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OP: Men Cooking

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by Outstanding Men Cooks, edited by Sunset Magazine

Sunset Magazine was, in its heyday, a major influence in the development of taste in post-World War II America. Founded in 1898 to promote tourism in the expanding West, the magazine, along with its associated book publishing activities, was, from the 1930s until the 1970s, highly influential in bringing to the country’s attention a new approach to food and cooking. Casual dining, a move toward “patio cooking,” and an openness to fusion—drawing on influences from cuisines from around the world—were its hallmarks. This style contributed significantly to the early development of what we now refer to as California Cuisine.

This bold book, originally published in 1951 under the title Chefs of the West by Sunset’s imprint Lane Book Company, is remarkably resonant with contemporary discourse about gender and cooking. All the recipes were submitted by the magazine’s (male) readers who “show rare enterprise and ingenuity in handling the mundane mechanics of cooking.”

The introduction, minimally altered for this 1963 edition retitled Men Cooking, drives home the notion that men are fearless, creative, stalwart cooks and that no recipes submitted by “wily women” are to be found within.

Setting subtext aside, the recipes are impressive in their scope and absolutely highlight the burgeoning mid-century epicureanism. 

William Johnston of Guam submits an Agana chicken curry, utilizing fresh coconut to produce the milk. Captain Hal Ferris, dubbed here a master mariner from Washington state, offers an Orcas Island scrapple, though, what distinguishes it from any other scrapple is not clear. Los Angeles retiree Edgar West reminisces on “‘the good old days’ of molded puddings, or cold ‘shapes’” with his Bavaroise au rhum. Delectable, hearty, and ambitious recipes all.

We offer here a paperback in Very Good Minus condition, creased along the spine from years of thorough reading. Light chipping and rubbing is evident on the covers as well as the original price being scratched out and amended in pen. The sturdy stock is high acid and yellowing but not yet brittle. As with all glued binding, readers will have to take care not to open the book too widely lest the pages start to free themselves. A great look at the changing tide in American cooking trends.

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