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September 21, 2006

   

Literary Lions (or Is It Culinary Cougars?)
Flavor New Bryn Mawr College Cookbook

cookbook cover image

What did the former content editor of the Zagat restaurant survey learn about food at Bryn Mawr? How did the 1995 James Beard Food Editor of the Year get her start? What does one of the foremost culinary historians of the African diaspora have to say about food and family? And how can you get your hands on that famous Katharine Hepburn brownie recipe?

A single tome bears the answers to all these questions and more: The Bryn Mawr College Cookbook, edited by Brett Jocelyn Epstein '01. Nearly two years in the making, the volume gathers about 90 recipes contributed by Bryn Mawr alumnae and a bakers' dozen of essays on food-related topics. Epstein, a translator, writer, editor and language instructor who has published in Gourmet and Relish, among other outlets, marshaled a volunteer workforce of several dozen Bryn Mawr alumnae who contributed their efforts to the book; Epstein, too, donated her many hours of labor. Proceeds of the book, now for sale online at Lulu.com, benefit the College.

Epstein solicited only original or family recipes — those copied from already-published sources were disqualified, she says. The Bryn Mawr classes represented in the book range from 1928 (the Hepburn brownies) to 2006, "with stops in almost every decade in between," Epstein says. Each recipe was tested by at least two alumnae volunteers, and Epstein has included many of their comments and suggestions along with the recipes. The recipe authors' own observations about the dishes and their origins accompany many recipes as well.

"It's much more than a collection of recipes," Epstein says. "The narratives and reflections that go along with them are a fascinating window into a diverse alumnae community." Those meditations on food and its place in our lives and culture become more expansive in the volume's essays, some contributed by celebrated food writers and journalists.

Bryn Mawr Trustee Julia Kagan '70, an award-winning journalist who has served at the helm of national publications including the Zagat survey, contributed "What I Learned About Food at Bryn Mawr."

Irene Sax '55 is a veteran food journalist who has written for Gourmet, Bon Appétit, Saveur, Martha Stewart Living and New York magazine; served as the food editor at Newsday and New York Newsday; was named food editor of the year by the James Beard Foundation in 1995; and currently earns her daily bread as restaurant reviewer for the New York Daily News and a cookbook reviewer for Epicurious.com. Sax contributed "One Food Writer's Beginnings."

Jessica B. Harris '68 is the author of eight books devoted to the food and food practices of the African diaspora and a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Her magazine publications include Essence, where she served as travel editor, Vogue and The New York Times. She has lectured at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and numerous institutions and colleges around the country. Harris contributed "The Healing Table" to the Bryn Mawr cookbook.

Epstein herself contributed "The Secret Weapon," a discussion of her use of food in language instruction. One of several essays that treat food and eating on the Bryn Mawr campus is "The Bonds of Teatime," a reflection on the pleasures of Lantern Night teas by Nancy Kirk '59, a published cookbook author who helped Epstein identify potential essayists. Other contributors: Jeanine S. Alesch '86, Jennifer Castner '93, Claudia Ginanni '86, Enid Kaufman Karr '83, Paula Goodman Koz '69, Melanie Mintmier '00, Anne Campbell Slater '64 and Kaye Van Valkenburg '74.

Essayist Paula Goodman Koz, an illustrator of children's books, was one of 15 people who contributed more than 60 illustrations or photographs, primarily of the Bryn Mawr campus. Front-cover art was provided by Emily Friedman '03; the back cover photo was contributed by twins Erin and Brynne McBride '00.

The impetus for the cookbook came from the Bryn Mawr Alumnae List-serv, of which Epstein is an active member. "A lot of recipes are exchanged on the list," she says, "and several members mentioned an earlier Bryn Mawr cookbook. It was published in 1985 to celebrate the College's centennial. Since it is now out of print, we decided that a new one was in order."

One bit of the 1985 volume survives in the new edition: a recipe for lemon curd. "Several members of the list raved about it. I thought that if they remembered it 20 years later, it was worth another look."

At Lulu.com, a bound color version of the book costs $52, of which $7.26 goes to Bryn Mawr; a similar black-and-white version costs $25, of which the College's portion is $12.27; a downloadable PDF goes for $15, of which Bryn Mawr receives $12.

Editor's note: The Lulu site is having technical difficulties with the PDF version of the book. Epstein, who is in transit between Sweden and Wales, where she plans to enter a graduate program in translation studies at Swansea University, hopes to solve the problem by Sept. 26.

 

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