Once the food craze passes, as it surely shall, all us lifers will still be kicked back on the sofa,taking a break from the stock pot, with a thick book by Clementine Paddleford, Maida Heatter or Edna Lewis.

A few years ago I was in New Orleans at an antiquarian bookstore: Crescent City Books, when I stumbled upon an old, out of print Paddleford book. “The Best In American Cooking” gains you entrance into the whirlwind mind of woman deeply interested in food and the folks in charge of its’ preparation.

It’s an 800 recipe collection gleaned from “How America Eats” an earlier Paddleford work wherein she took America by plane, train and automobile in search of the best in regional cooking.

At a time when American women were largely staying at home, cooking and rearing children, Clementine was crisscrossing America flying a Piper Cub airplane to a chili supper in Wyoming or a fish fry in Oregon.

At the peak of her powers her readership soared to 12 million a week and her salary was a reputed $250,000. Quit a nice payday in the 1960’s.

Next time you’re in an old bookstore, hopefully not the odious Half Price Books, look in the cookbook section and see if you can round up some Clementine Paddleford.

Anyone interested in cooking or reading about foodways of a bygone era would be well served reading Clementine.

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