Cookbook Editor Guarnaschelli Dies

Plus: new Stanley Tucci show, Samin Nosrat working on next book

Howdy cookbook fans!

And welcome to your Tuesday edition of Stained Page News! I hope you had an excellent weekend. Paid subscribers were treated to both a humorous essay about the flamin’ hot world of 21st century brand cookbooks and the announcement of our March/April book club pick. Join them, it’s fun:

There is an abundance of news today, topmost of which is word that Maria Guarnaschelli, editor to many, many, many of your favorite cookbooks and mine, died over the weekend. So let’s get to it without further delay.

Cookbook Editor Maria Guarnaschelli Dies at 79

A post shared by Alex Guarnaschelli or “ICAG” (@guarnaschelli)

Cookbook editor Maria Guarnachelli has died at the age of 79. I keep seeing her referred to as “legendary” and I truly don’t mean to plagiarize, but that’s the word for it. Over the course of her career as editor at Morrow, Scribner, and Norton, Guarnaschelli edited some of the great modern cookbook titles, including the 1997 Joy of Cooking (which was the first cookbook I ever owned), Judy Rodgers’ influential The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, Maricel Presilla’s Gran Cocina Latina and more. Books she worked on garnered over a dozen James Beard Foundation Awards and over a dozen IACP awards.

This obituary from Norton lists authors she worked with, and it just keeps going: J. Kenji López-Alt, Rick Bayless, Jim Lahey, Stella Parks, Dave Arnold, Michael Ruhlman, Brian Polcyn, Molly Stevens, Matt Lee and Ted Lee, James Oseland, Joyce Goldstein, Fuchsia Dunlop, Dave Arnold, Lynne Rosetto Kasper, Julie Sahni, Harold McGee, and Rose Levy Beranbaum. Cookbooks today would not look like cookbooks today without her. Legendary is an understatement.

Her books were notoriously precise, lengthy, and exacting. “Who but Maria would have had the daring to publish a cookbook with charts and weights and put her heart and soul into the work?” asks Levy Beranbaum in this tribue to Guarnaschelli, referring to her book The Cake Bible. López-Alt calls her “a true visionary.” Dave Arnold is dedicating today’s episode of his Heritage Radio show Cooking Issues to Guarnaschelli; it was on at noon ET but seems they do post old episodes here, so look for that shortly. (I’ll also link when it goes up.) Condolences to her family, including chef/cookbook author Alex Guarnaschelli, and rest in peace.

Thangam Philip has crosshatched my life in the most curious ways. My uncle studied catering under her (very) stern supervision. My mother once took a class at the Dadar Catering College, where Philip reigned as principal — in fact, we still have a stack of her recipes, typed on sheaves of yellowed, raspy pages, all carefully filed away in a blue plastic folder. As for me: I own newer, glossier, books on baking, but it is The Thangam Philip Book of Baking, with its infallible madeleine and sponge recipes, that I unfailingly turn to.

Whichever way you spin it, Philip was a food legend.

Writer Meher Mirza on “chef, professor, cookbook writer, food scientist, mentor, businesswoman, [and] grande dame of the Indian catering world” Thangham Philip. [F52]

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat author Samin Nosrat has ended her column at NYT Mag to focus on writing her next book. Working titles is What to Cook, and the announcement in Publishers Marketplace calls it “a book to help cooks navigate time, ingredients, resources, and preferences, to become more relaxed and intuitive in the kitchen, once again illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton.” Ten Speed.

Grandma cookbooks are not cookbooks that actual grandmas use. Actual grandmas do not use recipes, with the exception of the occasional handwritten notecard. When they can be convinced to write a recipe down, their instructions consist of “throw two handfuls of tomatoes and a pinch of salt in; stir until it smells right.” Grandma cookbooks instead exemplify the unfussy yet encyclopedic knowledge of a cuisine passed down by individual grandmas, in book form. In other words, Grandma cookbooks are intended for people who have to put dinner on the table, but cannot abide either the preciousness of celebrity chef cookbooks or the callow, unmoored wiz-bang of 365: No Repeats.

TS Mendola on grandma cookbooks. [Bon Appetit]

Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy Premies Feb 14

Cookbook author, negroni expert and actor behind the only Paul Child portrayal officially recognized by Stained Page News Stanley Tucci is premiering a show on CNN on Valentine’s Day. Searching for Italy is a six episode series which sees Tucci eating his way across Italy, with each episode focusing on the food/region of an Italian city: Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Bologna, Milan, Tuscany, and Sicily. You can see a trailer here that I will not burden your inbox with embedding in this email. Premieres Sunday at 9:00 ET.

I've never really sat down and written down the recipes I've used in my life before, not in any really organized way…Being limited to what was in my cabinet and what I could get on grocery pickup, and finding the need to feed my folks, brought me back into the kitchen. For the first time in about a decade, I had time to cook rather than covering those who cooked for others.

Kat Robinson, author of A Bite of Arkansas and 43 Tables, on how the pandemic led her to write not one but two cookbooks. [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette]

Okay that’s all for today! Friday folks will get EITHER a giant book deals issue OR a very exciting interview; TBD but it’s a win-win either way honestly. Between now and then a polar vortex will descend on central Texas meaning it will be actually, actually cold here (like in the TEENS). Fingers crossed for my snap peas. See you then, from under a giant blanket. Have a great week.