Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sheila Lukins

I'm saddened to hear the news that Sheila Lukins has passed away this week at the age of 66. She was diagnosed with brain cancer in June. And three short months later, that's it, she's gone.

Her book, "The New Basics Cookbook" influenced me immensely. This book was a collaboration between her and Julee Rosso back in the late 80s. They also worked together on "The Silver Palate", which sits on my shelf as well. I didn't get into Betty Crocker (was it too sterile or too old fashioned?...already too industrialized??), and I didn't have access to Julia Child's book....but my sister Fran discovered this (substantial) treasure & shared it with the family.

"The New Basics" helped get me started in entertaining & cooking adventures. It nicely unveiled its mysteries. It made obscure ingredients & party planning accessible, even in my 20s when I had no idea what I was doing! To boot, it's an entertaining read. How often did I sit down with that book simply to read it? And guess what, there are no pictures!! Unheard of in a cookbook, isn't it? As you can see, it has some drawings instead that I understand Sheila Lukins did herself.

My first beet purée came from it, to the initial horror of my parents when I decided to bring it to a Thanksgiving dinner that included screaming toddlers who were more content to be flinging food around than tasting it! (Luckily, no disasters, even with the white carpet/white walls in the dining room...). My first ginger pork loin & spring risotto came from there. In fact, a lot of firsts came to me from this book. I think this is the most used cookbook I own. Just look at the state it's in. I do take care of it, but it's gotten a lot of use! A bit frazzled around the edges. Definitely in need of a re-binding. And full of scribbled notes. I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Isn't it true that authors or artists can influence you but you may never know the creator first-hand? Yet it feels like I know Sheila...through her work. I feel like she was my first cooking teacher after I moved out on my own...(besides mom who I called often). To this day, I go to that book to seek inspiration. And for that, I will always remember her, and say my secret thanks...because, even if she was still with us, she would not necessarily know I felt this way. But what a a sign of a great teacher.... those who create and share and encourage....with the hopes that it inspires step out & try new things....


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