Cookbooks as time capsules and why we collect them. Current title holder for Guinness World Records for largest collection of cookbooks (2,970 as of July 14, 2013) Current (unofficial) total as of February 12, 2019 is 6,567.
Music – “What’s Cooking” from What’s Cooking by The Wolfe Gang. Released: 2010
CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC
“The Vintage Cookbookery” website is up and a work in progress! Please visit it at http://www.vintagecookbookery.com. I will be posting a series of articles about cookbooks as time capsules, why we collect them, and how they reflect cultures, trends, technology and food history. Please join in and add your comments! On October 23rd, 2015, I surpassed the 5,000 mark. What’s left? Just keep collecting! (As of January, 2019, the collection has grown to 6,533)
From Cindy Renfrow’s “Take a Thousand Eggs”, to Gil Partington’s “The Punk Vegan Cookbook”, cookbooks run the gamut and are packed with social history. Forget ‘Social Studies”….just read cookbooks if you really want some history!
Well, tomato season is in the works, however, this year I had a few challenges in my garden: a beautiful mother bunny and her small charges. After ordering 8 tomato plants from one of my favourite growers, Territorial Seed Company (https://territorialseed.com), I planted them, fertilized them, staked them and tended to them several times a day. They were doing well for about the first 2 weeks.
While I did tend to them several times daily, one of those times was not when it became pitch black in our backyard garden. On or about the end of the second week, I awoke one morning to see that 2 of them had been gnawed down to about 3 inches of stem and stripped of leaves. I had my suspicions, so decided to deter mother bunny by sprinkling a very heavy dose of cayenne pepper around the base of each plant, extending about 10 inches outward.
“Bartelly” tomatoes, from Territorial Seed Company
The next morning, 2 more plants had suffered similar fates during the nocturnal hours. Evidently, bunnies don’t seem to be deterred by cayenne pepper. That night, I mixed up what I considered to be a seriously off-putting mixture of more cayenne pepper, ground up jalapenos, and some extremely HOT HOTsauce, which I had made previously. Once again, I liberally spread it around the base of the plants, including the chewed ones.
Well, you can guess where this “tail” is going. The next morning, one more plant was looking rather bare. I finally decided that, although the plants really needed a garden to spread out, I would have nothing left if I didn’t transplant them somewhere out of mother bunny’s appetite. I traveled to our local garden centre, purchased some large pots and transplanted all of the tomato plants including the ones, which had been chewed on. There was not much left of these, but I thought I’d give it a try. After transplanting them, I moved them into our outdoor courtyard, surrounded by four walls. I counted on bunnies not being able to scale 10 foot high adobe walls, or climb trees and leap into the courtyard. Fortunately, I was correct.
“Bartelly” tomato is now over 6 feet high!
“Bartelly” tomato potted and inside my courtyard
All of the plants, including the damaged ones, have survived and are doing very well, producing a myriad of tomatoes, some of which I’ve never seen before. Two of them are my favourites: “Bartelly”, and “Sweet Pea”. The “Bartelly” tomato plant is now more than 6 feet tall and producing many cherry-sized tomatoes.
“recovering” tomatoes, now inside the walled courtyard
“Sweet Pea” tomatoes from Territorial Seed Company
The “Sweet Pea” is truly the “tiny tim” of the tomato world….miniaturized tomatoes, full of flavour. I pickled some of them this week in a small jar.
Pickled “Sweet Pea” tomatoes. You can see just how tiny they are!
I was wondering if all of the hot sauce and cayenne pepper I liberally dosed the soil with would affect the flavour of the tomatoes, but it didn’t seem to. Too bad. Maybe I could have patented a new tomato variety to sell to Territorial Seed Company!
Following the tomato fiasco in the back yard garden, I planted 3 varieties of mint. To date, mother bunny has refrained from sampling them (thank you very much!). Next year, I’ll plant mint between the tomatoes, but I have a feeling that she’ll find a way to side-step the mint and go directly for the good stuff!
“Microwaves (Are Watching You)” from Microwaves (Are Watching You) by Randy Rainbow. Released: 2017
In the fall of 2017, we had our kitchen completely remodeled. After several weeks of banging, crashing, cursing (both from me and the installation team), dust, strange things falling from the wall after the cabinets were removed, and a few surprises, it was finally done and a joy to behold, as my quote from post of November, 7th, 2017 indicates:
“However, at long last, it was over. Shiny new cabinets with soft-close doors, a Lazy-Susan, slide out trays and more, a brand-spanking new Corian countertop, a new oven (wider than 15 inches), a re-installed stove top and dishwasher, new sink and faucet, new lights, fresh paint and of course, the mulish microwave back in place, we were finally up and running just in time for Thanksgiving (the Amercun’ one). Only one more hurdle to go: soon, the finance man cometh.”
See: (The Curious Case of the Mulish Microwave, posted November 7, 2017) and The Curious Case of the Mulish Microwave – Part 2, posted on November 28, 2017)
“It won’t budge!”
The “mulish microwave”, as we deemed it (November, 2017)
Alas, themulish microwave, so named because of its’ obstinance and reluctance in giving up its’ long held place on the kitchen wall (17 years!), ceased to exist for all intensive purposes, on May 16th, 2020. Early that morning, as I approached the kitchen, an other-worldly, SciFi buzzing and whirring sound was emanating from it, akin to some of the soundtracks on the old Twilight Zone series, and it was accompanied by the acrid smells of something electrical burning. My spouse was in the process of re-heating his morning java. After shutting it off and surfing the internet for possible explanations and solutions, we decided that it might be worth having examined by a Doctor of Microwaves.
On May 21st, the Doctor of Microwaves made a house call and essentially deemed it “deceased”, although the clock, the light and the timer were still limping along.
We hoped that this might be the fate of our dead microwave, but, alas, we were told that it would be hauled off to the landfill and not be turned into a work of art! (Photo Credit: http://www.ewaste.com.au)
After comparison shopping on the internet, we found what we believed to be a suitable replacement, and, on May 22nd, we trudged over to our local Home Depot. Lining up with a shopping cart and keeping our feet on the fluorescent redtape demarcating the six feet appropriate “social distancing” between carts (and their people), with masks and gloves in place, we headed to the appliance section. Armed with detailed specs and measurements, we selected a replacement, which happened to be a GE, as was the former microwave.
People (like us!) lining up at Home Depot during the COVID19 pandemic, perhaps to buy a new microwave? (Photo Credit: http://www.mcall.com)
After ordering details, payment, etc. concluded, we were told that there were some “manufacturing delays”, and the microwave would not arrive or be installed until June 15th. Twenty-four (24) days without a microwave? Even though I never used the mulish microwave for much other than re-heating, defrosting, warming and other esoteric applications, the thought was disturbing. I did very little “cooking” with it, although I once or twice tried the “convection” option and found it took about three times as long as cooking in my conventional oven. Other “cooking” was to bake potatoes or “bake” enchiladas, a New Mexico staple.
The microwave-less days dragged by. We were now, unfortunately, reheating coffee in a pan on the stove top, steaming leftover rice in a steamer pot and the like….kitchen drudgery tasks, better handled by the mulish microwave (when it was alive). “Let’s just warm up the leftovers in the microwave” was immediately met with guffaws and “NOT!” After finally receiving an e-mail confirming the delivery/installation date of June 15th, with instructions (“make sure you’ve measured correctly”…really, after ordering and paying?) All was well, I thought.
Then, on June 9th, I received a robo-call, which went to our answering machine, with the message “regarding your appliance installation…”. I found the number on the call display and called and was told by a very apologetic lady that the delivery date of June 15th, was now moved to July 1st, due to “manufacturer’s delays”. July 1st!?47 days without a microwave? Scandalous! Shocking! Untenable! An hour later, I received a second robo-call, indicating that the delivery date, which was apparently scheduled for July 6th (!?) had been moved to July 1st and asked if that was “OK” with me. I indicated that it was (!$$!!!!)
So, presumably, on July 1st, we will receive a youthful microwave to replace the “mulish” one, which has held court in the kitchen in our home since 2000, and where we have resided since 2015. I should point out that, although I am anxious about receiving a replacement microwave on that date, and although I miss my home in Canada, at least I will have a microwave by the end of the day, July 1st, 2020 (hopefully). If I were still back in the Great White North, I would have had to wait until July 2nd, as July 1st is “Canada Day“. My Canadian flag will be flying and I’ll also have a new microwave! (maybe!) What a day to celebrate!
UPDATE: On June 27th, I was advised that the new microwave will not be available until AT LEAST July 16th (presumably of this year!). Nonetheless, I will still be flying my Canadian flag on July 1st, for Canada Day.
“This is our new microwave….isn’t it cool? And, just in time for Canada Day….Bonus!” (Photo Credit: http://www.smecc.org)
Music – “Food Storage” from Unabridged Translation by They Might Be Elders. Released: 2010
In view of the recent events surrounding the spread of coronavirus, since it was discovered in December, 2019, in China, I elected to repost this from my March 27th, 2014 post. But, really, people, keep calm!
Being a cook, a collector of kitchen gadgets and appliances, not to mention a lot of cookbooks, I have always yearned for a proper pantry. Call it what you will, a “Pantry”, “Butler’s Closet”, a “Larder”, it’s a place to store non-perishable food supplies, kitchen equipment, etc. The notion of having a pantry always made me feel warm and secure inside, like drinking hot cocoa in front of the fireplace, when the wind is howling and a blizzard is raging outside.
Entry to “The Pantry” (aka old clothes closet)
There’s something comforting, knowing that you have a good supply of food laid in should World War III erupt, or one of the numerous fanatic despots on the other side of the world should decide to initiate more terrorist attacks on North America. There’s always a despot lurking somewhere, waiting to cause chaos and maximum damage to unsuspecting citizens in the free world.
According to Wikipedia, the pantry has been making a comeback in American and English homes since the late 1990’s and is now one of the most requested features in US homes today. They suggest that this reflects the resurgence in “nesting and homekeeping”. So, what was happening in the late 1990’s that made us suddenly start hoarding food supplies? Well, I can think of several things offhand: conflicts in the Balkans and genocide in Rwanda, continued tensions in the Arab world, the Gulf War, the Chechen wars, wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, Al Qaeda, the Oklahoma City bombing, the first bombing at the World Trade Center, not to mention the “Y2K” fears over the dreaded coming of the year 2000, when all hell would break loose. Just the Y2K fears caused many people to start hoarding water and food supplies, gasoline, gas masks and rolls of plastic sheeting (to put over windows and shut out poison gas).
Well, the apocalypse did not come, our computers did not turn on us on January 1st, 2000 and the “Rapture“ of May 21st, 2011 was a non-event. Perhaps we have become so accustomed to world tragedies and horrors that we are no longer surprised by what we read and hear on a daily basis. For that reason, maybe we no longer feel the need to hoard, but to ease back and create a pantry instead of an emergency supply centre (I no longer keep candles in my pantry).
Looks pretty crowded!
In the 20 years I have lived in my Albuquerque home, the small closet in a small bedroom has morphed from a clothes closet to a darkroom to a storage room to finally, my little pseudo-pantry. I call it a pseudo-pantry, because it’s not the proper kind of pantry you see in homes in Architectural Digest or Better Homes and Gardens, but it’s mine and I’ve stocked it with care.
The center unit has been rolled out
It gets visited on a daily basis and I even recently created a computerized inventory, which I intended to carefully maintain, so when sales came up at the local supermarket, I could see if I was getting low on diced canned chiles or salsa (mandatory in a New Mexico pantry). However, even the best intentions often fall by the wayside, and alas, my inventory is sadly out of date, which probably explains why I currently have 42 cans of tomato sauce and enough tins of kidney beans to make chili for a small army.
Pre-installed shelves on the back wall, with 2 pull out wire racks for extra storage
When I decided to empty the closet of it’s last inhabitants and planted the flag for my future pantry, I wondered how I would use the small space effectively. There was already a sturdy shelf running around the top of the closet, which I used to place heavy appliances, but I needed something to accommodate a lot of items. My closet pantry measures 50” by 50” and 90” high.
I found a website online, which sold rolling storage units, which are designed for pantry ingredients, clothing or linen, etc. or otherwise more lightweight items. Despite this fact, my units are pretty heavily loaded, however, my spouse did supplement the units with some extra screws to reinforce them and that has been sufficient to deal with the extra weight. The casters are pretty sturdy and have taken a lot of in and out trips over the past few years.
You can see how much “stuff” these units hold
No storage space goes unused!
Ready for the next Apocalypse?
One unit is just for large kitchen wares such as molds, flan pans, storage containers and the like. The units measure 23 ½ “ wide, 9 ¼ “ deep and are 58” high, including the casters. I have 4 units in the closet: one at the rear, against pre-installed shelving, and the other 3 side by side in front. In addition, I have two old filing cabinets, which house smaller appliances, such as a rice cooker, steamer, coffee grinder, etc.
Old filing cabinet drawers hold small appliances and pans
So, in the space of a small closet about 4 feet by 4 feet, I’ve managed to squeeze in a lot of storage space for non-perishable foods, small appliances, etc., thanks to the rolling storage units. It may be small, but it’s functional and I’d warrant a guess that my spouse and I (and 2 cats….they have their own 2 shelves!), will have enough food to eat to wait out whatever event strikes next. If only we had some place for bottles of water to wash it all down with!
Music – “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” from Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas by Ella Fitzgerald. Released: 2002.
(This is a slightly revised version of my post in December of 2015)
Admit it. We’ve all had good intentions on December 31st, every year. “I vow to quit smoking, be kinder to people, spend more time with my family, be happier, etc., etc., etc.” Yet, it seems that so many of us (myself included!) have aspirations for the New Year, around food.
Some of the more common “resolutions” include weight loss, exercise, restricting alcoholic beverages, cutting back on coffee and chocolate, eating healthy, and so forth. Some swear they will become vegetarians or vegans, start a “paleo” diet, go “gluten free” or lower their cholesterol. Yet, how many really succeed?
According to Statistic Brain Research Institute (www.statisticbrain.com), about 45% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions. 38% do not (the rest can’t make up their minds) 38% of these resolutions are weight related. Approximately 8% are successful in achieving their goal(s). A whopping 46% are still keeping their New Years resolutions after 6 months! So, in the spirit of the New Year, make your resolutions, keep them or break them, but have fun! Have a safe and healthy 2020!
Music – “What’s Cooking” from What’s Cooking by The Wolfe Gang. Released: 2010
In honour of Thanksgiving approaching, I’m running this earlier 2014 post about the questions posed to the Butterball Turkey Hot Line over the years. Read it and laugh (or weep!)
We’ve all heard experts, teachers and the like say “There’s no such thing as a dumb question”. I’ve said it myself, while teaching a course in Forensic Anthropology to non-science students. One evening, following a brief discussion of how to determine the sex of an individual from the bones of the skeleton, one of my students quipped “It’s easy. All you do is count the number of ribs. If it’s a man, he’ll be missing a rib as he had to give it up to God to create Eve”. Well, I really didn’t know how to respond.
In the world of food and cooking, I find it amusing and sometimes bewildering to read the questions folks write in to various sites for cooking advice. Butterball Turkey has had it’s share of doozies over the year, and other websites geared around cooking usually feature a “Q & A” section, which are tremendously enlightening.
Here is a sampling of some of the questions posed to various websites. I have taken the liberty of addressing the questions with my OWN responses:
Can you microwave a box of wine?(Probably not a good idea, but why would you want 5 litres of hot boxed wine?)
After eating rancid butter, what should one do?(Serve up some moldy bread to go with it?)
Music – “Fighting 17th” from Backdraft [Silver Screen Edition] by Hans Zimmer. Released: 2005
In honor of September 11th, I am re-posting this post from 2014…
Every so often I come across a cookbook featuring recipes from firefighters around the nation. It seems like firehouse cooking (and firehouse chefs) are imbued with an aura of mystery around their food. After all, it is a select enclave of men and women, who enjoy the fruits of the chef. It seems natural that these dedicated individuals, who go to bat for the rest of us and keep us safe should have camaraderie among them, and why shouldn’t this extend to that most basic of human needs, eating and sharing food?
Photo Credit: ilovelasvegasmagazine.blogspot.com
Meandering around the internet lately, I have looked at one of the most FAQ asked about firefighters: does the city/county pay for the food they cook at their stations, while on their shifts? In just a random sample of information from about two dozen firefighting stations across the US, the answer was a resounding “no”. It appears that the common theme is that each of the firefighters assigned to a station contributes a fixed amount out of his or her own funds for food, determined by mutual agreement.
Most firefighter kitchens have several rotating chefs and many have their own specialties. Some stations have essential appliances paid for them, for example a refrigerator and a stove, but the firefighters must pay to equip it with pots, pans, and the like, not to mention the food.
Photo Credit: uncyclopedia.wikia.com
A search of news items across the country has also raised another FAQ: why do I see the firefighters parking their fire engine in the grocery store parking lot and going in to shop? Well, think about it. These men and women are on duty, ready at a moment’s notice to assist you. Would you rather they drive in a private vehicle, start shopping, get a 911 fire call and drive back to the station to get the fire truck? Not! “Be prepared” is a good motto. As a matter of fact, in my grade school, Kipling Grove Elementary School, our motto was from Elmer, the Safety Elephant, whose placque in the main hall admonished us daily to “be prepared”.
According to the Internet, there were 48,800 registered fire departments in the US as of 2012. These fire departments employed 1,129,250 firefighters, which include career professionals, volunteers and those paid per call. Also in 2012, according to NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) there were 1,375,000 fire calls placed to these departments, however, these departments also responded to numerous other calls: 21,705,500 calls for medical aid, 2,238,000 false alarms, 360,000 hazardous materials, 1,326,500 “mutual aid” and 694,000 “other hazardous conditions”. “Other” calls accounted for another 4,155,000 calls for a grand total of 31,854,000 calls made to US fire departments in 2012! It’s a wonder they ever get time to eat, let alone cook!
Photo Credit: howtobecomeafirefighterusa.com
In my collection, I have several cookbooks featuring firefighters: “San Francisco Firehouse Favorites” by Calvello, Harlow, Sackett and Sarvis; “Firehouse Food” by Dolese and Siegelman; “The Firehouse Cookbook” by Kite, and “Fire House Cook Book” by Kipp Rix.
“Firehouse Food” by George Dolese and Steve Siegelman
Dorothy Kite, in her book “The Firehouse Cookbook” says, “One of the first things a rookie learns is that in order to eat at the firehouse, he must learn to cook”. And, George Dolese and Steve Siegelman in “Firehouse Food” note that, when firefighters eat together, they’re “…creating a moment of happiness in a tough, stressful world. No wonder their food is so satisfying”.
“The Firehouse Cookbook” by Dorothy J. Kite
“Smoke and Fire Black Beans”, “Blackened Red Snapper”, “Smoked Turkey Club”, “Night Watch Snack” and “Kamikaze Gumbo” are just a few of the recipes from these cookbooks. No one ever said that firefighters don’t have a sense of humour!
“Fire House Cook Book” by Kipp Rix
In “San Francisco Firehouse Favorites”, the authors relate some of the culinary comments from firehouse chefs: “Never cook a turkey more than two hours; just adjust the heat”, or “Never blow your own smoke” (don’t brag!). They also note that one of the San Francisco firefighters insisted that his cigar ashes improved the flavour of his Burgundy pot roast.
“San Francisco Firehouse Favorites” by Calvello, Harlow, Sackett and Sarvis
Below is the recipe for “Smoke and Fire Black Beans”, courtesy of Steve Feiner, Truck No. 16, San Francisco Fire Department, from “Firehouse Food” by George Dolese and Steve Siegelman. The “smoky” flavour comes from both the ham hocks and the chipotle chile.
1 pound (2.5 cups dried black beans)
8 cups water
1 pound smoked ham hocks
1 medium white onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 canned chipotle chile en adobo
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
Pour the beans onto a rimmed baking sheet and pick through them, discarding any small stones or foreign matter. Rinse them in a colander under cold water and place the beans into a large pot with the water, ham hocks, onion, garlic, bay leaf, oregano and chipotle. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Partially cover the pot and cook until the beans are tender, about 2 hours.
Remove the ham hocks, and once cool enough to handle, pull the meat away from the bones, discarding bones, skin and fat. Shred the meat and add to the beans. Season to taste with salt and continue to cook for 15 to 30 minutes until the beans are very soft and creamy. Discard the bay leaf and ladle the beans into individual bowls, or serve family style.
The next time you see a fire engine parked at your local grocery store, remember: they’re not shopping for dinner on your dime, or on your time!
The names of the cocktails were pretty tame: “Florida Punch“, “Bobby Burns Cocktail“, “Frozen Daiquiri” and the like.
Many of the cocktail books from the 1940’s through 1970’s, went the extra mile: in addition to recipes for imbibing, many had sections on drinking songs such as “Cigarettes and Whiskey“, which is a long way from the old “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall“.
Also common in these cocktail bibles were suggested party games (“Tricks and Funnies“) including drawing with a mirror, the five coin problem, and in one guide “College Humor and Party Games” (charades, eye spy, talkathon) and more.
Many books provided information on how to properly stock your home bar and earlier books usually featured a nice selection of toasts for your event, for example, “To-Morrow Can Wait”…”Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter, Sermons and soda water the day after”.
There is even a toast to lawyers: “Here is to the lawyer – a learned gentleman, who rescues your estate from your enemies, and keeps it himself“. Those pithy remarks are from the 1904 “Grein and Pahls Drink Mixer’s Manual“, which I also have in my collection (Price: One Dollar in 1904).
Bartending has become an art, with “flair” bartenders juggling a myriad of bottles of alcohol with flourish and pizazz, much to the thrill of their audience.
Alcoholic beverages have been around for a very long time. Early Babylonians and Egyptians were brewing beer, mead and wine for thousands of years (long before prohibition reared its’ ugly head in the USA and was ultimately, a dismal failure – happily!)
So, in the words of an unknown author, but taken from “Grein and Pahls Drink Mixer’s Manual“, edited by Paul E. Lowe,
“Drink to-day and drown all sorrow, You shall perhaps not do’t to-morrow; Best while you have it use your breath, There is no drinking after death”
“A Guide to Pink Elephants” (Richards Rosen Assoc, Inc., New York, 1952) “10,000 Drinks” (Paul Knorr, Sterling Publishing, New York, 2007) “Playboy’s Host & Bar Book” (Thomas Mario, Playboy Publishing, Chicago, 1971) “Bar & Party Guide” (Sirkay Publishing, Los Angeles, 1972) “Grien and Pahls Drink Mixer’s Manual” (Joe Grein & J. Pahls, Inc., Chicago, 1904)
Music -“Big Numbers” from I’ve Got Music in Me by Jack Hartmann. Released: 1995
CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC
What does the number 6,648 signify? Well, I really wish 6,648 was the $$$ my insurance company had paid me after a (presumed) drunk driver plowed through my front yard around 9:00 pm, on Tuesday, May 28th, tearing up shrubs and cactus, moving huge landscape rocks, and destroying about 1/3rd of my beautiful pinon tree before coming to a crashing stop….against the side of my 1995 Saturn, which was parked in the driveway, minding its’ own business.
However, it didn’t happen like that (no surprise there!) The owner of the vehicle (and presumed driver) fled the carnage and, as is so common here in New Mexico, was uninsured, despite the fact that it is illegal to be without vehicle insurance. So, what else is new? New Mexico is an amazing state: it nearlyalwaysplaces 1st or 2nd in things that are bad: no insurance, drunk drivers, car thefts, homicides, worst child welfare, etc.
So, then, what does the number “6648” represent here? According to NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) “6648” is the ID for a gene, which “…is a member of the iron/manganese superoxide dismutase family. It encodes a mitochondrial protein that forms a homotetramer and …”, etc.,etc., etc.
…or if you don’t like cruising, how about taking MNE Train #6648to New York Penn Station?
“6648” is also a flight with Virgin Australia. Lastly, if someone came up to you and asked you to divide 46,539 by 7, your answer would be “6648” (people often stop me on the street and ask me this question)
However, none of these “6648“s are the ones I’m referring to in this post. As many of you will have already surmised, “6,648” is the current number of cookbooks in my collection. You just had to know that was coming, right?