Author: Merry White; drawings by Edward Koren; with a new foreword by Darra Goldstein; and a new introduction by the author

Publisher: Princeton University Press

ISBN-13: 978-0-691-16036-8

Although the readership of this long-standing culinary classic is likely to be much better informed about cross-cultural cooking than its original audience was forty years ago, Cooking for Crowds is as likely to be pleasing to the modern-day palate as it was a generaton ago. With a keen appreciation for the tasteful and the nutritious, White’s recipes are bound to appeal to a broad spectrum of those who can appreciate fine food, without it having to be exorbitently expensive.

Her brief, but informative, introduction to each dish not only serves to contextualize the origin of the course (and to explain what its fancy and/or foreign-sounding name means), but also contains useful suggestions on how to present it most appropriately (and, sometimes, what common mistakes to avoid). For instance, White’s introduction to the recipe for “Lapin Chasseur” reads: “A simple rabbit stew can be a rich and savory treat. Fresh thyme and parsley are especially important for this dish, as are fresh tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, and good olive oil.” As can be seen, White’s tone is reassuring without being patronising, and she clearly has hands-on experience of all the meals that she so eloquently describes. This comes as no surprise when one recalls that she earned her way through school by catering for Harvard’s Center for West European studies, neither is it at all amazing to find that her adventurous spirit (which saw her, among other things, trekking through the Nepalese mountains during the 1970s—small wonder that she is currently professor of anthropology at Boston University) spills over plentifully into the richness and assurance of her dishes.

Following on introductory sections on such essentials as “Pots, Pans, and Utensils”, “Herbs and Spices” and “Conversion”, the main text is conveniently divided into “Soups and Starters”, “Main Dishes”, “Vegetables and Side Dishes”, and “Desserts”. Rather than illustrating the work in conventional cookbook fashion, with colorful photos of how each dish should appear, the decision was taken to use humorous line-and-ink drawings that anthropomorphically reflect the various ingredients as characters in their own light. Acclaimed artist Edward Koren’s multiple illustrations successfully add to the approachability of the text, and no doubt should help to ease some of the angst that is often associated with catering for large numbers. Keeping such a concern in mind, a key consideration of the presenter of this text was the requirement that the amount of ingredients used should be easily adaptable to the size of the party concerned. However, any qualms that the prospective cook might have in this direction are quelled by the list of constituents for each dish being given for 6, 12, 20, and 50 people.

The format of Cooking for Crowds is also very appealing, using large type and with each step in the process being logically and clearly described, many in their own paragraph. The eight-page index is well organised under key entries such as “beef,” “bread,” and “broccoli.” None of the ingredients is difficult to obtain, and where one might not easily be able to find one item, an alternative is named. In short, this is a thoroughly delightful and accessible source of food inspiration for catering creatively for large groups. Cookery clubs and caterers, no matter the size, should definitely bear this one in mind.

Follow Here To Purchase Cooking for Crowds: 40th Anniversary Edition