Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews with a heavy emphasis on San Diego. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Mimsy Review: Southern Living Cookbook for Two

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, August 25, 2015

Another versatile food category is salads. Almost any food can be served in a salad; the final choice of ingredients is limited only by your interest and willingness to try different foods in creative combinations. Salads can be served as appetizers, entrées, accompaniments, or even for desserts. They can be hot or cold, tossed or arranged.

Cooking for two means doing a lot of math, some of it impossible—how do you cut a raw egg in half?—or which builds up a whole lot of leftovers. My answer has been to only make foods that are so good I don’t mind leftovers, and that store well especially in the freezer, but this book has me rethinking that strategy.

AuthorAudrey P. Stehle
Year1981
Length266 pages
Book Rating6

I’m not sure, but I think I see far more cookbooks for one than for two, whether it’s for the college student or the apartment-dweller, or bachelor. The only other cookbook for two I can think of off-hand is the lost-in-its-era Saucepans and the Single Girl, which is not really focused on cooking for two but on cooking for one: the date a woman wishes to turn into a husband. That there should also be enough food for the woman is mostly afterthought.

In Southern Living’s Cookbook for Two, Audrey P. Stehle makes a genuinely good stab at rewriting good recipes from their normal four to six or six to eight into recipes that work well for a couple, without leftovers. I’d say that the book was ahead of its time, but it’s probably destined forever to be a book in search of a market. The mass of couples today don’t seem to be saving until they’re no longer a couple, but use their excess income to eat out, not cook. And this is a real cookbook: you still need a full kitchen to use it, with a full complement of cooking equipment: a double boiler, a roasting pan, pastry pans, muffin pans, hand blender, and so on.

Converting good recipes into recipes for two that don’t involve leftovers or splitting ingredients such as eggs in half is hard work, but when it works it’s pretty impressive. Earlier this week I made some Greek avgolemono soup. It wasn’t bad; it could have been better, but that would have meant putting chicken into it as well, and that would have meant using more ingredients—such as chicken—that would have meant some leftovers.

And in its defense, I both enjoyed it and it was by far the easiest avgolemono soup recipe I’ve ever seen.

On Sunday I made some Italian custard with fruit. Making custard to put over fruit for two people means using all of two egg yolks. Using a handheld blender on two egg yolks in a double boiler is very much scraping the bottom of the pan! Perhaps this is why the recipe goes heavy on the Grand Marnier. But it turned out great, especially since I flipped ahead in the book and used the two egg whites to make some meringue in the toaster oven. The meringue was meant for coconut meringue pie, but laying it half on top of the fruit custard worked very well.

The book’s front section is divided into special menus. The avgolemono soup was from the Traditional Middle Eastern Dinner. The Italian custard is from the Veal Dinner Italiano. There are also seasonal menus such as for Summer Vegetables, special menus such as a Candlelight Dinner, several ethnic meals, a microwave section with five menus for a microwave breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and supper1, and one chapter with a dinner menu for each day of the week as well as a Sunday lunch, a Saturday brunch, and a Saturday Sandwich Supper.

Meringue in the oven

Hm… the recipe calls for two egg yolks. What to do with the leftover egg white?

That makes a lot of easy planning while you get the hang of cooking for two. Then, the back of the book contains several standalone recipes for use when you get tired of the set menus. I am especially looking forward to trying Bacon-Wrapped Bananas. It isn’t something that necessarily needs a recipe—once you know the title you pretty much know the ingredients—but it isn’t something I would have thought up on my own, and that’s one of the things I enjoy about getting a new cookbook.

As befits a cookbook for couples, it is open to the possibility that the cook is new at cooking. This means some recipes assume little if any experience. In the Cheese and Egg Dishes section there’s a recipe for Sunny-Side-Up Eggs, which pretty much just says, fry an egg on one side, except, of course, in more detail. Similarly, the Chinese Pork Chop Dinner includes a recipe for Steamed Spinach. Steps: bring water to a boil; steam spinach until done.

This would in fact make a very good starting cookbook. While most of the book is geared for two, it also includes a section on entertaining, which has recipes for a buffet, a couple of brunches, and a buffet dinner, all for more than two people—because even couples have guests over occasionally.

Like many of the Southern Living cookbooks from the seventies2 this is surprisingly useful. If you are cooking for two and enjoy it, but don’t like leftovers all the time, you’ll probably enjoy Cooking for Two, if you can find it.

Chilled Burgundy Orange Slices

  • 2 large oranges,
  • ½ cup Burgundy or other dry red wine,
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar,
  • 1 (2-inch) stick cinnamon,
  • 8 whole cloves,
  • ⅓ cup sugar.
  1. Peel oranges.
  2. Cut into crosswise slices ⅜-inch thick.
  3. Mix wine, vinegar, seasonings and sugar.
  4. Pour wine mix over orange slices.
  5. Cover; let stand until cool.
  1. This is a Southern cookbook after all: “Until recently, Southerners served supper in the evenings usually after having had their heavier main meal in the middle of the day.”

  2. Although this one was published in 1981, it has the same style as the earlier series and is also published by Oxmoor House, as most of them were. Importantly, I think, it predates Southern Living’s purchase by Time, Inc. The main difference is that most of the seventies books had no author credit.

Southern Living Cookbook for Two

Audrey P. Stehle

My cost: $1.00

Recommendation: Easy and interesting