Friday, March 07, 2008

On Brockway, or How To Judge A Book By Its Cover

The first thing you notice is the spine. There you are, just browsing the bookshelves of your favorite local secondhand book store, glossing over a lot of the same old same old when out jumps that spine.

brockway 1 fig. a: spine

The font's so trippy that you can barely make out the title, Come Cook With Me--kind of pathetic, really, but there's something about that font + that title that demands a closer look. So you pull the book off the shelf and you rest your eyes on this:

brockway 2 fig. b: front cover

Sweet Jesus! It's obviously a Yellow Submarine-era edition,* somehow simultaneously nostalgic and psychedelic, and just check out that name: Maurice Brockway. Amazing! Mau-rice Brockway. Moe Brockway. What a name! And an "introduction by Pauline Trigère," too... Who knew? You flip to the inside flap of the dust jacket and find the following:

...Can you make Cioppino? or Hootsla? or Bauletto con Funghi or a really good fish chowder? Have you ever tried Frizzled Liver, Bagna Cauda or Apple Crow's Nest? [yes, no, no, yes, no, yes, and no]

This is not only a first-rate cookbook but a charming night-table narrative as well. [perfect!] For Mr. Brockway's gastronomical adventures are told with a fervor of joie de cuisine that makes reading about them a treat.

Introduction by Pauline Trigère, well-known fashion designer. [but of course!]


Maurice Brockway grew up in upstate New York in a small American town a few miles from the Canadian border [!], in a rambling white house where cooking and eating were given their proper reverence. [as it should be] After college (Ithaca) and a few years in the business world of New York City [yes, I've heard of it], he bought an old inn in Stamford, Connecticut, and operated it as Brockton Manor for several years during the 1940's. [awesome!]

Then he was appointed assistant banquet manager of the Hotel Plaza in New York, and later became director of sales and catering manager of the Ambassador Hotel, staying on when it became the Sheraton-East.

He has a talent for being able to "cook by ear," [hmm...] and can duplicate any dish he has eaten anywhere in the world. This lifelong interest in food is reflected in the nostalgic quality of this narrative about the pleasures of cooking and eating. [I hear you]

You've already decided you absolutely must accept Maurice's invitation to go and cook with him, when you suddenly flip the book over to check out the back and find this:

brockway 3 fig. c: back cover

The glasses, the tux, the pose, the phone: talk about debonair! If you're still not sure if this is a great photograph [it is], just check out the name of the photographer: Irwin Dribben. I mean, how can you possibly go wrong with a photographer who has a name like that?

So you march right up to the front counter and you buy your copy of Come Cook With Me and, later that night, you discover that your instincts were correct. Not only is it a "charming night-table narrative," but your first read-through seems to confirm that Come Cook With Me actually is "a first-rate cookbook."

And, sure enough, the next day, experiment #1 with Maurice Brockway's Come Cook With Me is a hit.

With numerous tempting recipes to choose from, Michelle opted for a recipe listed simply as Orange-Grapefruit Pie a) because it was Citrus Week 2008 and b) because Maurice claimed that "once you serve it you will probably be known as 'Miss Citrus Pie' of your community," and she was eager to hold that title.

Citrus Pie

1 large grapefruit, peeled and cut into small pieces
4 navel oranges, peeled and sectioned
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp minute tapioca
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 pie crust recipe

Mix grapefruit and orange section with other ingredients and let stand while preparing the pie crust. Pour the mixture into the unbaked crust and cover with a top crust. Bake in a 9-inch pan in a 450º F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400º F for another 20 minutes. Let cool, then place it in the refrigerator to chill it further because Maurice says, "I prefer this citrus pie when it is served ice cold," and who are we to argue?

That citrus pie was good. Maybe a little too good. We weren't really sure how or why, but for some reason that three-citrus-medley resulted in a flavor with bright floral overtones. Remarkable. In any case, Michelle isn't known as Miss Citrus Pie in our community yet because no one else got the opportunity to sample her Grapefruit-Orange-Lemon Pie. In less than 24 hours we'd reduced it to one single, solitary piece

citrus pie 1 fig. d: the remains of the pie

and that piece disappeared moments after this photograph was taken.


*Come Cook With Me actually predates Yellow Submarine by a year.


Matthew said...

I'm sure if Michelle gives it another shot, she could yet earn the title. Can I be a judge?

Anonymous said...

I've been reading and loving this blog from the day I discovered it, a few months ago. With this post, you've made my day!

At home, we've been eating copious quantities of citrus salads in the past weeks (navel and blood orange sections, white and pink grapefruit sections, lemon zest and chopped mint with a few shots of Grand Marnier thrown in) and now, thanks to you we can diversify our repertoire! I can't wait to run by the supermarket on my way home from work tonight.

Mark Slutsky said...

This was awesome.

Anonymous said...

We will be celebrating my daughter's 21st birthday at Laloux next Saturday. Perhaps Citrus Pie will be on the dessert menu? Just a thought.. (a plea??) LindaB

Edward Vielmetti said...

marvelous! must have.

If you are in Michigan this can be had by inter-library loan:

but you'll have to wait for me to return it.

Anonymous said...


i would be more than happy to refer to you as miss citrus pie...although now i kinda want the title for myself.

Leigh said...

cookbook glad im not the only one to find cookbooks...well, ...amazing! this was a good find and i can honestly say i've never seen anything like Citrus Pie. excellent work as always, guys.

Anonymous said...

This past weekend, the fruit/veg distributor we occasionally shop at had Cara Cara oranges at 6 for $2 and Meyer lemons at 4 for $1, among other fruity bargains. I'm looking forward to trying a citrus pie later this week. Last night, we roasted some of the Meyers with cauliflower - A+!

aj kinik said...

hi everyone,
thanks for all your enthusiasm. Who knew Maurice had so much star power?

citrus pie is a little rustic for Laloux, but you never know--no promises, but how would one be able to identify your party?

who's fruit/veg supplier? Stay tuned for a Meyer lemon recipe...

Anonymous said...

Rossman Farms, which is on the edge of Sunset Park in Brooklyn. They supply a lot of greengrocers/delis in the city but also sell retail. Great value, generally great produce, and lots of Middle Eastern products. Aside from the citrus bounty, we also got some amazing markouk (lavash-type stuff) from a bakery in Montreal (!).