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Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin | The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook (Bella Books)

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What the authors have done is mostly find ways to cook dishes that are mentioned by the characters at home or in restaurants, but in some cases the actual restaurant recipes are still available.

 

 

The full title of Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin’s take on 1960s iconic food and drink is The Unofficial Mad Man Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men, so we know upfront that the popular AMC series has nothing to do with their book. But scenes from various episodes (in no particular order) introduce the recipes throughout. I don’t know how many of us are willing to go back to cooking the way our mothers and grandmothers did, but perhaps all that cream and butter is still acceptable now and then. Julia Child—who advocated such ingredients (in moderation, of course)—is frequently cited here, including a chapter on her life and influence on American cookery. Her Au Gratin Potatoes are a rich delight found among the recipes, and not at all difficult to make.
 
Gelman is the food writer and Zheutlin the pop culture guy, so their talents mesh for a cookbook based on this television phenomenon, which debuted in 2007. Don Draper (played by St. Louisan Jon Hamm) is an advertising executive in New York City when the show and the book begin. The year is 1960, and Don is married to beautiful, blonde housewife Betty. They have a boy and a girl and live in a Leave it to Beaver house. The fifth and most recent season ends in 1967 and much has changed. The cookbook’s latest recipes are from Season 4. What the authors have done is mostly find ways to cook dishes that are mentioned by the characters at home or in restaurants, but in some cases the actual restaurant recipes are still available, such as the eponymous Waldorf Salad (from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel) and the Caesar Salad tossed tableside and served at Keen’s.
 
Cocktails are often authentic, as well, since some of Don and the gang’s favorite watering holes are still around such as the Oak Bar in the Plaza Hotel, the Algonquin, etc. The index has a complete list of them so you can drop in next time you’re in New York City. And if you wonder how anyone, even Roger Sterling, could put away all that booze and remain conscious, these recipes will show you that the gigantic “martinis” we order today were not the drinks of the “three martini lunch” era. And they weren’t all martinis either. A genuine martini featured a jigger of gin, a dash of vermouth, and quick shake with ice and a garnish of olive, lemon peel, or onion (which officially makes the drink a “Gibson”) and that’s all. Amateur drinkers could substitute vodka for the gin, but that was considered a ladies drink.
 
One simple recipe from the era went especially well with one of Sterling Cooper’s (later Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price) clients, Utz Potato Chips. It is the enduring California dip, for which one only need mix an envelope of onion soup mix with a container of sour cream, refrigerate to let the flavors marry, and serve. It was so easy Pete Campbell (annoying junior partner in the firm played by Vincent Kartheiser) could make it, and did.
 
If you like to cook and you’re interested in this era—probably the last of the genuine “home-cooked meals,” because processed foods were already becoming popular—you’ll enjoy this book. If you’re interested in the TV show, you’ll like it also. It you care about both, then you’ll read this through with pleasure before you try anything. I’m not going to make homemade puff pastry for Beef Wellington, but I’d like to try Jackie Kennedy’s Avocado and Crabmeat Mimosa or Sardi’s Hearts of Palm Salad, before Trudy’s Rib Eye in the Pan and finishing off with Lindy’s Cherry Cheesecake, another authentic recipe from the source.
 
There are a few flaws in editing and there is some repetition in the introductory discussions about the show, but overall, this is a fun read. Just make sure you download it on a reader that supports color photos (my Kindle does not) because there are some gorgeous pictures of the dishes and drinks or perhaps buy the actual book which was published November 29, 2012 by Ben Bella Books. | Andrea Braun

 

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