Cookbook Cover for Women in the Kitchen: Twelve Essential Cookbook Writers Who Defined the Way We Eat, from 1661 to Today

Women in the Kitchen: Twelve Essential Cookbook Writers Who Defined the Way We Eat, from 1661 to Today

Anne Willan

August 11, 2020
ISBN-13: 978-1501173318

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Anne Willan founded La Varenne Cooking School in Paris in 1975 and has written more than thirty books, including the double James Beard Award–winning The Country Cooking of France, the Gourmand Award–winning The Cookbook Library, and the groundbreaking La Varenne Pratique, as well as the Look & Cook series, showcased on PBS. In 2013, she was inducted into the James Beard Foundation Awards Hall of Fame. Willan serves as an emeritus adviser for the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. She divides her time between London and the South of France.

Anne Willan, award-winning culinary historian, cookbook writer, teacher, and founder of La Varenne Cooking School, traces the origins of American cooking through profiles of twelve influential cookbook authors whose recipes and ideas changed the way we eat.

Women in the Kitchen explores the development of home cooking from the first published cookbook in 1661 to the early colonial days to the transformative popular works by Fannie Farmer, Irma Rombauer, Julia Child, Edna Lewis, Marcella Hazan, and Alice Waters. Willan offers a brief biography of each woman, highlighting her key contributions, seminal books, and representative dishes. The book features fifty original recipes—as well as updated versions Willan has tested and modernized for the contemporary kitchen.

This engaging narrative moves seamlessly through the centuries to help readers understand the ways cookbook authors inspired one another, that they in part owe their places in history to those who came before them, and how they forever changed the culinary landscape.

Lobster Salad.

The Frugal Housewife, 1829

A recipe by Lydia Child

The meat of one lobster is extracted from the shell, and cut up fine. Have fresh hard lettuce cut up very fine; mix it with the lobster. Make a dressing, in a deep plate, of the yolks of four eggs cut up, a gill of sweet oil, a gill of vinegar, half a gill of mustard, half a teaspoonful of cayenne, half a teaspoonful of salt; all mixed well together. To be prepared just before eaten. Chicken salad is prepared in the same way, only chicken is used instead of lobster, and celery instead of lettuce.


Lydia Maria Child’s instructions on how to choose a lobster cannot be bettered: “A female lobster is not considered so good as a male. The female, the sides of the head, or what look like the cheeks, are much larger, and jut out more than those of the male, the mouth of a lobster
is surrounded with what children call ‘purses’ edged with a little fringe. If you put your hand under these to raise it, and find it springs back hard and firm, it is a sign the lobster is fresh: if they move flabbily it is not a good omen.” The more freshly a lobster has been boiled, the more aromatic this salad will be—if possible, it should not be chilled.


  • 2-pound/900 g clawed lobster, boiled
  • 4 hard-boiled egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons mild or Dijon mustard
  • 1∕2 teaspoon salt
  • 1∕4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more for sprinkling
  • 1∕3 cup/75 ml vegetable oil
  • 1∕3 cup/75 ml white wine vinegar
  • 1∕2 head iceberg lettuce (about 3∕4 pound/330 g)

Detach the lobster claws, then crack the claws with a nutcracker or hammer and extract the claw meat; set it aside. With your hands, pull the lobster tail in its shell from the body. With scissors, snip the underside of the lobster shell on each side and pull out the tail meat. Cut the meat in small chunks and put it in a bowl. Coarsely chop the claw meat and add it to the bowl. Using a large knife, cut the lobster body lengthwise in half and discard the head sac. Scrape the meat from the body, along with any coral (the orange eggs of the female), and add it to the bowl.

To make the dressing, work the hard-boiled egg yolks through a coarse sieve into a small bowl. Stir in the mustard, salt, and cayenne.
Whisk the oil into the yolk mixture, followed by the vinegar. Taste the dressing—the flavor should be quite aggressive—and adjust the

Shred the lettuce and toss it with the lobster meat. Pour the dressing on top, toss, and taste again for seasoning. Pile the salad on individual plates, sprinkle with a little cayenne for color, and serve.

Pomodoro al Forno
Oven-Browned Tomatoes

The Classic Italian Cook Book, 1973

A recipe by Marcella Hazan

In this recipe, all the wateriness of fresh tomatoes is drawn off through long, slow cooking. What remains is a savory, concentrated essence of tomato. Don’t let the quantity of oil alarm you. Nearly all of it gets left behind in the pan.


  • 9 ripe, medium tomatoes or 6 large ones, such as the beefsteak variety
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, about 6 to 8 twists of the mill
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, or enough to come 1∕4 inch up the side of the baking dish

Wash the tomatoes in cold water and slice them in half, across the width. If the variety of tomatoes you are using has a large amount of seeds, remove at least a part of them.

Preheat the oven to 325°.

Choose a flameproof baking dish large enough to accommodate all the tomato halves in a single layer. (You can crowd them in tightly, because later they will shrink considerably.)

Arrange the tomatoes cut side up and sprinkle them with the parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pour the olive oil over them until it comes 1∕4 inch up the side of the dish. Cook on top of the stove over medium-high heat until the tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes, depending on the tomatoes.
When the tomato pulp is soft, baste with a little bit of oil, spooning it up from the bottom of the dish, and transfer the dish to the next-to-the-highest rack in the oven. From time to time baste the tomatoes with the oil in which they are cooking. Cook for about 1 hour, until the tomatoes have shrunk to a little more than half their original size. (The skins and the sides of the pan will be partly blackened, but don’t
worry—the tomatoes are not burned.) Transfer to a serving platter, using a slotted spatula, leaving all the cooking fat behind in the pan.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

NOTE: These tomatoes can be prepared several days ahead of time. Since they must be reheated, they should be refrigerated with all or part of their cooking fat. When refrigerating, cover tightly with plastic wrap. To reheat, return to a 325° oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until warm.

These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:

Recipes from Women in the Kitchen: Twelve Essential Cookbook Writers Who Defined the Way We Eat, from 1661 to Today by Anne Willan. (Scribner; August 11, 2020; $28/Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1501173318)

Contact: Sabrina Pyun