Home cooking was also seeing changes. For every dinner party featuring earnest reproductions of Child’s and Chen’s recipes, there were people going back to Asian basics with the Japanese-based macrobiotic diet, buying fresh figs and basil in North End markets, and reinventing the American food of their grandparents with added and unsuitable doses of whole-wheat flour, honey, and soy sauce.
The first food column in the Phoenix was a series of alternative-cooking stories about, well, alternative cooking. But the paper had already developed relationships with the small restaurants through its discount “BADAmericlub,” and also took on the sponsorship of a series of three Cheap Eats restaurant guidebooks. They included some of the better expensive restaurants but concentrated on cheap ethnic and family restaurants.
The second edition, in 1974, included a new restaurant on the Cambridge-Somerville line called Peasant Stock. Peasant Stock was based on French country cooking, filtered through Julia Child, but it was run on a cooperative principle in which different chefs cooked on different nights. The results were inconsistent but good enough to keep everyone interested. One person who cooked at Peasant Stock was R.D. Rosen, who in the mid 1970s became the first Phoenix weekly restaurant critic. One of the owners was Louisa Kasdon, who now covers restaurants for Phoenix sister publication Stuff@night magazine.
By the mid ’70s, Joyce Chen’s encouragement of Mandarin-Sichuan chefs from Taiwan and Hong Kong (and the 1965 immigration-reform bill that ended discrimination against Asian immigrants) had led to almost two dozen exciting Sichuan-style restaurants in Greater Boston. (You can still get the idea today at Chung Shin Yuan in Newton, or at Mary Chung’s or Changsho in Cambridge.)
But lovers of French haute cuisine had divided into rival camps. There were the Julia Child people, and then there were the followers of the newly arrived French cooking teacher and restaurateur Madeleine Kamman. Child was TV’s French Chef, but she wasn’t French, her cheffery was somewhat comical, and her key early food contributions were French bourgeois and country dishes. Moreover, Child’s 1950s training was in a kind of classical French haute cuisine that was already old hat in France. On the other hand, Kamman was French by birth and had worked in restaurants from a young age. She was brilliant, talented, charismatic, and a generation younger than Julia Child. She knew and taught the latest “nouvelle cuisine” with a strong foundation in regional and peasant cooking. Kamman was also jealous and dismissive of Child. Child pretended not to notice — and went from national television triumph to triumph. She assembled skilled teams, turned to American cooking, and became a sponsor for emerging chef-authors. She made the first really interesting cooking CD-ROM, Home Cooking with Master Chefs, when she was in her 80s. Members of her television and publication teams continued to influence all-American cooking with efforts like Marian Morash’s The Victory Garden Cookbook.