On my recent trip to Charleston, I ventured into The Heirloom Collection, risen from the ashes or compost of the ever-popular Heirloom Book Co. Needless to say, I had to be dragged out. Before I left, shop owner, Carlye Dougherty asked that age old question that cookbook collectors ask: Why don’t people read/collect ______? The “blank” in our conversation was Myra Waldo.
Waldo wrote over 40 cookbooks from the 1940’s to the 1970’s. Many of her books have remained in print. In her job as the food consultant for Pan American World Airways, Waldo was the most traveled woman of the era. In 1954 she published The Complete Round-the-World Cookbook: Recipes Gathered by Pan American World Airways from the 84 Countries They Serve. Waldo had visited them all.
Much like Julia Child, James Beard, and Craig Claiborne, Waldo documented America’s newfound culinary curiosity. She saw this new interest in food after World War II as “the gradual maturity of our country, gastronomically speaking.” It is hard to believe that there is no biography of Myra Waldo.
One of my favorite Myra Waldo books is Beer and Good Food. Like so many of Waldo’s books, the recipes cover the far-flung reaches of the world, from Japanese Omelets to Turkey Mole. She takes us to Mesopotamia for the first written evidence of the brewing process right up through the first refrigerated train cars, use to move beer. On one page, there is an intricate recipe for Choucroute Garni, with sauerkraut, beer, 5 meats and a handful of spices. The next page is a Frankfurter Casserole with only 3 ingredients: sauerkraut, frankfurters and beer. They are a world of difference but very much the same dish.
Here is Waldo’s breakfast of champions.
Fried Breakfast Toast
4 slices white bread
1 cup beer
2 tablespoons sugar
2 egg yolks
½ cup warm milk
3 tablespoons butter
Trim the bread and cut in half. Soak for 5 minutes in a mixture of beer and sugar. Drain. Beat the egg yolks and milk together and dip the bread in the mixture.
Melt the butter in a skillet and fry the bread until brown on both sides. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.
When you are out prowling around bookstores, do keep an eye peeled for Myra Waldo.