Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eating by Reading - Cookbook Obsession!

I am a cookbook nut. I have at least a hundred even after weeding some out for our Mother of All Yard Sales last year and it was like ripping pieces of my heart out to negotiate bargains with folks with books I poured over for hours reading.

The next week I was doing the yard sale circuit and picking new used cookbooks up to load on the empty spots on my shelves after reading them.

That’s what I do, you know. I read them. Over and over and over again. I don’t necessarily follow the recipes. I often gain much inspiration, but I enjoy the hints and find out ingredients I may not have the courage to try without doing some research first and this is my first form of action: reading a cookbook from cover to cover. Really. Recipe by recipe, I devour them.

Seems I get this obsession from my grandmother. She was the ultimate cookbook crazed person in my life and really made a hobby of buying many of hers from food labels. She didn’t live with us in a traditional manner, although she had a room of her own at our house. Grandmom lived in the homes of the women for whom she was a live-in caretaker. She came home on Wednesdays and Sundays until she had to retire and move in with us full time.

It was on those Wednesdays and Sundays my family would have to be sure not to place a box of cereal on the table that had an offer for some sort of magical recipe booklet on how to use OatieO’s or something. Campbell’s Soup, a biggie! They continually offered versions of their soup recipe books for $1.95 and 47 labels from cream of chicken, celery or tomato soups.

Since my Grandmom was a baker, she particularly liked the Clabber Girl booklets and Betty Crocker brand tomes. However, that wouldn’t stop her from filling out those tiny order forms for say, Ocean Spray Cranberry cookbooks and purchase seven of them to give away as gifts.

Many of my cookbooks have come from her and she’d put an inscription inside with my whole name, the date and a little kind note.

I have an old Betty Crocker book Grandmom gave me that I simply can’t part with. The spine has deteriorated so badly that all you see is the binding and it has stains and much wear on the hard cover. I used it for making Christmas cookies for many, many years and while I was not a vegetarian, it has a fabulous recipe for Hungarian Goulash that I loved. It is my standby every fall when it’s time to make applesauce cake. It is a single bowl recipe that never fails me and stands up to my limited baking knowledge.
I have an old promotional cookbook she saved from the movie, Gone With the Wind. A piece of cinematic history and the recipes are wonderful!

Today I tend to peruse yard sales and thrift stores for cookbooks and tend to be attracted to those that have some history associated with them or discuss food history or the use of fresh from the garden ingredients – vegetarian, you know – however, the cookbooks don’t have to have all meat free recipes. A true challenge is making the meat recipes vegetarian, but that’s for another blog.

For a few places to check for cookbooks, try these sites:

http://www.jessicasbiscuit.com/ This is for both classic and modern/contemporary cookbooks, and food writing. Thousands and thousands of books here with ethnic, regional and classic books for every cook. Discounts are often deep and one of my first places to go when in search of a particular volume. It is also known as http://www.ecookbooks.com/

For a great site with decent inventory, check out http://www.oldcookbooks.com/. Some are discounted, but most are for collectors looking for that special book.

On the website http://www.vintagecookbook.com/ there is a nice variety, but I enjoy this site especially for the Links section that has a section called Cookbooks as History.

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