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Foodie Gift Par Excellence, Silver Palate’s Five Star Pecan Bar, and the Old Cookbook Blues


Look at my Silver Palate Cookbook! Isn’t it amazing and hilarious? I love it. And I can’t part with it. Seriously. I go onto amazon.com thinking about finally buying a new one but I can’t bring myself to do it. I just love this old crazy pages falling out stained and loved to bits edition I bought around 1982.

I was a twenty-something painter then in my first post-college apartment in Manhattan with a kitchen the size of a broom closet. I fell into serious lust with the ginger cookies and carrot cake at the tiny, jewel-box-like Silver Palate shop in my neighborhood. They kept them in huge glass jars. As soon as this book came out I had to have it. It’s like the Velveteen Rabbit if you know the story. All its buttons loved off.


I think I love it especially for the charming pen and ink drawings done by co-author Sheila Lukins to illustrate the recipes.


I used it for yesterday’s round of desserts of course because in my family, what would Thanksgiving be without tons of homey American desserts like these pecan bars? And no other recipe for me comes close to the version in this book. I wooed one of the loves of my life with those bars. It’s where I found my favorite pound cake recipe (called Bishop’s cake here), chicken with blueberries, stuffed hens, that decadent carrot cake second to none, three bean salad. So much more.

I believe old cookbooks have souls. And I know the Silver Palate Cookbook is not often mentioned by celebrity chefs as being important to them. I don’t know why. But this book has a fine old soul in my opinion, written by two fine cooks, Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso. I put it up there with all the classics.

If you’re curious how Lukins and Rosso created it for their Manhattan shop, you can find a brief history here.

see also: The Picayune Creole Cookbook

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I love those cookbooks and I love that you feel they have “souls” - which of course they do. I don’t use mine as often as you obviously do, but I still refer to them for creative ideas, especially when cooking for company.

    – ciaochowlinda (December 02 2010 at 11:32)

Happy to see that my copy of Silver Palate is in a little better shape than is yours, but not much! Great post. Thanks for a happy start to a bleak and cold day.

    – Cynthia Bertelsen (December 08 2010 at 10:11)

I have a copy of the Silver Palate cookbooks as well that dates back to my newly moved to New York days (1988).  When I visited New York to interview in 1987, one of my stops was The Silver Palate, since I had read about it in a Christmas in New York New York Times Magazine special edition (still have it).  It was late at night and the store was closed but it was still thrilling to pass by.  After I moved to New York, the store became a regular stop for lunch or supper take out.  I am still sad when I walk by the site of the store, which is now, I think, Arte Around the Corner.  I have a scrim of the neighborhood the way it used to be ... miss Alice’s Underground, even though I love Alice’s Teacup.
I also treasure falling apart books.  Sometimes they have marginal notes, but mostly they are life history and a new book does not have the same life history.

    –  (December 13 2010 at 8:41)

The Pecan Squares on page 332 of Maida Heatter’s New Book of Great Desserts—updated from a prior cookbook of hers—are amazing as well.

    –  (December 13 2010 at 11:08)

Stains and all! I have a cookbook like this as well.  Indeed an old friendly cookbook that we turn to over and over again is to a grownup what a favorite toy is to a child.  A cookbook filled with memories.

    – Milwaukee Personal Injury Lawyer (December 15 2010 at 12:07)

I was looking for some information on fortune cookie and come across this book. This is an excellent book really and thanks for sharing.

    – Lalit (January 02 2011 at 2:18)

I am that way about my 1970’s edition Betty Crocker cookbook. I know it is pretty generic compared to your treasured book, but the recipes are not the same today. I like old recipes where we used to make real food outside of the microwave. Its missing some of the pages, and of course there are the pages with the food stains on them, but it is definitely loved. Boston DUI lawyers

    – NetGirlJenn (January 05 2011 at 11:29)

Hey Nancy,
My dad gave me a couple of his super-used cookbooks when he bought new copies, but before handing them over he wrote notes in them to me about his favorite recipes, when he’d cooked them, and how he customized certain dishes.
Could be fun for Max someday.

    –  (February 14 2011 at 12:02)

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