I don’t even remember a time when I WASN’T cooking from The Silver Palate, which was published 30 years ago, although there seems to be some dispute about the date. (My copy says 1979, many sites say 1982). In either case, Chicken
It had already travelled the world when I was introduced to it by an Australian in the 1980’s while we were both living in
It amazes me when I think of the many, many times I’ve made Chicken Marbella from my increasingly worn Silver Palate book. I probably never (even once) made it exactly as written, but it never failed to delight me (and all for whom I served it) with its ingenious mix of sweet, salty and piquant flavors. Plus all those lovely juices, studded with prunes, olives and capers, became the most marvelous sauce. That was pretty ground-breaking back in the day. And it does give me pause when I realize that the last time I made it was only days before Sheila died.
The word sad is the one I keep coming back to. In 1991, at 47, Sheila suffered a serious stroke that forced her to spend 4 months in rehab and took years to recover from. But she didn’t just travel on the road to recovery. Amazingly, very shortly after, she began traveling the world for research on her Around the World book. As she says in its introduction, she journeyed for 730 days on and off, all around the world gathering material for her book. The result was a huge comprehensive cookbook, chock a block full of fabulous ethnic recipes and exciting menus. That she accomplished this volume at all is amazing; that she did it with her physical limitations is awe-inspiring.
I don’t think our cookbooks mean the same to us as they used to. We get so many of our recipes online or from television that, to me anyway, they aren’t the same source of inspiration.
I’m looking at my cookbook shelves. James, Craig, Julia…all gone. Marcella and Maida still around, but getting on.
But Sheila…It’s funny. I never thought of her as a culinary icon, although her books outsold many of them.
She was more like one of us.
Of course, she was an accomplished professional, but she made it seem like she was cooking to have fun, cooking to entertain her friends and family. She had a big hearted, open kitchen approach that was so evident on every page of her books. Her delightful drawings only added to their charm.
I know a lot of younger folks treasure The New Basics, but I used the Silver Palate, probably on more occasions than any other cookbook. You’re not going to learn the tenets of consommé making (there IS a salmon consommé in The New Basics) or chicken deboning from either Silver Palate. But you will make darn good food and in some cases great food, which, if you’re anything like me, you’ll keep coming back to time after time. THAT is what I’ll remember Sheila Lukins for.