Have you ever noticed that certain cookbooks and their signature dishes can define a decade and become the go-to source for dinner party menus? In the 80s everyone was serving Chicken Marbella from The Silver Palate (chicken marinated in garlic, oregano, prunes, green olives and capers, in case you weren't born yet). In the aughts, it was the Zuni's Roast Chicken which sat, heavily salted, in the refrigerator for three days before being roasted to juicy perfection and served over a bread salad. What do you think is the 'IT' cookbook and dish is for today?
There's a very funny article up on the Financial Times website about this. Dubbing them DPC (Dinner Party Colossi) the author Tim Hayward takes look at popular dinner party cookbooks, and the rise and fall of specific regional cuisines, over the last 60 years or so. It's a decidedly British selection with mentions of Elizabeth David, Delia Smith, and The River Cafe Cookbook.
It got me to thinking: what would the US equivalent be? So I took a stab at it, but it wasn't easy.
I the older decades (60s-80s) were fairly obvious to me but the 90s through the 10s were a little more challenging. I think this is because a lot more cookbooks started hitting the shelves in the 1990s and also, the decades that I wasn't really cooking were easier to pigeonhole. Of course, this list could completely change depending on what kind of crowd you run with. I'm somewhat tempted to swap out anything by Ina Garten for the Zuni in the 00s and, realizing that VCE is potentially controversial, could stick in something from Martha Stewart for the 90s.
Cookbook Colossi - Dana's USA Edition
The 60s: Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
The 70s: The New York Times' International Cookbook by Craig Claiborne
The 80s: The Silver Palate Cookbooks by Sheila Lukins and Julee Russo
The 90s: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
The 00s: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judi Rodgers
The 10s (so far): Plenty or Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi