I lost the dust jacket from this book long ago, so it’s not much of a photo. However, the recipes will make up for it. Great Dinners from Life is a classic from Time-Life Books. The first few lines say: “This is a book for people who like to have friends in for dinner. It is also a book for people who, every once in a while, are willing to put a little extra effort into cooking those dinners- provided that they know the results will be worth it. You won’t use this book every day.” The last sentence may be true for many people, because it seems most people want quick and easy dinners after a long days’ work. The recipes are sometimes long and involved, but they are so worth it.
Everything about this book is oversized. It’s large and heavy, the photos are huge, and the recipes and ingredient lists can seem a little overwhelming to the novice. But if you love to cook, those points will not faze you at all, and if you are just learning to cook, then this book will teach you. I personally like nothing better than a dish simmering all day on a stovetop or cooking slow in the oven. I love the feeling it gives the house, with the aromas permeating every room. The book is divided by seasons, and the Winter chapter perfectly describes this feeling: “When the lid is lifted from a steaming pot of cassoulet or carbonades, everyone at the table breathes deeply.” Isn’t that a great description? It’s what every hostess wishes to happen as she presents her food, and will every time when you prepare these classic recipes. The winter section includes paella, crown roast of pork, cioppino, cassoulet, and crepes suzette. Spring brings trout amandine, roast leg of lamb, spinach souffle, and artichokes stuffed with shrimp. For summer, enjoy a bluefish barbecue, deep-dish blueberry pie, salad nicoise, and melon in lime sauce. After the harvest of summer make a fragrant pot-au-feu, lamb curry, stuffed eggplant, or pears anglaise, for autumn meals. All of the recipes are ones that you will go back to over and over.
My mom became famous with her family and friends for some of these recipes, including the spaghetti sauce, sauerbraten, and choucroute garni. She especially loved the spaghetti sauce, and still makes it to this day. It is suggested in the book, that this sauce is so good, one should double the recipe and freeze some. Good advice. The sauce simmers for about 3 hours, but the secret is to add a little extra oregano and basil, plus a 1/2 cup extra of red wine at the last minute. This accentuates the flavors of the sauce and gives it a distinctive zest.
When my husband and I first started dating, I wanted to make him dinner. The first thing that popped in my head was the famous spaghetti sauce. I made a huge pot, but decided to make it into lasagna, along with garlic bread and a nice salad. I couldn’t wait for him to get to my place. I had visions of him swooning over my food. We sat down to dinner, he took one bite, and sort of pushed it around his plate for the rest of the meal. I was crushed, to say the least. Who could not like my mom’s famous spaghetti sauce? So he left and I sadly cleaned up the kitchen and then went to bed, thinking I was a total failure in the kitchen. It wasn’t until months later that somehow the subject came up and I asked him why he didn’t like my first dinner. Turned out he has never cared for bell peppers and was hesitant to tell me, but he likes just about anything else. Over the thirty plus years of being married, I got used to his bell pepper aversion and realized it was just something he never learned to like, the same as me not caring for liver. Other than that, we’ve had a happy kitchen! I think I can live with that for the next thirty years, although when he’s out of town I will put green peppers in the sauce. I just won’t tell him..