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Old Jeff Smith colaboration


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Years ago Jeff Smith co-wrote a book about the menu of (I think) the Delmonico Hotel around the turn of the century. Great book.

Anyone know where I can find it? I cannot seem to find it anywhere, probably due to the fact that I do not know what the title is.

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I think what you may be referring to is The Frugal Gourmet's Culinary Handbook: An Updated Version of an American Classic on Food and Cooking, by Jeff Smith and Craig Wollam. It is based on an "Original Text by Charles Fellows," which dates from 1904 (the update was published in 1991), and includes a Delmonico's menu in the introduction. The text of the book came in two colors: brown for the original Fellows text, black for the updating by Wollam and wot's-'is-name. The only book by JS that wasn't a companion to any season of his show, it is also the only one that remains interesting reading.

Which now brings up the question: What ever happened to Craig Wollam? Anybody out there know?

We'll not discriminate great from small.

No, we'll serve anyone - meaning anyone -

And to anyone at all!

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I think a lot of Jeff Smith material has been pulled out of circulation;

In 1998 he agreed to pay undisclosed sums of money to seven different men who accused him of sexual misconduct with them when they were teenagers. Adding to the irony is the fact that Mr. Smith is a Protestant minister. He was kicked off PBS and promised to return with a self-produced series, but that has never materialized....

I liked his show in the late 80s, but later on it seemed that he was cooking some very unhealthful things....

Edited by menton1 (log)
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Which now brings up the question: What ever happened to Craig Wollam? Anybody out there know?

It is funny... a Google showed there is a Craig Wollam in Seattle as a Scenic Designer for a play: Far East

There are several other references to Stage Designers, Set Designers, etc...

Maybe he gave up food for the Theatre.

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Thanks Woody, you are correct, I now remember the Fellows connection, it really was an interesting read. It is a shame Smith turned out to be such a cad, but the book was good. I think I can track down a copy from here.

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I know this isn't the point of the thread, but I feel compelled to put in my 2¢ and say that I always thought the accusations were BS. His original accuser, Clint Smith, did time for stealing money from the Frug's restaurant among other crimes. That case was dismissed with no settlement. I always thought it was pretty believable that Clint was just a soulless prick who saw an opportunity to make some cash. The stage was set: I think the same would happen to any clergyman who made the big time. I figured that he was gay and didn't want that to get out because at the time, that would have ended his career just as quickly--that they were essentially blackmailing him.

I'm not so sure anymore--the other plaintiffs' stories of drinking followed by various grooming rituals are almost too bizarre to be made up--but it is still a shame that everything he wrote except the original Frugal Gourmet is out of print. I picked up an unsold overstock copy (it came out in 1995 at the same time Clint's accusations did) of his book The FG Keeps the Feast for $2 at a flea market--it's about Mediterranean cuisine of the biblical era and it is good. My dad & I still use a few basic recipes from his original & Cooking with Wine books.

Either way, it's a sad story. The thing is, his career was over as soon as the first story hit the news--he wasn't famous or powerful enough to ride it out. If only the same were true about America's favorite pill-popping radio talk-show host...

Queen of Grilled Cheese

NJ, USA

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It is still a shame that everything he wrote except the original Frugal Gourmet is out of print. I picked up an unsold overstock copy (it came out in 1995 at the same time Clint's accusations did) of his book The FG Keeps the Feast for $2 at a flea market--it's about Mediterranean cuisine of the biblical era and it is good. My dad & I still use a few basic recipes from his original & Cooking with Wine books.

I cook from his books all the time - and I agree with you. Although I can understand a publisher not wanting to keep his books in print (from a business standpoint, that is - I mean, would they SELL?). However, the books are all easily available at used bookstores. I see them all the time.

I give him kudos for being a sort of Julia in the sense that while she brought French cooking to the general public, Jeff Smith brought many world cuisines to John-Q-America. I mean, would Middle America be as amenable to trying Yan Can Cook Oriental if Jeff Smith hadn't shown us how easy it was all those years ago? I loved his Three Ancient Cuisine series. Then there was his Immigrant Ancestors series... a great sampling of dishes from all over the world. I think that was pretty pioneering of him, if you consider what cookbooks were on the shelves then.

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Babyluck, if you had seen what I saw at a book signing (about 1996), you would have no doubt about the veracity of the accusations. At 10:00 am, he and Craig were signing books in a store where I worked. Their requirements were a bottle of Tanquerey for Jeff, and a 6 pack of Heinekin for Craig. Which they drank while signing books. In the morning.

Many mothers had to pull their children away from Jeff as his hands wandered a little too much.

It was just sickening.

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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Babyluck, if you had seen what I saw at a book signing (about 1996), you would have no doubt about the veracity of the accusations. At 10:00 am, he and Craig were signing books in a store where I worked. Their requirements were a bottle of Tanquerey for Jeff, and a 6 pack of Heinekin for Craig. Which they drank while signing books. In the morning.

Many mothers had to pull their children away from Jeff as his hands wandered a little too much.

It was just sickening.

YIKES. Are you serious? I just can't seem to picture BOTH of them gettin all liquored up at a book signing-- and as late as 1996?

Well, I am thankful he had his TV series when he did. Looking back, I think those shows and a couple of his books I picked up really got me hooked on cooking.

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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Really have to reiterate though the good that he did do. I remember watching him in grad school (my dissertation chair looked enough like him to be a doppelganger) and think he played a big roll in publicizing what, at the time, were very exotic cuisines to whitebread america.

I mean Chinese food for most was something that you got for takeout at the Golden Dragon not something you did at home. How many American's owned woks back then versus now?

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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Cool, a Frugal Gourmet book I didn't know about. Whatever Jeff Smith did or didn't do in his personal life, his show did have quite an impact on food, food shows, and how we approach cooking. I use The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine regularly in coming up with new dishes.

I realize there is a morbid fascination with how his career ended (and with pill-popping radio hosts), but can we stick to food topics?

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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I'm all for keeping it on food topic, and i'm all for anything that gets people cooking. but I have to say that I'm amazed at the positive responses to his books. i only cooked a few things out of them, but they were all the most middle-of-the-road, bland versions of all of those dishes. and i thought the show was awful. He was sanctimonious, his technique was awful, his presentation was cafeteria-style (i use platters, too, but there's a difference between plating and dumping), and his books were so full of misinformation as to be (literally) unbelievable. I remember about 10 years ago Anne Mendelson wrote a spectacular review for us on his Christmas book, wherein she basically accepted the cooking for what it was, but absolutely took him apart on his Bible knowledge.

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I think his books are decent as well. I think you can say (assuming he did what he was accused of, which I have no way of knowing) that he's a slimeball and still admire, use, etc, his books. We do it all the time with movies and music. How many celebrities are good people?

Talk about creepy, though. I have a used hardback copy of The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American:

http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=17-0688063470-0

I don't know how well you can see the cover, but he's sitting with an old lady and two young Boy Scouts, one with his hand on his shoulder. Makes me shudder.

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Well, the man literally taught me how to cook. Before all the food cable stations (which keep going downhill) there was my PBS line-up on Saturday mornings. I watched TV from about 9:00 (after the garden shows) until 1:00 Yan Can Cook. The first FG series I caught was TFG on our Immigrant Ancestors, and I sought out and cooked tongue for the first time in a Basque tomato sauce (not bad actually), dried salted codfish soaked 2 days then used in scrambled eggs (my cookbook has "Yuck!" written on it), etc.

At the end, he wasn't so much teaching cooking, but he was here, there & everywhere. Giving some history, showing us food he already prepared, etc. and not providing enough actually hands-on cooking facts.

I have a very warm spot in my heart for the man.

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Good point. When I started watching TFG I was pretty young, newly married (for the first time :rolleyes:) and was just enthralled with the show. I'd worked in restaurants before, but mainly assembly line cooking. I didn't learn to cook with my family, so TFG was like this whole new world of food opening up.

Perhaps it's just the place and time that make TFG a good memory for many of us. I agree with Russ that the food in the cookbooks is pretty middle-of-the road. But I do find myself turning to Cooks with Wine and finding things that sound good. I rarely actually follow the recipes.

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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What I remember about TFG is how he'd feature about 15 dishes in one half-hour. He would start one and then start another and he never really finished any of them, but there they were at the end of the show. That said, I thought it was fairly informative in the same way that David Rosengarten's Taste was. Jeff Smith went to Itally to where they make Parmigano Reggiano. I had no idea that there was this stuff different than what I was using the green can at the time (college in the late-'80s).

"If it's me and your granny on bongos, then it's a Fall gig'' -- Mark E. Smith

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Sorry, but I never found him to be a good teacher, and there were plenty of other people teaching cooking on PBS. And after what I personally witnessed, and how he mixed it with his promoting his own books (so it is on topic, I guess), I cannot stomach him.

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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Yeah, Russ does make a good point. I realize now that I really liked cooking from his books BEFORE I went to cooking school. They are full of mistakes, but I think that for the generally uneducated (kitchen-wise), they were great introduction books that broadened the public's mind on world cuisine and cooking with wine.

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I loved watching TFG shows, and used to have a full collection of his cookbooks as well. As I learned more about cooking, I realized that most of his recipes had all kinds of problems (I remember one for pita bread that asked for so much flour they ended up more like crackers). It was surprising to find out that someone who I had thought knew a lot about food could make so many mistakes - but eye opening to realize that *any* recipe is suspect, and should be taken with a grain of salt.

I find now that I browse the few remaining cookbooks I have of his more to reminisce than for ideas.

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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the thing the frug did was convince people that cooking was fun and that they could do it. in that way, he was the same as julia. where they differed is that the frug accomplished this by not taking cooking seriously whereas julia did. the frug was a true american populist of the huey long school (instead of every man a king, every man a cook?): if anything gets confusing, tell people it doesn't matter, that they know best anyway and that anyone who insists on a right way and a wrong way is an elitist.

i give him credit for doing his bit to popularize cooking, but i have a feeling once people got the bug from him they had a lot of un-learning to do.

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Very true, russ. He appealed to my dad who is about as anti-elitist as they come, and by osmosis to me. Because I felt like I knew him personally, I find it hard to accept his shortcomings (foodwise and otherwise). In his books, he makes a lot of statements that are calculated to become mantras, like "never do this, always do this, remember that..." and they really do stick with you because he seemed so clever. I can't remember what the topic was, but I recently came across one of these statements and it was dead wrong. I was embarrassed for him and quickly put the book away as if someone were looking over my shoulder.

For the record, although this specific thread is supposed to be about one particular book and we have strayed from that since most of us haven't read it and obviously relished an opportunity to talk about the Frug, our discussion of his legal issues is no more OT in Food Media and News than most of our chatter about celebrity chefs. A lot of the time, we're talking about the people behind the food, and that's perfectly fine. This is not the Cooking forum. Whether someone agrees or disagrees with a specific comment, or finds it salacious or petty, is another matter altogether.

Queen of Grilled Cheese

NJ, USA

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the thing the frug did was convince people that cooking was fun and that they could do it. in that way, he was the same as julia. where they differed is that the frug accomplished this by not taking cooking seriously whereas julia did....i give him credit for doing his bit to popularize cooking, but i have a feeling once people got the bug from him they had a lot of un-learning to do.

Count me as one of those who learned not to be afraid in the kitchen because of Smith. He made for a good starting point, right when I needed him, but I was either smart or lucky enough to figure out that there was a lot more to learn than he could provide.

This is why I still like the F. G.'s Culinary Handbook; based as it is on a specific cookbook from the past, instead of the scripting for a television program, it provides some insight into the history of cooking in America. It's not a book I turn to for recipes, but rather for ideas and a window into the past. Not surprisingly, it is the only one of his books that features Wollam on the dust jacket picture, and his name in as large print as Smith's as the book's author, a hint as to whose project this book really was. Interesting, that Wollam has moved on to theater design (as noted in an earlier post).

We'll not discriminate great from small.

No, we'll serve anyone - meaning anyone -

And to anyone at all!

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