Archives for posts with tag: cooking


M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste

Luke Barr

Until I read this book I had managed to resist the cultural obsession with the south of France. Barr’s description of the small town daily life has won me over: I have now officially drunk the Kool-Aid and long to spend a summer living in a maison and buying fresh food daily at a farmer’s market. You can buy fresh vegetables at Whole Fields or your local grocery store every day, but the idea of wandering around an outdoor market searching for just the right fish, meat or vegetables to prepare for dinner while having the time to do so is a tempting fantasy.

The problem is that I am writing this in 2015, and this book transported me to the magical summer of 1970 when the Childs and their friends coincidentally were all there together and cooked wonderful simple meals together that made the most of the fresh ingredients they had access to. The Childs opened their home to friends and neighbors and they all cooked together. James Beard and Simone Beck each stayed for a while, and Richard Olney was just down the road. I had read a number of biographies of Julia Child so I knew about this summer, but Barr’s book truly brings it to life because he takes us into the motivations and lives of some of the other key figures in the food world. I finished the book with a new appreciation for Richard Olney’s perfectionism, James Beards’s health problems, MFK Fisher’s wanderlust.

Trained in the complex world of French sauces and fare, Barr, with the help of his access to Fisher’s papers (he is her grandnephew), shows us how they all reached the point of saturation at roughly the same time, and each sought simplicity in their own way. He calls it the “reinvention of American taste” but I would argue that it wasn’t until these cookbook authors and some others transformed European (read French) cooking into a distinctly uncomplicated cuisine that American cooking was born.


Looking for a great holiday gift for the cozy mystery reader on your list? Don’t know what to buy, or what books have been read? Chances are they’ll find all of their favorite authors (including me!) in this cookbook, available in paperback and in Kindle.

James Beard Foundation, 167 West 12th Street, exterior-byEileen-Miller

James Beard Foundation, 167 West 12th Street, exterior-byEileen-Miller

On Thursday night, October 30, at the James Beard Foundation in New York, Francesco Palmieri of the Orange Squirrel Restaurant prepared a dinner based on recipes from Mary and Vincent Price’s masterful cookbook, A Treasury of Great Recipes (1965).

Francesco Palmieri, The Orange Squirrel Restaurant

Francesco Palmieri, The Orange Squirrel Restaurant

vp cookbookIn this magnificently designed and photographed book the Prices offer recipes from some of the finest restaurants in the world. (I wrote about it at length, and the Orange Squirrel, in an earlier blog–scroll down to see “The Book,” below, 7/27/14.)

Victoria Price, Vincent’s daughter,  co-hosted the event and introduced the Vincent Price Signature Wine Collection. I planned to be there, and was looking forward to it. Instead I was home, sidelined by torn ligaments, eating soup for dinner. I am disappointed, but last Saturday night’s (Oct. 25) dinner at the Inn at Millrace Pond has softened the blow.

Entrance to Inn at Millrace Pond, Hope, NJ

Entrance to Inn at Millrace Pond, Hope, NJ

Pumpkins lit with candles graced the entrance path

Pumpkins lit with candles graced the entrance path

Jody Price, Vincent’s grandson, hosted the Inn’s third tribute dinner to Vincent Price. While we dined, he played inspired instrumental guitar. After dinner he talked about his memories of his grandfather, and gave an entertaining description of his father’s life in films, and as an art-lover and foodie. My favorite of his wonderful stories was the story of the time when his phone rang and a friend woke him up, shouting, “Hey, turn on your TV! You’re on the Simpsons!” It turned out that in the “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday” episode that was shown after the 1999 Super Bowl, the voice of Vincent Price tells Marge Simpson that his grandson, Jody, will bring her the missing feet from her celebrity craft kit.

Jody shows the crowd (my mother) Sally Murphy's first edition copy of the cookbook.

Jody shows the crowd (my mother) Sally Murphy’s first edition copy of the cookbook.



Jody was joined during the question and answer period by Victoria, who arrived late after a long day at the Chiller Theater Toy, Model, and Film Expo where she met her father’s horror fans and gave a talk about his life. Jody’s brother Keir Price was at the dinner too. Victoria spoke of how, on the 21st anniversary of the day of her father’s death, he would have been pleased that the three of them were together, since for so many years their family was in different parts of the country and didn’t see each other often enough.

Jody and Victoria share a story.

Jody and Victoria share a story.

The special prix fixe dinner ($49.) featured:

Choice of one appetizer, soup or salad:

Slow roasted butternut squash soup (an Inn specialty)

Crab stuffed avocado with wild mushrooms and almonds (page 360, from Hotel Hana-Maui, no prices given on the menu reproduced in the book—they must have supplied the ladies’ menu 🙂

Classic Caesar salad (page 185, from Harrods Food Hall, London)

Potato gnocchi with pancetta, shitake, oven-dried tomato and garlic spinach (page 394, from the Blue Fox, San Francisco, $2.00 on the menu reproduced in the book)

Choice of one entrée:

Pan seared scallop and shrimp risotto Milanese with sweet peas and roasted red peppers (shrimp risotto Milanese, page 103, from the Royal Daniele, Venice, $6.00 on the menu reproduced in the book)

Filet mignon au poivre with chive Yukon mash and baby carrots (an Inn specialty)

Chicken cordon bleu with wild mushroom supreme, chive Yukon mash and baby carrots (an Inn specialty)

Photo by Ian Horowitz

Photo by Ian Horowitz

Choice of one dessert:

White chocolate macadamia crème brulee (page 163, The Ivy, London, with additions of the Inn’s chef, $4.00 on the menu reproduced in the book)

Cheese cake with seasonal berries an Grand Marnier (page 317, Bookbinder’s, Philadelphia, with additions of the Inn’s chef. Not on the Bookbinder’s menu reproduced in the book, which is very strange because Price says, in his head-note, “This is one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever had anywhere. Its recipe has long been a secret at Bookbinder’s where it is their most popular dessert, and they were loath to divulge it. I’m glad they finally have…”)

Chocolate mousse cake with crème anglaise (an Inn specialty)

Apple lattice pie with bourbon glaze (an Inn specialty)

I savored the crab stuffed avocado with wild mushrooms and almonds. That is a recipe I will definitely try to emulate. For the entrée I had the filet mignon, potatoes and vegetables. I knew they wouldn’t be based on a recipe in the cookbook, but I knew I made the right choice when I tasted the melt-in-your-mouth filet. The Inn uses vegetables from nearby Tranquility Farm, and the carrots were among the tenderest I’ve tasted. For dessert I had the apple lattice pie. Since I am an avid apple pie baker, I couldn’t resist, and I was not disappointed. Those in my group who had the cheese cake said it was the best they ever tasted. Another recipe for me to take on! The rest of my family reported that every dish exceeded their expectations, especially the pan-seared scallop and shrimp risotto Milanese. We all found the quality of the meal and the lovely surroundings exceptional for the price. If it hadn’t been a special event, it still would have been well worth it.

My son, Ian Horowitz, at the entrance, next to the "Vincent Price Dinner, Tavern Full" sign.

My son, Ian Horowitz, at the entrance, next to the “Vincent Price Dinner, Tavern Full” sign.

The inn is simply lovely—we dined in the Grist Mill, built in 1769 by Moravian settlers and restored 20 years ago. Upstairs rooms have been decorated period style, 3 with canopy beds, all with beamed ceilings, and modern amenities including whirlpool tubs. The main floor holds the large dining room. We dined in the smaller tavern, downstairs, and the trip down the stairs was an adventure in itself!

Skeleton on stairs down to the tavern.

Skeleton on stairs down to the tavern.


Love this!

Love this!

The tavern also features beamed ceilings and a large stone fireplace.

During the dinner Price’s Edgar Allen Poe films were shown on two screens. “He once said that he might not have had the best career of all actors, but no one had as much fun as him,” Jody told us.

Wine cellar and grist mill wheel, outside the tavern entrance

Wine cellar and grist mill wheel, outside the tavern entrance

I think Vincent would have loved the spider web strewn over the wine collection, next to the giant grist mill wheel. He would have been delighted by the pumpkin with his face carved in it. The talented, creative staff outdid themselves in their decorations.

Vincent Price pumkin

Vincent Price pumpkin

Thank you, Jody, for hosting this event and sharing your family’s celebration. It was a pleasure, and a lot of fun, to honor Vincent Price’s life with you.

I was especially pleased that my mother, Sally Murphy, was able to meet the Price family, and that our family—two of my cousins (whose mother met Vincent Price in Bermuda with Mom), my husband, son and brother—were able to be there for this very special evening.

Victoria Price and Sally Murphy, holding the first editions Vincent Price inscribed in 1985 for Mom when she met him on a trip to Bermuda.

Victoria Price and Sally Murphy, holding the first editions Vincent Price inscribed in 1985 for Mom when she met him on a trip to Bermuda.

Victoria inscribes a copy of Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography, newly released in paperback, for Mom.

Victoria inscribes a copy of Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography, newly released in paperback, for Mom.

Although my family and I have been cooking from the cookbook since it was published, this was the first restaurant event we’ve attended that offered some of those recipes. Well done, chef!

For more information about the Inn at Millrace Pond, see

For more information about Vincent Price’s legacy, see

For news about all things related to the cookbook, and Victoria’s wonderful blog, see

For information about the James Beard Foundation dinner, Vincent Price: legendary Gourmet, see

The Vincent Price Collection II, a seven-film, four-disc Blu-ray set from Scream Factory, was released this month and includes House on Haunted Hill, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Raven (directed by Roger Corman, loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, stars Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff along with a young Jack Nicholson), The Comedy of Terrors, The Tomb of Ligeia, The Last Man on Earth and The Return of the Fly.

And of course, my book, Cinnamon Girl,a mystery set in a cookbook store,  inspired by the cookbook and containing recipes from it and other treasured cookbooks, is available on Amazon:

Enter to win a free copy of Cinnamon Girl: A Village Cooks Mystery. Ends January 17, 2014.

Cinnamon Girl_Front Cover Crop_Lo-Res_Facebook-Twitter_72dpi

A mystery for cookbook lovers!

While she is busy getting ready for her annual cooking contest/author event at her cookbook and cookware store, Bonnie Emerson, daughter of a former U.S. president, finds the body of a woman near a stream on her property. When Bonnie’s tires are slashed, her father hires a private security company. When she is shot at, he calls in the Secret Service and the author’s agent threatens to cancel her appearance. But it could be worse. If Cookbooktoberfest goes on with a killer on the loose, they might all be in danger.

Cookbooktoberfest and the lives of Bonnie and her family are all in jeopardy unless Bonnie can — with or without the Secret Service — find the killer.

Filled with cooking and cookbook lore, Cinnamon Girl is the first in a series of VILLAGE COOKS mysteries.

Cinnamon Girl: A Village Cooks Mystery by Valerie Horowitz

ISBN 978-0-9899110-1-6. Paperback. $11.95

A life-long cookbook lover, Valerie Horowitz has always worked with books. She has sold out-of-print and rare books, was manager of a bookstore in New York’s Greenwich Village and held various marketing and editorial positions at trade and professional publishers. Currently she is the managing editor of a scholarly publishing company. She is an associate member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, and belongs to Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She lives in a house built in the 1750s with her husband, son, and cat in the bucolic northwestern New Jersey farm and horse country where Cinnamon Girl takes place. You can find her online at her Facebook author page:

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