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Home Cooking R.I.P.

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It's been a tough month for cooks. First I learned that Sheila Lukins, the beloved creator of The Silver Palate, had died. When I saw the tombstone ad in the New York Times, tears sprung to my eyes and I was as surprised by my own reaction as I was to learn that she had passed away. Let's face it - I never met the woman, but she was ever-present in my kitchen since the early days of my marriage. The Silver Palate was the cook's bible for my generation and replaced The Joy of Cooking on the shelves of young brides. All the good occasions in my life were celebrated with Sheila -- for my son's first birthday I baked not one, but three "Decadent Chocolate Cakes" from the first edition of The Silver Palate. What happened and why would a busy new Mom with a full time job bake three cakes? The cake had to be perfect as this was the crown prince's first big day and what could be more momentous than the first birthday of the first grandchild born into our extended families on both sides.

It was a chocolate bundt cake, and the first one split in two when I tried to get it out of the pan. The second one looked more promising in the oven but I was foiled again when trying to remove it from the pan in one piece. My husband decided to help and before I could object he grabbed a hammer and started banging on the bottom of the bundt pan as I stood by horrified. That led to a cake in pieces, a marital tiff and a third try at decadence. This time I discovered the wonders of Pam and voila we had a luscious, delectable cake.

What other good-times were celebrated with my friends from The Silver Palate? All Jewish holidays called for either the famous Chicken Marbella or the Apricot and Currant Chicken from the second edition. Thanksgiving meant sweet potato puree with crème fraiche ... Lukins never hesitated to enrich her recipes with cream or butter. We purchased a special fish mold for the salmon mousse and served it surrounded by dill at elegant dinner parties. The lemon chicken was another family favorite and the three Silver Palate volumes are still on my shelf, splattered with food and broken at the bindings.

Things started to return to normal when I decided that Sheila, like my mother, would live on through her famous recipes and realized how fortunate we were to have her legacy. Then I learned that Conde Nast was folding Gourmet Magazine. How could they? Gourmet was another staple in my life and I had no idea it was expendable. A subscriber since I worked for the company in 1986, I thought that there were enough die-hards out there like me to ensure the magazine's survival. But I guess I was wrong. All of this century's foodies must be busy blogging, working at food coops or growing their own.

Just this past weekend I made a savory spinach pesto lasagna and sautéed leeks from the Gourmet archive. I do hope the company maintains their enormous compendium of recipes online at Epicurious, because without them there would be little reason to attempt a meal in the kitchen. We just might have to join our neighbors who all seem to order in or eat out. It's as simple as that ... too many blows for a cook in just a few short weeks.

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