OLD FRIENDS AND OLD BOOKS

Let me share with you a few thoughts about old friends and old books.

Years ago—when I was young and cute and the mother of only two little boys instead of four, I was working at Weber Aircraft when I found myself suddenly in need of a babysitter. A friend suggested her neighbor, a woman named Connie, who herself was the mother of three young children, the youngest a boy the same age as my son, Michael. (Remind me to tell you some time of all the mischief those two five-year-old-boys would get into!)

Connie became my babysitter and more importantly, a close friend. She was godmother to my youngest son, Kelly, when he was born. Connie and I shared so many interests that it’s impossible to say which one was the most important—and we shared a love of books. One of our interests focused on the White House and anything Presidential; one time we bought a “lot” of used White House/Presidential books, sight unseen, from a woman somewhere in the Midwest. I think the books cost us about $50.00 each and when they arrived, we sat on the floor divvying them up. We shared a love of cookbooks and began collecting them at the same time, in 1965, although Connie was a vegetarian and leaned more towards cookbooks of that genre. She was also “Southern” and shared with me a love of “anything” Southern. We shared a love of diary/journal type books and books about the Mormons—and religious groups that formed in the United States in the 1800s.

It was because of Connie that I started working for the Health Plan where I would be employed for 27 years—I only went to work “part time for six weeks to help out”, and there I was, years later, retiring the end of 2002 with a pension. My job literally saved my sanity when I went through a divorce in 1985.

My oldest son and her youngest started kindergarten together, and her oldest daughter lived with me for about six months, as a mother’s helper, when she was in high school.

In 1999, Connie died of lung cancer. It seems incongruous that someone so devoted to eating healthy should die of such a terrible disease.

One night, some months later, Connie’s oldest daughter brought three boxes of books to the house, explaining that it had taken a long time to go through her mother’s collections—many of her books were divided up amongst her children and other friends, but there were some that Dawn thought I would especially like.

After Dawn left, I opened the boxes and began laying the books all over the coffee table and chairs. Books about the White House – some I had never heard of before! I wish I could have had them when I was writing about cooking in the White House kitchens year ago–Intriguing titles such as “DINNER AT THE WHITE HOUSE” by Louis Adamic, memoirs of the Roosevelt years, published in 1946, and “DEAR MR. PRESIDENT; THE STORY OF FIFTY YEARS IN THE WHITE HOUSE MAIL ROOM” by Ira Smith with Joe Alex Morris, published in 1949.

There is a Congressional Cook Book – #2 – and a very nice copy of “MANY HAPPY RETURNS or How to Cook a G.O.P. Goose”, the Democrats’ Cook Book which was the inspiration for an article that appeared in the March/April 2000 issue of the Cookbook Collectors Exchange. There were several books about soups that I have never seen before. One was “THE New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook”, another “The ALL NATURAL SOUP COOKBOOK”.

More books about Southern cooking – a few duplicates but others I was unfamiliar with, “RECIPES FROM THE OLD SOUTH” by Martha Meade, a copy of the “GONE WITH THE WIND COOKBOOK” – actually, a booklet – which was given away free with the purchase of Pebeco Toothpaste which is long gone from the drug store scene while “Gone with the Wind” is as famous as ever.

My friend and I drifted apart some years ago, after a difference of opinion –we remained friends but were not as inseparable as we once were. She made other friends and so did I.

But I was deeply touched that some of her treasured books came into my possession. Running my hands across the covers, I imagine that Connie had done the same thing, many times, dusting them, touching them. For in one aspect, if no other, we were kindred souls. We loved books. I still do.

***

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7 responses to “OLD FRIENDS AND OLD BOOKS

  1. That’s a beautiful story.

  2. Love this, Sandy. A beautiful tribute to an old and dear friend, I might say.

  3. nice story. i need help finding a recipe from wok cookery[ceil dyer] deviled steak in pita rolls, on page 88. it fell out of my copy and i was going to make it today. please help if you can mbinstock@aol.com

    • Mark, I found my copy of Wok Cookery & will send the recipe to your email address. However, I am looking at page 88 & there is a recipe for Country Style Ground Beef Stew and another for Steak with Mushrooms.– – however, I checked the index and your recipe is on page 80, not 88. Sending to your email so you will get it faster. but in case anyone else is interested, here is the recipe from Ceil Dyer’s Wok Cookery:

      DEVILED STEAK IN PITA ROLLS

      6 pita rolls
      1 tbsp oil
      1 lb lean ground top round steak
      1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
      1 TBSP Dijon mustard
      1 TBSP prepared mustard
      2 tBSP capers
      2 tsp cornstarh dissolved in 2 TBSP water
      1/4 cup beef broth

      Heat pita rolls and open one side. Heat oil in work over high heat. Add beef and stir fry until no longer pink. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, mustard, horseradish and capers. Stir dissolved cornstarch into beef broth; add to meat & stir until the liquid thickens. Spoon into pita rolls and serve hot. Makes 6 servings.

  4. You’re welcome – feel free to ask me about a recipe anytime. I might NOT have it, but chances are very good that I will. regards, Sandy

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