My husband and I love food. In our 10 years together, we have supped well and noshed widely, tucking in everywhere from Le Grand Vefour in Paris to humble homes in North Africa to soirees in South Carolina. Food snobs we’re not: Give me a sandwich made with pimento cheese and I can count myself quite happy. And as anybody who has visited our kitchen can readily see, we love cookery books. Especially vintage and antique ones, of which we have dozens.
Why? Probably because they are forlorn and neglected, pushed out of the way in favour of modern books and more up-to-the-moment cuisines. Yet in their heyday volumes such as Marcel Bouletin’s What Shall We Have Today? (1935), Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec’s La Cuisine de France (1964), and Elsie de Wolfe’s Recipes for Successful Dining (1934) had passionate followings. And for the curiosity factor alone, we feel those early recipes, however vague, imprecise, and old-fashioned, deserve to find their way back onto today’s tables. Even if only for special occasions. So every day, without fail, we will dive into these languishing compilations and taste-test their contents with today’s tables in mind.
We don’t have a specialized kitchen, in case you are wondering. Ours is a galley affair, long and narrow, lined with painted beadboard and equipped with nothing more sophisticated than a 1940s Chambers gas stove and an array of late 19th- and early 20th-century copper pots, most of which need energetic polishing. Storage is an IKEA cabinet that has seen better days and a ceiling-high china cabinet made of carved oak in the Black Forest style (dead birds, dogs’ heads, et cetera). We also have an under-the-stairs pantry that does double duty as a laundry room.
Enjoy the ride. And we’ll save you a place at the table.