Is it Lindy’s?

In the late 1950s Craig Claiborne, The New York Times restaurant critic and food writer, approached Leo Lindemann, the owner of the famed Lindy’s restaurant and deli in New York, and pleaded for his cheesecake recipe to no avail. In 1977, Claiborne claimed he had since come into possession of this treasure via

 Is it Lindys?

Craig Claiborne

Guy Pascal, a distinguished pastry chef who purportedly reverse engineered the recipe by watching a former Lindy’s baker who came to work for him in Las Vegas. Pascal said he did various calculations based on the amount of cream cheese he was purchasing and the number of cakes being produced, and by glancing inconspicuously as the furtive baker went about his business. In six months, claimed Pascal, he had deciphered the secret.
After Claiborne’s article appeared, a flood of letters to the Times disputed Pascal’s claim. Some said the original recipe had been published years before in The New York Herald Tribune. Others wrote the real recipe had been published in Woman’s Day or Family Circle or McCall’s or even the Times itself. One astute writer pointed out that the original recipe had been published in Clementine Paddleford’s seminal book, How America Eats (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960).

 Is it Lindys?

In her book, Paddleford, a food editor for This Week Magazine and a food writer for The New York Tribune, wrote, “the late Mr. Lindy…was a lovable, laughable, unpredictable little man. If he liked you he would give you anything except the way of the cheesecake.” Lindy must have really liked Paddleford if her account is to be believed. As Paddleford finished a piece of the famous cheesecake, she asked Lindy, “how about serving up the recipe?” Lindy summoned his pastry chef, Paul Landry. “He couldn’t believe his ears,” wrote Paddleford. “The cheesecake recipe was being handed over by the big boss. I give it to you as Paul Landry gave it to me.”

Paddleford was America’s best known and most influential food writer for over four decades, read by 12 million people a week. So, why would Craig Claiborne, and a famous pastry chef like Guy Pascal, claim to have unlocked the mystery seventeen years later? And why would Lindy, after decades of holding the recipe so close, share it with Paddleford?

 Is it Lindys?

 Claiborne was probably well aware of Paddleford’s claim and chose to ignore it, for it made his own story all the more sensational. Claiborne began at the Times in 1957, towards the end of Paddleford’s career. But, according to Paddleford’s biographers, Kelly Alexander and Cynthia Harris writing in Hometown Appetites: The Story of Clementine Paddleford, the Forgotten Food Writer Who Chronicled How America Ate (Gotham Books, 2008), there was little love lost between them. Claiborne, they wrote, had a way of covering ground Paddleford had already trod “as if he were the first to discover it.” The competition between them was further fueled by the competition between their two newspapers, with the upstart Times on the rise and the Trib on the decline (it closed in 1966). In his own memoir, A Feast Made for Laughter: A Memoir with Recipes (Henry Holt & Co., 1983), published fifteen years after Paddleford’s death, Claiborne was dismissive of the woman widely considered “the grand dame of food writing.” Paddleford, he wrote “would not have been able to distinguish skillfully scrambled eggs from a third-rate omelet.” Ouch!

The answer to the second question, why Lindy might have obliged Paddleford, is simple. Paddleford was so influential that her mention of a restaurant could, according to Alexander and Harris, “easily double its business.”

 Is it Lindys?

Paddleford’s claim to have been given the original by Lindy himself is bolstered by a memo she wrote to Louella Shouer at Ladies’ Home Journal in which she recounts making and remaking the recipe and finally asking “the reluctant chef to come to our kitchen” where he “made the delicacy while our testers looked on at the step by step procedure.”

Lindy’s cheesecake recipe is included in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, adapted from Paddleford’s book. Whether it’s truly Lindy’s original is anybody’s guess, but it’s a winner.

What About the Jello Mold?

Tell someone you’re writing a cookbook designed to take readers back to the 1960s and you’ll get questions such as these:

“Will you include a recipe for jello mold?”

“Do you have Grasshopper pie?”

“How about a tuna noodle casserole made with canned soup?”

“How many recipes involve Spam?”

But when you read The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook you’ll find that the answers to these questions are, “no, no, no and none.” True, there are no recipes in the book that call for goat cheese, wasabi or balsamic reductions, either. And, certainly there was some pretty tacky food that was popular in the 1960s. But there was a lot of fine food, too, even if some of it isn’t as ubiquitous today as it once was.

We didn’t set out to simply compile recipes from the 1960s in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook; the foods had to be featured in Mad Men, served in the restaurants and bars featured in the show, or have some other close connection to the storylines. We also wanted to ensure 1960s authenticity which is why we never settled only for updated recipes for, say, Waldorf Salad or Oysters Rockefeller, though we sometimes included both the old and the new. We worked with chefs, bartenders and restaurant owners to dish up the recipes used in their establishments in the early 1960s, when Don Draper and Roger Sterling might have walked through the door.

il fullxfull.88513562 300x221 What About the Jello Mold?Our quest for authenticity took us deep into the shelves of special cookbook collections and to the pages of magazines and newspapers of the time. Sometimes it was obvious which cookbooks to turn to: on her kitchen counter Betty Draper kept copies of The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, the so-called “Red Plaid,” and Betty Crocker’s Hostess Cookbook. But we Scan 11 300x171 What About the Jello Mold?dug deeper, in some cases into Julia Child’s personal cookbook collection now held at Radcliffe College’s Schlesinger Library. Holding a cookbook in which Julia Child had inscribed her name is simply a thrilling experience. Sometimes you never know what might fall out of an old cookbook: a handwritten family recipe for scalloped potatoes, or an old Frito’s “Party Games of the Stars” pamphlet featuring Art Linkletter.

We consulted cookbooks by the pre-eminent food writers and chefs of the time: Child along with James Beard, Clementine Paddleford, and Craig Claiborne. Old copies of

 What About the Jello Mold?

James Beard

Life magazine, Gourmet and Woman’s Day, to name a few, also delivered insight into food trends and recipes for canapés, eggnog, and a Bacardi Rum Frappè. Then there were the truly quirky cookbooks we gleefully stumbled upon which were reflective of the times, books such as Poppy Cannon’s New Can Opener Cookbook, a cookbook built around a new utensil of convenience (others were specific to the electric skillet or the blender), and Nina Mortellito’s Small Kitchen Cookbook which showed urban dwellers, such as Joan Holloway, how to make big meals in their tiny apartment kitchens. (In Season 3, Episode 3, “My Old Kentucky Home,” Joan prepares a crown roast in her tiny kitchen.) Betty Draper was insecure about her culinary skills so Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Bookwas a logical place to hunt for recipes and it was there that we found a Turkey Tetrazzini recipe we adapted for our book. Why Turkey Tetrazzini? In Season 1, Episode 9 (“Shoot”), Betty reveals her doubts about her cooking

mad men hearts of palm 233x300 What About the Jello Mold?

Sardi’s Hearts of Palm Salad from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook

skills as she serves Don Turkey Tetrazzini for dinner one night. At times we felt like culinary anthropologists, or at least sleuths, as we tried to track down recipes that were both authentic to the time period and connected to Mad Men.

So, no to jello mold — yes to Hearts of Palm Salad, Devlled Eggs and Beef WellingtonAnd is this retro-food tasty? It all disappeared quickly at cocktail and dinner parties where our friends tasted many of the recipes in our book. But there was one part of the1960s social scene we avoided like the plague: there was no smoking.