What Her Cookbooks Meant to Me

Chili for a Crowd with my Notes

Katherine Age 1, Melissa age 2, cooking out The Silver Palate Cookbook in our kitchen in Atlanta, GA

My thousands of notes and tabs in my Silver Palate Cookbook

Carrot Cake for Katherine's First Birthday and the changes
I made. (I learned to write the date in cookbooks from
meaningful events from my mother-in-law)

My first copy of The New Basics from 1989 (it feel apart in 3 pieces,
but I couldn't part with it. The second copy is to the right
with all of my notes on top of it.

Recipe Testers,

On Monday, Jeanette Pool, e-mailed and asked me if I had a recipe for Chili because she was going to a Chili Cook-off this weekend. I've been meaning to type my chili recipe for ages but since I still haven't done that yet, I went to the bookshelf and got my copy of The Silver Palate. Lukins and Rosso's Chili for a Crowd was the base recipe I'd been using for Chili since 1984. I adapted it a bit over the years. I added more red wine. I often added beer. I added corn (fresh, frozen or canned all worked) I took out the olives when I made it for Jason even though I love the version with the olives in it. I always serve it with sour cream and cheddar cheese. I used to make it with pinto beans and then realized her original version with the kidney beans was better. I always served it with cornbread.

I sat down at my computer and started e-mailing the chili recipe. Then in my inbox there was an e-mail from Al Ferrer. It was the sad news that Sheila Lukins, author of The Silver Palate, had died of a brain tumor on Sunday. I sat there stunned and in grief for this woman I never met, but who was an enormous part of my life because of her cookbooks. I sat in from on my compute and slowly thumbed through the pages of the cookbook. The splatters, the notes--I felt like I was looking through an old photo album--remembering the first time I made Salade Nicoise for JoAnn Reck, Melissa and Jennifer FitzGibbons. There were so many first experiences from that cookbook. So many things I learned from Pasta Puttanesca to Ratatouille. It was the cookbook everyone talked about in the 80's if they were having a gourmet meal. I read every page. I loved all the drawings and knew the quotes by heart: "I'd rather have Roses on my table than diamonds on my neck--Emma Goldman."

I remember Sue Burbelo making the Orange Cake from The Silver Palate in North Carolina (a bond that we both owned the same cookbook.) I leafed through the coobook some more. Slowly turning every page. And then I noticed the Carrot Cake I made for Katherine's first birthday. (I was in Georgia so I couldn't get the cake from the bakery.) So there in a cookbook was part of my life. My high school days, college days, married life, my daughter's first birthday. All in front of me as I turned the pages.

Last April, when we had the cooking day with my grandmother, we used her copy of The Silver Palate that was in shreds. I was completely fallen apart. She'd used it over and over and over again. My Auntie Sandy had had a copy and told Granny to get one. We all used it.

In college, The New Basics came out. You can image how thrilled I was! I made the olive bread over and over and over again. I literally started at page one and studied the entire book. Marianne Heilferty made the Aspargus Tips Oriental on page 199. (Who even says Oriental anymore! Now we say Asian or the actual country in Asia the recipe is from, yet that is the title in the book from 1989!) I remember wanting to try to draw the pictures in the book. I've probably given at least 50 copies of The New Basics as gifts. It was my standard gift, combined with Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, when someone got married or went off to college. I always thought a cookbook was an ideal graduation gift too. I just gave my friend Tracey a copy 3 months ago when I found out she didn't have one!

I thought this e-mail would be easy to write. But as I try to write now, my heart kind of feels stopped up and the words are coming so slowly instead of flowing out as they usually do. I can't find the right words to explain the weight on my heart. It doesn't really make sense that I should be affected by a person I have never met or never knew. I'm sad for her premature death; for the loss of another talented person to the monster of cancer. I'm sad to look at the cookbooks and realize how quickly time passes by. That The New Basics isn't "new" anymore. I almost just made a typo and wrote that 1989 was 10 years ago, BUT IT WAS 20! What I still think of as "new" is now 20 years old!!

My cookbook collection is my most valuable treasure after the pictures of my children and family. The cookbooks hold such deep memories for me. I would never want them scanned in and cleaned up. I like the original versions with their spills and notes and history in them. They are a part of me.

So to honor Sheila Lukins I will share her Chili for a Crowd recipe with all of you. I think recipes are the connections that help memories remain from generation to generation. A part of her will live on each time her recipes are made. Thank goodness they weren't on scraps of paper and only in her head. Thank goodness they were published so that the world could share them.

And continued prayers for all of those with cancer as we continue to pray for a cure!


Silver Palate Chili For a Crowd

When choosing chopped meat for chili, you’ll find that beef chuck adds great flavor. And you never can have too many spices. Look for dark-red kidney beans. Lemon juice brightens all the tastes!

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound yellow onions, coarsely chopped
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
4 pounds beef chuck, ground
1 can (12 ounces) tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/3 cup ground cumin
1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons salt,
or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
3 cans (28 ounces each) Italian plum tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 cans (16 ounces each) dark-red kidney beans, drained
2 cans (5 1/2 ounces each) pitted black olives, drained

1. Heat the olive oil in a very large pot. Add the onions and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 15 minutes. Add the sausage meat and ground chuck; cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the meats are well browned. Spoon off any excess fat and discard.
2. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, cumin, chili powder, mustard, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, wine, lemon juice, dill, parsley and kidney beans. Stir well and simmer, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.
3. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add olives; simmer for 5 minutes more to heat through. Serve immediately.

Serves 20. Per serving: 260 calories, 19g carbohydrate, 26g protein,
10g fat, 55mg cholesterol.


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