Brie soufflé. Raspberry vinaigrette. Blueberry chutney. Chicken Marbella, made from chicken thighs braised with brown sugar, capers, and prunes. Back in 1982, when Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso introduced the first Silver Palate Cookbook, these were cutting-edge dishes. Even gastronomically savvy New Yorkers were just learning about goat cheese and pesto, fresh ginger and balsamic vinegar. Based on the recipes Rosso and Lukins used in their pint-size but immensely popular takeout shop, their cookbook became an instant classic. It wasn’t for the faint of palate or the cholesterol-conscious. The women loved ginger, they loved mustard, and they especially loved the new flavored vinegars de rigueur in every American Gigolo–era kitchen. Every onion was sautéed in a stick of butter, and lobster, macadamia nuts, and Brie abounded.
But for all its go-go exuberance, the cookbook worked like Jane Fonda in stripey tights. You could get excited planning a menu just flipping through the cute hand-illustrated pages. You could feel like a sophisticated dinner-party hostess even if you were buying the basil and spaghetti for your pasta primavera at the A&P.
Not surprisingly, boomer writers are waxing nostalgic as the polished-up, color-photo Silver Palate Cookbook 25th Anniversary Edition hits the shelves this month. Ed Levine’s been posting his favorite recipes all week at Serious Eats, including ones for Asian lamb chops, ginger candied carrots, tomato-basil-goat-cheese salad, and lemon chicken. In the New York Times’s Sunday magazine, Christine Muhlke rode the issue’s theme of “Reinventing Middle Age” with a snappy piece titled “Book of Revelations” (registration required).
Muhlke points out the indisputable link between the success of the book and the women’s movement.
At the time, two women opening a business together was ‘wild,’ Lukins said. So were blueberry chutney, pâté maison and poppy-seed dressing.
After describing Lukins and Rosso (who had a rather public falling out in 1991) as having “the alternately fond and strained patter of a divorced couple at their child’s wedding,” Muhlke goes on to affirm that
[g]raying Silver Palateers will indeed find the new edition cozy and fun. Generation X-ers will value the kitsch factor, feeling slight embarrassment at having once thought it so sophisticated and adult; as for generations Y and Z, there are some solid basics to be found, if a good quiche is what those entitled ingrates are into these days.