Be Bold with Bananas!

Be Bold with Bananas. New York: Crescent Books, [1972?].

Cookbooks that focus on one ingredient are often published by companies with a vested interest in promoting filberts, or mayonnaise, or what have you. According to Amazon, Be Bold with Bananas was produced for Fruit Distributors Ltd, Banana Importers of Wellington, New Zealand. When a company trying to sell bananas decides to put together a cookbook about bananas, all sense of perspective apparently goes out the window, with predictably hilarious results. The basic premise of the book is that bananas will improve and enliven every meal you cook, from dinner (banana meat loaf, anyone?) to dessert (perhaps you’d like the banana jelly custard?). Things really begin to fall apart, though, with the photography:

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The Laziest Housekeeper in Europe

Lowinsky, Ruth. Lovely Food: A Cookery Notebook. London: The Nonesuch Press, 1931. 8vo. 127pp

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Published in 1931, Lovely Food was the work of an English socialite and hostess, Ruth Lowinsky. Her husband, Thomas, was a Surrealist painter, and they collaborated on the book. She wrote the menus and the recipes; he drew centerpieces to go with them. Lowinsky’s emphasis was more on entertaining than on cooking; many of the recipes are mere outlines. When preparing clear mushroom consomm√©, she simply tells the reader to “make a good consomm√©,” neglecting to go into what that might actually involve. The result is recipes that read more like instructions from mistress to cook than tips for a novice in the kitchen. The references to servants sprinkled throughout the book make it seem likely that this is, in fact, what Lowinsky had in mind.

Lowinsky, merits at the stove aside, was clearly an energetic and entertaining hostess. The menus in the book are all centered around witty, and occasionally improbable, dining scenarios. In one, she imagines that the reader’s stuffy father-in-law is coming to dinner, “prepared to judge you as either the laziest housekeeper in Europe, or the most extravagant, or even a subtle combination of the two.” Under the circumstances, she suggests consomm√©, smelts, chicken, meringues, and a centerpiece that looks like it might have been made from a slinky:

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