Music – “The Brexit Song (Brexit Blues)” from The Brexit Song (Brexit Blues) by Isaac Adni. Released: 2016
On June 23rd, 2016, British citizens voted on the question, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union (EU) or leave the European Union?”. 52% of votes were cast in favour of leaving the EU. The process of this “exit”, some say, may take more than two years to complete. The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union is widely known as “Brexit” (British Exit) The referendum caused a ricochet effect in global markets.
Due to a rather coincidental series of events, at around the same time as “Brexit” became a done deal, I was dealing with a curious problem of my own and wondering how it could be resolved. You see, I had reached the limits of shelf space I had previously assigned to cookbooks from the UK, not imagining that I would eventually have 116 from that part of the world. Pressed into two small shelves in the European section of The Great Hall of Cookbooks, lodged among their cohorts from France, Germany, Spain, etc. they were clearly in need of breathing room.
“The Great Hall of Cookbooks” (read as: European Union)
As a result, the only option was to remove them from The Great Hall and sequester them in the “annex”, a room across from The Great Hall, where they could enjoy two bookcases dedicated to their newly found isolation.
“The Annex” (Read as: no longer in the European Union)
In the process of relocating them, I was suddenly struck by the peculiar timing of the move, coinciding as it was, with “Brexit“. Alas, they were forced to leave the “union“, by popular vote, so to speak, and are now more or less isolated from their previous compatriots. Mrs. Beeton, Jamie, Nigella, the Two Fat Ladies and others have bid “adieu”. There is no looking back.
MUSIC – “Fruitcake” from Joy to the World It’s Christmas by Brian Kinder. Released: 2006.
Note: This post is a repeat of one I first published on December 10th, 2013, which was written by my spouse Stan Rhine, who loves fruitcake. I made him a 6.5 pounder this year and he has already delved in! Happy Holidays!
Potato chips and French fries are both held in high esteem by the American eating public – which is the majority of Americans. Nutritionists, however, decry their empty calories, their fat-saturated preparation and salt-laden surfaces. Why is that anything so obviously bad for us is so desirable, so delectable, so irresistible? For the same reason that foods known to be of high nutritional value are shunned like the plague? Healthy foods like broccoli, kale and kumquats are more likely to be tossed down the garbage disposal than someone’s gullet.
However, the very nadir of the desirable food ladder (the Ralph Nader of foods) is the fruitcake. Even the name has taken on a derogatory hue. The statement “Octavius Beauregard Smith is a fruitcake” is not one calculated to bring delight to either Mr. Smith or his partisans. Especially if true.
This is quite illogical, as the fruitcake has a very strong association with the holidays, that most-anticipated season of peace and goodwill, a time when we bestow cards, greetings and gifts upon relatives, acquaintances and associates, as well as on people we like. Among the colorful, heavy, beribboned boxes beneath the tree is sure to be a fruitcake, the true symbol of the season.
Yet, the innocent fruitcake has become the butt of jokes (the Twinkie of holiday foods). There are fruitcakes alleged to have been in the family for generations, being cycled through the members anew each time the tree is put up. Fruitcakes have also been pressed into a wide variety of roles differing greatly from their customary one of comestible. For instance, used as a doorstop, a weapon of self-defense, building blocks for a biodegradable house, and most inglorious of all, ammunition for a trebuchet competition in Colorado.
Composed of the most innocent but nutritious elements, flour (even some exotic flours), butter, eggs, minor miscellaneous spices, raisins, nuts and great gobs of fruit*, and sometimes anointed with rum, fruitcakes are unquestionably not only nourishing for the body, but for the psyche as well. A visual treat whether whole, sliced and artistically arranged on a plate, or viewed at extremely close range on the way into your mouth.
*Footnote: In order for the fruitcake to achieve its legendary longevity, it is necessary that the fruit undergo some minor processing before incorporation into the delectable dessert. This processing amplifies the fruits’ natural color, adding just a touch of sweetness to their taste. This creates a loaf that is not only solid to the touch, but solidly satisfying, a visually appealing fusion of brilliant reds, yellows and greens in hues unknown in nature, vying for attention and top billing, “I like the cherries the best!”
Yet, for all of its undeniable eye-appeal, the incorporation of the fruitcake into the holiday season has come to be viewed with negativity. It was as if people actually did not like fruitcakes, that they did not hold back, biding their time, waiting to strike the moment the after-Christmas sales are posted at Wal-Mart, stocking up on a supply of fruitcakes sufficient to bridge the interminable famine season until next year.
Pity the poor, maligned fruitcake, nutritious, delicious harbinger of the twilight of the year.
Note: This piece was written by my husband, Stan, who is anxiously awaiting his little block of fruitcake on Christmas morning
The current silence from The Vintage Cookbookerystems from a cascade of events concerning my primary taster, chief bottlewasher and spouse (all rolled into one!) In a nutshell, due to a series of recent, rather melodramatic medical events, he is now on a very restricted sodium diet, which is a definite shock to the man, who has carried a bottle of garlic salt in his pocket (with a backup bottle in his car) for 40 years! Needless to say, with 5,616 cookbooks on my shelves, the sodium information for recipes is negligible, even in cookbooks published in the past few years. More of that later, though. In the meantime, I am having to put my 80 or so salts from around the world in the back of the cupboard and am delving into the wonderful world of pseudo-salt (aka “Mrs. Dash”, which I think is tasteless and pointless!). Please stay tuned.
Music – “Pomegranate Rag” from By Request by Matthew Davis. Released: 2016.
Ah…October in New Mexico. Hundreds of hot air balloons, the rich and heady scent of roasting green chile and…pomegranates! Their Latin name is Punica granatum, and they are thought to have originated in Persia and have been continuously cultivated throughout the Mediterranean. Since the “many-seeded apple” thrives in a climate of low humidity and mild temperatures, pomegranates can be found in backyards throughout the Southwest.
At our current residence, we inherited two varieties: “Wonderful” and “Russian“. Depending on the species some pomegranates are borne on trees, but most species in the Southwest are more “shrubby”, including the two in our yard.
Our small harvest of pomegranates at our current residence (squirrel got the rest!)
At our previous residence in the Northeast Heights part of Albuquerque, we also had a pomegranate tree, which after the first year we were there, bore a substantial quantity of fruit. After doing a little research about preparation, I elected to score the tough, leathery skin of the fruits, hold them under water (wearing gloves) and eject the seeds (arils), with some difficulty. It was a laborious, messy job, tedious and with what I thought was very little reward. After harvesting all of the arils, I had to decide what to do with them. I decided to refrigerate some for use in cooking and thought I would make juice out of the rest.
But, how to juice? Because of the large size of the seeds, surrounding by that red flesh, my blender quickly clogged and produced very little in the way of juice, also grinding up the seeds in the process, which was not very appetizing and made the juice bitter. Necessity being the mother of invention, I put on my thinking cap and found a way to recycle the empty plastic bags from my favourite boxed wine!
Any large 5 litre boxed wine will do for the bags (I happen to like this one!)
After cutting off one corner of the bag (which is actually two bags: a thinner one inside of the heavier liner), I inserted about a half a dozen small pomegranates.
Put about 5 or 6 small pomegranates into the wine bag. Seal it any way you can.
At the time, I did not have the benefit of Foodsaver appliance, which I have now, so I used a substantial amount of duct tape to seal the opening. Then, being ever resourceful, and with the assistance of my spouse, I carefully placed the bag under the rear tire of my car and gently rolled it back. Presto! Pomegranate juice! Although there was a small amount of leakage, I did manage to salvage most of it. The bag, however, was a little the worse for wear and couldn’t be reused.
This year, I again saved the wine bags from the boxed wine, but had a slightly different approach. After cutting off the edge of the bag, just large enough to put about 5 pomegranates inside, I now could get a tight seal on the open edge, using my Foodsaver machine.
Cut off one corner of the wine bag, large enough to insert a few small pomegranates
Using the Foodsaver (or similar) appliance, I was able to seal the bag very effectively
Almost like new. After taking the bag outside and wrapping it in an old towel, I took my trusty heavy-duty rubber mallet and began pounding away.
Place the bag on an old towel to absorb the blows and prevent the bag from becoming damaged. Pound away!
After pummeling for a few minutes, the juicy arils had given up as much as they were going to.
The contents of the bag after a few minutes of pummeling, ready to be drained.
I clamped the bag to a piece of pegboard inside the garage and opened the spout, which is very easy to use. A good, steady flow of juice emerged. Afterwards, it is a good idea to have a helper squeeze out any remaining juice, while another pair of hands holds the valve open.
I clamped the bag on the edge of a pegboard, positioned over a plastic container to catch the juice.
Opening the valve in the wine bag to let the juice flow out.
I was able to rinse out the pulp from the bag and reuse it after a little more trimming. Not counting about 10 ounces I reckon was wasted when my foot inadvertently kicked over the plastic container I had started to fill, I had about 50 ounces of juice and there are still about half a dozen fairly large pomegranates waiting for me to drain the contents of the next wine box!
Strain the juice to get out any bits of seeds
The fruits of my labour!
Next was to find a recipe for Pomegranate Margaritas, which I did (several, in fact). After a long (not really), hard (barely) day of pummeling pomegranate pulp, my husband and I were rewarded with the jewel-like glimmering of fresh Pomegranate Margaritas in the late afternoon sun in our courtyard, overlooking our goldfish pond. Life just doesn’t get any better!
What could be better than fresh Pomegranate Margaritas on a late autumn day?
There are multiple recipes out there for Pomegranate Margaritas, but here is the one I used:
4 ounces tequila, 2 ounces Triple Sec, 1/2 cup fresh Pomegranate juice, juice of 1 to 2 limes. In a cocktail shaker, shake with ice, strain, garnish with a lime wedge and serve (for 4, or 2 very thirsty people)
(Note: pomegranate juice freezes well in either ice cube trays for small uses, or in jars. Any boxed wine with a reclosable spout/bag will do, but the larger 5 litre boxes such as the one I used (Franzia), proved to be the best. Don’t put more than a half a dozen small or 3 large pomegranates inside, in order to give space for movement and to avoid blowing up the bag! Also, a great cookbook, which I have in my collection is “Pomegranates“, by Ann Kleinberg, published in 2004 by Ten Speed Press)
Music – “The Albuquerque Turkey” from Thanksgiving Songs That Tickle Your Funny Bone by Ruth Roberts. Released: 2015
NOTE: This is a repost of October 8, 2015
Well, readers, as you probably know, while you will be carousing and carrying on next Monday on Columbus Day, I will be celebrating Thanksgiving. That would be Canadian Thanksgiving, eh? Some have asked, why do Canadianscelebrate Thanksgiving in October and not in November, like civilized people? Is it because in our perpetual goal to maintain our “Canadian-ness”, we just picked a different date to differentiate us from the Americans?
Actually, there are several thoughts on the subject, but the most common one suggests that the reason it occurs earlier than the US Thanksgiving is that because Canada is north of the United States (the Great White North, eh?), the harvest season occurs earlier. However, what most Americans don’t realize is that Canadians have been celebrating Thanksgiving since 1578, when explorer Martin Frobisher, after arriving in Newfoundland (that’s in Canada, eh?) held a ceremony of gratitude after surviving the long, treacherous journey from Europe. The Mayflower and the Puritans didn’t arrive in America until 1621. Another Canadian first!
The official Canadian Thanksgiving day was originally held in April, when, in 1872, Canadians celebrated the recovery of King Edward VII from a serious illness. The date was moved several times from the original April, to November and back to October.
In 1957 the Canadian Parliament finally settled on Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the second Monday in October, where it has remained ever since. The best part about being a Canadian living in the US? I get to celebrate in October and November (perhaps I’m eating more than my quota of turkey, though)
One of the ever-present downsides of having Canadian Thanksgiving in Albuquerque, however, is the difficulty of finding fresh cranberries (not), or even frozen ones in early October. Once or twice, our local Albertson’s did have them in stock, but that must have been a fluke due to an early harvest. This year, I couldn’t even find a whole frozen turkey…. just some piddling little “turkey breast meat” things. I finally had to order one from a local meat/butcher, which cost me substantially more than my traditional Butterball or equivalent. So, now I have my “Albuquerque Turkey”, and even found music to match!
In the spirit of the season, enjoy the gallery of photos of turkey mishaps (not mine!), which I found. It will be your turn in November, so pay attention! But, beware! According to crop experts, there is likely to be a canned pumpkin shortage this fall, caused by heavy rainfall in the Midwest. So, think “Canadian” and run, don’t walk to your local supermarket and grab those cans of pumpkin now!
Music – “The Frim Fram Sauce [Clean]” from The Wartime Years – Wartime Memories [Clean] by Nat King Cole. Released: 2011
Most of us would agree that we eat with the eyes and every good cook and chef knows this. An appetizing presentation on one’s plate goes a long way to stimulating the taste buds and makes one just want to dig in. However, I have one pet peeve (well, actually, more than one, but the rest don’t belong here in a blog about cookbooks and cooking!)
In so many of the more recently published cookbooks in my collection, the food photography is outstanding. There’s nothing like a gorgeous full-page photograph of a succulent dish, glistening, redolent with colour and laid out in a pleasing design to pull your eye (and your stomach) in. But (and here comes my pet peeve), I am so tired of seeing plates of beautiful food ruined with the seemingly ever-present, and evidently ever-popular “smear” of sauce! It seems that almost every chef on The Food Network, The Cooking Channel and the rest of the food-related cooking shows utilizes the “smear” and it’s so pervasive, it’s become downright boring.
According to Chef Daniel Wilson of the Australian restaurant, Huxtable”, the sauce ‘smear‘ is a common technique. He explains: “To do one, place a spoonful of thickish sauce or purée on one side of the plate. Then turn the spoon over and place the back of the spoon into the middle of the sauce, then drag to the other side of the plate, or curve it like a comma in a quick but controlled manner.”
I have seen photographs of foods with plating sauces in lines (parallel or intersecting), droplets (randomly or in a specific pattern), pools, pulls (supposed to look like a shooting star), brushing or painting, foams, etc. For my taste, however, if you’re going to give me a sauce, then GIVE ME A SAUCE, not a measly “smear” on the plate! I want something I can dip into, pour over or smother my food in. I do not want a trace of what might have been, a glancing brush across my plate of something that is barely there.
Music – “Who Stole My Car?” from And In This Corner… by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Released: 1989
In Albuquerque, where on average 128 or more vehicles are stolen per week, I never thought I would be just one more “vehicle theft” pushpin on the crime map. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
On this past Tuesday morning, I set out for one of my favourite thrift stores, where I frequently find a good cache of used cookbooks to add to my collection. I had been having some foot problems, so when I found a parking space in the first row, about 6 spots down, I was pleased that it was so close to the store entrance. As ALWAYS (!) I locked all of the doors and made sure all of the windows were closed: not even open a crack.
After 20 minutes of browsing, and having made my selections, I paid for my treasures and headed out into the parking lot, toting my stack of books. I proceeded in the direction of my car, but wait. The spot where I had parked my 1995 Saturn was now empty.
Not mine, but this is what the “cookbookmobile” looked like. (Photo Credit: http://www.curbside classic.com)
Puzzled, I set my stack of books down on the curb and scratched my head. I knew it was in that spot 20 minutes ago. However, worried that early dementia had set in, I loped around the parking lot searching for my car, all in vain. It was GONE! Not a trace, not even any remnants of broken glass. Just GONE. My heart sank. After calling my spouse for support (and a ride home), I contacted the Albuquerque Police Department, who sent two pleasant officers a relatively short time later to get the details of the whole sordid event. They were not optimistic about its recovery. My spouse and I made additional scours of the parking lot, but there was not a Saturn in sight. I even made one more trek back later in the day, but nothing.
Not my Saturn, but this is frequently what it looked like inside! (Photo Credit: http://www.favim.com)
Prior to this, maybe 4 or 5 years ago, I came out of my former residence one cold February morning to go to work, and noticed that there was dusting of snow on the front passenger side of the car. I also noticed that it was very windy inside the car. The front passenger window had been smashed. Having read an article about vehicle theft in the USA a few weeks earlier, I felt pretty smug at having gotten off so easy. Both my spouse and I have always driven cars with manual transmissions, as we are more comfortable with them. The article I read, however, noted that these vehicles were among the least stolen on average for the simple reason that 59% of those individuals arrested for auto theft are under the age of 21. By common consensus, it seems likely that most in this age group had never even seen a manual transmission, let alone operated one. Thus I was feeling pretty confident that my Saturn was relatively safe from abduction.
I purchased the vehicle when I first arrived in Albuquerque, from Toronto, in 1994 and its been with me ever since. Although cosmetically it looked a little tired, it had never been in an accident or otherwise sustained any damage, but it was clean, in excellent running condition, I had taken good care of it for 22 years, and it was mine.
If my Saturn had been as big as this, I could have collected cookbooks even faster! (Photo Credit www.pinterest. com)
You might be wondering what all of this has to do with my cookbook collection. Well, everything. When I began my first collection back around 1995, I had amassed somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1,500 books, almost all of them transported in my Saturn. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, I felt I needed to part with them in 1999 and donated them to our local “Friends of the Library” (they promptly had a well advertised cookbook sale, at which time my spouse had to practically tie me up so that I wouldn’t attend and buy them all back).
Over the past 7 or 8 years, as I grew my second collection, my little Saturn rightfully earned the title of “cookbookmobile”, repeatedly hauling stacks of books from numerous thrift stores to my humble abode. Books in the front seat, books in the rear seats, books in the trunk, books on the floor, books in bags, books in boxes, loose books, my Saturn was there for me. Now it is gone. It just won’t be the same without my constant and long-serving cookbook-toting companion. Sigh.
Music – “Concentration Camp” from Crime and Punishment (Documentary News Beds) by Stefano Torossi, Federico Arezzini. Released: 2015.
Many of the cookbooks published around 1916and familiar to many housewives, reflected the times: WWI. Cookbooks stressed economizing, not wasting food, limiting the use of certain foods that were essential to assist in the war effort, promoting a vegetable diet and such. Reducing fried foods conserved fats, which were needed for other things. Eating fewer cakes and pastry conserved sugar, which was also essential for the troops. Smaller portions also conserved foods needed elsewhere and buying ‘locally’ (read “farmer’s markets”?) reduced the costs to ship food, therefore saving money needed for the war effort. It should be noted that during World War I, food conservation was strongly encouraged, however, there was no strict program of food rationing (that came later during World War II).
Back cover of “War-Time Cook and Health Book”, 1917
A number of these booklets were produced not only the US government, but by food manufacturers and growers: “Canning and How to Use Canned Foods” by Bitting, A. W. ; Bitting, K. G., published by National Canners Association, Washington, D. C. (1916) and “A Mess Sergeant’s Handbook“, published by Procter & Gamble, 1916. Overseas, “Allied cookery, British, French, Italian, Belgian, Russian” by Grace Clergue Harrison and Gertrude Clergue, was also published in 1916.
“Allied Cookery, British, French, Italian, Belgian, Russian” by Grace C. Harrison and Gertrude Clergue, 1916
One of many wartime canning guides.
Other more recent books reflect war-time: “The War-Time Kitchen: Nostalgic Food and Facts from 1940-1954” by Marguerite Patten, published in 2004; “Post-War Kitchen: Nostalgic Foods and Facts from 1945-1954“, also by Marguerite Patten (2004); “The Eat-Less Neat Book – War Ration Housekeeping” by C.S. Peel, published in 2010 and “Hungry for Peace: How you Can Help End Poverty and War with Food Not Bombs“, by Keith McHenry, 2012.
“Hungry for Peace” by Keith McHenry
“Wartime Kitchen” by Marguerite Patten
However, not all cookbook publications of 1916reflected the chaos of war. Prominent among those published that year included “Boston Cooking-School Cook Book” by Fannie Merritt Farmer, “The Whys of Cooking” by Janet McKenzie Hill, “Cooking for Two“, also by Janet Hill, ” Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing Dish Recipes” by Marion Harris Neil, “The Capitol Cook Book, Adapted from the White House Cook Book, Containing Nearly 1,500 Choice, Tested Household Recipes” and “The Picayune Creole Cook Book: Fifth Edition“.
“The Boston Cooking School Cook Book” by Fannie Merritt Farmer, published in 1916
Historically, considering “traditional” wars (if there is such a thing), the USA has been fortunate in terms of “foreign” attacks on home soil and, fortunately, there have been few: in January, 1916, the Mexican, Pancho Villa, angered over American support of his rivals for the control of Mexico, led an army of about 1,500 guerillas across the Mexican border and launched a brutal raid on the small American town of Columbus, New Mexico. 19 people were killed and the town burned.
The 1916 attack on American soil (Columbus, New Mexico), by Mexican, Pancho Villa.
On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese attached Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with a significant loss of life. Of course, there have been other “scares”, among them the 1961 threat of the “Bay of Pigs”, involving the US and Cuba, which was, thankfully, averted.
According to Timothy McGrath, in 2014, the US was involved in 134 “wars”, “depending on your definition of “war”, on foreign soils. But what is the definition of war? after September 11th, 2001, then US Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS News that the US was “I think war is the wrong terminology and analogy but the fact is that we are engaged in a very significant global effort to curb terrorist activity…I don’t think people need to get into a war fever on this. I think they have to view it as a heightened level of counter terrorist activity“. Whatever.
So, in 2016 and since at least the major events of 2001, the US is now being attacked at home, by “foreigners” or “home-grown foreigners”: the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001, Arlington, VA and Shanksville, PA, also in 2001, Oklahoma City in 1995, the Boston Marathon in 2013, San Bernardino, CA, 2015, and June, 2016, Orlando, FL. This does not include attacks on US embassies abroad or military personnel abroad. Call it “terrorism” or call it “war“, the results are the same. But, what do cookbooks have to do with all of this? Historically, many cookbooks are a sign of the times, as cookbooks published in the USA and Europe during both WW1 and WW2 often reflected.
For for one group of women during WW2 in Terezin (called, in German, Theresienstadt), while imprisoned in a concentration camp, they talked about the “dinners they made” and wrote down many recipes. Their recipes and recollections have been compiled in a book, “In Memory’s Kitchen“, which has been referred to as “the dream cookbook, the cookbook of remembering“, a unique form of Holocaust literature. Through their food memories they defended themselves against oblivion and struggled to fend off their loss of selves. Through the book, they left a trace of themselves and their culture.
“In Memory’s Kitchen: A Legacy from the Women of Terezin” edited by Cara De Silva
Being herded into the concentration camp at Terezin, Czechoslovakia (Photo Credit: http://www.jewishvirtual library.org)
Other cookbooks published in the not too distant past, which reflect the wars in which their authors lived amidst include “The Bosnian Cookbook Project“, the efforts of 11 Bosnian refugees currently living in St. Louis. The women, once strangers, met in a therapeutic group at the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma. The center helps refugee and immigrants who have survived torture and war move toward healing and self-empowerment.
Bosnian women in front of the mural, “Seeking Refuge” on the wall for Survivors of Torture & War Trauma, May, 2013, St. Louis (Photo Credit: Laurie Skrivan)
Recipes aren’t common in the Bosnian culture, as most cooking skills are passed from mother to daughter in hands-on experiences. For Bosnian refugees in St. Louis, specialty foods remain one of the few tangible connections to their lives before the war. The Bosnian Cookbook Project not only committed recipes to paper, but helped in the healing of these women, who had endured so much during the Bosnian wars in the early 1990’s.
“The Gaza Kitchen:A Palestinian Culinary Journey” by Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt, is a cookbook which serves as an introduction to daily life in the ongoing embattled Gaza Strip.
“The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey””
“Share“, published by Women for Women International launched this cookbook to assist women in war-torn countries rebuild their lives.
“Share”, published by Women for Women International
In 2003, as Iraq descended into civil war, Annia Ciezadlo spent her honeymoon in Baghdad. For the next six years, she lived in Baghdad and Beirut, where she dodged bullets and watched Hezbollah commandos invade her Beirut neighborhood. She subsequently wrote “Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War“, which focuses on rituals and food during wartime and her interactions with the people around her during that stressful time. Some recipes are included, although it is more a book about her journey through the hellish time of war and the symbolism of food during that journey.
“Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War”
Interestingly enough, although a number of cookbooks were published in the US during WW1 and WW2, they focused on rationing, saving, economizing and reducing waste. Since that time, I cannot recall any cookbooks published, which reflected what was going on with US involvement on foreign soil, or the loss of American lives in those lands. Of course, there were many cookbooks published by military personnel (or their wives), but even these don’t appear to reflect struggling to maintain a sense of the identity of a culture, nor were they cobbled together by groups of persecuted individuals in such wars.
I searched EYB (www.eatyourbooks.com), by publication year to pull up books in their database, which were published in 2002, after the horrors of September 11, 2001, in which 2,992 Americans lost their lives on home territory. Besides the regular productions by Taste of Home, Sunset, Food & Wine, Williams-Sonoma, Bon Appetit, House & Gardens, Weight Watchers, etc. I didn’t find any “sensitive” cookbooks reflecting the horrors of American involvement in wars anywhere, let alone on American soil. Mostly, it seems, America seems to be obsessed with cookbooks on weight management, eating healthy (low-fat, low cholesterol, no fat, heart healthy, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian, ovolactovegetarian, etc.) Plenty of cookbooks by “celebrity” chefs abound as well: Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Cat Cora, Robert Irvine, Curtis Stone, Emeril Lagasse, just to name a few, not to mention the “old guard”, including Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, James Beard, and more. All America and Apple Pie.
It seems to me that cookbooks published in America really are a reflection of our culture and our times: we are relatively safe and are more or less insulated to a great degree from the horrors that people in other continents and countries endure, some on a daily basis. Although “terrorism” has reared its ugly head in this country, the occurrences are spotty, perpetrated here and there on numerous civilians by evil beings in order to maim, kill and frighten us. While horrific, they are carried out speedily and instantaneously. But, do they stop the daily routine for most of us? Do they gather us together in a common cause to publish a cookbook that will preserve our persecuted culture and loss of life and identity? It doesn’t seem so to me. I hope that we will never have to “band together” in this manner.
Music – “The Collector” from The Collector by Maurice Jarre
Since I began my second cookbook collection, I have slowly and meticulously grown the collection over the period of several years. When the “official” count was conducted in July, 2013, there were 2,970cookbooks, which garnered the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of cookbooks. Now, three years later, “we” are at 5,374 (unofficial).
Just before the BIG count in July, 2013. The subject has altered the photo to protect her identity for reasons, which will become obvious (!)(Original pre-altered photo credit: Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)
“Are you sure she said there were 500 boxes of cookbooks to move? Nobody has that many cookbooks” (Photo Credit: http://www.dreamstime.com)
Terence Stamp (Frederick) in the movie “The Collector” (released in 1965) played a lonely, unbalanced young man who stalks, kidnaps, and imprisons a pretty, young art student, Miranda, played by Samantha Eggar. One day, after following her in his van, Frederick kidnaps and chloroforms Miranda, locking her in the windowless stone cellar that he has prepared with a bed, some furnishings, and an electric heater. Frederick is a butterfly collector and treats Miranda as if she is one of his specimens.
Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar in “The Collector”. He is described as “…lonely & unbalanced” (Photo Credit: http://www.british60s cinema.net)
After struggling to escape, to bargain with him, seduce him, etc. the young Miranda finally has the opportunity to bash Frederick in the head with a shovel. Unfortunately, it was in vain, as Frederick, just wounded, recaptures her and tosses her into the cold, wet cellar (the heater was broken during the fight). After being locked in the cold, wet cellar for 3 days, Miranda dies.
So, what does this say about the collector of cookbooks? Am I lonely? (I don’t think so) Unbalanced? (Certainly not!). Indeed, my cookbooks are prisoners, and are at my whim, however, I do not mistreat or abuse them and they really are in a good place.
A year and a half ago, when the count was approximately 4,600 books, they overwhelmed my small home and forced me into larger quarters (so, who is in control here?) The old saying, “If you build it, they will come” is true. Since moving to my larger home, “they” kept on coming, to the tune of 774 additions since my move in January, 2015. Despite the joy they bring me, and my spouse, who is the recipient of all of those recipes in all of those cookbooks, there are drawbacks. Here is my cautionary tale about collecting cookbooks on a large-scale:
1)Depending on the size of your collection and your devotion (passion? fetish?), they will continue to accumulate in your abode, despite your promises to cut back or stop (When I had about 1,800cookbooks I “promised” my spouse that I would stop when I reached 2,000. Well, we can see that my nose is very long, like Pinocchio).
Like Pinocchio, I told an “untruth”, when I promised my spouse that I would stop collecting cookbooks, when I reached the 2,000 mark (the rest is history) (Photo Credit: http://www.dreams time.com)
2)Eventually, if you are unable to control your addiction,you will have to move. (there is no “Cookbooks Anonymous” that I am aware of, but perhaps I should start a chapter).
3)Moving 4,600 cookbooks is very stressful: on the back, the legs, the hips, and everything in between, including your patience (more so for your spouse) and sanity. You will question why you are doing this and will be unable to come up with a logical answer.
In addition, if you plan to move around Christmas or New Years(which we did), you will be banned from local wine stores for filching hundreds (yes hundreds!) of empty boxes from their loading bays after making dozens of raids. They will blacklist you until after the holiday rush is over, when the need for boxes subsides.
If you plan to move over a holiday, count on being blacklisted from your local wine store for relieving them of too many boxes. (Photo Credit: http://www.123rf.com)
4)You are now faced with an even bigger dilemma. With the extra space in your new abode for more bookcases, you will feel compelled to fill them up, so your collection will grow exponentially, as empty shelves are so sad to look at.
Bookcases not filled with cookbooks are very sad to look at. You feel compelled to fill them up. (Photo Credit: http://www.bobvila.com)
5)People will call you or e-mail you out of the blue, after hearing about your collection and will try to sell you books that you already have, don’t want, or are by cookbook authors you can’t stand. Anyone who checks my “virtual” bookshelves at http://www.eatyourbooks.com (EYB), “manycookbooks” has no cookbooks from Paula Deen, Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, Alton Brown, and with the exception of one as a gift, no others from Emeril Lagasse. We all have our favourites and we all have our pet-peeves in chefs. On the other hand, occasionally, people will call and donate their old unwanted cookbooks to “a good home”, which is very generous.
6)People will think you are nuts. The truth hurts. Some people think you’re secretly a hoarder, but don’t listen to them. Hoarders just hoard to do it and don’t care about the items they hoard. My “hoard” is neat, organized, temperature controlled and not dangerous.
Many people will regard you as nuts for collecting so many cookbooks (ignore them) (Photo Credit: www. enwikipedia.org)
This is hoarding. I do not hoard. My cookbook collection is neat and not dangerous at all (unless a bookcase should tip over) (Photo Credit: http://www.c2cbigruel.com)
7)People will ask you if you actually cook. Now, while it is true that I read cookbooks as other people read fiction, I really do use those recipes.
8) People will make comments such as “well, I have 10,000 cookbooks” so what’s the big deal about her 2013 Guinness World Record of 2,790? I respond by saying it’s like the lottery: you can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket. The good folks at Guinness don’t know you’re out there unless you tell them and follow their rules. So, go for it and stop whining already!
See? Is “Largest Cookbook Collection” any more bizarre than “Most people hugging trees” or “Largest Hokey Pokey? Really? (Photo Credit: http://www.newscastic.com)
9)Despite your careful collecting, organizing and maintaining your collection and cookbook database, you will still be unable to find a book you are looking for to use that “just right” recipe. Eat Your Books is a big help here, but even then, if you can’t find the book on the shelves, you’ll be tearing your hair out.
10)Bookcases and the weight of the books on them will crush your carpets beyond recognition. If you ever plan to move again (!!), also plan on replacing your carpets in your old house and hook up with a good chiropractor (I did both).
If you think this is bad from the weight of a table, think about what 8,000 + pounds of cookbooks can do to it! (I speak from experience) (Photo Credit: http://www.ehow.com)
Regular readers might have come across my post of September 22nd, 2014 “A Vintage Cookbookery Mystery: What do Pachyderms and Cookbooks have in Common ?” Well, the cookbook collection at that time weighed in at approximately 8,900 pounds, the average weight of an African elephant. Now, see what I mean about your carpets! (Photo Credit: http://www.gettyimages.com)
So, there you have it. All the down and dirty on cookbook collecting. Now get out there and check out those thrift stores and don’t be bullied or intimidated by non-cookbook lovers!