THE BOOK: The Way We Ate amounts to a collection of 100 eclectic recipes provided by chefs, foodies, food writers and photographers, and even the mother of one of the authors, with a recipe ascribed to each year of the 20th century. Some of the names are familiar: Ruth Reichl (matzo brei), Daniel Boulud (beef shank terrine), Jacques Pépin (stuffed quail with grape sauce), and Melissa Clark of the New York Times (roasted leg of lamb with mint salsa verde). Most contributors are less well known, but their contributions also command attention. Chef Barbara Sibley, for example, author of the Mexican cookbook Antojitos (traditional Mexican snack foods), offers caldo de ostiones (oyster soup).
The authors, Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz, created the website The Way We Ate (thewayweate.net) in 2011 and committed to preparing every recipe printed in Gourmet, which was published from 1941 to 2009. They cook, photograph and post two to five recipes a week, which means their project should take about 15 years. (See a video of the pair here: storyboard.tumblr.com/post/24060539656)
WHY READ: Connecting a recipe to each year of the 20th century must have posed a challenge, since few of the recipes bear any apparent connection to the year they represent. For example, rainy Sunday pork shoulder with sesame cole slaw, by twins Darin and Greg Bresnitz, creators of IFC's Dinner With the Band show, is connected to 1903 because the Wright brothers achieved the first powered flight that year. ("Here is a down-home, hearty feast that would have sustained two mechanically minded minds through days that weren't quite ready for flight, save for this bit of porcine delight taking off from their plates.") Roasted bananas three ways, by Gabriella Gershenson, a senior editor at Saveur magazine, is linked to 1933 because that's the year King Kong was released. Blintz-krieg duck — Chinese five-spice blintzes with tart cherry sauce by photographer Michael Harlan Turkell — is tied, inexplicably, to the film Holiday Inn, which appeared in 1942, while German forces were in the midst of blitzkrieg, or "lightning war." Though the gimmick that provides the structure of the book may be weak, many recipes appear tantalizing and inventive, and probably worth a taste.
MAKE IT: Fany Gerson, the Mexican-born chef and author of My Sweet Mexico, has transformed her love of sweets into a business she calls La Newyorkina (lanewyorkina.com.) Her contribution to the cookbook explains how to make Pecan Praline and Bourbon Caramel Sauce, as well as the ice cream to put it on.
Tom Valeo, Times correspondent
Read & Feed is a monthly column in Taste that matches possible book club selections with food to serve at meetings. If you have suggestions, send an email to [email protected] Put BOOK FOOD in the subject line.