Tell Sheila Lukins you like All Around the World Cookbook, her first effort since the dissolution of her 11-year Silver Palate partnership with Julee Rosso, and her voice screeches up an octave. ”Oh, stop,” she says breathlessly. ”You’re going to make me weep.”
Melodramatic? Sure. But the last two and a half years of Lukins’ life are indeed the stuff of soap operas. She suffered a life-threatening cerebral hemorrhage in 1991, which led to a vicious public falling-out with Rosso, whose independent newsletter had blamed Lukins’ illness for the lateness of one of its issues. (Rosso claims her assistant wrote the offending excuse.) Then, last year, Rosso’s first solo cookbook, Great Good Food, was published to scathing reviews and claims that many recipes were inedible. In the eyes of some ferocious foodies, Rosso was dead meat. But Lukins took no pleasure in seeing her enemy fall. In fact, the whole affair still makes her very nervous. ”I wasn’t thrilled about it because it meant there would be that much more scrutiny of my book.”
Lukins, who is now almost completely recovered, wrote her cookbook after a two-year, 33-country trip. She went armed with a cane, an assistant, a reported $300,000 advance from Workman Publishing, and an untold personal investment. ”I was dragging myself around like a dog,” she says. But you would never know it from her chatty prose, and her ambitious collection of recipes.
Anxieties aside, Lukins won’t have time to do anything but scan the best- seller lists. She is beginning a new journey-a 14-city tour-this time to promote her book. ”What am I going to do?” she says, laughing. ”Tell Workman I can’t travel?”