Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cooking Project: Time-Life Foods of the World

My friend Kaye recently started a two-year quixotic project to read and cook from the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbook series that was published in the late 60s and early 70s. Each of the 50+ books was an exploration of the cooking of a country or regional cuisine, with discussions of culture, history, recipes, and lots of photos. And it was accompanied by a spiral bound booklet of recipes.

Not surprisingly given the times and the origins, the series has a strong American emphasis. No fewer than 8 of the books deal with American cooking (!), with only one volume each for China and India, and none for Turkey, all cuisines with a rich heritage and strong regional differences. But it was part of a movement that opened the kitchens of Americans (and Canadians) to the world. What we now eat and what can now buy in an ordinary supermarket bears no comparison to what was available in 1969. And this series was part of that shift.

Along with some other interested crazy cooks, I'm joining Kaye on this project. We plan to read, comment, discuss and cook our way through as many of the 25+ books as we can in a monthly to 6 week cycle.

One problem: I didn't have the books. I did have the recipe booklet for Cooking of India, picked up in a second-hand store in PEI, but that was it. So I started ordering a few of the books via Amazon, but it was hard to tell whether I was ordering the hard-cover book or the recipe book or both. The complete sets were available but only in the States and the shipping costs to Europe were astronomical. But I then found a Canadian supplier that had almost the complete set and could ship to Canadian addresses for a reasonable price. My sister now has them in her custody and I will bring them back the next time I visit Halifax. I know, it's crazy, but cooking is my hobby. And as we all know, hobbies give us permission to be a bit crazy.

In the mean time, the few books I had already ordered have arrived and I can start cooking. Watch this space!

(And if you want to join us, let me or Kaye know. Kaye can invite you to the Facebook group she started for this project.)


  1. I'm hoping the China and India books will be a bit like Quintet. Turkey is covered in Middle Eastern Cooking, with one general chapter and individual chapters for some of the countries covered, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, etc.

  2. Hello Kaye,
    I am so happy to find someone who is such an enthusiast about this line of cook books from Time-Life as I am. I once had nearly the entire collection then gave all but maybe 3 away. I kept "Quintet of Cuisines" for years, but misplaced it or forgot to pack it up in one of my many moves in the last 10 years. I am desperately wanting to get my hands on the Polish walnut cake recipe from this cook book. My family has just recently found out that my brother has an aggressive form of cancer and may only have a year to live. Our mother used to bake this walnut cake for our birthdays and it is my brother's favorite cake. I wanted to bake it for his upcoming birthday in May (it may be his last birthday). I baked this walnut cake for him years ago using the recipe from Quintet of Cuisines and it turned out just like mom's! My brother was so happy! Any chance I could be sent that recipe? Thank you kindly.
    Best regards,
    Donna Zacharczuk
    Ontario, Canada

    1. Hi Donna, I dont know your email address so I'll just reply here. Kaye is unlikely to see this comment, as it is not her blog, but I still have these books. The recipe you are looking for is called
      Walnut Layer Cake with Coffee Butter Icing (Tort Orzechowy). Ahter than type it all out, I've searched the Internet and have discovered that the following recipe is exactly the one you need.

      I hope that your brother will enjoy it, and wish you all comfort and strength together to face his difficult illness.