Recipe Collecting in the Wrong Neighborhood

Beetroot Dog Biscuits: Parsley Does Thyme
The Upper East Side is an oasis of sun-dappled streets, brownstones, Beaux-Arts buildings, art, boutiques, and little dogs in Gucci sweaters. There are few grocery stores and many restaurants. This is the neighborhood of perfect teeth, multiple divorces, a man of a certain age with a woman his daughter's age, strollers for twins and triplets, formalities, the air kiss, the handwritten thank-you note, open-face sandwiches, jodhpurs, little black dress, strapless ball gown, pearl necklace, health insurance. A watercolor sun sets over the Central Park reservoir. The air cools, runners speed by up on the runners' path. Private school children shiver on a park bench and pass around a pack of Gauloises. An eastern screech owl poised on the railing of the reservoir screams to its mate, and it's dinnertime on the UES.

When most neighborhoods, such as Spanish Harlem to the north, take on the heady smell of home cooking, the Upper East Side has the more expensive, yet somehow simpler at the same time, waft of roasting garlic prepared in tiny restaurant kitchens. The air fills with the bells of bicycle take-out delivery. Parsley's walking down the street at dusk and the rare smell of a baking roast makes her think, "Mmm, a French person must live here." Upper East Siders eat well, keep vast collections of take-out menus, and frequently have dinner in restaurants.

On a cold night, with a powder dusting of snow on the sidewalk, Parsley bravely heads for the Madison Avenue 24-hour greengrocer to gather the simple ingredients for her perfect dinner. Her favorite thing to make is reservations. Parsley Cresswell cooks for herself in her studio apartment where she used to only crash. She hosts afternoon tea and BYOB gatherings. (Before her guests arrive she'll take a picture of the spread, sometimes adding the library book or love letter she is currently studying.) In between black-tie art events and cubicle-based freelance assignments she can be found in the fragrant aisles of Dean & DeLuca nibbling free food samples and at K&D Wines and Spirits tastings.

The Upper East Side Cookbook includes a lot of green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, potatoes, and onions—ingredients we all can afford that are good for you. Wisconsin cheeses, to which she is partial, appear in her recipes. (See more on, Wisconsin Cheese Wedding Cakes.) Some recipes include meat. Vegetarianism is the way to go, clearly—better for the waistline and for longevity. Parsley is a strict vegetarian only during Lent.

Parsley Cresswell is more Restaurantgirl than Orangette. She rarely waits for a taxi on Fifth Avenue anymore, and instead takes her bike or rides the Limited bus downtown. Replacing the gym, she has become an avid naturalist. She eats like a bird. She worked in the twentieth-century fashion world (Elle, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, W), and she’s still on a diet, which is excellent for a time of slender means. But she cooks at the drop of a hat and goes off her diet as often as she can. Thanks perhaps to the recession, she eats remarkably well. Who better to teach self-reliance, to share her recipe collection, than a single woman eking out a living on the Upper East Side?

"As a Midwesterner, I look to the East Side as the real New York, and that bias is only amplified by reading about Parsley Cresswell and her kitchen adventures. She is a deep dish, indeed." Garrison Keillor

A lovely review of Parsley Does Thyme.

Linda Olle in an interview with Peter Canby in The New Yorker online.

Parsley Cresswell in an interview with Brian Lehrer, WNYC.

Photographs are a preview of recipes from The Upper East Side Cookbook: Main Course, available through Amazon, Kindle and Kitchen Arts & Letters.

Parsley Does Thyme (Upper East Side Cookbook, vol. 3), the most popular in the series, is an ebook only.