Most homecooks own a general all-around tome which acted as a their gateway to the world of cooking and baking. They may have out grown it since but it will always hold a soft spot in their heart--this is where it all started. The Joy Of Cooking probably holds such an esteemed place for many in North America. If you grow up in France, Je Sais Cuisiner may be the one for you. As for myself, it is a very humble copy of Gas Cookery Book I inherited from my late mother.
If I am not mistaken, this cookbook is at most a couple of years younger than me. I never really had an opportunity to find out its origin from my Mom but my highly probable guess is she received it as a complimentary copy when we moved to New Territories (back then, the countryside). The house was huge and the kitchen was equiped with a gas oven cooking range, rather unusual for kitchens in Hong Kong. I have vivid memories of my Mom litting the oven with a lighter gun because I always thought she risked her life just to bake us cakes. Ah, the working of a kid's mind!
As a child, I loved to flip through the pages of this cookbook and imagined all the wonderful food it promises on its pages. Now that I think about it, it totally makes me wonder. This cookbook is heavy on text with only a sprinkling of colour and black & white photos. Compare to the coffee table-worthy cookbooks popular nowaways, it seems down right boring. I suppose imagination really is a powerful tool, especially for kids. Chapters are divided into different regional cuisines with representative dishes from Chinese, British, French, Japanese, Scandinavian, Portuguese, American, etc. I remember yearning to travel to all those exotic countries. Interestingly enough, all recipes in this cook are in both English and Chinese. I did not realize it when I was younger but it did help me learn both languages in a way that truly interested me.
Going through this book yesterday, I was amused by how dated it is. Check out the outfit and hairstyle of that lady cooking over the range! This is almost like the parallel universe photo of an I Love Lucy era snapshot of homelife in Hong Kong. Exactly how old am I, you ask? Bet you think I age really well. Here's another educated guess. My copy is probably a revised edition but it kept many of the photos from earlier editions. I also love the retro food styling and ornate dishware popular back in the days.
Food trend comes and goes but classics can endure the test of time. Surely pineapple upside-down cake qualifies. Guess what, my first exposure to this American classic is far from what you may envision. Pineapple rings were refashioned into an octopus surrounded by floating lotus leaves. Way groovy.
It is also interesting to see the pictorial for ingredients. This one for Chinese cooking shows off the packaging of some condiments that I remember from years ago. Some brands continue to use the same packaging to this day while others have evolved much since. When I saw that bottle of Del Monte Catsup, I instantly felt a wave of nostalgia. No Heinz at my home for sure!