THERE ARE three schools of cooking: that which follows recipes exactly, that which doesn't and the Hyman Bookbinder method.
Bookie (as everyone calls him) prides himself on being unscientific, imprecise and undisciplined by recipes. His ingredients are selected by whim, taste and the what's leftover in the refrigerator.
The only precise thing about Bookie's cooking is the 1 1/2 hour period each week he allots himself -- from 11:30 to 1 on Sunday morning. He starts his preparations while watching Face the Nation, grates, chops and stirs his way through Meet the Press and cleans up watching Issues and Answers. If the last two shows are on the air simultaneously, he records one in the living room and listens to it during the third half hour.
Bookie is the Washington lobbyist for the American Jewish Committee and the man many politicians consider the most listened to professional Jewish spokeperson in the United States today. Since his daily tasks seldom afford him the satisfaction of immediate tangible results, he turns to cooking. a"When you make a soup you've got a soup. If you cook a tomato sauce you've got a tomato sauce."
In the garden of his Bethesda home, where he lives alone since his wife, Boscha, died, Bookie plants tomatoes, beets and Concord grapes. Last summer he made and froze 20 quarts of tomato sauce, gallons of cold and hot borscht, 20 quarts of grape juice and 15 quarts of Concord jelly. His experiment with wine failed: it exploded in his closet. Although he refuses to explain what happened he admits that he had to replace much of his wardrobe. t
In the basement of his home an upright 30 foot freezer is stacked with marked and dated containers. The freezer was given to him 20 years ago as a gift from the electric workers union when he was with the AFL-CIO. After doing the union a favor and refusing to accept money in return they asked what electrical appliance he was lacking. Little did he know then that the freezer would become his greatest incentive for quantity cooking. When invited to dinner Bookie often brings the hosts a container of his frozen sauce or soup as a house gift.
His kitchen is relatively small, filled with photographs of his children and two grandchildren. There are no fancy new gadgets like the food processor, only a basic blender.
Always comfortable in the kitchen Bookie began cooking several years ago when his late wife became ill.
Now the 63-year-old Bookbinder cooks for himself, occasionally inviting guests for brunch. A few weeks ago Stuart Eisenstat, Ann Wexler and Joe Duffey accompanied by their families, sampled some of Bookbinder's potato pancakes. He also prepared the "meichel" or delicacy he learned from his wife -- chopped chicken liver with his totally unorthodox ingredient green pepper.
Bookie can never do just one thing at a time. For him cooking and watching television work well together.
On a recent Sunday morning Bookie prepared 12 quarts of beef lima bean soup. The lima beans had soaked overnight; the week before he had sauteed and frozen the mushrooms and onions.Before he started, he had lined up the 12 quart containers on the kitchen table, marked and ready. So was the tape recorder in the living room, timed to catch Issues and Answers.
He reminisced about food and politics. Hubert Humphrey had appeared more than anyone else on Meet the Press and soon there would be a retrospective of him on the program. Mrs. Humphrey's beef cabbage soup tasted so much like that of Mrs. Bookbinder that Humphrey, after tasting the Bookbinder brand, wrote a note saying that it was at least as good as his wife's.
While grating carrots and transferring the lima beans to a larger pot Bookie shouted "good question" at a reporter on Meet the Press. In the next breath, "oh, I love lima beans!" Back to the television and "what a lousy world this is" when the Cambodian situation came up.
When the past program was over, Bookie was disappointed that his soup was still not ready. It was a good thing that 60 Minutes would be on that evening so the soup could cook the extra hour and get thick. LIMA BEEF SOUP (Makes 6 quarts) 2 pounds dry lima beans (baby or large) Vegetable oil 1 tablespoon olive oil 4 large onions, diced 1 pound mushrooms, chopped Salt and pepper to taste Crushed red pepper to taste 1/2 pound barley 1/2 pound mixed dry minestrone soup 1/2 green pepper, diced 1 stalk celery, diced 5 cloves garlic, chopped Basil to taste Parsley to taste 1 envelope dried onion soup 3 to 4 pounds chuck roast (including bone)
Pick over the lima beans and soak in boiling water an inch above the beans.
The same evening cover the bottom of a frying pan with 1/8 inch of vegetable oil and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 2 diced onions, sauteeing until golden. Add the mushrooms, salt, pepper and red pepper; taste. Cook 6 to 7 minutes. Set aside.
The next morning add the barley to the soaking lima beans, mix well and set aside.
When ready to begin cooking the soup, add the minestrone mix and simmer covered, adding 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Let cook for 2 hours, adding water if necessary and making sure the beans do not stick to the bottom of the stock pot.
In the bottom of a 4 quart stock pot saute in 1/8 inch oil the remaining 2 onions, the green pepper and the celery. Then add the meat and bones, red pepper, salt, pepper, garlic, basil, parsley, 1/2 cup water and onion soup. Cover and simmer about 1 hour.
In the meantime add the mixture of mushrooms and onions to the lima beans with 1 quart water. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, after an hour, remove the meat and cut up into 1/2-inch cubes, skim off the fat from the broth, blend or chop the remaining vegetables if desired and add all to the basic soup stock. Combine and cook covered about an hour or until meat and beans are to taste. Add just seasonings to taste and serve. If too thick while cooking add more boiling water. POTATO KUGEL (Makes 1 large kugel for 8 to 10) 5 large potatoes, peeled and grated on the large holes of a grater 4 eggs 2 medium onions, grated on the large holes of a grater 2/3 cup matzoh meal (approximate) 2/3 cup pancake mix (approximate) 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder Salt and pepper to taste 2 tablespoons chicken fat 3 tablespoons minced onion
Remove the water from the potatoes and combine the potatoes with the eggs and onions. Add the matzah meal, pancake mix, baking powder and salt and pepper to taste.
In a small frying pan heat the chicken fat and toss in the minced onion. After about 7 or 8 seconds or as soon as the onions start to brown throw the fat and the flakes into the batter. Mix well.
Place the batter in a greased 13-by-9 inch -- or equivalent -- pan so that the batter is about 1-inch-deep and bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. When almost ready brush the top with a little more chicken fat and cook until golden.
(Alternately, you can heat oil to 375 degrees in a frying pan and make potato pancakes of the same batter.)