Back in the day, back before you could pick up a bottle of balsamic (OK, make that 'balsamic') vinegar and a sack of arugula at almost any corner bodega, back when parmesan cheese was only available in a green can and fresh garlic came in those little cardboard boxes, people ate...well, people ate spaghetti from a can sprinkled with parmesan from a can and fresh garlic was considered to be a rather suspicious and bold move. It was pretty grim, folks. I'm talking about the early-80's in the midwest.
True, there was Julia and James and Gourmet Magazine. But it took two women and their little shop in Manhattan to bring fresh basil, shallots, gruyere cheese and sherry mayonnaise to the hinterlands. It took the publication of The Silver Palate Cookbook, at least for this cook, to change everything.
I'll never forget that cold wintery day in Wisconsin when i discovered The Silver Palate Cookbook in a little shop in my neighborhood. I impatiently paid the $10 cover price and ran home to my little apartment, dived under the triple-layer down quilts with book in hand and didn't emerge until well after dark. Everything had changed indeed. Now there was something called pesto, and Pasta with Lobster and Tarragon, and leeks and red (not green) peppers. Olive oil and anchovies! Chicken Marbella!
There's a 25-year anniversary edition of The Silver Palate Cookbook now, but I'm remaining loyal to my tattered and splattered original copy. It sits up there on my shelf, next to my other 'epiphany' cookbooks (An Omelet and a Glass of Wine by Elizabeth David, The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison). A place of honor and respect for my great teachers.
Do you have a seminal cookbook in your life? Something that opened your eyes and palate? Tell us in the comments!