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The Epicurean Cookbook


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So i recently received a first edition of The Epecurian Cookbook; A Complete Treatise of Analytical And Practical Studies On The Culinary Art. by Charles Ranhofer of Delmonico's from my parents.

The condition is emaculate, with a copyright date of 1920.

I'm curious as to how i should care for it, Right now it's standing upright in one of my bookshelfs. I own quite a few cookbooks, but this is the first which has any historical importance.

P.s. It is not for sale. I just want to keep it as is.

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It's a fascinating book by the way, I know it also.

Generally, books will care for themselves (if you keep them away from pests, moisture, etc). What's amazing is that quality went down so much during the 20th century (switch from rag to wood paper, often acid too, and departure from the old durable, "life-long" construction sensibility for mainstream books) that it's not unusual to find 100-year-old books in "newer" and more durable condition than 20-year-old books, unless they got a lot of handling and wear.

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Hands-down my favorite cookbook. Best reading ever.

I own a handful of rare, antiquarian cookbooks and as this one does not have a cover, it won't require a Brodart (those plastic, slipcovers). What you can do with all your books is take a large, dry paintbrush to the tops of them once every six months or so to keep them from getting too dusty.

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I'm curious as to how i should care for it, Right now it's standing upright in one of my bookshelfs. I own quite a few cookbooks, but this is the first which has any historical importance.

P.s. It is not for sale. I just want to keep it as is.

Having volunteered at a large public library in a former life, the rules about caring for an old and valuable (and rate!) book: keep it in a cool, dark and dry place. If you want to be meticulous about it, lay it flat to reduce stress on the spine! And, yes, as mentioned uptopic, do dust it every few months with a soft brush.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I own it alas, on cd, because I can't afford it any other way. Piece on Ranhofer in the works (Liked your peice on the book, Russ, and Keller is a lucky man, though no Charles Ranhofer.)

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Nothing beats the real book, but if you cant afford it, it is online at the <a href="http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks/">Feeding America Online Historic Cookbook Project</a> or via the <a href= "http://www.archive.org/details/epicureancomplet00ranhrich">Internet Archive</a>.

Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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Greetings Old Foodie and I have not checked those online references as yet, but I know of a good famous (1990s) print treatment on the Delmonico family, their contributions to the modern restaurant idea, and possibly the story of the scandal of this Epicurean book -- I handled the document within a couple weeks, but it's not handy at the moment. It was maybe 1994, an important archival essay pub'n (not necessarily online, as usual). If anyone knows the one I mean, please fill in the details.

Meanwhile could you tell us more about this "Internet Archive?" I know about a few generic Internet Archives going back some time but not that one, and would appreciate background from an experienced user.

Bonus anecdote: One cook friend found The Epicurean for $10 circa 1999 at a neighborhood bookshop in N. Ca. that prices slightly used slick TV-chef cookbooks rather more expertly at whatever the fashionable market will bear -- $50, $120 -- but not (evidently) a 100-year-old book. This is why to look into used bookshops whenever you can. As if to prove the same point, in 2001 at a nearby bar, [a foodie] said to [a chef now working in US Southeast] that if [the chef] actually, seriously, lacked a copy of the 1961 Crown LG then it could likely be had instantly for $10-$15 at [the same bookshop I mentioned] because so many copies are in circulation you can find them on the shelves of most used bookstores. Foodie excused self and, in no more time than for any other call of nature, returned, Crown '61 LG in hand, demanding the $10 it had cost, plus tax. I witnessed this.

Edited by MaxH (log)
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I own it alas, on cd, because I can't afford it any other way.  Piece on Ranhofer in the works (Liked your peice on the book, Russ, and Keller is a lucky man, though no Charles Ranhofer.)

Don't want to start a battle, but Keller has Seven Michelin Stars. Which is far more than any American chef has ever recieved. Not to mention his books are pretty sweet.

He is quite an accomplished chef, and he deserves the utmost respect.

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Don't want to start a battle, but Keller has Seven Michelin Stars. Which is far more than any American chef has ever recieved.

I agree strongly that Keller deserves the utmost respect. But why should this start a battle? These recent comments in the thread compare apples with bicycles, I perceive. Ranhofer was of a different era and in a different part of his career when he wrote that book; and he'd been with the Delmonicos' restaurants for some time. (That sentence is from memory -- gladly yielded to authoritative correction.) The Delmonicos are credited in other, well-researched, historical writing with more or less founding the North American version of the modern restaurant, early 1800s, and mostly before Ranhofer. The focus and scope of the restaurant offerings documented in Ranhofer are hard to compare with Keller's. Michelin only very recently began rating establishments on US soil.

If you really want to compare these two chefs directly, could you also give the basis for your conclusion?

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Greetings Old Foodie and I have not checked those online references as yet, but I know of a good famous (1990s) print treatment on the Delmonico family, their contributions to the modern restaurant idea, and possibly the story of the scandal of this Epicurean book -- I handled the document within a couple weeks, but it's not handy at the moment.  It was maybe 1994, an important archival essay pub'n (not necessarily online, as usual).  If anyone knows the one I mean, please fill in the details.

Meanwhile could you tell us more about this "Internet Archive?"  I know about a few generic Internet Archives going back some time but not that one, and would appreciate background from an experienced user.

The <a href = "http://www.archive.org/index.php">Internet Archive</a> is a similar idea to <a href="http://books.google.com/">Google Books</a> but also includes audio and moving images. To find books you can search just the Text option, either with terms such as "cookery" or "recipes", or by specific author or title eg "Epicurean". You can chose to view texts in several different forms, including "flipbooks" which mimic the real thing, and have "post-it" notes on the "pages" where your search terms appear.

If you track down the details of the Delmonico article, please let us know!

Janet

Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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i did a long piece on the epicurean many years ago (an abridged version appears in the oxford history of food). resources were scant, but i did get a lot of good stuff from Lately Thomas' book on Delmonico's. There were also some interesting contemporary magazine articles--apparently, there was a bit of heat for star chefs even at the turn of the century!

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This book is sitting on my coffee table at the moment. Most recently I consulted it in an inquiry about boiled beef.

I've always assumed Ranhofer was German-born but I've no basis that I can think of for it. Anybody know where he was from and where he trained?

He's shown up in fiction (probably more than once) in those books about. . . aw hell I can't remember who the author is. Long books that are kind of capers but encompass lots and lots of interesting NYC history.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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This book is sitting on my coffee table at the moment.  Most recently I consulted it in an inquiry about boiled beef.

I've always assumed Ranhofer was German-born but I've no basis that I can think of for it.  Anybody know where he was from and where he trained?

He's shown up in fiction (probably more than once) in those books about. . . aw hell I can't remember who the author is.  Long books that are kind of capers but encompass lots and lots of interesting NYC history.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Ranhofer

a nice little history.

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Don't want to start a battle, but Keller has Seven Michelin Stars. Which is far more than any American chef has ever recieved.

I agree strongly that Keller deserves the utmost respect. But why should this start a battle? These recent comments in the thread compare apples with bicycles, I perceive. Ranhofer was of a different era and in a different part of his career when he wrote that book; and he'd been with the Delmonicos' restaurants for some time. (That sentence is from memory -- gladly yielded to authoritative correction.) The Delmonicos are credited in other, well-researched, historical writing with more or less founding the North American version of the modern restaurant, early 1800s, and mostly before Ranhofer. The focus and scope of the restaurant offerings documented in Ranhofer are hard to compare with Keller's. Michelin only very recently began rating establishments on US soil.

If you really want to compare these two chefs directly, could you also give the basis for your conclusion?

sorry, misuse of words.

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I'm very interested in a comparison of Ranhofer's food and Keller's but only by people who have sampled both.

Curious to imagine Keller's response to Ranhofer's Lobster Newberg preparation:

"When Ranhofer's printed recipe first appeared in 1894, the lobsters were boiled fully twenty-five minutes, then fried in clarified butter, then simmered in cream while it reduced by half, then brought again to the boil after the addition of the Madeira."

Edited by ned (log)

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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I'm very interested in a comparison of Ranhofer's food and Keller's but only by people who have sampled both.

Curious to imagine Keller's response to Ranhofer's Lobster Newberg preparation:

"When Ranhofer's printed recipe first appeared in 1894, the lobsters were boiled fully twenty-five minutes, then fried in clarified butter, then simmered in cream while it reduced by half, then brought again to the boil after the addition of the Madeira."

I am too.... Sounds like you would end up with some pretty rubbery lobster :). I think what needs to be understood is that these are his notes. Obviously looking at this particular recipe or any recipe in The Epicurian it takes one whom knows how to cook to recreate.

I've been cooking for quite some time and when somebody asks me for a recipe, i'm usually at a loss for words. I've been cooking by the seat of my pants for the past ten years, and i take pride in it.

I had a fellow cook ask me if i've ever made wild rice soup the other day, and when I said yes, she asked if i had a good recipe.

I replied, in a not so hurtful way, "I don't really cook with recipes, i take ideas and make them my own".

Not that i couldn't give her a definite recipe, I just wanted to show/tell her that most cooks/chefs do as well. A little bit of this, a litlle bit of that and all of a sudden it's your own!

Even as a cook there are three or Four simple ingredients i could never live without: Vinegar de Jerez(sherry vinegar), Tobasco, Worcester, and Angostura Bitters.

The latter, Angostura bitters with soda on ice with a squeeze of lime is more for health. Nothing cures a distempered stomach better.....

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Curious to imagine Keller's response to Ranhofer's Lobster Newberg preparation ...

Not to distract from the specific recipe comparison. I hope by way of context that people reading it know beforehand of the famous story of the "Newburg" name and its origin. Here I'm going not by something online (in who knows how many versions -- I haven't checked this subject online at all!) and I almost fear for the result of fingers rushing to online searches if they don't know what I allude to. It was in print for decades in mainstream US writings about the Delmonicos and "Newburg." For just one example, the popular postwar cookbook by Wood cited elsewhere on this site, Here. That is part of the implicit context of the posting above. (The story is familiar enough that many people may assume it's well known, and I don't know if ned did so above. If there's any question of finding it, I can easily quote, and so can many others.)

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Here's more, from memory, on the standard story I cited in previous hasty posting. I don't report this as precise history, but as the common account of it, fairly widespread for a couple of generations in late 20th century US. Morrison Wood gives a simplified version, and I've seen more detail in scholarly writing.

"Newburg" is a synthetic name created after a falling-out between one of the Delmonico restaurants and a regular customer of the 1860s, Wenburg, honored by the dish (Ben Wenburg, in Wood's book, and a ship captain if I remember right, from elsewhere). There was a fight or a brawl, after which the restaurant kept the dish but reversed part of the name, to Newburg.

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  • 2 weeks later...

That wikipedia entry above has this story.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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That wikipedia entry above has this story.

Thanks ned. I hadn't looked at the Wiki entry before; it gives a brief "Wenberg" summary similar to my summary above, and links to a relatively recent posting by Joe O'connell (2003, first entry 2001) which also gives a brief version and cites (that I spotted) no references.

I remembered more detail and from the previous decade. I've now located that article -- the source is excellent -- will follow up with info.

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  • 1 month later...

The historical essay about Delmonico's, Ranhofer, Wenberg's introduction of the dish and later expulsion, controversial publication of The Epicurean, and early context of US restaurants, is "Delmonico's," by Evan Jones, 1992.

It's one of the entries in The 1992 Antaeus food-writing anthology.

Details in the linked report. Bibliographics repeated below. Both versions are readily available used. Note that some writers spell the lobster dish Newburg, even inconsistently. Recipe in The Epicurean (#1037, under "Mollusks and Crustaceans") is "Lobster à la Newberg or Delmonico."

-- Max

Antaeus, Not for Bread Alone: Writers on Food, Wine, and the Art of Eating. Daniel Halpern, Editor. Number 68, Spring 1992. Published April 1992. Ecco Press, Hopewell, New Jersey. ISBN 0880012765. Back matter includes contributor notes and advertisements for other literary periodicals and books by Betty Fussell, Waverly Root and Richard de Rochemont, etc.

Re-issued 1993 as Not for Bread Alone: Writers on Food, Wine, and the Art of Eating. Daniel Halpern, Editor. Ecco Press, Hopewell, New Jersey. ISBN 088001346X. Includes 1993 introduction by Daniel Halpern.

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  • 2 years later...

I love reading about the elaborate presentation of some of the dishes in _The Epicurean_. Stanley Punch--"Arrange the punch inside of a goblet beside which is a heron made of gum paste (No. 3624) surrounded by grasses" (illustration included). It's just not the same without the heron.

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