book, which, while it offers many horror stories documenting how the public has not been protected from a number of carcinogens, also offers hope.
(Makes one 9-inch cake) Dough: 2 cups all-purpose flour, approximately 2 egg yolks,room temperature 1 egg, room temperature 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange peel 1 tablespoon light rum, if desired 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened Filling: 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 2 cups milk 4 egg yolks 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 2 tablespoons light rum, if desired 1 (12 once) jar cherry preserves 1 egg beaten, to glaze
To make the dough, place 2 cups all-purpose flour in a medium bowl and fashion a well in the bottom. Drop in the egg yolks, egg, salt, grated peel, and rum, if desired. Stir ingredients to mix while slowly pulling in flour from sides of the bowl. Cut softened butter into 1-inch chungs and drop into bowl. Work butter into flour, first with scraper or wooden spoon and then with hands. Add liberal sprinkle of flour, if necessary, to make a firm dough, (Size of eggs will influence amount of moisture in mix.) Do not work or knead dough more than necessary to make a smooth ball.
Place dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put aside to rest for one hour at room temperature (70 to 75 degrees). However, if the dough is soft, place in the refrigerator.
To make the filling, spoon flour into a saucepan and slowly add 1/2 cue of milk, egg yolks, sugar, salt, vanilla and, if desired, rum. Place over low heat until pastry cream thickens to hold shape. Stir constantly so mixture does not burn or scorch. Set aside.
While cherry preserves can be used from the jar. I prefer to heat them in a small saucepan and strain them through a sieve to separate fruit and syrup.Some products are too juicy and would dilute the filling if used as is.
Preheat the oven to 380 degrees. Divide dough into 2 pieces-one slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger piece between sheets of wax paper, loosening both sheets occasionally while rolling, to allow dough to spread. when rolled, dough should be slightly less than 1/4 inch thick and 1 inch larger in diameter than pie tin. Peel off top paper. Use lower sheet to help pick up dough and invert over pan. Carefully peel off paper and with fingers carefully pat dough into place over bottom and up sides. Trim dough along edges of rim.
Spoon pastry cream into the shell until 3/4 full. Spread the cherries over the surface and sprinkle with cherry syrup.
Roll remaining piece of dough between pieces of wax paper as before. Roll a thin circle 1/2 inch greater in diameter than top of pie pan. As with bottom piece , invert over pan. Trim. Crimp or pinch edges of top and bottom pieces together.
With a razor, cut a series of whirls to allow steam to escape. Brush with egg glaze. Place on a low shelf of the oven. It will be done when crust is a golden brown. Remove the cake from oven with care. It will not become firm until it has cooled. Slice in narrow wedges to serve.
-Adapted from "The breads of France"
ROSCAS "RING" COOKIES
(Makes 20 to 22 cookies) 8 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1/4 teaspoon aniseed 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 ounces sweet butter, at room temperature 2 ounces vegetable shortening, at room temperture 2 ounces granulted sugar, plus sugar for dusting 1/4 cup water 2 tablespoons cream or evaporated milk
Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, if you are using it, and salt onto a marble slab or pastry board. Make a well in the center and into this put the butter, shortening, 1/4 cup sugar, water and cream. Work the ingredients in the center together with your fingers until they are completely incorporated and smooth.
Gradually work in the dry ingredients and the aniseed, if used, and knead the mixture well. Work the dough hard for about 5 minutes, pressing it out with the palms of your hands, using them like pedals, against the working surface until it is smooth and pliable. (If you do not work it well enough, you will not be able to form the roscas as indicated.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set an oven rank on the top shelf. Lightly grease two baking sheets.
Roll the dough into balls of about 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Take one of the balls and work it under your palms (on an unfloured surface, if possible) into a rounded, even strip of dough about 1/4 inch in diameter. Double the strip, then press the eds together. Holding the ends firmly down onto the surface with one hand and starting from the other end, quickly and lightly twist the two strands together.(if you have trouble in rolling and twisting them, then make a simple ring with a strand of dough, rolling each ball out to a strip about 1/2 inch thick.) Join the ends to make a circle or "bracelet," about 2 inches in diameter, then place carefully onto the prepared baking sheet.
Proceed with the remaining balls of dough, and, when you have one baking sheet filled, bake until a deep golden color-about 15 to 20 minutes. As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven, sprinkle them liberally with the extra sugar. Let them cool off thoroughly before attempting to remove them from the baking sheet, then store in an air-tight can or cookie jar.
-adapted from "Recipes from the Regional Cooks Of Mexico"
LEAH'S STUFFED CHICKEN
(4 to 6 servings) 3/4 cup finely chopped onions 3/4 cup (about 6 ounces), uncooked chicken livers, chopped fine Cooking oil 1 slice white bread, dampened slightly in water 2 eggs, slightly beaten 1 chicken bouillon cube, crumbled 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 1 large roasting chicken Salt and hot paprika to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Saute the onions and liver in oil until onions are light brown. Combine the bread, eggs, bouillon, parsley, onions and liver, mix lightly. Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and paprika. With your fingers, push the stuffing mixture under the skin: that is, between the meat and the skin. Do this on the body and legs. Fasten all openings together with skewers and tie the legs together. Brush the skin with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, uncovered, in oven for 1 hour until the drumstick moves easily.
-From "The Flavor of Jerusalem" CAPTION: Picture, no caption