California Wine Lover's Cookbook

Sometimes cookbooks can do more than tell us how to prepare food. For example, a glance at the 1983 publication of California Wine Lover's Cookbook, by Malcolm Hébert and the Wine Institute and Wine Appreciation Guild, shows us just how much things have changed in the food world over the past 27 years. To wit: The idea of matching wine with food is introduced here as sort of a new concept. "Try the rules and see if they please your palate. The rules state that red wine goes with red meat, white wine with white meat, rosé is for luncheons and Champagne is the all-purpose wine."

The book is prophetic in at least one way. When discussing the state of California's then-fledgling Pinot Noirs, Hébert proclaims: "As the vines mature, we should have a good idea of what the wines will become -- the early evidence is excellent."

The recipes in this 170-page book, all of which utilize wine, were culled from some 700 submitted to the Wine Institute National Recipe Contest. They seem centuries old rather than decades, although I dig the names: Big Guy's Beef Stew; Baked Chicken in Microwave; and, my favorite, Scallops of Veal a la Pork (veal with a garnish of fried pork skins). Amazingly, there are no wine matching suggestions with individual recipes.

The book also lets us glimpse how far California has come: Of 42 cheeses listed as suggestions for wine pairings, only one is from the Golden State -- and that one is Monterey Jack.

I paid $7.95 for the book originally, but as a yardstick for our American culinary progress, it is absolutely priceless. Or at least that's what I'll write when I put it on eBay.

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