Robert Carrier‘s Great Dishes Of The World sold over 2 million copies worldwide in 14 languages, and was hailed as one of the great modern cookery classics. The ‘Great Dishes’ included remarkably few from non-European traditions.
Robert Carrier was variously an actor, an intelligence officer during World War II, a radio presenter, a food writer and a restaurateur. He was born in the USA and learned to cook from his French grandmother but did not begin a career in food until 1949 when he was 26 years old. He began writing about food while working in a friend’s restaurant in St Tropez. He relocated to London in the early 1950s, began writing for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, and opened a restaurant in 1959.
Great Dishes of the World was Carrier’s first book. “Over the past fifteen years, I have been collecting recipes on my travels abroad, experimenting with them in my own kitchens in America, Italy, Germany, France and England,” Carrier wrote in the first chapter.
Some of the dishes in the book were quite ambitious and many were in the French tradition. Appetisers included Terrine de Canard a l’Orange and Mousse de Foie Gras en Brioche. But there were more international choices such as Guacamole, Taramasalata and Jewish Chopped Chicken Livers. Six pages were devoted to soufflés, savoury and sweet. Some recipes sound daunting, like “Zéphires de Ris de Veau ‘Planson” – sweetbreads in veal mousse with bearnaise sauce. Others, like Saltimbocca alla Romana, are relatively simple.
Carrier seldom strayed beyond Europe and North America for his great dishes. China is represented almost exclusively by a few sweet and sour recipes, although the pasta section of the book includes a recipe for Chinese Sho M’ai and one for fried rice. Morocco, being just across the straits from Spain, sneaks in with chicken and lamb dishes but India doesn’t appear at all.
One of the weirdest dishes is Orange Rice with Bananas. Risotto rice is turned in butter with softened onion, celery and garlic, then parsley, orange juice and chicken stock are added and the rice is simmered until cooked. Sliced bananas are fried in butter, sprinkled with orange rind and stirred into the rice mixture. In the sixties, even the food pundits had a lot to answer for.