AND COOKING TOO. I have been hooked on cooking since Julia Child first appeared on public television. I think I was around thirteen or so when I was inspired by one her shows to cook a special dinner for my parents on their anniversary. I had saved some money (and probably persuaded my mom to chip in) to buy ingredients for french onion soup, a salad and filet mignon. Of course my recollection of it is probably somewhat inflated but I’m sure it was the best meal they had ever had, prepared by a thirteen year old!
EVERY BOOK HAS A STORY.
I have been collecting cookbooks for forty years, some have remained and some had to go to make room for new books. My first collection began with the Time-Life Foods of the World series that came out in the late sixties. I asked that the series be my high school graduation gift! There were so many books in the series that after two years worth (I own twenty-two of the twenty-seven published), my parents decided to keep a few for themselves. These books were fascinating to read and greatly expanded my food horizons. At seventeen I first learned to make cannelloni and hand rolled, homemade pasta from the Cooking of Italy book and it was a revelation. To this day it remains the definitive recipe for me and what I rate all versions by. Around 1983 Tom spent two weeks in Hong Kong and ate what he thought was the Caesar Salad. He found his go-to recipe in the American Cooking book. These remain great books.
I have my mom’s copy of the Joy of Cooking that she received as a wedding gift in 1950. Sadly, its’ spine is bound with silver duct tape, but it lives on and has the best recipe for shortbread and some other old-time holiday and ethnic cookies. I also have my grandmother’s copy of Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Merrit Farmer (which I have never used, but love to look at the photos of molded salads, desserts and other ‘fancy’ dishes) 1924 edition, a wedding gift to her from her mother-in-law in 1929. And, speaking of wedding gift cookbooks, I received the McCalls Cookbook which one of my daughters now has and she loves it!
My first Julia Child book was a gift from my father in 1975 and it was From Julia’s Kitchen. The dust jacket is in tatters and the recipe for Chocolate Mousse is spattered with chocolate; Chocolate Mousse has become the annual birthday dessert for daughter number two. There is no other or better. In the early Eighties I stumbled upon the 1971 two-volume set Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a used bookstore in perfect condition, unused and in the original hardboard case and only $30.00. My heart started racing and I was sure it had been mistakenly priced (it was) but the bookseller honored the price and I happily took it home.
As I travel I like to look for regional cookbooks and some of the best have come from New Orleans (pre-Katrina) at the French Market where there was a terrific cookbook stand. My favorite is La Bouche Creole by Leon E. Soniat, Jr. He has a wonderful recipe for oysters that is similar to an Oyster Pan Roast but Oysters Louise is enriched with egg yolks and it is sublime. He also provides a great recipe for Gumbo Z’herbes. I was directed to this book by Crescent Dragonwagon who gives some great gumbo tips and recipes in her Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread cookbook. I have her first (?) slim volume, The Bean Book from 1972.
I have a small number of Northwest cookbooks and the two most useful and used are Northwest Bounty by Schuyler Ingle and Sharon Kramis, and the Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerrry Traunfeld. Both of these books are very local and seasonal; Northwest Bounty was way ahead of the current trends when published in the 80’s.
There are many quirky little books and pamphlets that I rarely open and hardly ever use, but I can’t seem to divest myself of them. As you can see from the pieced together photo above I have limited space available in my kitchen bookshelves. Now I am at the point when I acquire a new book something has to go. So, I make arbitrary rules about what has to go. If I haven’t opened a book for a couple of years, it’s a candidate for the Friends of the Library sale. I’m writing all this because I received two new books at Christmas this year and I have to make some decisions…
These are both great books. Just open to any page and I’m hooked. Well written with great headnotes and sidebars, these books come alive with the author’s voice and perspectives on cooking and eating. I’ll make one appetizer from each book to preface tonight’s dinner of Duck Baked in Salt from Italian Family Dining by Edward Giobbi & Eugenia Bone. We’ll also be having fresh oysters on the half-shell from our friend’s beach on Hood Canal. Should be a very Happy New Year’s Eve!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!