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BITES : A Bit of Oral History

June 20, 1996|CHARLES PERRY

It was bound to happen: a merger of two best-selling genres, the unrepentent non-diet cookbook and the presidential-scandal book. The result is "In the Kitchen With Bill: 50 Recipes for Chowing Down With the Chief" (Andrews and McMeel; $8.95).

Though the author's name is given as Anonymous, this book goes rather easier on Bill Clinton than that other Anonymous volume of a few months back, "Primary Colors." It quotes Leno, Letterman and other comics about the president's eating habits (and '92 Clinton campaign director James Carville: "He's a seafood man. He sees food, and he eats it"), but even-handedly tells tales about the tastes of other presidents as well.

The recipes, mostly by a Massachusetts caterer (and Democrat) named V. Jaime Hamlin Schilcher, run to what you'd expect: breakfast bashes, fast food, Mexican food, pastries, Southern food. There's a dietary rating scale of one to six elephants (100 to 700-plus calories), and eight of the recipes reach that upper limit.

Believe it or not, there are some healthful recipes here too (ascribed to the first lady's influence). Still, the book has a definitely greasy ambience. A lot of the recipes look pretty good individually, like the caramel praline cheesecake, but if you read through "In the Kitchen With Bill" in one sitting, you may feel an overwhelming need to fast for a week.

And then, perhaps, to store the book away. Like the Lance Ito Jell-O Mold, it's got to be a collectible one day.

Drinking and Thinking

Moderate use of alcohol may aid attention, memory and language abilities in the elderly, says a report just published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The Zutphen Elderly Study, a Dutch study conducted from 1985 to 1993, examined several hundred men with a mean age of 75. Its findings showed that moderate drinking--one to two drinks a day--provided significant protection against poor cognitive function, particularly in cases of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

"Alcohol may provide short-term protection against cerebral lesions and consequently cognitive impairment," the report said, but it cautioned that there might be statistical weaknesses in the data. And that heavy drinking definitely goes with severe memory problems.

Upset Poll

Bisodol, maker of an indigestion remedy, has published a poll showing that curry is Britain's most popular food. (Or . . . is it just Bisodol's favorite?)

Where the Wares Are

On the Internet you can find cooking sites and ingredient sites and restaurant sites. The Chef's Store is a cookwares site, where you can order from a range of 500 restaurant-quality tools and utensils (the page is the brainchild of restaurant supply company executive Shel Brucker) using major credit cards.

The Chef's Store is big on graphics and uses the Netscape technology of tables and frames. It features "interactive" recipes from well-known chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, Michel Richard and Joachim Splichal. Click on any of the utensils called for in a recipe text and you get a picture and description of the item, with price and ordering info.

You can ask for a price quote about items not stocked, and you can sign up to be e-mailed about sales and new products. The site also sells chef's books and specialty food product lines produced by restaurateurs. The address is: http://www.chefs-store.com

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