Monday, August 06, 2012

Bookin' and Cookin'

I wouldn't say that I own a whole lot of valuable stuff.
I do have favorite stuff though, and this is a wee snapshot of some of that stuff; my carefully curated cookbook collection. (Carefully curated; not necessarily carefully arranged. Or even frequently dusted if I'm honest.)
     My love of cookbooks started early. My grandmother had a hutch in the kitchen that held, among other things, a large Williamsburg Cookbook of fancy colonial dinners one ostensibly whipped up over an open fire in pots suspended on iron hooks while defeating the British and banging out some tallow candles, a fabulously illustrated Southern Living cookbook full of recipes featuring peaches and pecans that I'm fairly certain we never tried, and the frequently used Philadelphia Orchestra Cookbook, a wildly successful fundraiser that yielded the most popular family recipe ever in the history of anything, a stuffing, boneless chicken, and gravy casserole that we came to refer to as simply 'Orchestra Chicken'. When I finally got my hands on my own copy of the cookbook, anxious to see what other history making recipes could be found within, I was a little frightened by 'zingy tomato aspic' and 'duck blood soup'. I'm still perusing this one, certain to find delicacies that don't involve quivering vegetable jello or the blood of any waterbirds.
     I have favorites. Some of my cookbooks are vintage, and even better, some are used, and have come with all sorts of treasures pressed in the pages. 'The American Woman's Cook Book', published in 1940 with a very patriotic eagle on the cover, came with two; a handwritten recipe in perfect Palmer method on newsprint-thin lined paper for 'frankfurters with sauerkraut' and a round fold-out set of directions for a rubber bushing model Cory glass vacuum coffeepot. (Once the height of convenience, this sort of coffee pot is now being sold by coffee 'geeks and purists'...if you are chasing the rush of a freshly roasted and carefully brewed caffeine buzz you can check in with these folks, arguably gurus of fussy coffee goodness.)
     My favorite vintage cookbooks reflect the zeitgeist of their decade in both instruction and admonition. 'The Vegetarian Epicure' by Anna Thomas, a vegetarian cookbook from the days when being a vegetarian was more fun and involved artisanal cheese by the pound, has a section for 'the two-hours later course' of after-dinner snacks, which is explained thus:
This two-hours later course is especially recommended if grass is smoked socially at your house. If you have passed a joint around before dinner to sharpen gustatory perceptions, you most likely will pass another one after dinner, and everyone knows what that will do-- the blind munchies can strike at any time.
I hasten to add that this particular cookbook did NOT come with anything fun stuck in the pages.

     One of the things I want to write about is cooking. I'm certainly not proposing some kind of Julie and Julia endeavor-- for one thing its been done and for another I'm not eating kidneys and scouring the Pennsylvania countryside for marrowbones. What I will do is meander through my dusty little shelf of cooking wisdom, throw some stuff in the oven, and see what happens. Food is celebration. Food is memory. Food is an understood language. Even in my mismatched, secondhand kitchen these recipes can sing.

5 comments:

Trish said...

Love this! Food and recipes do have the ability to bring people together through cultures and generations. Though I'm glad that the aspic salads have lost favor these days. ;) I love how you've been able to find so much history in your cookbooks and own cooking.

Lin said...

Here we go!! :) Can't wait to see what you "cook up!"

Murr Brewster said...

I have a vintage copy of Joy of Cooking that includes interesting little asides. Like references to her "colored cook."

Jocelyn said...

This post is one of many reasons I have always found you so damn likable. YES, to the cookbooks. Do you write notes in the margins, about what was going on in life on the day you made a certain recipe? My mom always did, and now I do, and so favorite recipes are now walls of graffiti about soccer games and napping and broken bones--diaries, of a sort.

When writers combine food and emotions in their works, I am a complete sap. Have you ever enjoyed Jeffrey Steingarten's books? I courted my husband with THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING.

meleah rebeccah said...

Oh, Kim! I loved this post so very much.

"Food is celebration. Food is memory. Food is an understood language."

Indeed.

And I am very much looking forward to your cooking posts!