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Fresh and Tasty 

by Susan Hamilton and Ann Colford & r & Joy of My Heart COOKBOOK

I love my 1975 edition of JOY OF COOKING. The spine is bent in key places -- it opens easily to "Roast Turkey" -- and food splatters mark several oft-used pages. Curiously, the page about "Wild Greens, Shoots, Roots, Seeds and Berries" is crinkled as if it once got very wet, although I have no recollection of preparing bulrushes or cattails; perhaps that lack of memory is for the best. But a week rarely passes without my referring to Joy for som tidbit of kitchen wisdom.

And I'm not alone: Julia Child called Joy, "a staple in any good culinary collection" and "a fundamental resource for any American cook," and the New York Public Library selected it as one of the 150 most influential books of the 20th century. This week, the ninth edition of Joy of Cooking comes to bookstores 75 years after the original -- just in time for holiday giving.

The joy of Joy began back in 1931 when Irma Rombauer, a 54-year-old widow, took her life savings of $3,000 and self-published a book of favorite recipes, tested and illustrated by her daughter Marion. Five years later, she convinced publisher Bobbs-Merrill to release a commercial edition -- with a cover price of $2.50. A special "wartime" edition in 1943 addressed food rationing, and Irma and Marion continued to expand and revise Joy every few years. My 1975 edition -- the seventh -- was the first to come out after Irma's death; more than 20 years then passed before Marion's son, Cordon Bleu-trained Ethan Becker, shepherded the next revision to publication.

Some purists pooh-poohed the 1997 edition as a yuppified rejection of the mid-century convenience foods that had served earlier cooks so well. For this 75th anniversary edition, Ethan and company abandoned the frippery of 1997 and went back to the 1975 edition to begin updating and testing.

Even in its new incarnation, Joy isn't glossy food erotica. It's encyclopedic and text-heavy, still illustrated with Marion's original black-and-white line drawings. Recipes are given in the "action" style that is Joy's trademark: as a narrative, with ingredient lists woven into the instructions rather than set out separately. At 1,152 pages, this is a reference book, not a showpiece, and it's worth the cover price ($30) for the "Know Your Ingredients" chapter alone.


Joy of Cooking, ninth edition, ships about Oct. 31 from Scribner.

Green Lady DINING

Clearly, chef and owner William Webster is as excited about the building as he is about the food at his newly opened restaurant, ISABELLA'S.

"This is the first green-certified building in Spokane," Webster exclaims. "Everything is made of recycled products. From the chairs to the countertops, everything was done in Spokane."

Walk into Isabella's, and you'll think the floor is marble -- but it's not. It's made of concrete. The separate bar/lounge looks onto what will be a garden and outdoor seating. A burnished gold backdrop for a waterfall behind the bar is the focal point of the room. The dining room's gold walls are punctuated with mirrors on one side and oversized windows that look out onto Main Street. Sapphire blue and ebony furniture and huge aqua vases complete the rich d & eacute;cor.

Webster is also passionate about the food he serves. "We feature Northwest comfort food," he says. "It's not as fancy as Herbal Essence. It's slated toward blue-collar workers, too."

Since Webster sold his popular restaurant, Herbal Essence Cafe, four months ago, he's been able to focus his creative energies on Isabella's. Though he's gained accolades at his former downtown caf & eacute; as well as at Ankeny's and Epicurean Delight, Webster still remains close to his Philadelphia roots. At Isabella's, he's focusing on quality ingredients. Corn-fed beef and local produce will highlight natural flavors with a straightforward presentation, Webster says.

"We have this great lava-rock, hickory-wood-burning grill for our steaks," Webster adds. "The Blue Mesa meat we serve is so tender, you almost don't need a knife. And the compound butter sauces really add to the flavor."

Ribs, bourbon chicken, grilled pork chops, seafood and pasta dinner entrees range from $15-$23. Webster expects the veal Francaise, featuring milk-fed veal medallions saut & eacute;ed in white wine, lemon and capers, and the New England clam bake, with fresh fish, shrimp, clams and scallops, to be popular dishes.

A Brie burger, salmon club sandwich, South Philly sub and cashew chicken salad are a few of Isabella's lunch offerings. Breakfast begins this week with orange/almond French toast, oatmeal pancakes and eggs Benedict with crab. Brunch begins next month.


Isabella's Restaurant, 21 W. Main St., is open Mon-Sat 6:30 am-midnight, Sun 6:30 am-10 pm. Call 624-0660.

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