The brilliance behind the Silver Palate cookbook series died on Sunday, did you know? I didn't. I only noticed when I read her obituary in the newspaper (I like me a well-written obituary). And then I felt kind of sad, because I have this book, the one to your left, and the discovering of it was one of the more seminal moments in my long and rather speckled cooking career. I picked it up at a Costco somewhere, and all of a sudden, there in front me, I saw the possibilities of savory food. Before that I'd been a die hard sweet fan, even apprenticing as a Dessert Cook in many a restaurant, and savory foods were not really on my radar. Oh sure, I ate savory food, most every day, and I loved eating out. I'd even spent some time as a treeplanting cook, where (vegetarian) savory food production was a Serious and Extremely Well Paid Event, even if it was unaccompanied by electricity or refrigeration. I liked cooking, and people were always enthusiastic about eating my food, but cooking meals was never a Grand Passion, until I met this book. And then, one day, on an otherwise desultory Costco visit, I picked this book up. It was bright, it had interesting illustrations, and what's more, way back in the early 90's it had panache. Charisma. Style, even. Whatever it was, this book had it. I was hooked, and I know I irritated my mother to death with all my "Why didn't you ever make ____?" remarks when I was reading it. It was this book that introduced me to such oddities as caponata, peperonata, galettes, sorrel mayonnaise, and potato gnocchi before I even knew they existed (or saw a hint of them in stores). It had a repertoire of things called "new basics" before Martha did them, and (dare I utter this thought without jinxing my Martha juju?) it did them simpler than she did, with less ingredients. And it abounded in charming phrases like "In Rome, Thursday is gnocchi day..." I was so delighted that such a thing might really exist somewhere I made them then and there. As a result, the page where the gnocchi recipe is is so coated with flour it practically opens up on its own (if you're wondering why I don't just remember the recipe you're in good company: my mother wonders the same thing when I call her every Christmas for my biscotti recipe - which I can never remember either).
This book did for me what Martha does for me now: opens my mind up to the possibilities. And for that, I thank you, Sheila Lukins. You were great and I really owe you. I'm sad you're dead.