02 October 2009

A Cookbook for Booksellers

In the early 1960 The New York Times commissioned a small cookbook from Craig Claiborne, their most illustrious cooking editor. The slim hardback was entitled A Cookbook for Booksellers. The book was designed:

"To full the fulling bookseller. Sort of a tribute by one fulling expert to another."

I am not sure why the New York Time printed this volume or why it was sent to booksellers. (If you know, e-mail us.)

The recipes come from a dozen writers’ works. The authors run the gamut from Tobias Smollett to Clifton Fadiman.

As a child, the Romantic poets, especially Lord Byron, fascinated me. I am still a sucker for any book about Byron.

Here is Lord Byron’s recipe for Oyster Stew by way of Craig Claiborne.

Oyster Stew

4 tablespoons butter
1 finely minced onion
1/2 cup finely minced celery
1/4 cup finely minced green onion, green part and all
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
2 cups shucked oysters
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon Worcheshire sauce, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1. Heat the butter in a 2 quart saucepan and cook the onions and celery until the onion is translucent. Ass the green onion and cook, stirring one minute longer. Add milk and cream and bring barely to a boil.
2. Add the oysters and return just to the boil. When the oysters start to curl at the edges, which they should do almost immediately, remove the stew from the heat. Add the remaining ingredients and serve at once in hot plates. Serve with hot buttered toast.
One can see Claiborne's modern hand in the recipe.

Lord Byron died in 1824
Worcestershire Sauce was invented in 1837
Tabasco Sauce was invented in 1868.

I am sure if Byron had tasted either Tabasco or Worcestershire he would have used them in his stew.

Here's a bit of Byron's poetry from Don Juan: CANTO THE FOURTEENTH.


"An oyster may be cross'd in love" -- and why?
Because he mopeth idly in his shell,
And heaves a lonely subterraqueous sigh,
Much as a monk may do within his cell:
And à-propos of monks, their piety
With sloth hath found it difficult to dwell;
Those vegetables of the Catholic creed
Are apt exceedingly to run to seed.

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