Friday, February 26, 2010

Top Women In Food

Did you see Slashfood’s Hottest Women in Food list last month? It’s a fine list, but kind of obvious with the stunning (and new mommy) Padma Lakshmi at the top of the list. (Could this be Daddy?)

I don’t disagree with any of their choices and I’m thrilled they included Paula Deen (although at number 10), Jaden Hair, consummate blogger behind Steamy Kitchen, and Sunny Anderson, who I think is a genuine sweetheart and darn good cook.

I’m not so worried about whether they’re hot or not, or even whether they’re currently active in the cooking world (or any other), but here’s MY list of The Top NINE Women in Food. (I was rooting around for hours trying to think of number ten and I just couldn’t think of someone that matched these nine.)

BTW, Slashfood does say that Julia Child is so far above anyone else that she’s on her own list. I make no such bones and put her at number one.

For some reason (;-) MY list skews a bit older than Slashfood’s. And really, my list is as much about COOKBOOKS, as it about cooks. But that’s how I know these ladies, through their recipes as much as through their biographies or personalities.

My Top Nine Women in Food

1. Julia Child – She excelled on the written page and on television. I also loved her “performances” with other chefs. Her riffs with Jacques Pepin were beyond charming AND educational and I loved how Emeril always bowed and scraped when she was in the kitchen.

2. Irma Rombauer Beck – I often consult The Joy Of Cooking for its version of a given recipe. It’s sheer size and comprehensiveness makes it unusual NOT to find what I’m looking for. Also I have 4 editions of it, so I’m bound to find anything I’m looking for.

3. Madhur Jaffrey – The original Padma Lakshmi. But instead of being simply a television host, she is a bona fide MOVIE STAR, as well as a restaurateur and cookbook author. Her Indian and vegetarian cookbooks are classics. It was from her that I first learned to roast cumin, which is reason enough for her to be on this list.

4. Maida Heatter – She was one of my earliest favorite cookbook authors and wrote so glowingly of brownies, cookies and pies that I would RUN into the kitchen to try her recipes. And it’s not just her chocolate desserts that are outstanding, her Santa Fe Lemon Pie is prize worthy.

5. Sheila Lukins – I don’t need to say anything other than The Silver Palates Cookbooks to tell you why she has to be on my list.

6. Lidia Bastianich – Lidia goes into the kitchen and shows us how to cook HER food with a minimum of fuss and frippery. Along the way, she’s opened numerous restaurants, appeared countless times on television and written some glorious books.

7. Rose Levy Beranbaum – Is it an exaggeration to call her the Einstein of baking? Even if it is, the The Cake Bible is my reference for all things baked.

8. Ina Garten – She makes everything look so easy and reminds us to use “good” ingredients. Plus her recipes seldom fail AND I love her shiny hair.

9. Rozanne Gold – Her 1996 book, Recipes 1-2-3, was the original 30 Minutes Meals. She's the author of many cookbooks, and I’ve been making several of her recipes for DECADES. They’re delicious, reliable and FAST.

Honorable Mentions – Penelope Casas and Deborah Madison.



Emily said...

GREAT list! I completely agree with you. I would bump Ina up a little though. Her shiny hair is gorgeous! :)

DebCarol said...

Agree with Em ~ Great list, I'm partial to Rose Levy Beranbaum because she is the Goddess of Baking and that is my love but Lidia, Ina and of course Julia are my heroines of the kitchen as well. Sunny Anderson will always be in the top 5 of any list. But you forgot to put that amazing chef and consumate blogger Sue Gordon on the list . . . so I will add her here :^)

Sue said...

Yeah, Em,
Shiny hair does count for a lot.

Hi DC!
We're lucky, aren't we, that there are so many great women out there with so much to teach us...

And you are too sweet! Love ya!

Anonymous said...

What I find most interesting about your list is that they focus on cooking at home. I'm not sure that a list of male cooks share that characteristic. Even Jacques Pepin's early tomes have more of a restaurant focus (although he has certainly come around). And while Thomas Keller tries, no one would mistake his books for home cooking. (same with Patrick O'Connell, Jose Andres and any of the other molecular gastronomy crowd, Charlie Trotter, etc) Michael Chiarello and Mark Bittman qualify, but even Mario Batali is a bit less home-focused than he should be. And I wouldn't include Bobby Flay or Tyler Florence in the same rank as the others.

As for hotness, an interesting list, but who really thinks Padma has a sense of humor?

Sue said...

Hi Tom,
If I had been including men, I definitely would have had Jacques Pepin on my list. He taught me how to carve swans out of honeydew in La Methode.

But you're right, these are folks who cater to the home cook in their books. And the majority have been around forever (or aren't around anymore at all). I guess that's because they influenced me in my formative years and I still find things to learn from them.