Food History

The Almost-Lost, Cult-Favorite Cuisinart Magazine

'The Pleasures of Cooking' launched when the food processor was still a newfangled device, dispensed advice from Jacques Pépin and James Beard. Now, it's a collector's item.

November 10, 2021
Photo by Ty Mecham

Over breakfast some months ago, my friend Ina Pinkney, former chef-owner of iconic, bygone Chicago breakfast restaurant Ina’s, pressed a small stack of Cooking magazines into my arms. Each 52-page issue, published by Cuisinart, bore a simple, stylized food image on its cover: a bright-red apple, a canelé framed with mistletoe, a wooden forkful of fresh pasta.

“I lived for these magazines,” she sighed. “I would sit down, read the whole thing, and want to make everything in there.”

Why? I wondered at first, when it was created by a brand in 1978 in the service of selling its then-new food processor? But as I flipped through the ad-free, 5½-by-8½-inch pages of Cooking (eventually titled The Pleasures of Cooking), I saw what Ina meant.

Cooking's star-studded lineup of contributors shared tips on using the food processor in new ways, like making pie crust or whipping up hollandaise (contributor Carl Jerome, James Beard’s assistant in the 1970s, suggested tilting the machine on a 2-inch-thick book, which Ina denoted with a “!” in green marker). In another issue, chef and food writer Abby Mandel—whom James Beard would later affectionately dub the "Queen of Machine Cuisine”—prepared a Middle East–accented French dinner of gougères, courgettes aux fruits de mer, and lamb skewers, making use of every possible setting, speed, and blade. Jane Salzfass Freiman was hired to make public demonstrations and appearances with the machine. Yet this large-format, small-volume cooking magazine somehow added up to more than just 50-odd pages of celebrity-chef-endorsed advertorials. Or maybe I’d been sucked in, too.

“I feel that in general, the discussions in The Pleasures of Cooking and the different people who wrote for it really reflected the world of food at that time in the United States better than any other publication,” said Pépin, who wrote regularly for the magazine, during a recent phone call. “I don’t recall that we got paid very much, but we all liked it. There were no advertisements, so we didn’t have to cower to sponsors. It was serious cooking, and it was the way we wanted it.”

Cooking published for almost 10 years, amassing some half a million subscribers and helping reshape American cooking for decades to come. It traces its origins to a certain retired MIT-trained physicist, inventor, and amateur gourmet named Carl Sontheimer, who developed the Cuisinart food processor in 1971.

Renowned Indian cuisine ambassador Madhur Jaffrey penned a 12-page recipe feature celebrating the summer foods of India—from Moghlai biryani and Hyderabadi-style stewed tomatoes to calf brains in spicy sauce based on siri paya. Jacques Pépin shared the origins of his storied career apprenticing at the Grand Hôtel de l’Europe in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, at age 13. Food writer Barbara Kafka unpacked the historical context and social meaning of the cultural phenomenon of elective vegetarianism. A piece on seven Italian soups by Italian cooking legend Marcella Hazan featured a cheeky sidebar by her husband, Victor, reassuring readers that they could, in fact, drink wine with soup (and a reminder to slightly chill Dolcetto). Full-color photos accompanied ambitious step-by-step guides on how to break down and process whole coconuts, skin and bone ducks, and make fresh pasta from scratch.

Photo by Cuisinart

It’s hard to imagine a time before food processors occupied shelf space in nearly every American kitchen and made routine work out of everything from pesto to terrines. Sontheimer based the original Cuisinart on the French Magimix, a domestic version of the industrial food processor Robot-Coupe. With its formidable, half-horsepower motor and exorbitant $175 price tag, the Cuisinart didn’t catch on right away.

Ina recalled living in a Manhattan apartment in the mid-1970s when her foodie neighbor ran over with a picture of a food processor from a magazine. Not entirely sure of what it did, though certain they needed one, the women promptly set off for gourmet emporium Zabar’s and got on a numbered waiting list. Ina brought the appliance home, unpacked it, and set it on the counter, where it would remain for seven or eight months before she plucked up the courage to even turn it on.

“It was frightening, really otherworldly,” she said. “I remember thinking, anything that can chop onions in three seconds can’t be right. So I first had to learn how powerful it was.”

But Sontheimer was a savvy marketer, as food writer John Birdsall pointed out in a story for Bon Appétit. He knew that with a bit of guidance, the food processor could transform the cooking and entertaining lives of knowledgeable, curious, and well-heeled home cooks like Ina.

“Carl Sontheimer was very good at understanding marketing and luxury-brand placement, and he knew the food processor’s potential,” said Jerome, who wrote more than half a dozen cookbooks. “He just had to convince people of it. And I’m guessing the best way to start from his perspective was to get Jim Beard and his friends on his side.”

Sontheimer sent free machines to Beard and fellow culinary heavy hitters including Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, and Pépin. They took their food processors on the road, demoing the quick work they could made of the labor-intensive, classical French techniques in style at the time.

“People had never seen that type of machine before,” said Pépin, who recalled showing off the Cuisinart at Gimbels, in New York. “For me, I thought it was a great thing. I used to pound fish or meat into a mortar with a large pestle and push it through a little screen with a wooden mushroom, then work it with cream. Now all that work took two minutes. I’m saying that because at the time people would say, ‘You take some of the joy out of cooking with this shortcut.’ I didn’t think of it that way.”

Elsewhere, Sontheimer hired food writers like Mandel and Beard to develop cookbooks specific to the food processor. Starting in January 1976, every Cuisinart came with a slender, spiral-bound cookbook called New Recipes for the Cuisinart Food Processor featuring recipes from Simone Beck, Kafka, and others with “Beardian-approved credentials,” said Jerome, who co-wrote it with Beard. The appliance also came with an invitation to join the Cuisinart Cooking Club, which included a subscription to the club newsletter and, starting in 1978, a couple free issues of Cooking.

Sontheimer named Kafka Cooking’s debut editor. She was a scholarly food writer who would horrify many an American epicurean throughout her illustrious career for embracing shortcut appliances like the food processor and microwave. Kafka turned her apartment at East 97th Street and Madison Avenue into Cooking’s test kitchen, recruiting Jerome to help test recipes. She also selected the magazine’s initial, diminutive size—a brilliant differentiator that allowed it to look more lavish and impressive than its editorial budget allowed, Jerome said.

It wasn’t without conflict, though, with such fiery personalities at the helm. Eventually, Sontheimer took back the reins and moved production to Connecticut; later guest editors would include Beard and cookbook author Paula Wolfert. The magazine sized up to a standard format, and issues grew more recipe-heavy as readers requested ideas for the appliance they could no longer live without.

Indeed, once Ina mastered chopping onions and the subtle art of pulsing, she was off and running. She credits the Cuisinart and its companion magazine with teaching her to bake—a skill that would launch her decades-long career as a baker, caterer, and restaurateur starting in the 1980s. (Her own 2015 cookbook and memoir, Ina’s Kitchen, contains a recipe for her famous New Old-Fashioned Vanilla Bean Pound Cake, made entirely in a food processor.)

Photo by Cuisinart

In the late 1980s, Cooking transitioned to a newsletter format, and then a direct-mail catalog that lasted into the early 2000s, when the internet forever changed the media landscape—not to mention how we learn to cook and buy ingredients. Even in its earliest pages, you can see trends taking shape, like the beginning of a marked shift away from writers and teachers to chef-dominated food media and the embrace of easier entertaining. Jerome’s Cooking column debuted in October 1978 as a comprehensive guide to 30-minute dinner parties decades before anyone uttered the name Rachael Ray. The 14 recipes he proffered included beef batonettes with shallot butter and food-processor chocolate mousse (“I didn’t even know I did that!” he gasped). An accompanying photo spread noted how to artfully mismatch different-patterned plates and glassware—a penchant of Beard’s, and an aesthetic that still adorns many cool restaurant tables in 2021.

“It's a lost world in some ways,” said Pépin, who has kept most of his issues, too. “A world that could be very useful to young chefs and to cooks, to learn a little bit about where they come from and the way things were.”

Now, some 43 years after Ina, I’m the one sitting down to voraciously read each issue of Cooking cover to oil-splattered cover. However, I make notes on my phone rather than in the margins, getting lost in the prose and delighting in every food-history lesson. (“Somewhere in my mother’s generation, art gave way to convenience,” lamented Salzfass Freiman in a lengthy feature on fruit pies and tarts. “How refreshing to have an eggplant dish without tomatoes and/or parmesan!” wrote cooking teacher Giuliano Bugialli in the headnote to a recipe for eggplant baked in butter that predated tomatoes’ arrival in Italy.)

Of course, these old copies could take a few new stains. Maybe I’ll start with Jerome’s food-processor chocolate mousse.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Chana Zelig
    Chana Zelig
  • GH-J
  • Cturvill
  • Kelly Vaughan
    Kelly Vaughan
  • Maggie Hennessy
    Maggie Hennessy
Chicago-based food critic & freelance writer


Chana Z. December 24, 2021
Wow! I'm glad I googled the magazine just a few minutes ago! OH! what great memories. I still use the Cuisinart I got in 1984. It came with the POC magazine subscription, and although I have many pages cut out, I wish I'd kept the issues intact because it was my cooking teacher. The pecan and spinach stuffing from the "Three Great Stuffings" article is crinkled, spattered and frayed from decades of Thanksgivings. I have the profile of (the late) Leslie Reis from Cafe Provencal in the Chicago, with her burnt sugar ice cream and pear coulis. And to this day, I make the prune-nut filled cookies people I love. So, so many more. Thank you for sharing!
GH-J December 18, 2021
I'm a little late to the conversation, but the article brought back so many memories. My husband bought me one of the very early Cusinarts for Christmas - I still remember the scream I let out on tearing off the wrapping paper. It was before our daughter was born, so it had to be around 1975, give or take a year. I had my copies of the Pleasures of Cooking for years - somehow, they disappeared in the depth of the garage, where they had been safe for a long time. I too read the entire magazine and cooked from each and every issue. I have a request for someone who has all the issues - there was a cookie issue that had a recipe for 'baci di dama' (ladies' kisses) cookies - it was the best version I have ever made, but now it is lost. It has been my daughter's favorite cookie since she was very little. Is there anyone who might be able to post the recipe? I would appreciate it so much. Maggie, thank you so much for the article, and bringing back that wonderful Christmas memory. By the way, the next year he gave me a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer - he clearly appreciated what resulted from these wonderful gifts!
Laura B. December 19, 2021
Dear GH-J,
I believe the cookie you call baci di dama is called Almond Delights (vol. VI., No. 3) This is my favorite cookie- my sons called them hamburgers due to the almond chocolate between “2 buns” I will attempt to post the recipe.
Chana Z. December 24, 2021
well...FOR the people I love!
Epicurean7 June 22, 2023
I have the recipe . Happy to email it to you. Please note that Cooks illustrated also has a great recipe for Baci di Dama
Cturvill November 30, 2021
I still have all my issues, stained and all. I moved to Scotland in 1984, shortly after buying my first Cuisinart in California. I had to buy a new machine there because of the voltage was different.
At the time I was a stay at home mom. I was in an old house but had remodeled the kitchen, and it truly was the hub of the house. I learned very quickly that having the oven on warmed us on the cold winter days. (summer too) So the Pleasures of Cooking became my cooking tutor. I would try most all of the recipes before the next issue was sent, and my issue were being sent from the US. My daughter was young and would love to bale with me on Sundays. We would decide early in the week which recipes to try. I even ordered all the available back issues I could get my hands on. The instructions were so easy to follow. I became known for my baking skills and was asked to give lessons, which I did in my home.
I also had large dinner parties of 12, and sometimes more guests. I credit POC for the fabulous sauces I've learned to make. I was absolutely devastated when Carl Sonthiemer decided to close the magazine down. I actually wrote to him asking him to reconsider. I still have the letter he sent in reply.
I eventually moved back to the states, and from there to Southeast Asia. Those issues
went around the world with me.
I am currently living in Texas and will be serving many of my favorite recipes this Holiday Season. Cheers!
Epicurean7 June 22, 2023
Any chance you have vol II No.3?? Looking for page 26 that s missing... Recipe for a PUFF SHELL DOUGH. My email [email protected]
Kelly V. November 12, 2021
I love this story! Great work Maggie.
Maggie H. November 10, 2021
I had a feeling others had saved theirs! What a special collection. <3
chosacooks4u November 10, 2021
I adored these and couldn’t wait to get the next issue. I used the recipes extensively. I wish I would have saved every issue, wish they would re-publish these issue into a cookbook.
Maggie H. December 1, 2021
I co-sign this request! <3
Maggie H. November 10, 2021
Hi! I'm so very sorry about this. Correcting it now.
Jane F. November 10, 2021
Maggie, I most respectfully wish to correct something you wrote in your article. I was never hired by Carl Sontheimer or by Cuisinarts to write a book. I was hired to make public appearances and give cooking demonstrations using the food processor. My cookbook was independently published, but purchased by Robot Coupe to be given away with their machines, which is not true for others. The Pleasures of Cooking was a wonderful publication and the passion of Carl Sontheimer, who had grown up in France, and who loved food and cooking. The recipes are among the most delicious and rigorously tested of any publication I can recall. Cecily Brownstone, who was the Associated Press food editor worked with Carl on testing and production. Like my pal Ina, I still have the large and small magazines. I recently considered discarding them or digitizing some favorites but they are too loaded with goodies for that. The mid-1970s were an incredibly exciting time to be a food writer and cooking teacher. Those of us who had been schooled by James Beard, Richard Olney, Marcella Hazan and Giuliano Bugialli -- among the greats of the era -- were supported by Carl, who would enlist us as partners and trust our judgments on new products and product prototypes. Above all, The Pleasures of Cooking should be remembered for quality, reliability and extraordinary dedication to fine cooking. Thanks for your contribution to our history.
GH-J December 27, 2021
Jane F. - In 1975, I was a student in four of your classes at Culinarion in Chicago. I still have two of my well-used recipe packets from which I learned to make Roulage Leontine (it became a Christmas staple) and the easiest Sauce Bearnaise. I remember you holding up a bottle of French vermouth and told us what you used - I still buy that brand - Boissiere vermouth. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your excitement about what was then a brand new way of preparing food in our homes.
Laura B. November 10, 2021
Maggie, your article brought back some great memories. I still have some of the issues, the one with my favorite cookie recipes is falling apart and stained. I eagerly awaited each issue. I was constantly impressed by the magazine’s quality and the well respected chefs/cooks who wrote for this publication. Thank you
Maggie H. December 1, 2021
Thank you for sharing this! I can't imagine how exciting it was to get them new, when I get such joy out of opening my decades-old copies! Thank you for sharing.
Haskell I. November 10, 2021
I still have a 3 ring binder with more than 8 years of the publication copies. they are great and at the time, we all thought we were on to something that was wonderful...the machine itself and our own little society of cooks who looked forward to getting each and every new issue. Would not trade mine for the world!
Maggie H. December 1, 2021
I love this so much. Thank you for sharing. <3
Epicurean7 June 22, 2023

Any chance you have VOLII, no. 3 issue? I am missing page 26- recipe for PUFF SHELL DOUGH. Would greatly appreciate if you could email me a copy of that page!
[email protected]
[email protected]