Like many of the pieces I write for Foodstuffs, this is a combined story of love and revulsion.* But unlike those pieces, this doesn’t reach back into history to pluck out Victorian funeral cookies or pre-microwave bachelor foods. No, this month I’m writing about recipes that are much more recent, but still forgotten — the recipes that fill locally produced cookbooks of the 70s and 80s.

I own a small collection of these cookbooks; I purposefully keep it small, because for every good recipe I find in them, there are usually three more that simply amount to mixing a canned soup with something else from a can and putting cheese on top. You’ve probably seen the cookbooks I’m talking about — you might even own one. Produced as fundraising projects or to celebrate a particular town’s “cuisine,” these typewritten or dot-matrix printed, spiral-bound collections… More…

Janna Gur’s The Book of New Israeli Food is confused about what kind of book it would like to be. It is a beautiful coffee table book with its lickable photography, silky paper, and hefty price tag. But it is also a cookbook with its imaginative food and usable recipes. Contrary to what the publisher might think, these two books are not completely compatible.

Gur obviously spent a long time researching New Israeli Food. The chapter on fish isn’t just full of recipes like Trout Casserole and North African Hot Fish Stew — it also explains the devastating effect overfishing has had on the region’s economy. The recipes are organized in a way that makes sense to her research, but less so to a reader looking for something to make for dinner. Recipes for specific holidays are broken out, which makes sense, but breaking up the salad recipes and scattering… More…