WHEN YOU THINK about true-blue American cooks, Marion Cunningham is the first person who comes to mind. A close friend of the late James Beard, author of the fabulous “Breakfast Book” and now working on a revision of “Fannie Farmer Cookbook,” Cunningham is the sort of person who prefers apple pie to tarte tatin , ice cream to gelato.
Cunningham has recently fallen for Shaker cooking. A trip to Shaker communities all over the East Coast was, Cunningham says, a revelation. She found that the simple food is satisfyingly filled with flavor. And part of the flavor, she says, comes from their superior herbs and spices.
In 1800, the Shakers were the first Americans to establish an herb-processing industry. To this day the herbs are packed in the traditional manner: dried naturally by being spread out in attics or in the sun. The slowness of the process preserves the flavor.
While most of us aren’t going to go running off to catch a meal at Sabbathday Village, we can buy Shaker herbs. Five culinary Shaker herbs are available from Shaker Shops West: basil, thyme, bouquet garni , fines herbes and herbal bouquet.
Your choice of three of the above is $7.50, postage paid, from Shaker Shops West, 5 Inverness Way, Inverness, Calif. 94937; (415) 669-7256.