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Taste New York One Cider at a Time

Taste New York One Cider at a Time


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New York has an incredible cider industry

Taste New York One Cider at a Time

There’s a revolution going on in America and we’re here to make sure you don’t miss out. Funny thing is, the ruckus is about America’s oldest libation — cider — and New York State is right in the thick of it. If you’ve been keeping up with our forays into the world of cider, you know that we’re talking about the hard stuff here, not just apple juice, and it’s huge in the beverage world right now.

New York’s connection with the apple is more than just a city slogan: The state is the country’s second largest apple producer and it has a history with cider that goes back centuries. As one of the original colonies, New York’s been doing the cider thing since the birth of our nation, and until the one-two-punch of lager beer’s dominance in the mid-nineteenth century, and cider’s TKO by Prohibition in 1920, this fermented apple drink was the everyday tipple for the average American.

The Comeback Kid of Craft Beverages

Along the lines of everything old is new again, cider has made a huge comeback thanks to American imbibers’ interest in craft beverages and sales figures bear this out. Nationally, cider is the fastest-growing category among alcoholic beverages sold in the U.S. and here are a few statistics that the craft beer and wine categories must be eyeing with envy:

  • Since 2008, cider production has increased an average of 73 percent.
  • In the two years between 2011 and 2013, cider production more than tripled, from 9.4 million gallons in 2011 to 32 million gallons in 2013.
  • Sales of cider nationally hit 54 million gallons in 2014, which required 18 million bushels of fruit, or the equivalent of seven percent of the nation’s total apple production.

It’s More Than Just a Bill

The good news for New York is the state is leading this trend. The impetus behind New York’s impressive growth is linked primarily to 1) Governor Cuomo’s support of forward-thinking state-sponsored initiatives aimed at increasing craft beverage production (including cider), and 2) the Governor’s help with passage of the Farm Cidery Law in January of 2014.

The story of how a simple Farm Cider Bill changed the economy and tourism of New York seems unlikely, but its impact has been nothing short of spectacular, and according to Dennis Rosen, New York State Liquor Authority Chairman, "Under the Governor's leadership, we have partnered with cider makers to update antiquated regulations and outdated policies. The legislative and regulatory changes have helped spur remarkable growth by increasing marketing and sales opportunities, streamlining licensing, and loosening restrictions for the state's small cider manufacturers."

Read on for the quick sip on New York cider.

A Style for Every Palate

Just like wine, cider can express a range of sweetness levels (referred to as residual sugar or RS) from bone dry with no RS, to off-dry, and sweet, which can have as much as 10 percent RS. The ranges include dry, which is below 0.9 percent residual sugar; medium or off-dry or semi-sweet, which is 0.9 percent to four percent RS; and sweet, which is above four percent RS. What makes even the sweetest dessert-style ciders so refreshing to drink is the typical presence of steady acidity. And as in wine, aromas, mouthfeel, texture, body, weight, and taste, and flavors are not apply but more complex. Aromas and flavors can range from light and fruity, to earthy, barnyard-like, smoky, bacon-like, and much more.

Forget the Hops, Go for Fruit

For those whose tastes don’t lean toward hoppy craft beers or wine-lovers in search of a lighter, lower alcohol alternative (8.5 ABV on average) to wine, apple cider is the ideal food-friendly drink you can consume every day. Cider has nothing in common with beer, so rather than lump it into the beer category, producers and experts think cider has more in common with its vinous cousin. Like wine, cider is a fermented fruit-based drink that prefers to struggle to produce the best juice; produces the highest quality, most vigorous fruit growth when select varietals are grafted onto stable root stocks; is finest when fruit and acidity are in balance; and expresses terroir in distinct ways a beer never can.

Go Local

The most authentic and enjoyable way to explore New York’s incredible cider industry, especially those produced in limited quantities, is in situ. Make a trip out of your tasting tour and see all that the state has to offer. Cider houses, farm ciders, orchards, and gorgeous landscapes and mountain vistas are all part of the state’s cider regions. Cider is made across the state; however, there are concentrations of cider producers in the central and eastern parts of the state, especially in the upper Hudson Valley and Finger Lakes regions. Use this handy interactive map to find them.

How a Bill Becomes a Cidery

From removing bureaucratic red tape that hampered small business growth to helping increase tourism and sales of cider and apples, the impact of initiatives and the Farm Cidery Bill has been nothing short of spectacular. As Governor Cuomo points out, “From offering tastings to selling their world-class product alongside other made-in-New York goods, our State’s cideries are driving economic activity across the State, and I am proud that we have been able to play a part in their success.”

New York’s Rocket Industry Is in Apples

Since 2011, the number of hard cider producers in New York has increased more than 480 percent, from five cideries in 2011 to 35 cider producers across the state. As a result of the Farm Cidery Bill, 16 of those cider producers are farm cideries and now 405 farm wineries and breweries are also permitted to manufacture cider, making it possible for New York to, in the short-term, dominate cider production.

Still Apple Juice Runs Deep

Forget any notions you have about sparkling cider and the stuff you give the kids on New Year’s Eve. Cider can sometimes have a slightly hazy appearance and its carbonation levels range from perfectly still to a bright effervescence similar to the kind produced via méthode traditionelle produced in Champagne, France. While it’s not good to have particles floating in your cider, some can lack brilliance and a mild effervescence is called petillant and more vigorous bubbles are called fully sparkling with a short-lived mousse.

There’s Gold in Them There Apples

Few states with a cider industry can boast the level of support New York — and the Governor — has given its cideries and regional tourism. Government actions have resulted in more than $16 million dollars to support industry growth and included the creation of a program within Empire State Development (ESD) focused on spurring growth and investment in craft beverages. Some of ESD’s support has included:

  • $6 million dollars in tourism promotion and marketing funds.
  • $2 million dollars in direct spending to support the industry’s growth through a $1 million targeted advertising campaign.
  • $1 million dollars for a Craft Beverage Industry Tourism Promotion Grant Program.
  • $2 million dollars for the Craft Beverage Marketing and Promotion Grant, a $2 million marketing grant program that matches $2 million in industry contributions for the marketing and promotion of New York produced wine, beer, spirits, and cider.
  • $168,300 dollars for a tourism promotion grant to the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce The Adirondack Craft Beverage Trail.

The State of the State’s Apples

With over 40,000 acres of apple orchards, New York is second only to Washington as the leading apple producer in America. In 2014, New York produced an estimated 1.26 billion pounds of apples, but quality is just as important as quantity and for the last 25 years the state has planted new and heirloom cider varieties to help diversify the varietal gene pool. This makes New York’s apple industry the most diverse in the country and has helped encourage commercial growers like Black Diamond Farm, a farm-based cider house in Trumansburg in the Finger Lakes region, which grows 137 different varieties, most of which are heirloom apples.

What’s Old Is New Again

Some of the best cider apple varieties like Newtown Pippin, Northern Spy, Golden Russet, and Esopus Spitzenburg (Thomas Jefferson’s favorite cider apple that sadly didn’t grow well in Virginia) got their start in New York in the 1800s and continue to thrive, thanks to the state’s ideal cider apple growing climate. Like their European counterparts, New York cider apples do best in regions with cool humid growing seasons and the local terroirs help produce mineral-driven aromatic ciders with optimal acidity levels.


1 Tsp. of Prose, Recipes to Taste

IN the spring of 1960, as I turned the typewritten pages of a huge tome on French cooking written by a Smith College graduate named Julia Child along with her French cohorts, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, I couldn't contain my delight at what I was reading.

I was a general book editor at Alfred A. Knopf, and here was the cookbook I had been dreaming of -- one that took you by the hand and explained the whys and wherefores of every step of a recipe. It spelled out techniques, talked about the proper equipment, necessary ingredients and viable substitutes it warned of pitfalls yet provided remedies for your mistakes. Moreover, although there were three authors, it was the voice of the American that came through, someone who was clearly a learner herself, who adored la cuisine Française and was determined to dissect and translate it for an American audience. I was enthralled.

It so happened that I had spent three and a half years in Paris, about the same time Julia had been there, and had also fallen in love with French cooking. I had no cookbooks over there, so my husband, Evan, and I would talk to the butcher, the baker, the fishmonger or madame at the vegetable market and pick up a tip about how to roast a whole dorade or what the best fat was for frying frites.

But nobody ever told me how to make a boeuf bourguignon, and my beef boiled in wine was a far cry from the one described in what would become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking": "Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man."

Back in America, I had searched in vain for the book that would tell me exactly how to prepare it "carefully" and flavor it "perfectly." And here was everything I needed to know in Julia's precisely worded instructions. I quickly copied them and spirited them home.

I followed her advice on the best beef cut to buy for a stew, and how to create lardons with American bacon I learned the importance of drying the beef cubes (damp meat won't brown) and of sautéing only a small batch at a time (it will steam if crowded in the pan). I braised the small white onions (following an eye-opening tip on fast peeling) separately from the mushrooms, so the nicely glazed vegetables maintained their identities. As to the cooking wine, only a full-bodied young red would do -- the same that you would drink with this masterpiece of classic French cuisine.

And, of course, my boeuf bourguignon was a masterpiece. How could it not be?

So Julia really formed my idea of what makes a good cookbook, and I soon found myself searching for cookbook writers who would do for other cuisines what "Mastering" did for French. I was convinced that the more unfamiliar and exotic the cuisine, the more important it was to really translate the techniques and foodways of the particular culture. When the home cook first sets out to make a Chinese stir-fry or a genuine Indian curry dish, we are really flying blind, creating something we may never have even tasted, and we need to know what to expect every step of the way.

Often the best teachers are not born cooks but late bloomers who were prompted to cook out of a yearning for the dishes of their childhood, to recapture in a new land the authentic cooking of their past: Claudia Roden with Middle Eastern dishes, Madhur Jaffrey with Indian dishes, Irene Kuo with Chinese. Because, like Julia, they were all learners, they understand exactly what we American neophytes need to know.

Technique is all-important: To attain the wonderful complexity of a genuine Madhur Jaffrey curry, we have to master the art of toasting spices, of blending flavorful pastes and then frying them to make an Irene Kuo stir-fry with the proper texture, we need to "velvet" the chicken cubes to make them fluffy and tender or to "slippery coat" the little chunks of meat, to line up all the ingredients so we can work fast over high, high heat. Language is crucial to describe the action accurately and evocatively, and to seduce us and bolster our confidence, so we'll try anything.

Good recipe writing does not rely on clichéd terminology but creates a vocabulary of its own. We need visceral words that make us feel the texture of the dough in our hands before we "plop" (one of Julia's favorite expressions) it into a bowl. It is important to use the correct terms so we come to know what a batter is, a dough, a base, a roux, rather than calling everything a mixture. Now "slippery coated" means just what it says you can almost taste the slippery, satiny finish that Irene Kuo intends.

I also welcome a good story along with the recipe -- a bit of history, something about the author's connection to the dish, a helpful tip for the home cook. An old recipe for parkerhouse rolls becomes something special when we learn from Edna Lewis in "The Taste of Country Cooking" how they were a part of her family's Emancipation Day Dinner (which they celebrated instead of Thanksgiving Day). I particularly love Edna's advice about how to tell if the cake is done: "Pick up the pan and listen for any quiet noises in the cake. If you hear faint sounds, remove it from the oven." That is the voice of a born cook. WHAT most of us really want, though, is a collaboration with the cookbook writer, who becomes a comforting presence as we prepare his dishes. How often my husband and I would refer to our cooking mentors as friends: Julia says to salt the meat . . . Jim (Beard) salts the pan . . . Michael (Field) says don't salt at all before cooking, leaving us in the last analysis to make our own choices. The good writer, in fact, enables us. We should be encouraged to taste and adjust seasonings and, once we have absorbed the basic technique, to improvise.

With the development of the more personal cookbook and the need for marketing handles, the cult of the celebrity chef was inevitable, but it has taken its toll. Obviously a talented chef has a lot of creative ideas to offer, but too often his book is turned over to a writer who doesn't even watch the maestro at work in the kitchen, to have the chance to ask questions and capture his voice. The result is sterile formula recipe writing that is devoid of helpful instruction and the kinds of culinary secrets you hope will be divulged.

Moreover, restaurant cooking and home cooking are different experiences, and the professional tends to forget that he or she is writing for the home cook. Three or four different fresh herbs may be used in a simple stew (at least $1.99 each for a wilted package in the supermarket) the mushrooms must be wild and saffron, truffle oil, aged balsamic vinegars and special liqueurs are de rigueur. The chef is intent on inventing a new spectacular dish. He's not interested in the rhythm of cooking through the week, thinking ahead, recycling leftovers (a dirty word these days) in creative ways, finding substitutes for extravagant items.

I have had young people say to me that they can't afford to cook from our kind of cookbooks -- it's too wasteful. They don't want to purchase too many high-priced ingredients that they'll use once and let rot in the fridge. They also find it too time-consuming: a bowl for this, another bowl for that, all those pots simmering and reducing, and then everything to be cleaned up.

It doesn't have to be that way if you're in the hands of a responsible cookbook writer. We need writers who persuade us that cooking is fun and that there is a wonderful creative satisfaction in going home and making a good meal at the end of the day. Lidia Bastianich in her new book, "Lidia's Family Table," stresses the importance of cooking with all our senses. In her recipe for basic risotto, she interrupts the instructions with reflections on what you are doing each step of the way. She explains, for instance, why it is important that each grain of rice be coated with fat, and she makes note of the clicking sound when you stir it.

So as you pour in more broth, stirring rhythmically, you watch and you listen. And you relax, reflecting on what is happening. In about 20 minutes, you will have a warm bowlful of satisfying risotto, and you will want to raise your glass in thanks to Lidia for being there at your side.

Judith Jones, a senior editor at Knopf, has been in book publishing for more than 60 years.


1 Tsp. of Prose, Recipes to Taste

IN the spring of 1960, as I turned the typewritten pages of a huge tome on French cooking written by a Smith College graduate named Julia Child along with her French cohorts, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, I couldn't contain my delight at what I was reading.

I was a general book editor at Alfred A. Knopf, and here was the cookbook I had been dreaming of -- one that took you by the hand and explained the whys and wherefores of every step of a recipe. It spelled out techniques, talked about the proper equipment, necessary ingredients and viable substitutes it warned of pitfalls yet provided remedies for your mistakes. Moreover, although there were three authors, it was the voice of the American that came through, someone who was clearly a learner herself, who adored la cuisine Française and was determined to dissect and translate it for an American audience. I was enthralled.

It so happened that I had spent three and a half years in Paris, about the same time Julia had been there, and had also fallen in love with French cooking. I had no cookbooks over there, so my husband, Evan, and I would talk to the butcher, the baker, the fishmonger or madame at the vegetable market and pick up a tip about how to roast a whole dorade or what the best fat was for frying frites.

But nobody ever told me how to make a boeuf bourguignon, and my beef boiled in wine was a far cry from the one described in what would become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking": "Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man."

Back in America, I had searched in vain for the book that would tell me exactly how to prepare it "carefully" and flavor it "perfectly." And here was everything I needed to know in Julia's precisely worded instructions. I quickly copied them and spirited them home.

I followed her advice on the best beef cut to buy for a stew, and how to create lardons with American bacon I learned the importance of drying the beef cubes (damp meat won't brown) and of sautéing only a small batch at a time (it will steam if crowded in the pan). I braised the small white onions (following an eye-opening tip on fast peeling) separately from the mushrooms, so the nicely glazed vegetables maintained their identities. As to the cooking wine, only a full-bodied young red would do -- the same that you would drink with this masterpiece of classic French cuisine.

And, of course, my boeuf bourguignon was a masterpiece. How could it not be?

So Julia really formed my idea of what makes a good cookbook, and I soon found myself searching for cookbook writers who would do for other cuisines what "Mastering" did for French. I was convinced that the more unfamiliar and exotic the cuisine, the more important it was to really translate the techniques and foodways of the particular culture. When the home cook first sets out to make a Chinese stir-fry or a genuine Indian curry dish, we are really flying blind, creating something we may never have even tasted, and we need to know what to expect every step of the way.

Often the best teachers are not born cooks but late bloomers who were prompted to cook out of a yearning for the dishes of their childhood, to recapture in a new land the authentic cooking of their past: Claudia Roden with Middle Eastern dishes, Madhur Jaffrey with Indian dishes, Irene Kuo with Chinese. Because, like Julia, they were all learners, they understand exactly what we American neophytes need to know.

Technique is all-important: To attain the wonderful complexity of a genuine Madhur Jaffrey curry, we have to master the art of toasting spices, of blending flavorful pastes and then frying them to make an Irene Kuo stir-fry with the proper texture, we need to "velvet" the chicken cubes to make them fluffy and tender or to "slippery coat" the little chunks of meat, to line up all the ingredients so we can work fast over high, high heat. Language is crucial to describe the action accurately and evocatively, and to seduce us and bolster our confidence, so we'll try anything.

Good recipe writing does not rely on clichéd terminology but creates a vocabulary of its own. We need visceral words that make us feel the texture of the dough in our hands before we "plop" (one of Julia's favorite expressions) it into a bowl. It is important to use the correct terms so we come to know what a batter is, a dough, a base, a roux, rather than calling everything a mixture. Now "slippery coated" means just what it says you can almost taste the slippery, satiny finish that Irene Kuo intends.

I also welcome a good story along with the recipe -- a bit of history, something about the author's connection to the dish, a helpful tip for the home cook. An old recipe for parkerhouse rolls becomes something special when we learn from Edna Lewis in "The Taste of Country Cooking" how they were a part of her family's Emancipation Day Dinner (which they celebrated instead of Thanksgiving Day). I particularly love Edna's advice about how to tell if the cake is done: "Pick up the pan and listen for any quiet noises in the cake. If you hear faint sounds, remove it from the oven." That is the voice of a born cook. WHAT most of us really want, though, is a collaboration with the cookbook writer, who becomes a comforting presence as we prepare his dishes. How often my husband and I would refer to our cooking mentors as friends: Julia says to salt the meat . . . Jim (Beard) salts the pan . . . Michael (Field) says don't salt at all before cooking, leaving us in the last analysis to make our own choices. The good writer, in fact, enables us. We should be encouraged to taste and adjust seasonings and, once we have absorbed the basic technique, to improvise.

With the development of the more personal cookbook and the need for marketing handles, the cult of the celebrity chef was inevitable, but it has taken its toll. Obviously a talented chef has a lot of creative ideas to offer, but too often his book is turned over to a writer who doesn't even watch the maestro at work in the kitchen, to have the chance to ask questions and capture his voice. The result is sterile formula recipe writing that is devoid of helpful instruction and the kinds of culinary secrets you hope will be divulged.

Moreover, restaurant cooking and home cooking are different experiences, and the professional tends to forget that he or she is writing for the home cook. Three or four different fresh herbs may be used in a simple stew (at least $1.99 each for a wilted package in the supermarket) the mushrooms must be wild and saffron, truffle oil, aged balsamic vinegars and special liqueurs are de rigueur. The chef is intent on inventing a new spectacular dish. He's not interested in the rhythm of cooking through the week, thinking ahead, recycling leftovers (a dirty word these days) in creative ways, finding substitutes for extravagant items.

I have had young people say to me that they can't afford to cook from our kind of cookbooks -- it's too wasteful. They don't want to purchase too many high-priced ingredients that they'll use once and let rot in the fridge. They also find it too time-consuming: a bowl for this, another bowl for that, all those pots simmering and reducing, and then everything to be cleaned up.

It doesn't have to be that way if you're in the hands of a responsible cookbook writer. We need writers who persuade us that cooking is fun and that there is a wonderful creative satisfaction in going home and making a good meal at the end of the day. Lidia Bastianich in her new book, "Lidia's Family Table," stresses the importance of cooking with all our senses. In her recipe for basic risotto, she interrupts the instructions with reflections on what you are doing each step of the way. She explains, for instance, why it is important that each grain of rice be coated with fat, and she makes note of the clicking sound when you stir it.

So as you pour in more broth, stirring rhythmically, you watch and you listen. And you relax, reflecting on what is happening. In about 20 minutes, you will have a warm bowlful of satisfying risotto, and you will want to raise your glass in thanks to Lidia for being there at your side.

Judith Jones, a senior editor at Knopf, has been in book publishing for more than 60 years.


1 Tsp. of Prose, Recipes to Taste

IN the spring of 1960, as I turned the typewritten pages of a huge tome on French cooking written by a Smith College graduate named Julia Child along with her French cohorts, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, I couldn't contain my delight at what I was reading.

I was a general book editor at Alfred A. Knopf, and here was the cookbook I had been dreaming of -- one that took you by the hand and explained the whys and wherefores of every step of a recipe. It spelled out techniques, talked about the proper equipment, necessary ingredients and viable substitutes it warned of pitfalls yet provided remedies for your mistakes. Moreover, although there were three authors, it was the voice of the American that came through, someone who was clearly a learner herself, who adored la cuisine Française and was determined to dissect and translate it for an American audience. I was enthralled.

It so happened that I had spent three and a half years in Paris, about the same time Julia had been there, and had also fallen in love with French cooking. I had no cookbooks over there, so my husband, Evan, and I would talk to the butcher, the baker, the fishmonger or madame at the vegetable market and pick up a tip about how to roast a whole dorade or what the best fat was for frying frites.

But nobody ever told me how to make a boeuf bourguignon, and my beef boiled in wine was a far cry from the one described in what would become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking": "Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man."

Back in America, I had searched in vain for the book that would tell me exactly how to prepare it "carefully" and flavor it "perfectly." And here was everything I needed to know in Julia's precisely worded instructions. I quickly copied them and spirited them home.

I followed her advice on the best beef cut to buy for a stew, and how to create lardons with American bacon I learned the importance of drying the beef cubes (damp meat won't brown) and of sautéing only a small batch at a time (it will steam if crowded in the pan). I braised the small white onions (following an eye-opening tip on fast peeling) separately from the mushrooms, so the nicely glazed vegetables maintained their identities. As to the cooking wine, only a full-bodied young red would do -- the same that you would drink with this masterpiece of classic French cuisine.

And, of course, my boeuf bourguignon was a masterpiece. How could it not be?

So Julia really formed my idea of what makes a good cookbook, and I soon found myself searching for cookbook writers who would do for other cuisines what "Mastering" did for French. I was convinced that the more unfamiliar and exotic the cuisine, the more important it was to really translate the techniques and foodways of the particular culture. When the home cook first sets out to make a Chinese stir-fry or a genuine Indian curry dish, we are really flying blind, creating something we may never have even tasted, and we need to know what to expect every step of the way.

Often the best teachers are not born cooks but late bloomers who were prompted to cook out of a yearning for the dishes of their childhood, to recapture in a new land the authentic cooking of their past: Claudia Roden with Middle Eastern dishes, Madhur Jaffrey with Indian dishes, Irene Kuo with Chinese. Because, like Julia, they were all learners, they understand exactly what we American neophytes need to know.

Technique is all-important: To attain the wonderful complexity of a genuine Madhur Jaffrey curry, we have to master the art of toasting spices, of blending flavorful pastes and then frying them to make an Irene Kuo stir-fry with the proper texture, we need to "velvet" the chicken cubes to make them fluffy and tender or to "slippery coat" the little chunks of meat, to line up all the ingredients so we can work fast over high, high heat. Language is crucial to describe the action accurately and evocatively, and to seduce us and bolster our confidence, so we'll try anything.

Good recipe writing does not rely on clichéd terminology but creates a vocabulary of its own. We need visceral words that make us feel the texture of the dough in our hands before we "plop" (one of Julia's favorite expressions) it into a bowl. It is important to use the correct terms so we come to know what a batter is, a dough, a base, a roux, rather than calling everything a mixture. Now "slippery coated" means just what it says you can almost taste the slippery, satiny finish that Irene Kuo intends.

I also welcome a good story along with the recipe -- a bit of history, something about the author's connection to the dish, a helpful tip for the home cook. An old recipe for parkerhouse rolls becomes something special when we learn from Edna Lewis in "The Taste of Country Cooking" how they were a part of her family's Emancipation Day Dinner (which they celebrated instead of Thanksgiving Day). I particularly love Edna's advice about how to tell if the cake is done: "Pick up the pan and listen for any quiet noises in the cake. If you hear faint sounds, remove it from the oven." That is the voice of a born cook. WHAT most of us really want, though, is a collaboration with the cookbook writer, who becomes a comforting presence as we prepare his dishes. How often my husband and I would refer to our cooking mentors as friends: Julia says to salt the meat . . . Jim (Beard) salts the pan . . . Michael (Field) says don't salt at all before cooking, leaving us in the last analysis to make our own choices. The good writer, in fact, enables us. We should be encouraged to taste and adjust seasonings and, once we have absorbed the basic technique, to improvise.

With the development of the more personal cookbook and the need for marketing handles, the cult of the celebrity chef was inevitable, but it has taken its toll. Obviously a talented chef has a lot of creative ideas to offer, but too often his book is turned over to a writer who doesn't even watch the maestro at work in the kitchen, to have the chance to ask questions and capture his voice. The result is sterile formula recipe writing that is devoid of helpful instruction and the kinds of culinary secrets you hope will be divulged.

Moreover, restaurant cooking and home cooking are different experiences, and the professional tends to forget that he or she is writing for the home cook. Three or four different fresh herbs may be used in a simple stew (at least $1.99 each for a wilted package in the supermarket) the mushrooms must be wild and saffron, truffle oil, aged balsamic vinegars and special liqueurs are de rigueur. The chef is intent on inventing a new spectacular dish. He's not interested in the rhythm of cooking through the week, thinking ahead, recycling leftovers (a dirty word these days) in creative ways, finding substitutes for extravagant items.

I have had young people say to me that they can't afford to cook from our kind of cookbooks -- it's too wasteful. They don't want to purchase too many high-priced ingredients that they'll use once and let rot in the fridge. They also find it too time-consuming: a bowl for this, another bowl for that, all those pots simmering and reducing, and then everything to be cleaned up.

It doesn't have to be that way if you're in the hands of a responsible cookbook writer. We need writers who persuade us that cooking is fun and that there is a wonderful creative satisfaction in going home and making a good meal at the end of the day. Lidia Bastianich in her new book, "Lidia's Family Table," stresses the importance of cooking with all our senses. In her recipe for basic risotto, she interrupts the instructions with reflections on what you are doing each step of the way. She explains, for instance, why it is important that each grain of rice be coated with fat, and she makes note of the clicking sound when you stir it.

So as you pour in more broth, stirring rhythmically, you watch and you listen. And you relax, reflecting on what is happening. In about 20 minutes, you will have a warm bowlful of satisfying risotto, and you will want to raise your glass in thanks to Lidia for being there at your side.

Judith Jones, a senior editor at Knopf, has been in book publishing for more than 60 years.


1 Tsp. of Prose, Recipes to Taste

IN the spring of 1960, as I turned the typewritten pages of a huge tome on French cooking written by a Smith College graduate named Julia Child along with her French cohorts, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, I couldn't contain my delight at what I was reading.

I was a general book editor at Alfred A. Knopf, and here was the cookbook I had been dreaming of -- one that took you by the hand and explained the whys and wherefores of every step of a recipe. It spelled out techniques, talked about the proper equipment, necessary ingredients and viable substitutes it warned of pitfalls yet provided remedies for your mistakes. Moreover, although there were three authors, it was the voice of the American that came through, someone who was clearly a learner herself, who adored la cuisine Française and was determined to dissect and translate it for an American audience. I was enthralled.

It so happened that I had spent three and a half years in Paris, about the same time Julia had been there, and had also fallen in love with French cooking. I had no cookbooks over there, so my husband, Evan, and I would talk to the butcher, the baker, the fishmonger or madame at the vegetable market and pick up a tip about how to roast a whole dorade or what the best fat was for frying frites.

But nobody ever told me how to make a boeuf bourguignon, and my beef boiled in wine was a far cry from the one described in what would become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking": "Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man."

Back in America, I had searched in vain for the book that would tell me exactly how to prepare it "carefully" and flavor it "perfectly." And here was everything I needed to know in Julia's precisely worded instructions. I quickly copied them and spirited them home.

I followed her advice on the best beef cut to buy for a stew, and how to create lardons with American bacon I learned the importance of drying the beef cubes (damp meat won't brown) and of sautéing only a small batch at a time (it will steam if crowded in the pan). I braised the small white onions (following an eye-opening tip on fast peeling) separately from the mushrooms, so the nicely glazed vegetables maintained their identities. As to the cooking wine, only a full-bodied young red would do -- the same that you would drink with this masterpiece of classic French cuisine.

And, of course, my boeuf bourguignon was a masterpiece. How could it not be?

So Julia really formed my idea of what makes a good cookbook, and I soon found myself searching for cookbook writers who would do for other cuisines what "Mastering" did for French. I was convinced that the more unfamiliar and exotic the cuisine, the more important it was to really translate the techniques and foodways of the particular culture. When the home cook first sets out to make a Chinese stir-fry or a genuine Indian curry dish, we are really flying blind, creating something we may never have even tasted, and we need to know what to expect every step of the way.

Often the best teachers are not born cooks but late bloomers who were prompted to cook out of a yearning for the dishes of their childhood, to recapture in a new land the authentic cooking of their past: Claudia Roden with Middle Eastern dishes, Madhur Jaffrey with Indian dishes, Irene Kuo with Chinese. Because, like Julia, they were all learners, they understand exactly what we American neophytes need to know.

Technique is all-important: To attain the wonderful complexity of a genuine Madhur Jaffrey curry, we have to master the art of toasting spices, of blending flavorful pastes and then frying them to make an Irene Kuo stir-fry with the proper texture, we need to "velvet" the chicken cubes to make them fluffy and tender or to "slippery coat" the little chunks of meat, to line up all the ingredients so we can work fast over high, high heat. Language is crucial to describe the action accurately and evocatively, and to seduce us and bolster our confidence, so we'll try anything.

Good recipe writing does not rely on clichéd terminology but creates a vocabulary of its own. We need visceral words that make us feel the texture of the dough in our hands before we "plop" (one of Julia's favorite expressions) it into a bowl. It is important to use the correct terms so we come to know what a batter is, a dough, a base, a roux, rather than calling everything a mixture. Now "slippery coated" means just what it says you can almost taste the slippery, satiny finish that Irene Kuo intends.

I also welcome a good story along with the recipe -- a bit of history, something about the author's connection to the dish, a helpful tip for the home cook. An old recipe for parkerhouse rolls becomes something special when we learn from Edna Lewis in "The Taste of Country Cooking" how they were a part of her family's Emancipation Day Dinner (which they celebrated instead of Thanksgiving Day). I particularly love Edna's advice about how to tell if the cake is done: "Pick up the pan and listen for any quiet noises in the cake. If you hear faint sounds, remove it from the oven." That is the voice of a born cook. WHAT most of us really want, though, is a collaboration with the cookbook writer, who becomes a comforting presence as we prepare his dishes. How often my husband and I would refer to our cooking mentors as friends: Julia says to salt the meat . . . Jim (Beard) salts the pan . . . Michael (Field) says don't salt at all before cooking, leaving us in the last analysis to make our own choices. The good writer, in fact, enables us. We should be encouraged to taste and adjust seasonings and, once we have absorbed the basic technique, to improvise.

With the development of the more personal cookbook and the need for marketing handles, the cult of the celebrity chef was inevitable, but it has taken its toll. Obviously a talented chef has a lot of creative ideas to offer, but too often his book is turned over to a writer who doesn't even watch the maestro at work in the kitchen, to have the chance to ask questions and capture his voice. The result is sterile formula recipe writing that is devoid of helpful instruction and the kinds of culinary secrets you hope will be divulged.

Moreover, restaurant cooking and home cooking are different experiences, and the professional tends to forget that he or she is writing for the home cook. Three or four different fresh herbs may be used in a simple stew (at least $1.99 each for a wilted package in the supermarket) the mushrooms must be wild and saffron, truffle oil, aged balsamic vinegars and special liqueurs are de rigueur. The chef is intent on inventing a new spectacular dish. He's not interested in the rhythm of cooking through the week, thinking ahead, recycling leftovers (a dirty word these days) in creative ways, finding substitutes for extravagant items.

I have had young people say to me that they can't afford to cook from our kind of cookbooks -- it's too wasteful. They don't want to purchase too many high-priced ingredients that they'll use once and let rot in the fridge. They also find it too time-consuming: a bowl for this, another bowl for that, all those pots simmering and reducing, and then everything to be cleaned up.

It doesn't have to be that way if you're in the hands of a responsible cookbook writer. We need writers who persuade us that cooking is fun and that there is a wonderful creative satisfaction in going home and making a good meal at the end of the day. Lidia Bastianich in her new book, "Lidia's Family Table," stresses the importance of cooking with all our senses. In her recipe for basic risotto, she interrupts the instructions with reflections on what you are doing each step of the way. She explains, for instance, why it is important that each grain of rice be coated with fat, and she makes note of the clicking sound when you stir it.

So as you pour in more broth, stirring rhythmically, you watch and you listen. And you relax, reflecting on what is happening. In about 20 minutes, you will have a warm bowlful of satisfying risotto, and you will want to raise your glass in thanks to Lidia for being there at your side.

Judith Jones, a senior editor at Knopf, has been in book publishing for more than 60 years.


1 Tsp. of Prose, Recipes to Taste

IN the spring of 1960, as I turned the typewritten pages of a huge tome on French cooking written by a Smith College graduate named Julia Child along with her French cohorts, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, I couldn't contain my delight at what I was reading.

I was a general book editor at Alfred A. Knopf, and here was the cookbook I had been dreaming of -- one that took you by the hand and explained the whys and wherefores of every step of a recipe. It spelled out techniques, talked about the proper equipment, necessary ingredients and viable substitutes it warned of pitfalls yet provided remedies for your mistakes. Moreover, although there were three authors, it was the voice of the American that came through, someone who was clearly a learner herself, who adored la cuisine Française and was determined to dissect and translate it for an American audience. I was enthralled.

It so happened that I had spent three and a half years in Paris, about the same time Julia had been there, and had also fallen in love with French cooking. I had no cookbooks over there, so my husband, Evan, and I would talk to the butcher, the baker, the fishmonger or madame at the vegetable market and pick up a tip about how to roast a whole dorade or what the best fat was for frying frites.

But nobody ever told me how to make a boeuf bourguignon, and my beef boiled in wine was a far cry from the one described in what would become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking": "Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man."

Back in America, I had searched in vain for the book that would tell me exactly how to prepare it "carefully" and flavor it "perfectly." And here was everything I needed to know in Julia's precisely worded instructions. I quickly copied them and spirited them home.

I followed her advice on the best beef cut to buy for a stew, and how to create lardons with American bacon I learned the importance of drying the beef cubes (damp meat won't brown) and of sautéing only a small batch at a time (it will steam if crowded in the pan). I braised the small white onions (following an eye-opening tip on fast peeling) separately from the mushrooms, so the nicely glazed vegetables maintained their identities. As to the cooking wine, only a full-bodied young red would do -- the same that you would drink with this masterpiece of classic French cuisine.

And, of course, my boeuf bourguignon was a masterpiece. How could it not be?

So Julia really formed my idea of what makes a good cookbook, and I soon found myself searching for cookbook writers who would do for other cuisines what "Mastering" did for French. I was convinced that the more unfamiliar and exotic the cuisine, the more important it was to really translate the techniques and foodways of the particular culture. When the home cook first sets out to make a Chinese stir-fry or a genuine Indian curry dish, we are really flying blind, creating something we may never have even tasted, and we need to know what to expect every step of the way.

Often the best teachers are not born cooks but late bloomers who were prompted to cook out of a yearning for the dishes of their childhood, to recapture in a new land the authentic cooking of their past: Claudia Roden with Middle Eastern dishes, Madhur Jaffrey with Indian dishes, Irene Kuo with Chinese. Because, like Julia, they were all learners, they understand exactly what we American neophytes need to know.

Technique is all-important: To attain the wonderful complexity of a genuine Madhur Jaffrey curry, we have to master the art of toasting spices, of blending flavorful pastes and then frying them to make an Irene Kuo stir-fry with the proper texture, we need to "velvet" the chicken cubes to make them fluffy and tender or to "slippery coat" the little chunks of meat, to line up all the ingredients so we can work fast over high, high heat. Language is crucial to describe the action accurately and evocatively, and to seduce us and bolster our confidence, so we'll try anything.

Good recipe writing does not rely on clichéd terminology but creates a vocabulary of its own. We need visceral words that make us feel the texture of the dough in our hands before we "plop" (one of Julia's favorite expressions) it into a bowl. It is important to use the correct terms so we come to know what a batter is, a dough, a base, a roux, rather than calling everything a mixture. Now "slippery coated" means just what it says you can almost taste the slippery, satiny finish that Irene Kuo intends.

I also welcome a good story along with the recipe -- a bit of history, something about the author's connection to the dish, a helpful tip for the home cook. An old recipe for parkerhouse rolls becomes something special when we learn from Edna Lewis in "The Taste of Country Cooking" how they were a part of her family's Emancipation Day Dinner (which they celebrated instead of Thanksgiving Day). I particularly love Edna's advice about how to tell if the cake is done: "Pick up the pan and listen for any quiet noises in the cake. If you hear faint sounds, remove it from the oven." That is the voice of a born cook. WHAT most of us really want, though, is a collaboration with the cookbook writer, who becomes a comforting presence as we prepare his dishes. How often my husband and I would refer to our cooking mentors as friends: Julia says to salt the meat . . . Jim (Beard) salts the pan . . . Michael (Field) says don't salt at all before cooking, leaving us in the last analysis to make our own choices. The good writer, in fact, enables us. We should be encouraged to taste and adjust seasonings and, once we have absorbed the basic technique, to improvise.

With the development of the more personal cookbook and the need for marketing handles, the cult of the celebrity chef was inevitable, but it has taken its toll. Obviously a talented chef has a lot of creative ideas to offer, but too often his book is turned over to a writer who doesn't even watch the maestro at work in the kitchen, to have the chance to ask questions and capture his voice. The result is sterile formula recipe writing that is devoid of helpful instruction and the kinds of culinary secrets you hope will be divulged.

Moreover, restaurant cooking and home cooking are different experiences, and the professional tends to forget that he or she is writing for the home cook. Three or four different fresh herbs may be used in a simple stew (at least $1.99 each for a wilted package in the supermarket) the mushrooms must be wild and saffron, truffle oil, aged balsamic vinegars and special liqueurs are de rigueur. The chef is intent on inventing a new spectacular dish. He's not interested in the rhythm of cooking through the week, thinking ahead, recycling leftovers (a dirty word these days) in creative ways, finding substitutes for extravagant items.

I have had young people say to me that they can't afford to cook from our kind of cookbooks -- it's too wasteful. They don't want to purchase too many high-priced ingredients that they'll use once and let rot in the fridge. They also find it too time-consuming: a bowl for this, another bowl for that, all those pots simmering and reducing, and then everything to be cleaned up.

It doesn't have to be that way if you're in the hands of a responsible cookbook writer. We need writers who persuade us that cooking is fun and that there is a wonderful creative satisfaction in going home and making a good meal at the end of the day. Lidia Bastianich in her new book, "Lidia's Family Table," stresses the importance of cooking with all our senses. In her recipe for basic risotto, she interrupts the instructions with reflections on what you are doing each step of the way. She explains, for instance, why it is important that each grain of rice be coated with fat, and she makes note of the clicking sound when you stir it.

So as you pour in more broth, stirring rhythmically, you watch and you listen. And you relax, reflecting on what is happening. In about 20 minutes, you will have a warm bowlful of satisfying risotto, and you will want to raise your glass in thanks to Lidia for being there at your side.

Judith Jones, a senior editor at Knopf, has been in book publishing for more than 60 years.


1 Tsp. of Prose, Recipes to Taste

IN the spring of 1960, as I turned the typewritten pages of a huge tome on French cooking written by a Smith College graduate named Julia Child along with her French cohorts, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, I couldn't contain my delight at what I was reading.

I was a general book editor at Alfred A. Knopf, and here was the cookbook I had been dreaming of -- one that took you by the hand and explained the whys and wherefores of every step of a recipe. It spelled out techniques, talked about the proper equipment, necessary ingredients and viable substitutes it warned of pitfalls yet provided remedies for your mistakes. Moreover, although there were three authors, it was the voice of the American that came through, someone who was clearly a learner herself, who adored la cuisine Française and was determined to dissect and translate it for an American audience. I was enthralled.

It so happened that I had spent three and a half years in Paris, about the same time Julia had been there, and had also fallen in love with French cooking. I had no cookbooks over there, so my husband, Evan, and I would talk to the butcher, the baker, the fishmonger or madame at the vegetable market and pick up a tip about how to roast a whole dorade or what the best fat was for frying frites.

But nobody ever told me how to make a boeuf bourguignon, and my beef boiled in wine was a far cry from the one described in what would become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking": "Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man."

Back in America, I had searched in vain for the book that would tell me exactly how to prepare it "carefully" and flavor it "perfectly." And here was everything I needed to know in Julia's precisely worded instructions. I quickly copied them and spirited them home.

I followed her advice on the best beef cut to buy for a stew, and how to create lardons with American bacon I learned the importance of drying the beef cubes (damp meat won't brown) and of sautéing only a small batch at a time (it will steam if crowded in the pan). I braised the small white onions (following an eye-opening tip on fast peeling) separately from the mushrooms, so the nicely glazed vegetables maintained their identities. As to the cooking wine, only a full-bodied young red would do -- the same that you would drink with this masterpiece of classic French cuisine.

And, of course, my boeuf bourguignon was a masterpiece. How could it not be?

So Julia really formed my idea of what makes a good cookbook, and I soon found myself searching for cookbook writers who would do for other cuisines what "Mastering" did for French. I was convinced that the more unfamiliar and exotic the cuisine, the more important it was to really translate the techniques and foodways of the particular culture. When the home cook first sets out to make a Chinese stir-fry or a genuine Indian curry dish, we are really flying blind, creating something we may never have even tasted, and we need to know what to expect every step of the way.

Often the best teachers are not born cooks but late bloomers who were prompted to cook out of a yearning for the dishes of their childhood, to recapture in a new land the authentic cooking of their past: Claudia Roden with Middle Eastern dishes, Madhur Jaffrey with Indian dishes, Irene Kuo with Chinese. Because, like Julia, they were all learners, they understand exactly what we American neophytes need to know.

Technique is all-important: To attain the wonderful complexity of a genuine Madhur Jaffrey curry, we have to master the art of toasting spices, of blending flavorful pastes and then frying them to make an Irene Kuo stir-fry with the proper texture, we need to "velvet" the chicken cubes to make them fluffy and tender or to "slippery coat" the little chunks of meat, to line up all the ingredients so we can work fast over high, high heat. Language is crucial to describe the action accurately and evocatively, and to seduce us and bolster our confidence, so we'll try anything.

Good recipe writing does not rely on clichéd terminology but creates a vocabulary of its own. We need visceral words that make us feel the texture of the dough in our hands before we "plop" (one of Julia's favorite expressions) it into a bowl. It is important to use the correct terms so we come to know what a batter is, a dough, a base, a roux, rather than calling everything a mixture. Now "slippery coated" means just what it says you can almost taste the slippery, satiny finish that Irene Kuo intends.

I also welcome a good story along with the recipe -- a bit of history, something about the author's connection to the dish, a helpful tip for the home cook. An old recipe for parkerhouse rolls becomes something special when we learn from Edna Lewis in "The Taste of Country Cooking" how they were a part of her family's Emancipation Day Dinner (which they celebrated instead of Thanksgiving Day). I particularly love Edna's advice about how to tell if the cake is done: "Pick up the pan and listen for any quiet noises in the cake. If you hear faint sounds, remove it from the oven." That is the voice of a born cook. WHAT most of us really want, though, is a collaboration with the cookbook writer, who becomes a comforting presence as we prepare his dishes. How often my husband and I would refer to our cooking mentors as friends: Julia says to salt the meat . . . Jim (Beard) salts the pan . . . Michael (Field) says don't salt at all before cooking, leaving us in the last analysis to make our own choices. The good writer, in fact, enables us. We should be encouraged to taste and adjust seasonings and, once we have absorbed the basic technique, to improvise.

With the development of the more personal cookbook and the need for marketing handles, the cult of the celebrity chef was inevitable, but it has taken its toll. Obviously a talented chef has a lot of creative ideas to offer, but too often his book is turned over to a writer who doesn't even watch the maestro at work in the kitchen, to have the chance to ask questions and capture his voice. The result is sterile formula recipe writing that is devoid of helpful instruction and the kinds of culinary secrets you hope will be divulged.

Moreover, restaurant cooking and home cooking are different experiences, and the professional tends to forget that he or she is writing for the home cook. Three or four different fresh herbs may be used in a simple stew (at least $1.99 each for a wilted package in the supermarket) the mushrooms must be wild and saffron, truffle oil, aged balsamic vinegars and special liqueurs are de rigueur. The chef is intent on inventing a new spectacular dish. He's not interested in the rhythm of cooking through the week, thinking ahead, recycling leftovers (a dirty word these days) in creative ways, finding substitutes for extravagant items.

I have had young people say to me that they can't afford to cook from our kind of cookbooks -- it's too wasteful. They don't want to purchase too many high-priced ingredients that they'll use once and let rot in the fridge. They also find it too time-consuming: a bowl for this, another bowl for that, all those pots simmering and reducing, and then everything to be cleaned up.

It doesn't have to be that way if you're in the hands of a responsible cookbook writer. We need writers who persuade us that cooking is fun and that there is a wonderful creative satisfaction in going home and making a good meal at the end of the day. Lidia Bastianich in her new book, "Lidia's Family Table," stresses the importance of cooking with all our senses. In her recipe for basic risotto, she interrupts the instructions with reflections on what you are doing each step of the way. She explains, for instance, why it is important that each grain of rice be coated with fat, and she makes note of the clicking sound when you stir it.

So as you pour in more broth, stirring rhythmically, you watch and you listen. And you relax, reflecting on what is happening. In about 20 minutes, you will have a warm bowlful of satisfying risotto, and you will want to raise your glass in thanks to Lidia for being there at your side.

Judith Jones, a senior editor at Knopf, has been in book publishing for more than 60 years.


1 Tsp. of Prose, Recipes to Taste

IN the spring of 1960, as I turned the typewritten pages of a huge tome on French cooking written by a Smith College graduate named Julia Child along with her French cohorts, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, I couldn't contain my delight at what I was reading.

I was a general book editor at Alfred A. Knopf, and here was the cookbook I had been dreaming of -- one that took you by the hand and explained the whys and wherefores of every step of a recipe. It spelled out techniques, talked about the proper equipment, necessary ingredients and viable substitutes it warned of pitfalls yet provided remedies for your mistakes. Moreover, although there were three authors, it was the voice of the American that came through, someone who was clearly a learner herself, who adored la cuisine Française and was determined to dissect and translate it for an American audience. I was enthralled.

It so happened that I had spent three and a half years in Paris, about the same time Julia had been there, and had also fallen in love with French cooking. I had no cookbooks over there, so my husband, Evan, and I would talk to the butcher, the baker, the fishmonger or madame at the vegetable market and pick up a tip about how to roast a whole dorade or what the best fat was for frying frites.

But nobody ever told me how to make a boeuf bourguignon, and my beef boiled in wine was a far cry from the one described in what would become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking": "Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man."

Back in America, I had searched in vain for the book that would tell me exactly how to prepare it "carefully" and flavor it "perfectly." And here was everything I needed to know in Julia's precisely worded instructions. I quickly copied them and spirited them home.

I followed her advice on the best beef cut to buy for a stew, and how to create lardons with American bacon I learned the importance of drying the beef cubes (damp meat won't brown) and of sautéing only a small batch at a time (it will steam if crowded in the pan). I braised the small white onions (following an eye-opening tip on fast peeling) separately from the mushrooms, so the nicely glazed vegetables maintained their identities. As to the cooking wine, only a full-bodied young red would do -- the same that you would drink with this masterpiece of classic French cuisine.

And, of course, my boeuf bourguignon was a masterpiece. How could it not be?

So Julia really formed my idea of what makes a good cookbook, and I soon found myself searching for cookbook writers who would do for other cuisines what "Mastering" did for French. I was convinced that the more unfamiliar and exotic the cuisine, the more important it was to really translate the techniques and foodways of the particular culture. When the home cook first sets out to make a Chinese stir-fry or a genuine Indian curry dish, we are really flying blind, creating something we may never have even tasted, and we need to know what to expect every step of the way.

Often the best teachers are not born cooks but late bloomers who were prompted to cook out of a yearning for the dishes of their childhood, to recapture in a new land the authentic cooking of their past: Claudia Roden with Middle Eastern dishes, Madhur Jaffrey with Indian dishes, Irene Kuo with Chinese. Because, like Julia, they were all learners, they understand exactly what we American neophytes need to know.

Technique is all-important: To attain the wonderful complexity of a genuine Madhur Jaffrey curry, we have to master the art of toasting spices, of blending flavorful pastes and then frying them to make an Irene Kuo stir-fry with the proper texture, we need to "velvet" the chicken cubes to make them fluffy and tender or to "slippery coat" the little chunks of meat, to line up all the ingredients so we can work fast over high, high heat. Language is crucial to describe the action accurately and evocatively, and to seduce us and bolster our confidence, so we'll try anything.

Good recipe writing does not rely on clichéd terminology but creates a vocabulary of its own. We need visceral words that make us feel the texture of the dough in our hands before we "plop" (one of Julia's favorite expressions) it into a bowl. It is important to use the correct terms so we come to know what a batter is, a dough, a base, a roux, rather than calling everything a mixture. Now "slippery coated" means just what it says you can almost taste the slippery, satiny finish that Irene Kuo intends.

I also welcome a good story along with the recipe -- a bit of history, something about the author's connection to the dish, a helpful tip for the home cook. An old recipe for parkerhouse rolls becomes something special when we learn from Edna Lewis in "The Taste of Country Cooking" how they were a part of her family's Emancipation Day Dinner (which they celebrated instead of Thanksgiving Day). I particularly love Edna's advice about how to tell if the cake is done: "Pick up the pan and listen for any quiet noises in the cake. If you hear faint sounds, remove it from the oven." That is the voice of a born cook. WHAT most of us really want, though, is a collaboration with the cookbook writer, who becomes a comforting presence as we prepare his dishes. How often my husband and I would refer to our cooking mentors as friends: Julia says to salt the meat . . . Jim (Beard) salts the pan . . . Michael (Field) says don't salt at all before cooking, leaving us in the last analysis to make our own choices. The good writer, in fact, enables us. We should be encouraged to taste and adjust seasonings and, once we have absorbed the basic technique, to improvise.

With the development of the more personal cookbook and the need for marketing handles, the cult of the celebrity chef was inevitable, but it has taken its toll. Obviously a talented chef has a lot of creative ideas to offer, but too often his book is turned over to a writer who doesn't even watch the maestro at work in the kitchen, to have the chance to ask questions and capture his voice. The result is sterile formula recipe writing that is devoid of helpful instruction and the kinds of culinary secrets you hope will be divulged.

Moreover, restaurant cooking and home cooking are different experiences, and the professional tends to forget that he or she is writing for the home cook. Three or four different fresh herbs may be used in a simple stew (at least $1.99 each for a wilted package in the supermarket) the mushrooms must be wild and saffron, truffle oil, aged balsamic vinegars and special liqueurs are de rigueur. The chef is intent on inventing a new spectacular dish. He's not interested in the rhythm of cooking through the week, thinking ahead, recycling leftovers (a dirty word these days) in creative ways, finding substitutes for extravagant items.

I have had young people say to me that they can't afford to cook from our kind of cookbooks -- it's too wasteful. They don't want to purchase too many high-priced ingredients that they'll use once and let rot in the fridge. They also find it too time-consuming: a bowl for this, another bowl for that, all those pots simmering and reducing, and then everything to be cleaned up.

It doesn't have to be that way if you're in the hands of a responsible cookbook writer. We need writers who persuade us that cooking is fun and that there is a wonderful creative satisfaction in going home and making a good meal at the end of the day. Lidia Bastianich in her new book, "Lidia's Family Table," stresses the importance of cooking with all our senses. In her recipe for basic risotto, she interrupts the instructions with reflections on what you are doing each step of the way. She explains, for instance, why it is important that each grain of rice be coated with fat, and she makes note of the clicking sound when you stir it.

So as you pour in more broth, stirring rhythmically, you watch and you listen. And you relax, reflecting on what is happening. In about 20 minutes, you will have a warm bowlful of satisfying risotto, and you will want to raise your glass in thanks to Lidia for being there at your side.

Judith Jones, a senior editor at Knopf, has been in book publishing for more than 60 years.


1 Tsp. of Prose, Recipes to Taste

IN the spring of 1960, as I turned the typewritten pages of a huge tome on French cooking written by a Smith College graduate named Julia Child along with her French cohorts, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, I couldn't contain my delight at what I was reading.

I was a general book editor at Alfred A. Knopf, and here was the cookbook I had been dreaming of -- one that took you by the hand and explained the whys and wherefores of every step of a recipe. It spelled out techniques, talked about the proper equipment, necessary ingredients and viable substitutes it warned of pitfalls yet provided remedies for your mistakes. Moreover, although there were three authors, it was the voice of the American that came through, someone who was clearly a learner herself, who adored la cuisine Française and was determined to dissect and translate it for an American audience. I was enthralled.

It so happened that I had spent three and a half years in Paris, about the same time Julia had been there, and had also fallen in love with French cooking. I had no cookbooks over there, so my husband, Evan, and I would talk to the butcher, the baker, the fishmonger or madame at the vegetable market and pick up a tip about how to roast a whole dorade or what the best fat was for frying frites.

But nobody ever told me how to make a boeuf bourguignon, and my beef boiled in wine was a far cry from the one described in what would become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking": "Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man."

Back in America, I had searched in vain for the book that would tell me exactly how to prepare it "carefully" and flavor it "perfectly." And here was everything I needed to know in Julia's precisely worded instructions. I quickly copied them and spirited them home.

I followed her advice on the best beef cut to buy for a stew, and how to create lardons with American bacon I learned the importance of drying the beef cubes (damp meat won't brown) and of sautéing only a small batch at a time (it will steam if crowded in the pan). I braised the small white onions (following an eye-opening tip on fast peeling) separately from the mushrooms, so the nicely glazed vegetables maintained their identities. As to the cooking wine, only a full-bodied young red would do -- the same that you would drink with this masterpiece of classic French cuisine.

And, of course, my boeuf bourguignon was a masterpiece. How could it not be?

So Julia really formed my idea of what makes a good cookbook, and I soon found myself searching for cookbook writers who would do for other cuisines what "Mastering" did for French. I was convinced that the more unfamiliar and exotic the cuisine, the more important it was to really translate the techniques and foodways of the particular culture. When the home cook first sets out to make a Chinese stir-fry or a genuine Indian curry dish, we are really flying blind, creating something we may never have even tasted, and we need to know what to expect every step of the way.

Often the best teachers are not born cooks but late bloomers who were prompted to cook out of a yearning for the dishes of their childhood, to recapture in a new land the authentic cooking of their past: Claudia Roden with Middle Eastern dishes, Madhur Jaffrey with Indian dishes, Irene Kuo with Chinese. Because, like Julia, they were all learners, they understand exactly what we American neophytes need to know.

Technique is all-important: To attain the wonderful complexity of a genuine Madhur Jaffrey curry, we have to master the art of toasting spices, of blending flavorful pastes and then frying them to make an Irene Kuo stir-fry with the proper texture, we need to "velvet" the chicken cubes to make them fluffy and tender or to "slippery coat" the little chunks of meat, to line up all the ingredients so we can work fast over high, high heat. Language is crucial to describe the action accurately and evocatively, and to seduce us and bolster our confidence, so we'll try anything.

Good recipe writing does not rely on clichéd terminology but creates a vocabulary of its own. We need visceral words that make us feel the texture of the dough in our hands before we "plop" (one of Julia's favorite expressions) it into a bowl. It is important to use the correct terms so we come to know what a batter is, a dough, a base, a roux, rather than calling everything a mixture. Now "slippery coated" means just what it says you can almost taste the slippery, satiny finish that Irene Kuo intends.

I also welcome a good story along with the recipe -- a bit of history, something about the author's connection to the dish, a helpful tip for the home cook. An old recipe for parkerhouse rolls becomes something special when we learn from Edna Lewis in "The Taste of Country Cooking" how they were a part of her family's Emancipation Day Dinner (which they celebrated instead of Thanksgiving Day). I particularly love Edna's advice about how to tell if the cake is done: "Pick up the pan and listen for any quiet noises in the cake. If you hear faint sounds, remove it from the oven." That is the voice of a born cook. WHAT most of us really want, though, is a collaboration with the cookbook writer, who becomes a comforting presence as we prepare his dishes. How often my husband and I would refer to our cooking mentors as friends: Julia says to salt the meat . . . Jim (Beard) salts the pan . . . Michael (Field) says don't salt at all before cooking, leaving us in the last analysis to make our own choices. The good writer, in fact, enables us. We should be encouraged to taste and adjust seasonings and, once we have absorbed the basic technique, to improvise.

With the development of the more personal cookbook and the need for marketing handles, the cult of the celebrity chef was inevitable, but it has taken its toll. Obviously a talented chef has a lot of creative ideas to offer, but too often his book is turned over to a writer who doesn't even watch the maestro at work in the kitchen, to have the chance to ask questions and capture his voice. The result is sterile formula recipe writing that is devoid of helpful instruction and the kinds of culinary secrets you hope will be divulged.

Moreover, restaurant cooking and home cooking are different experiences, and the professional tends to forget that he or she is writing for the home cook. Three or four different fresh herbs may be used in a simple stew (at least $1.99 each for a wilted package in the supermarket) the mushrooms must be wild and saffron, truffle oil, aged balsamic vinegars and special liqueurs are de rigueur. The chef is intent on inventing a new spectacular dish. He's not interested in the rhythm of cooking through the week, thinking ahead, recycling leftovers (a dirty word these days) in creative ways, finding substitutes for extravagant items.

I have had young people say to me that they can't afford to cook from our kind of cookbooks -- it's too wasteful. They don't want to purchase too many high-priced ingredients that they'll use once and let rot in the fridge. They also find it too time-consuming: a bowl for this, another bowl for that, all those pots simmering and reducing, and then everything to be cleaned up.

It doesn't have to be that way if you're in the hands of a responsible cookbook writer. We need writers who persuade us that cooking is fun and that there is a wonderful creative satisfaction in going home and making a good meal at the end of the day. Lidia Bastianich in her new book, "Lidia's Family Table," stresses the importance of cooking with all our senses. In her recipe for basic risotto, she interrupts the instructions with reflections on what you are doing each step of the way. She explains, for instance, why it is important that each grain of rice be coated with fat, and she makes note of the clicking sound when you stir it.

So as you pour in more broth, stirring rhythmically, you watch and you listen. And you relax, reflecting on what is happening. In about 20 minutes, you will have a warm bowlful of satisfying risotto, and you will want to raise your glass in thanks to Lidia for being there at your side.

Judith Jones, a senior editor at Knopf, has been in book publishing for more than 60 years.


1 Tsp. of Prose, Recipes to Taste

IN the spring of 1960, as I turned the typewritten pages of a huge tome on French cooking written by a Smith College graduate named Julia Child along with her French cohorts, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, I couldn't contain my delight at what I was reading.

I was a general book editor at Alfred A. Knopf, and here was the cookbook I had been dreaming of -- one that took you by the hand and explained the whys and wherefores of every step of a recipe. It spelled out techniques, talked about the proper equipment, necessary ingredients and viable substitutes it warned of pitfalls yet provided remedies for your mistakes. Moreover, although there were three authors, it was the voice of the American that came through, someone who was clearly a learner herself, who adored la cuisine Française and was determined to dissect and translate it for an American audience. I was enthralled.

It so happened that I had spent three and a half years in Paris, about the same time Julia had been there, and had also fallen in love with French cooking. I had no cookbooks over there, so my husband, Evan, and I would talk to the butcher, the baker, the fishmonger or madame at the vegetable market and pick up a tip about how to roast a whole dorade or what the best fat was for frying frites.

But nobody ever told me how to make a boeuf bourguignon, and my beef boiled in wine was a far cry from the one described in what would become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking": "Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man."

Back in America, I had searched in vain for the book that would tell me exactly how to prepare it "carefully" and flavor it "perfectly." And here was everything I needed to know in Julia's precisely worded instructions. I quickly copied them and spirited them home.

I followed her advice on the best beef cut to buy for a stew, and how to create lardons with American bacon I learned the importance of drying the beef cubes (damp meat won't brown) and of sautéing only a small batch at a time (it will steam if crowded in the pan). I braised the small white onions (following an eye-opening tip on fast peeling) separately from the mushrooms, so the nicely glazed vegetables maintained their identities. As to the cooking wine, only a full-bodied young red would do -- the same that you would drink with this masterpiece of classic French cuisine.

And, of course, my boeuf bourguignon was a masterpiece. How could it not be?

So Julia really formed my idea of what makes a good cookbook, and I soon found myself searching for cookbook writers who would do for other cuisines what "Mastering" did for French. I was convinced that the more unfamiliar and exotic the cuisine, the more important it was to really translate the techniques and foodways of the particular culture. When the home cook first sets out to make a Chinese stir-fry or a genuine Indian curry dish, we are really flying blind, creating something we may never have even tasted, and we need to know what to expect every step of the way.

Often the best teachers are not born cooks but late bloomers who were prompted to cook out of a yearning for the dishes of their childhood, to recapture in a new land the authentic cooking of their past: Claudia Roden with Middle Eastern dishes, Madhur Jaffrey with Indian dishes, Irene Kuo with Chinese. Because, like Julia, they were all learners, they understand exactly what we American neophytes need to know.

Technique is all-important: To attain the wonderful complexity of a genuine Madhur Jaffrey curry, we have to master the art of toasting spices, of blending flavorful pastes and then frying them to make an Irene Kuo stir-fry with the proper texture, we need to "velvet" the chicken cubes to make them fluffy and tender or to "slippery coat" the little chunks of meat, to line up all the ingredients so we can work fast over high, high heat. Language is crucial to describe the action accurately and evocatively, and to seduce us and bolster our confidence, so we'll try anything.

Good recipe writing does not rely on clichéd terminology but creates a vocabulary of its own. We need visceral words that make us feel the texture of the dough in our hands before we "plop" (one of Julia's favorite expressions) it into a bowl. It is important to use the correct terms so we come to know what a batter is, a dough, a base, a roux, rather than calling everything a mixture. Now "slippery coated" means just what it says you can almost taste the slippery, satiny finish that Irene Kuo intends.

I also welcome a good story along with the recipe -- a bit of history, something about the author's connection to the dish, a helpful tip for the home cook. An old recipe for parkerhouse rolls becomes something special when we learn from Edna Lewis in "The Taste of Country Cooking" how they were a part of her family's Emancipation Day Dinner (which they celebrated instead of Thanksgiving Day). I particularly love Edna's advice about how to tell if the cake is done: "Pick up the pan and listen for any quiet noises in the cake. If you hear faint sounds, remove it from the oven." That is the voice of a born cook. WHAT most of us really want, though, is a collaboration with the cookbook writer, who becomes a comforting presence as we prepare his dishes. How often my husband and I would refer to our cooking mentors as friends: Julia says to salt the meat . . . Jim (Beard) salts the pan . . . Michael (Field) says don't salt at all before cooking, leaving us in the last analysis to make our own choices. The good writer, in fact, enables us. We should be encouraged to taste and adjust seasonings and, once we have absorbed the basic technique, to improvise.

With the development of the more personal cookbook and the need for marketing handles, the cult of the celebrity chef was inevitable, but it has taken its toll. Obviously a talented chef has a lot of creative ideas to offer, but too often his book is turned over to a writer who doesn't even watch the maestro at work in the kitchen, to have the chance to ask questions and capture his voice. The result is sterile formula recipe writing that is devoid of helpful instruction and the kinds of culinary secrets you hope will be divulged.

Moreover, restaurant cooking and home cooking are different experiences, and the professional tends to forget that he or she is writing for the home cook. Three or four different fresh herbs may be used in a simple stew (at least $1.99 each for a wilted package in the supermarket) the mushrooms must be wild and saffron, truffle oil, aged balsamic vinegars and special liqueurs are de rigueur. The chef is intent on inventing a new spectacular dish. He's not interested in the rhythm of cooking through the week, thinking ahead, recycling leftovers (a dirty word these days) in creative ways, finding substitutes for extravagant items.

I have had young people say to me that they can't afford to cook from our kind of cookbooks -- it's too wasteful. They don't want to purchase too many high-priced ingredients that they'll use once and let rot in the fridge. They also find it too time-consuming: a bowl for this, another bowl for that, all those pots simmering and reducing, and then everything to be cleaned up.

It doesn't have to be that way if you're in the hands of a responsible cookbook writer. We need writers who persuade us that cooking is fun and that there is a wonderful creative satisfaction in going home and making a good meal at the end of the day. Lidia Bastianich in her new book, "Lidia's Family Table," stresses the importance of cooking with all our senses. In her recipe for basic risotto, she interrupts the instructions with reflections on what you are doing each step of the way. She explains, for instance, why it is important that each grain of rice be coated with fat, and she makes note of the clicking sound when you stir it.

So as you pour in more broth, stirring rhythmically, you watch and you listen. And you relax, reflecting on what is happening. In about 20 minutes, you will have a warm bowlful of satisfying risotto, and you will want to raise your glass in thanks to Lidia for being there at your side.

Judith Jones, a senior editor at Knopf, has been in book publishing for more than 60 years.


1 Tsp. of Prose, Recipes to Taste

IN the spring of 1960, as I turned the typewritten pages of a huge tome on French cooking written by a Smith College graduate named Julia Child along with her French cohorts, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, I couldn't contain my delight at what I was reading.

I was a general book editor at Alfred A. Knopf, and here was the cookbook I had been dreaming of -- one that took you by the hand and explained the whys and wherefores of every step of a recipe. It spelled out techniques, talked about the proper equipment, necessary ingredients and viable substitutes it warned of pitfalls yet provided remedies for your mistakes. Moreover, although there were three authors, it was the voice of the American that came through, someone who was clearly a learner herself, who adored la cuisine Française and was determined to dissect and translate it for an American audience. I was enthralled.

It so happened that I had spent three and a half years in Paris, about the same time Julia had been there, and had also fallen in love with French cooking. I had no cookbooks over there, so my husband, Evan, and I would talk to the butcher, the baker, the fishmonger or madame at the vegetable market and pick up a tip about how to roast a whole dorade or what the best fat was for frying frites.

But nobody ever told me how to make a boeuf bourguignon, and my beef boiled in wine was a far cry from the one described in what would become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking": "Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man."

Back in America, I had searched in vain for the book that would tell me exactly how to prepare it "carefully" and flavor it "perfectly." And here was everything I needed to know in Julia's precisely worded instructions. I quickly copied them and spirited them home.

I followed her advice on the best beef cut to buy for a stew, and how to create lardons with American bacon I learned the importance of drying the beef cubes (damp meat won't brown) and of sautéing only a small batch at a time (it will steam if crowded in the pan). I braised the small white onions (following an eye-opening tip on fast peeling) separately from the mushrooms, so the nicely glazed vegetables maintained their identities. As to the cooking wine, only a full-bodied young red would do -- the same that you would drink with this masterpiece of classic French cuisine.

And, of course, my boeuf bourguignon was a masterpiece. How could it not be?

So Julia really formed my idea of what makes a good cookbook, and I soon found myself searching for cookbook writers who would do for other cuisines what "Mastering" did for French. I was convinced that the more unfamiliar and exotic the cuisine, the more important it was to really translate the techniques and foodways of the particular culture. When the home cook first sets out to make a Chinese stir-fry or a genuine Indian curry dish, we are really flying blind, creating something we may never have even tasted, and we need to know what to expect every step of the way.

Often the best teachers are not born cooks but late bloomers who were prompted to cook out of a yearning for the dishes of their childhood, to recapture in a new land the authentic cooking of their past: Claudia Roden with Middle Eastern dishes, Madhur Jaffrey with Indian dishes, Irene Kuo with Chinese. Because, like Julia, they were all learners, they understand exactly what we American neophytes need to know.

Technique is all-important: To attain the wonderful complexity of a genuine Madhur Jaffrey curry, we have to master the art of toasting spices, of blending flavorful pastes and then frying them to make an Irene Kuo stir-fry with the proper texture, we need to "velvet" the chicken cubes to make them fluffy and tender or to "slippery coat" the little chunks of meat, to line up all the ingredients so we can work fast over high, high heat. Language is crucial to describe the action accurately and evocatively, and to seduce us and bolster our confidence, so we'll try anything.

Good recipe writing does not rely on clichéd terminology but creates a vocabulary of its own. We need visceral words that make us feel the texture of the dough in our hands before we "plop" (one of Julia's favorite expressions) it into a bowl. It is important to use the correct terms so we come to know what a batter is, a dough, a base, a roux, rather than calling everything a mixture. Now "slippery coated" means just what it says you can almost taste the slippery, satiny finish that Irene Kuo intends.

I also welcome a good story along with the recipe -- a bit of history, something about the author's connection to the dish, a helpful tip for the home cook. An old recipe for parkerhouse rolls becomes something special when we learn from Edna Lewis in "The Taste of Country Cooking" how they were a part of her family's Emancipation Day Dinner (which they celebrated instead of Thanksgiving Day). I particularly love Edna's advice about how to tell if the cake is done: "Pick up the pan and listen for any quiet noises in the cake. If you hear faint sounds, remove it from the oven." That is the voice of a born cook. WHAT most of us really want, though, is a collaboration with the cookbook writer, who becomes a comforting presence as we prepare his dishes. How often my husband and I would refer to our cooking mentors as friends: Julia says to salt the meat . . . Jim (Beard) salts the pan . . . Michael (Field) says don't salt at all before cooking, leaving us in the last analysis to make our own choices. The good writer, in fact, enables us. We should be encouraged to taste and adjust seasonings and, once we have absorbed the basic technique, to improvise.

With the development of the more personal cookbook and the need for marketing handles, the cult of the celebrity chef was inevitable, but it has taken its toll. Obviously a talented chef has a lot of creative ideas to offer, but too often his book is turned over to a writer who doesn't even watch the maestro at work in the kitchen, to have the chance to ask questions and capture his voice. The result is sterile formula recipe writing that is devoid of helpful instruction and the kinds of culinary secrets you hope will be divulged.

Moreover, restaurant cooking and home cooking are different experiences, and the professional tends to forget that he or she is writing for the home cook. Three or four different fresh herbs may be used in a simple stew (at least $1.99 each for a wilted package in the supermarket) the mushrooms must be wild and saffron, truffle oil, aged balsamic vinegars and special liqueurs are de rigueur. The chef is intent on inventing a new spectacular dish. He's not interested in the rhythm of cooking through the week, thinking ahead, recycling leftovers (a dirty word these days) in creative ways, finding substitutes for extravagant items.

I have had young people say to me that they can't afford to cook from our kind of cookbooks -- it's too wasteful. They don't want to purchase too many high-priced ingredients that they'll use once and let rot in the fridge. They also find it too time-consuming: a bowl for this, another bowl for that, all those pots simmering and reducing, and then everything to be cleaned up.

It doesn't have to be that way if you're in the hands of a responsible cookbook writer. We need writers who persuade us that cooking is fun and that there is a wonderful creative satisfaction in going home and making a good meal at the end of the day. Lidia Bastianich in her new book, "Lidia's Family Table," stresses the importance of cooking with all our senses. In her recipe for basic risotto, she interrupts the instructions with reflections on what you are doing each step of the way. She explains, for instance, why it is important that each grain of rice be coated with fat, and she makes note of the clicking sound when you stir it.

So as you pour in more broth, stirring rhythmically, you watch and you listen. And you relax, reflecting on what is happening. In about 20 minutes, you will have a warm bowlful of satisfying risotto, and you will want to raise your glass in thanks to Lidia for being there at your side.

Judith Jones, a senior editor at Knopf, has been in book publishing for more than 60 years.