I am a historian and so, I truly understand that the internet is the greatest tool for any kind of research – including recipes. I was delighted to actually find a recipe for authentic Italian Roast Beef á la Marnell’s (Chicago Heights, Illinois). Italian Roast Beef is such an extraordinary culinary treat that an Italian grocer in Little Italy (Cleveland) had tears in his eyes when he informed me that it was no longer imported in Cleveland! (If you have more information, please let me know, instantly). So, I began to look for recipes on the net – and I found one! As it turns out, the secret ingredient is Juniper Berries and the slow cooking. It was marvelous. A few years later, I found the recipe for a Italian Cassata that approached the birthday cakes from the Italian Bakery from my old neighborhood.

BUT, to learn technique or to really gather information about cooking; a book is still the best. And it is true, many recipes from the standard  cookbooks are still not available on the internet even though they are close or maybe “improved.” AND most importantly, it is still much more comforting to curl up with a good book. If I am in cooking slump, I cannot but help get inspired – and before I know it, there I am in the kitchen with flour flying and dishes piled high. The aroma of fresh baked bread cures all ailments especially the doldrums of a winter that just won’t end!

But first I will warn you of my bias reflected in my collection (covered with chocolate, olive oil and lacking covers after years of use!) that includes the books that have become our family classics. The list of Shearer Classics includes (in no particular order):

  • Anna Thomas, Vegetarian EpicureVolumes 1 and 2
  • Alan Hooker, Vegetarian Gourmet Cookery (1972)
  • Barbara Friedlander, Earth Wind Fire Air (1972)
  • Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The Way to Cook
  • The Joy of Cooking
  • The Silver Palette, Volumes 1 and 2


One Shearer Classic dinner is Cheese and Potato Pie with a salad. It is simple and satisfying. We had six children and a busy busy schedule so fast and easy was very important some nights.

This recipe is from Earth Wind Fire Air.


  • 4 Idaho potatoes (peeled and cut in fourths)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley (fresh)
  • salt, pepper (we liked to add garlic)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (seasoned or not)
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella, cut in slices
  • 1/2 cup parmesan


  1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Boil potatoes, drain and mash with cream and butter.
  3.  Beat egg yolk and mix with potato mixture.
  4. Whip egg white stiff with pinch of salt then add to potatoes.
  5. Butter pie plate and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Layer potato mixture and mozzarella starting with potatoes.
  6. Top with parmesan and dot with butter.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes until top is golden and a little puffy.

I always wonder how something so simple can taste so good  –  so good that our children have added this to their own repertoires!

Back to new books and inspiration.

James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, Outlet, 1990.

This reprint of the “got to” book for  many cooks retains all of the information from the first printing. There is a compendium at the end that includes useful terms and basic information. There are line drawings throughout to illustrate method that are useful. The collection of recipes reflects the Beard’s taste and style as always – eclectic and varied as is American Cuisine.

More new books: Mark Bittman, Fannie Farmer (1996 reprint),  The Romagnoli’s Table, Jeni Wright and Le Cordon Bleu Classics.


From the Amy Vanderbuilt Series, “Success Program for Women” Serving Food Attractively (Doubleday, 1966).

History is interesting . . . a look at style . . .  like sprinkling paprika on cottage cheese . . . and parsley on your plate.

This copy is signed by Amy Vanderbilt – in red ink!


PS  In da heights, there is still a Marnell’s but it is not the same – new owners and new menus. Alas, the Italian Roast Beef served there as of five years ago was only an imitation.  Little did I know that the Italian Roast Beef Sandwich is such an art form that it has merited a food blog! Not surprisingly, the writer shared my sentiments.