Home > History of Wine > “Wine Makes Food Taste Better”: Collecting wine cookery books

“Wine Makes Food Taste Better”: Collecting wine cookery books


I grew up watching “The Frugal Gourmet” cooking show on television.  Hosted by Jeff Smith, my mom owned his cookbooks and if I want an instant rush of childhood memories I need only to look at the red font of his book “The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine” (1984).

My exploration into the 20th century history of wine journalism illustrates how many early newspaper wine writers were in fact food editors, of whom many were women.  It is perhaps a natural extension from publishing a food column in a newspaper to publishing a cook book.  My particular interest is the genre of wine cookery books.  I have purchased a number of these cook books this winter.  I thought it would be fun to share some of these books that I have collected given this festive season of wine and cooking.

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The rise of wine cookery books in Great Britain and America appears to have taken place in the post-war years of the 1930s.  This was a time when economies were recovering from the devastation of the Great Depression.  Andre L. Simon noted it had been several decades since there were “practical handbooks to the knowledge and use of individual wines”.  As editor of the series Constable’s Wine Library he had seen to the publication of books about Sherry, Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Port.  He coauthored “Madeira: Wine, Cakes and Sauce” with Elizabeth Craig in 1933.  The following year in 1934, Elizabeth Craig’s “Wine in the Kitchen” was added to the series.

Back in America, Prohibition was repealed during December 1933.  The following summer during July 1934, saw the publication of Cora, Rose, and Robert Carlton Brown’s “The Wine Cook Book”.  If The Brown’s wine cook book was in celebration of the new found legal availability of wine, Elizabeth Craig’s book appears to acknowledge the lean years of the war and depression.  Francois Latry, Maitre des Cuisines, Savory Restaurant, London looks to France in his introduction of Elizabeth Craig’s book. He notes wine brings “new ways of adding zest to old recipes”.

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The Brown’s “The Wine Cook Book” continued to be reprinted, nine times in the first dozen years, thus continuing to be available through the end of World War 2.  The years after World War 2 saw a steady succession of wine books with ties to wineries, wine advocacy groups and some were even published by wine journalists.

The Wine Institute was founded in 1934 and created The Wine Advisory Board in 1937 as their marketing board.  The war in Europe restricted wine importations so many American looked to California for their wine.  The Wine Advisory Board worked to market Californian wine and in doing so published many pamphlets and aided many authors over the years.

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Anne Director, head of the consumer information division for the Roma Wine Company in California, published “The Standard Wine Cook Book” in 1948.  The Roma Wine Company was popular in the 1930s and 1940s, advertising both in print and on the radio.  The production of Californian wine soared in the mid-1940s. Competition amongst wineries led to increased capacity and increased advertising expenditure.  Her book is no doubt part of this expenditure.

While the Roma Wine Company is not mentioned in Anne Director’s book, she is listed as working at “America’s largest wine producer.”  They were certainly large with a bottling capacity of 20,000 cases a day in 1945.  Also related to a winery, “The Lejon Cook Book” (1947) focused in on the wines Chateau Lejon from California.  It was written by Jeanne Owen, secretary of the Wine and Food Society of New York and published by National Distillers Products Corporation.

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Perhaps any mention of wine in a recipe meant home cooks would grab a bottle from California.  Not lost upon the Wine Advisory Board they provided suitable recipes in “Fish Dishes With Wine” (1948).  In the 1950 edition of “The Standard Wine Cook Book” the small pamphlet “14 Praise-Winning Wine Recipes for Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Wild Game” was included.  It clearly recommends the local wine with choices of “California Sauterne wine” and “California Burgundy wine”.  That same year the Italian Swiss Colony employed Gertrude S. Wilkinson, former food editor of The New York Journal-America, to write the pamphlet “Food Is More Fun With Wine” (1950).

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George Leistner under the pen name Emily Chase became the first food consultant for The Home Advisory Service of the Wine Institute.  She published “The pleasures of cooking with wine” (1960).  Other publications by the Wine Advisory Board include “Favorite Recipes of California Winemakers” (1963), the shortened pamphlet version “The Revised Wine Cook Book” (1964), and “Gourmet Wine Cooking the easy way” (1968).

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During this period New York state ranked second in wine production behind California.  The Taylor Wine Company did not lay quiet for Greyton H. Taylor published the “Treasury of Wine & Wine Cookery” in 1963.

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Also that same year Rebecca Caruba, the first female sommelier in America, England, and France, published “Cooking With Wine and High Spirits” (1963).

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Morrison Wood, who wrote the column “For Men Only” in the Chicago Tribune first published “An Unusual Collection of Recipes With a Jug of Wine” in 1949.  He continued to publish a number of other cook books.  Ruth Ellen Church, who, under the pen name Mary Meade was the food editor of the Chicago Tribune, later became the first regular wine columnist in a newspaper.  Her “American Guide To Wines” (1963) was a combination wine guide and cook book with an introduction by Morrison Wood.  After retiring from the newspaper she later published “Entertaining with Wine” (1976).

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I should also mention “The ABC of Wine Cookery” (1957) published by the Peter Pauper Press.  This press came out with a series of ABC cook books during the 1950s and 1960s.  The colorful dust jackets, whimsical illustrations, and text make them quite pleasing.  For instance you may find, “Lavender’s blue, dilly, dilly, Lavender’s green; Add wine to  your sauce, and you’ll eat like a Queen!”

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What appears between the covers of these books is subject to future posts.  However, for a sweet ending, Anne Director’s Christmas Pudding includes such ingredients as chopped suet, molasses, sweet milk, nut meats, Port or Muscatel.  Bon Appetit!

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