Anyway, to shorten this tale. . . . We kids loved the spice cookies and I made them for years. They became our madeleines -- even now, as adults we can just conjure up their flavor in our minds and recall the sweetness of our childhood.
Although I can't even imagine how many years it's been since I've baked them, I decided last week to make the spice cookies for the FM this past Saturday, so I pulled out the Vanderbilt. It kind of fell open to the recipe. It's obvious that page 135 has known its share of daylight.
They were everything I remembered, very unassuming in appearance but tasting oh! so home-y.
But the story of the spice cookies isn't really the point of this post. The point is this: Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Cookbook is a cookbook I genuinely like. It has probably over a thousand recipes in it, it's well-written and easy to follow, it's NOT full of exotic or particularly complicated recipes and as best I can tell, virtually none of them calls for ingredients I couldn't find right here at any of the local groceries (and that's saying something). It's an extremely practical cookbook and it's pretty well comprehensive. And I'd always been oddly charmed by the drawings -- they're very precise and geometric, perfect circles for dinner plates and triangles for cheeses.
I appropriated it at some point and took it back to Dallas with me and I have made a number of dishes from it (although not the one with the potato-stuffed prunes). Back about twenty years ago my friend Laura asked me to teach her to cook, and it was the book we used and from which she learned.
I guess it was around then that I took a moment to check to see when it was published (1961). And oh, my stars! Just take a gander at the title page and the illustrator's credit.
Who would've thunk?