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Aug 7, 2006 08:31 PM

Time Life The Good Cook Series

The latest issue of Gourmet has an article about Richard Olney who helped oversaw the development of this series. There are lots of copies out there on ebay, etc. Might be interesting to add to a collection, even though it is 25 years old. Quite an expansive collection from candy to salads to terrines and galantines. Does anything have any experience with this series? Comments?

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  1. I bought this series a gazillion years ago, and love them. A few years ago I had to get rid of some of the thousand cookbooks I had, but did keep 14 of them. The candy book I did get rid of (I never make candy). They are a great reference and do have some very good ideas and receipes. I'm happy I have them. I have enjoyed them over the years. I'd recommend them.

    1. I believe there are actually two series of TIME-LIFE cookbooks that may qualify for this discussion. They were quite comprehensive for their time and well-received.

      The first edition that I know of is COOKING OF PROVINCIAL FRANCE, by M.F.K. Fisher & Michael Field, 1968 and lists Julia Child as consultant. This series is categorized geographically, i.e. books are titled by the regions and countries. ITALY, GERMANY, CHINA, LATIN AMERICA etc. are represented. In addition to recipes, there is a lot of writing about the specific country and some photographs are included. A small, spiral-bound book containing the recipes (and no text) is designed to be used as the kitchen cookbook and accompanies the larger book.

      The Richard Olney series mentioned in GOURMET, 1979, is by main ingredient, i.e. VEGETABLES, LAMB, PASTA, etc. These are mainly recipes and some books are categorized by cooking technique or specific ingredient. In the case of VEGETABLES it categorizes by type (pods & seeds, leaves, tubers, etc). There is no accompanying booklet for kitchen use.

      Hope this helps clear the confusion -- and I was certainly confused by the GOURMET article inferring some rivalry between Ms. Child and Olney. Needless to drag dead people through the gutter over something that may or may not have happened many years ago.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sherri

        The Food of the Worlds series is brilliant, and I refer to these books often. Recently, in fact, to prepare for a trip to Provence, this was the one volume I took the time to read before we left. These books are timeless. Do note, however, that the spiral bound books contain some recipes that aren't in the hardbound companion books, so you want both if you can get them. (The spiral recipe books are increasingly rare, of course.)

      2. There's a used-cookbook store a few blocks from me. When I told the owner I was trying to assemble a collection of all that first series, both the hardbacks and the spiral-bound recipe books, she went to her computer and printed me out a complete list. I feel a little bad about the fact that I use her list when I go to flea markets and yard sales instead of paying her prices, but she's perfectly willing to horse-trade if I score duplicates, especially if I'm willing to swap a pristine "America: The Eastern Heartland" for a scuffed-up "Caribbean Islands"...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Will Owen

          The different series are available on ebay. I bought my copy on Austria that way.

        2. The Time-Life Good Cook Series edited by Richard Olney is 28 excellent books by topic and, according to my bookcase, includes Beef & Veal, Bread, Beverages, Cake, Candy, Classic Desserts, Cookies & Crackers, Dried Beans & Grains, Eggs & Cheese, Fish, Fruit, Hors d'Oeuvres, Lamb, Outdoor Cooking, Pasta, Pie and Pastries, Pork, Poultry, Preserving, Salads, Sauces, Shellfish, Snacks & Sandwiches, Soup, Terrines, Variety Meats, Vegetables and Wine. It is a culinary education! With good (published elsewhere originally) recipes and photos of techniques. See for sample pictures.

          The Time Life Foods of the World Series is by country and had different editors for the various countries, i.e. M. F. K. Fisher for Provincial France, Emily Hahn for Cooking of China, Nika Hazelton for Cooking of Germany, Waverly Root for Cooking of Italy, Joseph Wechsberg for Cooking of Vienna's Empire, etc.

          4 Replies
          1. re: featherbooks

            I have most of the time life good cook books and absolutely love them. Learning specific techniques as opposed to picking them up recipe by recipe is extremely powerful, and there are some wonderful techniques lost in time eg. boning a trout through the back, or a stuffed baron of lamb. The compiled techniques in the front half of the book also allow the recipes at the back to be delightfully brief and hence numerous. I'm a bit confused about the exact titles though, and wonder whether they changed with print runs. Featherbooks, your 28 stated titles sound like a complete set, but then i have a 'Patisserie' book, and also a 'fish and shellfish' - not separate titles, book. If anyone could shed any light on what really constitutes a whole set, that would be great. Does patisserie replace candy in later editions??? I won't hold my breath!

            1. re: Noelly

              I have a complete set, not sure that there were any later editions. The title list provided by featherbooks is correct, except that Terrines is actually titled Terrines, Pates & Galantines. The original series did not include a title "Patisserie". The original set also came with a pamphlet on equipping your kitchen, but alas, that is long lost.

              These are indeed wonderful books, and the list of contributors (different for each volume) is awesome. I use these books all the time.

              1. re: Noelly

                I have 'Candy' and it just candy. IIRC, there were 2 different printings? editions? One was for the UK market and the other was for the US market. I think Patisserie was just printed for the UK market, and the US market got 'Pies and Pastries.'

                1. re: Noelly

                  While this is thread is old, I wanted to point out that there are two editions of the original set. One is US American and the other European. When I moved to London I had an almost complete set of the US editions and I adored them. A friend gave me bunch that he found on ebay, but they were all European: some had different titles. You can tell the difference on the title page, where the European version is published in Amsterdam as opposed to Alexandria, VA for the US version. Also, the European version has "UK Consultants" listed on the copyright page whereas the US version has "international consultants". And of course the European recipies use the metric system (grams and kilograms) instead of the English system (cup and ounces).

                  I compared quite a few of these side-by-side. For instance, the European 'Eggs and Cheese' volume has a greater examplage of cheese than the US version and basically condemns battery eggs in the introduction. It also included a Mac and Cheese recipe in the illustrated front section that is not even in the US version.

                  The European edition titles differ from the above complete list of US titles as follows: Beef & Veal, Breads, Beverages, Cakes and Pastries, Confectionery, Desserts, Eggs & Cheese, Fish and Shellfish, Fruits, Game, Grains Pasta and Pulses, Hot Hors d'Oeuvres, Lamb, Offal, Outdoor Cooking, Patisserie, Pork, Poultry, Preserving, Salads and Cold Hors d'Oeuvres, Sauces, Snacks & Canapes, Soup, Terrines Pates and Galtines, Vegetables, and Wine.

              2. I posted on this article a few weeks ago. It was fascinating to learn about Richard Olney...what an interesting character. These books are great--they would never be published today because because there are so many color photos on each spread (color printing is $$$). {My books were purchased at thrift stores for only .98 cents each!}

                1 Reply
                1. re: Funwithfood

                  I haven't read the Gourmet article so I don't know if it mentioned that shortly after his death his book 'Reflextions' was published. I think that is the name- I am working off addled memory here.

                  Anyway, it is full of menus of meals he ate or prepared with the wines served. He was a character.

                  I also have most of the series- it is my go-to reference....