The New York Times International Cookbook ‘by’ Craig Claiborne is among my small gathering of long-time book companions. I put the quote marks there because I’m not sure I see Craig anywhere in the book, aside from a preface where he lists a zillion names and gives thanks to a large city.
This is a book of recipes. Period. No commentary, no cultural notes, no cute little stories, no stressing over ingredients or substitutions, no ‘how to cook’ notes, no pages of equipment with details.
The collection of recipes is good and basic. So much so that the book feels substantive. But in terms of cooking from it – no, I never really did. It feels substantive, the book, but it is more on my shelves just because it feels substantive. Not because it is substantively useful to me.
There are several recipes in this book that were worthwhile to me, though. Very basic recipes but simple and delicious. Pastisio is the first – and the best of the lot. And if you don’t have pastisio every once in a while there will be a part of your soul lost. You will forget the glaring sun upon the open-aired sea, lose the taste of Retsina burning at the back of your throat, and rue the memory of cats sidling round your feet at the taverna.
Therefore it is important to keep the pastisio fires burning. One recipe. That’s why I keep this book.
You have to eat oatmeal or you’ll dry up. Anybody knows that. (Kay Thompson)
Kay was really talking about pastisio when she wrote that.