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Lost Recipes

by Marion Cunningham

Lost Recipes

You always know what to expect when Marion Cunningham writes a cookbook. It all started in 1979 with The Fanny Farmer Cookbook, when she updated the 19th Century American classic Boston Cooking-School Cookbook. With Fanny, she taught generations of Americans not only how to cook, but to appreciate food as a celebration of life. She filled more than eight hundred pages with instructions on developing good cooking habits and how to test eggs for freshness, but most of all she made cooking accessible to millions of cooks: with improved, homey recipes for cheese balls and cream of mushroom soup, pork chops and apple rings, lemon meringue pie and everything in-between. In subsequent updates she kept the classics but included new recipes and techniques that reflected changing times.

Mrs. Cunningham followed The Fanny Farmer Cookbook with The Fanny Farmer Baking Book, a rediscovery of baking in the same vein as its predecessor. After that she focused on perfecting main meals in The Breakfast Book and The Supper Book and "for children who really want to learn to cook," Cooking with Children. Then she turned her attention to teaching adults how to cook via Learning to Cook with Marion Cunningham—150 everyday recipes with clear instructions for novices.

Comfort Food Queen

There's a recurring theme with Marion Cunningham. Her intentions are honest. She wants people to cook at home, eat at home and spend time together. Lost Recipes is her latest effort to share this philosophy and encourage its practice, with more than 140 recipes rooted firmly in the comfort food genre.

There's nothing about Lost Recipes that is groundbreaking or particularly compelling. But that's not such a bad thing. While it's not more adventurous than Split Pea Soup and Waldorf Salad, Lost Recipes is a heartwarming and appetite-pleasing collection of recipes that encourages the home cook to take a little time to redefine eating habits. Forget the take-home and carryout meals. Skip the fast food. Make a Smothered Chicken with Mushrooms and some Succotash. Spend a few extra minutes so you can linger afterward over homemade Pineapple Upside Cake.

The recipes are predictable but simple and generally easy to follow. The results are pure comfort: Scalloped Potatoes, Shepherd's Pie, Brown Derby Cobb Salad and Lemon Pudding Cake. Just to get the point across, Mrs. Cunningham peppers her book with plenty of nostalgic food and dining-related illustrations, photos and text. Her own notes are somewhat haphazard—sometimes she shares a personal story or some history, and sometimes gives opinions or cooking tips. This isn't a highbrow culinary adventure, and that's nice for a change.

But the proof in Lost Recipes is in the Bread and Butter Pudding. Or in her Raised Waffles, which she says, "is unlike any other waffle I know." It's her favorite breakfast recipe. She starts it the night before, sets the table for company and gets a good night's sleep. The next morning she sets thick-cut slices of pepper bacon on a baking tray and cooks it in the oven. She adds eggs and baking soda to last night's batter, fires up a few waffle irons and starts baking.

Oh, to be a guest at Marion Cunningham's dining table.


Reviewed by Kevin Schoeler

(Updated: 12/04/08 SB)
Lost Recipes by Marion Cunningham

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