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Lukins, Co-Author Of 'The Silver Palate' Dies At 66

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Lukins, Co-Author Of 'The Silver Palate' Dies At 66

Remembrances

Lukins, Co-Author Of 'The Silver Palate' Dies At 66

Lukins, Co-Author Of 'The Silver Palate' Dies At 66

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Sheila Lukins co-authored The Silver Palate cookbook series and helped found The Silver Palate gourmet shop in New York City. She died Sunday of brain cancer at the age of 66. Lynne Rosetto Kasper, host of American Public Media's "The Splendid Table," talks with Ari Shapiro about the contributions Lukins made to American cooking.

ARI SHAPIRO, host:

On a kitchen shelf full of cookbooks, "The Silver Palate" is often the one that ends up tattered, stained and dog-eared. It's a cooking bible for many Americans. Its co-author, Sheila Lukins, died on Sunday from brain cancer. Lukins spent 23 years as Parade magazine's food editor. That was a position previously held by Julia Child. We've called Lynne Rosetto Kasper, host of the radio show The Splendid Table to talk about the contributions that Lukins made to American cooking.

Good morning.

Ms. LYNNE ROSETTO KASPER (Radio show host, The Splendid Table): Good morning, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So "The Silver Palate" cookbook came out in the late 1970s. It went on to sell two and a half million copies. What made it so popular?

KASPER: You know, I think it was "The Joy of Cooking" of a new generation of cooks. Sheila represented - her taste represented how America was beginning to look at food at that time.

SHAPIRO: What do you mean by that?

KASPER: Well, starting in the early '60s, you know, when Julia Child went on air, there was the rumblings of America becoming so aware of food. It wasn't that we didn't have great food before that. But here was a woman who was telling us we could make fabulous French food, no short cuts, etcetera, and we could do it at home.

Well, Sheila Lukins picked up that banner in the '70s. She and her partner Julee Rosso opened a little store in the Upper West Side of New York called The Silver Palate. And Sheila had the courage of her imagination. By that time, everybody was into French food. But here was a couple who was cooking a kind of food that was a melding of what was rumbling at that time.

SHAPIRO: Greek, Moroccan, all kinds of other ethnicities came in.

KASPER: Mexican, Moroccan. I mean, I've been thumbing through my "Silver Palate," you know - for what I can see of the printing through grease spots and whatever - duck and pear salad with mango chutney dressing. Now, you know, today we say, you know, we can see that on almost every menu. But if you went back to the '70s, that was not happening. The chicken marbella recipe that combined all these fabulous things (unintelligible)…

SHAPIRO: That's like prunes and capers and olives.

KASPER: Yeah. Prunes and more cloves of garlic than anybody had ever put in any dish.

SHAPIRO: Yes. I read that an editor told her you can't possibly have 25 gloves of garlic in a ratatouille recipe and she said, oh, yes I can.

KASPER: Yeah. And not only that, but everybody was cooking it. And I think the thing about Sheila was she knew how to taste. She was a great cook, but she had what I think of as a mouth. This woman loved flavor. And she gave people the courage to really go for it.

I mean, this was the beginning of people looking at pesto, believe it or not. This was the first time we hit goat cheese.

SHAPIRO: Wow.

KASPER: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: So before we have to wrap up, what's your favorite of her recipes that you keep finding yourself coming back to?

KASPER: You know, I really think I have to say the famous chicken marbella, because this is a chicken marinated with that fabulous garlic and prunes and vinegar and olive oil. And then it's slow roasted. And then you sprinkle this beautiful thing with brown sugar so that it caramelizes until your mouth is watering because it's sort of lacquered and glistening.

SHAPIRO: Sounds amazing. Thank you.

KASPER: You're welcome.

SHAPIRO: That's Lynne Rosetto Kasper, host of The Splendid Table, remembering Sheila Lukins, who died of brain cancer over the weekend.

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