March 19, 2013

Lee Bailey’s Books

Over the past week, I’ve come across two of Lee Bailey’s cookbooks. These were great favourites of mine years ago, and I had “de-accessioned” them when I moved to the UK. If you don’t know Lee Bailey, he was Martha before she ever came on the scene. He could also be described as the male Ina Garten.

He wrote the most gorgeous lifestyle books, some about cooking, some about flowers – eighteen in all!  Lee Bailey came about this naturally – he was a Southerner. But he also had a food and accessories boutique at Henri Bendel that later moved to Saks Fifth Avenue, and also designed home furnishings. He was also a columnist and contributing editor for Food and Wine magazine.

Bailey’s books had great titles like Southern Food and Plantation Houses which was a culinary and historical tour of Natchez, Mississippi, and was the main reason I took a detour on a road trip to Louisiana to visit the town. image

He did a similar format for New Orleans, a city that is renowned for its excellent cooking and beautiful architecture. As he was a native of Louisiana, it was probably a fun book to produce.image

In Country Weekends, he took you through a weekend of eating at a friend’s country house, all with gorgeous images and delicious recipes. image

In my early years of entertaining, his Good Parties taught me the tricks of the trade and how to plan and then pace a party.image

His City Food gave me a glimpse into what a sophisticated dinner party in New York could be like. image

One of the really fun books was Cooking for Friends and he numbered among his friends people like Liz Smith, Nora Ephron and Elaine Stritch.image

While his books are no longer in print, they are widely available at Amazon and other on-line book sellers. Take a look at these books, they’re a treasure trove!


  1. I can't even imagine writing 18 books! oh my!

  2. Food and accessories boutique in Saks of Fifth Ave well now there is MS at JCP, my she have such original ideas! We have such short term memories but you MF are a Pleny the Younger of our times.

  3. I always wondered what happened to him--I assume that he has passed on, but what about his home goods lines? Any idea?

  4. Being a southerner, oh how I adore his books.

  5. I am fortunate to have every single one of his books! And I still love them as much as I did when I bought them.

  6. Southern Foods and Plantations was the book that brought me to the realization that style and comfortable elegance was a matter of not what you do, but how you do it. Lee Bailey was not as successful at the commercial side of business as MS but the depth of his style and the sheer beauty he conveyed so easily impacted lives in a way no one else has been able to since! His recipes.....fantastic!

  7. Oh yes, I've been a fan of his for years! I have three books and will look them over from time to time, just for inspiration and a slightly different twist on cooking and living!They are a real find these days....

  8. Here is a big surprise Clarkson Potter formula publisher, groomed MS to echo L.B. I suppose-- as both were signed to CP However LB won a James Beard award has MS?? oh well both were successful i.e. penthouses and or 150 hectare estates excuse me while i brainstorm.

  9. Great stuff. We also love most of his books. Thanks from Modern House Interior Design

  10. I have all of his books, still. I was just thinking of pursuing some for recipes. He had a picnic I wanted to make up soon.

    As a friend, he helped many New Yorkers decorate their apartments, including Nora Ephron and (I think) Liz Smith. His accessories line died off, but it captured his taste(s) perfectly. His original shop was in Bendel's, later shifting to Saks.

    He died from a series of strokes at age 76 in 2003, and his friends to this day mourn his passing. According to all, he was the most delightful of friends. If you've never seen his books, seek them out. They are timeless.


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