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Cookbooks for every kind of cook, climate, or occasion

By John Edward YoungStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / December 7, 1983

Today's cookbooks are often more than just recipes. Some of the most interesting are a mixture of history, literature, and culture. People are more curious about the origins of the food they eat, and cookbooks reflect this interest.

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Some cookbooks are also whimsical, and a few are even poetic.

Shoofly pie, creamed chipped beef, New England baked beans, smothered chicken - you'll find these and a lot more classic American recipes in Anita Prichard's Back-To-Basics American Cooking (Putnam, $18.95).

If your grandmother made it, it may well be between these covers. This is a good first cookbook, full of basic logic and good advice. No more excuses for sticky rice. Mrs. Prichard spends 2 1/2 pages explaining the pitfalls and solutions on that one alone.

Drinks Without Liquor, by Jane Brandt (Workman Publishing, Paperback, $5.95), will surely quench every imaginable thirst.

Here are drinks for those with a sweet tooth or sour. How about a curried clam and tomato starter for an elegant dinner gathering? Or an orange eggnog for New Year's Eve? And what kid wouldn't like a peanut butter 'n jelly drink for lunch? - a veritable sandwich in a glass! There are 175 recipes in all, for every holiday, climate, or occasion.

You'll never want to look another radish rose in the face once you've read Margo Kokko's The Final Touch (CBI Publishing Company, $19.95), and you'll never have to. With this book, onions will blossom into water lilies, and carrots and green peppers will become palm trees with the flick of your wrist.

Ms. Kokko learned mukimono (the art of carving vegetables and fruit into flowers) from her teacher, Takahashi-san. He spoke no English, and she spoke no Japanese. Pantomime became their common language.

The photographs are few but beautifully done in full color.

Someone has been in the kitchen with Dinah! And Dinah's been busy writing the recipes down.

Most of them (over 500) are compiled in The Dinah Shore Cookbook (Doubleday,

What surprised me about this book is that it's better than I thought it would be. Somehow I expected artificial cream topping and canned mandarin oranges. Not so. The recipes are solid. Most are from famous friends who actually do cook, and well-known restaurants throughout the country. Each recipe has a folksy Dinah lead-in including a little anecdote about its discovery.

Let's hear it for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Not for its music this time - for its cookbook, The Boston Symphony Orchestra Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Company, $18.95).

When word went out that the BSO was compiling a cookbook as part of its 100th aniversary celebration, conductors put down their batons, violinists put down their fiddles, and opera singers came out of the shower.

And in came the recipes - hundreds of them. Jeorge Mester and Frederica von Stade sent chicken dishes. Vladimir Ashkenazy sent a fruit stuffing for poultry. Neville Marriner offered his summer pudding, and Eileen Farrell gave a recipe for minted fruit.

There's plenty here too from members and friends of the orchestra.