By Dorene Internicola
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new cookbook sings the praises of a more gracious world, where invitations are handwritten, brunch begins at 12:15 sharp, and asparagus is fingered, not forked.
Chef Christine E. Nunn includes 125 recipes in "The Preppy Cookbook," from meat loaf to macaroni and cheese and shuns the trendy for the tried and true.
"Preppies are people who like the classics," said first-time author Nunn, executive chef of Grange restaurant in Westwood, New Jersey. "Like that Brooks Brothers navy blazer you can wear for 20 years."
To the manner born, Nunn, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, is also a loyal member of her local Junior League, charitable women's organizations aimed at improving their communities.
The 49-year-old spoke to Reuters about a blue-blooded American lifestyle where Gin and Tonic is the drink, condensed soup is a "mother sauce" and proper etiquette is just good sense.
Q: How did you learn to cook?
A: I grew up eating well. My mother watched Julia Child every day and that's what we would have for dinner a night or two later. I grew up eating shad roe and thinking it was meat.
Q: Why did you write this book?
A: It was always percolating, but cooking, catering and the restaurant got in the way. And I also thought, everybody today is becoming a foodie, into all these exotic ingredients. I wanted to bring a lot of the basic recipes to the forefront.
Q: Who is it aimed at?
A: It's for anyone looking for simple recipes that are tried and true, and people who like a good laugh and like a good cocktail.
Q: What's always in a preppy pantry?
A: Absolutely Wheat Thins and Triscuits, olives for martinis, a jar or two of mayonnaise, and definitely condensed soup. And elbow macaroni, just in case. You won't see penne or tagliatelle.
Q: You include etiquette tips; how seriously do you take them?
A: They were written tongue in cheek but they're absolutely true to life. They're all just a way to be civil and polite. I will pick up my asparagus with my hand and I will send a formal thank you note.
Q: Why do you include cocktails?
A: A Dark and Stormy, an Old Fashioned, a Bloody (Bloody Mary), a Gin and Tonic are classically prep. The Pimm's Cup is a delicious drink given to me by my (business) partner who worked at Wimbledon.
Q: Do you have advice for entertaining?
A: Keep it simple. I think people are overly stressed by doing more and more exotic ingredients and difficult techniques when really, if you know the basic technique you can experiment with flavors and ingredients.
Q: Why emulate the preppy lifestyle?
A: It's just a nice return to a gentle, polite time where you have conversation instead of text on your iPhone, where you get back to a basic, simple, slightly elegant way of life.
Q: Do you still live like that?
A: I'm a chef, there's nothing elegant about that anymore. But I do wear Lilly Pulitzer prints instead of chef pants. And I'll zip up to my lake house on the weekend.
Lobster Rolls - makes 4
2 bay leaves
2 1-1/4-pound lobsters
1/2 cup good-quality mayonnaise
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons salted butter, softened
4 New England (called top-split) hot dog buns, such as Arnold's
Have a large bowl of ice water ready that is big enough to fit the lobsters next to the stove.
In a large stockpot with a lid, bring 8 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Add the bay leaves and lobsters and let the water return to the boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes. With tongs, transfer the lobsters to the bowl of ice water. Let cool.
Remove the lobster meat from the shells, making sure you get every bit. If you have never cracked a lobster, begin by twisting the tail from the body. Remove the tail and check the bottom fin for any meat left. Remove the large vein and any green (tamale) or bright red (roe) sacs. Twist the claws and knuckles at the base of body and crack with a nutcracker. Use a skewer or any thin sharp object to get every bit of that knuckle meat out. The claws and knuckles have the sweetest, most tender meat.
Cut the meat into generous chunks, leaving the claws intact to top each roll with.
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Eric Walsh)