Category Archives: FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHORS

THE LANCASTER LIBRARY’S FRIENDS BOOK SALE

The California Lancaster Library’s Friends of the Lancaster Library had its annual book sale this week and I ended up with making two trips and filling 3 of my heavy-duty cloth tote bags both times—I think I spent about $30 altogether and it was money well spent – the Friends of the Lancaster California Library buys computers and other well needed items for the library. In a recent newsletter sent to members such as myself, I learned that several members of the library staff went on a shopping trip to Barnes and Noble recently and were able to spend $20,000 on books and media for various sections of the library. They also added support to programs at the library. Can you imagine?  This is what the re-sale of books was able to do!

From the viewpoint of a book lover—the annual Friends’ sale is like finding candy in the candy store for a fraction of the regular prices—the Lancaster Friend’s book sale is very organized; the books are divided into categories such as children’s/young adult/cooking/biographies and fiction. The fiction category alone is huge but everything, such as mysteries and thrillers, are then divided into alphabetical order. The Friends volunteers spend an entire week getting all the books in order. Hard cover books are priced at a dollar each (but the sale on Fridays is half price day so those hardcover books I like so much will be 50c each. On Saturday, books are a “buck a bag”.

I’ve been to a lot of library’s Friends of the Library book sales in the San Fernando valley for over twenty years—and we donated two SUV’s-full of books to the Burbank Friends when I was moving to the Antelope Valley. After we moved and got settled, I donated six boxes full of more books. When you find yourself with too many books (if such a condition is possible) donating them to a library’s Friends of the Library organization is a worth-while way to go. The only reason I have thinned out some of my shelves was because my companion Bob’s taste in fiction wasn’t the same as mine. I’ve given dozens—maybe hundreds—of the books he enjoyed reading to the Lancaster Library’s Friends.

(I did give some of Bob’s special interests, such as his Mark Twain collection to a close friend who is also a book lover)

The reason I am sharing all of this with you is because maybe – just maybe – you love books and aren’t aware of the various Friends of the Library book sales in your area.

I know that our Lancaster Friends organization always needs volunteers; I think of this all the time, wishing I were in better physical condition to help set up the books. They always need help unpacking and sorting the books too.

This year I happened to find a Myra Waldo cookbook I didn’t have—the Art of Spaghetti Cookery (you might want to read my blog post about Myra Waldo—still one of the most fascinating cookbook authors I have ever encountered). I also found a book—in fine condition—titled HOW THE WORLD COOKS CHICKEN – that I think may be my next cookbook review.

I bought about a dozen children’s books for the children’s section of my garage library—about a dozen spiral-bound local cookbooks that feels like some one’s   cookbook collection. I bought perhaps thirty or forty paperback books with various titles and perhaps twenty or so hard bound books of fiction. Sometimes a title is one of “my” authors that I buy even though I have a copy – I am always trying to make converts out of my friends. (I have converted several friends to Robert Morgan’s books—he is one of my favorite authors—as is Adriana Trigiani; I found an extra copy of one of her early titles, “Big Stone Gap” that I am confident I can give to someone who will read it and like her writing style. I even got my soon-to-be twenty years old granddaughter reading some of Adriana’s books. It’s nice to have extra copies of some of your favorite books to give away when the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes I send some of my favorites to my penpals.

Well, I started this train of thought this morning primarily to share some of my convictions about a library’s Friends of the Library organizations and to let other book lovers know that while you can read a book on a digital device, such as a Book Nook—it isn’t the same as having a real book in your hands to read, to tell friends about, sometimes to share with. I remember when Janet Evanovich’s books first began to be published. I bought the books immediately and then would share them with co-workers. It was so popular that we had to have a list on the blackboard at work, so everyone would know whose turn was next to read the books. I think I may have converted some coworkers into reading.

–Sandra Lee Smith

MORE COOKBOOKS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT

It never fails to amaze me how many cookbooks are “out there” that I didn’t know anything about. Not only that, but some of my cooking magazines publish articles such as “Top 100 COOKBOOKS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS” and “TOP 100 COOKBOOKS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS”—or another one “OLDIES BUT GOODIES” and when I go to put these lists in some kind of date order, I constantly come up short.

I think the article OLDIES BUT GOODIES came from ALLRECIPES—their list, thankfully, is short and the authors suggest these would make good bridal shower or graduation gifts but point out that, if you buy a current JOY OF COOKING cookbook for a bridal shower, it won’t be the same as the original JOY (which I have written about on my blog—that being said, a few years ago, Joy was published in a facsimile edition. You can have a new copy of an old favorite.

The selection of OLDIES BUT GOODIES published by Cooking Light are:

THE SILVER PALATE by Julie Rosso and Sheila Lukins, Workman publishers, $23.

THE ART OF SIMPLE FOOD NOTES, LESSONS AND RECIPES FROM A DELICIOUS REVOLUTION, by Alice Waters, Clarkson Potter, $35

ALL ABOUT BRAISING: THE ART OF UNCOMPLICATED COOKING, by Molly Stevens, W.W. Norton publisher, $35

THE SPLENDID TABLE’S HOW TO EAT SUPPER: RECIPES STORIES, AND OPINIONS FROM PUBLIC RADIO’S AWARD WINNING FOOD SHOW, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift, Clarkson Potter Publishers, $35, and

BAKING FROM MY HOME TO YOURS by Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, publishers, $40.

Well, this list makes me feel like a poor country cousin. Of the five, I am only familiar with THE SILVER PALATE—and I was under the impression that the authors had a falling out—but when I Googled the title, I discovered that Sheila Lukins passed away in 2009, so that may explain my misconception. While on Google, I discovered that THE SILVER PALATE Cookbook celebrated its 25th anniversary, so it’s been around a while. I am fairly certain that I have a copy of THE SILVER PALATE but I have no idea which edition I have—or where to find it.

MY BAD! The bulk of my cookbooks are in categories; if I don’t know which category to put it with, I am pretty much at a loss.

I do have a separate collection of favorite cookbook authors—but if its not one of my favorite cookbook authors it could be anywhere.

I know about The Splendid Table, having listened to the Public Radio’s program but I confess, I’m not an avid listener. That’s all I can say about the list in Allrecipe’s OLDIES BUT GOODIES—but the article tells us that these have stood the test of time and that “while the recipes may not always take the fastest route from raw to cooked, they certainly take the reader from novice to confident home cook in a matter of weeks”

and FYI – many roads lead to Rome; if you don’t want to spend $35 or $40 for one of these cookbooks, unless it’s a wedding or bridal shower present – you know I am an avid Amazon.com follower. They list over 300 copies, from one cent for pre-owned paperback to 44 cents for hardcover They are certain to have a copy that appeals to you and meets your spending requirements.
***
If you start to investigate the magazine COOKING LIGHT’s list of the TOP 100 COOKBOOKS—it’s easy to get lost in lists. They write:
“As we contemplate turning 25, we decided to pick our favorite 100 cookbooks, which we’ll unveil over the next year across 15 categories. We looked at best-seller and awards lists, and talked to editors, authors, and experts. For consideration, books had to be published in the United States since 1987 and either be in print or easily available online. Winners emerged after passionate debate about voice, originality, beauty, importance, and a clear mission or vision. Yes, we tested the recipes. Finally, we asked: To whom would you give this book? (Probably another Cooking Light reader: Our research shows you are omnivorous cookbook consumers.)

There is Cooking Light’s TOP 100 COOKBOOKS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS –
PART unknown
PART 2 unknown
PART 3 HEALTHY COOKBOOKS
PART 4 ASIAN COOKBOKS
PART 5 FRENCH COOKBOOKS

The COOKING LIGHT lists overwhelmed me, I confess. The publishers came up with 15 categories which had to meet the Cooking Light stringent requirements. MY BAD again—I don’t think I was a Cooking Light subscriber throughout all of their categories.

It has taken me almost 800 words to make a point. And not only am I unfamiliar with virtually all of the cookbooks featured in COOKING LIGHT, I don’t plan to get on Amazon.com and start buying them. For, as many of you know, the bulk of my cookbooks are club-and-church titles for that was my specialty in 1965 when I began collecting cookbooks. Back in the day, those were harder to find than they are now—and once the Junior League cookbooks became popular, they became more readily available.

Here, then, are my next five titles for you to think about—and #1 is a Junior League cookbook. Its title is MOUNTAIN MEASURES by the Junior League of Charleston, West Virginia. MOUNTAIN MEASURES was first printed in 1974. By its tenth printing in 1994, over 150,000 copies of MOUNTAIN MEASURES had been printed. Its theme was pioneer women, her recipes, arts and crafts.

I was initially drawn to MOUNTAIN MEASURES because my mother-in-law had been born and raised in Bluefield, West Virginia. I assume her husband, who died of lung cancer in 1957, had also been born there. Her husband, whose name was Paul Sanford or Sanford Paul Smith, went to Cincinnati to make a better living. My mother in law, whose name was Bertha, liked to tell the story of her traveling to Cincinnati by train, and she was so weak when they got there, that she had to be carried, in a quilt, off the train. Aside from poor health, she gave birth to three children – two sons and one daughter. Her youngest son, James, was my husband for 26 years. In his mother’s eyes, he could do no wrong. And despite her poor health, she lived to be ninety-something years old.

I was often tried, beyond tolerance, to put up with the family’s (particularly his mother’s) belief that Jim was too frail to be a proper husband much less hold down a full time job—as I write this, he is going on 78 years old and still going strong. He remarried about ten years ago.

Despite our being at cross purposes most of the time, I learned how to make biscuits and gravy from my mother in law, the proper way to make cornbread and beans (always pinto beans) and other “down home” favorites.

From MOUNTAIN MEASURES I found a lot of later day recipes, such as Crystallized Ginger Cream Cheese Dip, Parmesan-on-Rye Canapes, one of my favorite recipes – Pickled Shrimp which is so easy to make up in advance, and several recipes for corn bread – Double Corn Corn Bread and Grandmother Kiser’s Corn Bread. There are also recipes for Corn Pone, Hush Puppies and Johnny Cake, Dr. Maggie’s Old Fashioned Spoon Bread and Cornbread Dressing. There is an 1890 recipe for smoked turkey and a recipe for Leather Britches (string beans that had been dried) and many more recipes sure to become your family favorites.

So MOUNTAIN MEASURES is one of my favorites and ranks #1 on this list. Pre-owned copies are available for just under $3.00 each on Amazon.com. Not sure if this is one you need to own, you might check Amazon.com for a copy published by Quail Ridge Press. One of the features of Quail Ridge Press is that they provide an index of the cookbooks featured in each of their cookbooks, along with a photograph of each of the featured cookbooks, most with ordering information. **
The next one I like and is #2 has the unusual title of A TWISTER IN THE KITCHEN, by Chris Snyder. The author says “the name of this cookbook is a little odd so I figured it deserved an explanation. I love to cook. Even more than that, I love to cook for other people. Elizabeth used to tell her boyfriends, “My mom has a need to feed”” Strangely enough, having the need to feed others is actually a symptom of an eating disorder. Go figure…” (and everyone who knows me well knows I have a need to feed, too.

I think it’s related to a need to keep a pantry (and refrigerator and freezer) packed. My daughter in law, Keara, and I had a discussion about this—which she shares with me. It has to do with growing up in a home where there was never enough to eat. We had meals—but there was seldom enough for seconds or leftovers. In my mother’s kitchen, when I was growing up, you also had to ask the others if they wanted a bit of leftover peas or corn or whatever. If someone else wanted some, it had to be shared. My best example of what fed seven people (five children and two adults – this was before Susie & Scott were born) – my mother would feed everyone with one can of salmon that was 14 or 15 ounces, out of which she made salmon patties that may have been mostly crushed crackers than fish. Meatloaf was the same – a pound of meat had about a loaf of bread incorporated into the mix. We didn’t know what real meat tasted like until we became adults and moved out of the house.
But getting back to A TWISTER IN THE KITCHEN, Chris uses one of my favorite phrases—she continues, “Anyway, I digress. When I begin to cook, “ she writes, “I make sure the kitchen is very clean, neat and tidy before I begin and my goal is to finish one task, clean up and then begin another. However, its kind of like binge drinking. Once I get started, it’s like a whirlwind, or…a twister has been released in the kitchen. It begins with a slow building storm and soon I’m in such a flurry that I can barely have anyone in the same room with me as I dash from one location to the next, spoons dripping ingredients flying and pots boiling over. It’s almost like a trance I slip into. I am completely unaware of my surroundings. I’m just creating a path of destruction wherever I turn…” (this is where Chris lost me—because when I cook, I am cleaning up after myself as I go along.)
She goes on to say the food does turn out great, but when she puts the food into the refrigerator and turns to examine the kitchen, it’s an enormous mess.

This is not how I cook and when I put a meal for the family on the table, all there is to clean up are the plates and serving bowls, pots and pans. I prefer to clean up the kitchen by myself because I am very picky about the process – silverware and glasses first, then plates, then pots and pans. I don’t have a dishwasher and it’s unlikely I will ever own one; my kitchen counter is the same counter put in with the house when it was built in 1955. I need a couple more inches to put in a dishwasher(per my son who works on appliances and knows these things).

For that matter, I don’t think my 1955 kitchen plumbing would tolerate a dishwasher. (When I had a repairman here to fix the sink, he observed that it was all “the original” from 1955. Not a good sign.

But getting back to A TWISTER IN THE KITCHEN, granted that Chris and I have nothing in common when it comes to keeping our kitchens clean; that being said, I think we are kindred spirits when it comes to recipes. I was pleased to find a recipe for pomegranate martini—a very simple recipe, at that, and Hot Dip For an Army can be made in your largest crockpot. The author notes that leftovers—if you have any—can be frozen and reheated later. I like the sound of BLT Dip too. Corny Bean Salsa sounds like a winner too. Her recipe for Honey Roasted Pretzels sounds like something I will make up—it calls for 9 cups of mini pretzels and I have 3 bags of them on hand from a previous addiction to Hidden Valley Ranch pretzels, a recipe from my friend Sylvia. These and many other mostly easy to fix recipes will keep you busy—either reading or cooking. I was unable to find A TWISTER IN THE KITCHEN on either Amazon.com or Alibris.com—so if you happen to find a copy at a book sale or where ever, snap it up. ***

I have referred to the BEST OF THE BEST cookbook series from time to time –The concept was an unusual one and highly successful. Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley set out to write a cookbook about all fifty states—for instance, I am looking at BEST OF THE BEST FROM OHIO and it is #3 on my favorite five list.

The two women traveled to all fifty of the states (one at a time, presumably) and once they were in a State – such as Ohio – they set out to collect as many church and club cookbooks from that state as they could find—and then would choose what they considered the finest from a collection of those cookbooks. The recipes would be collated into a cookbook, along with an index and a catalog of contributing cookbooks—and, when possible, ordering information for those cookbooks. When the Best of the Best first began publishing their cookbooks, my friend Mandy and I were not satisfied just to buy the Best of the Best cookbook—we began ordering many of the church and club cookbooks that became a part of the BOTB cookbook. The problem with collecting cookbooks is that the collector is never satisfied with just the cookbooks – we are addicted to cookbook lists or cookbook catalogs (I can spend hours reading cookbook catalogs such as the ones Edward R. Hamilton publishes.

I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and consequently, have searched for Ohio/Cincinnati cookbooks whenever I am visiting family and friends—one year when I took the children to Cincinnati to spend the summer at my parents’ home, I bought so many cookbooks that we packed them into boxes. We took the Greyhound Bus back to California because there was no restriction on the weight of your baggage. A redcap assisting my husband at the train station in downtown Los Angeles inquired “what you got in here, lady? Fort Knox?” to which I replied “No, just cookbooks….lots of cookbooks.” Fortunately, at the time we had a station wagon and all the boxes fit into the back of the car. Those summer trips to Cincinnati with my sons—and trips downtown to find used book stores with my kid brother who was a teenager at the time—are some of my favorite memories. For, when it comes to collecting books – whether they are cookbooks or biographies, fiction novels or history—part of the joy is in the search and finding something special.

You can find BEST OF THE BEST FROM OHIO on Amazon.com new for $7.33 or pre-owned starting at 09 cents (bearing in mind, shipping will cost you $3.99 for a pre-owned book). Still, a little over $4.00 for a cookbook like this one is a good deal. I think I have all of the BEST OF THE BEST COOKBOOKS. I know that Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley have gone on to compile second editions of some of their cookbooks—for instance, there are two of Texas and two of Oklahoma. There may be others by now that I am not aware of. The BEST OF THE BEST series are amongst my favorite cookbooks. **

That being said, BEST OF THE BEST FROM OREGON is also a favorite and is #4 on this favorite five list.

I acquired an Oregon penpal back in 1974; we are still going strong forty years later. They have visited me (Bev and her husband LeRoy) more often than I have visited them. In 1978 we had a camper and my husband and children—and I—visited their farm in Oregon for the first time.

I didn’t make it back to Oregon until 2007, when we spent one day visiting lighthouses, and again in 2012. I had planned to visit them this year, 2014, and even had my plane tickets purchased—when an unexpected illness knocked me for a loop. I was in the hospital for 2 weeks and recuperating for the next three months.

Blackberries grow in wild abundance in Oregon. My friends have blackberries growing wild across the back of their property. Bev would bring me bags of frozen puree of blackberries or whole frozen blackberries. Blackberries have become my favorite fruit, whether for making jam or putting into recipes.

BEST OF THE BEST FROM OREGON offers recipes for blackberry apple pie, blackberry butter, blackberry dumplings, blackberry roll and blackberry apple crunch—but if you aren’t as crazy about blackberries as I am, you may want to try a recipe for rosemary-blue cheese potatoes, zucchini patties or zucchini fritters, asparagus chicken or cranberry chicken.

If you travel to Oregon (and not just drive through it on I-5, you will find, as noted in the Preface, “Home in the mountains, home in the plains..…stretching majestically across the state’s north/south expanse, the Cascade Mountains, create two separate regions, offering a dramatic topographical diversity to the state’s landscape…”

When I was there in 2007, we drove over the Cascades –and found it snowing; we drove out of the snow to nice sunny weather on the other side. The authors of BEST OF THE BEST FROM OREGON also note that east of the Cascades are highly productive farmlands overflowing with potatoes, carrots, etc. My friend Bev makes good use of all the fruit and vegetables they produce; she cans everything that isn’t nailed down.

During my 2012 visit she was making homemade V8 juice upon my arrival —so we went out and bought me a case of quart jars so we could make a batch of V8 juice for ME—and they brought it with them when they visited me in January. But tomatoes aren’t the only thing she cans—and that weekend, her family came to celebrate our joint birthdays and make apple cider. (I made a batch of Cincinnati Chili to feed her family on that occasion).

There’s something for everyone in BEST OF THE BEST FROM OREGON. It’s an excellent go-to cookbook for something new and tasty for you to try.

My fifth (and #5 on this list of favorite cookbooks) is a Gooseberry Patch cookbook. If you aren’t familiar with the series of Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, you are really missing out. I think I counted over 60 titles yesterday; a lot of them are Christmas topics but there are many other titles as well.

I am referring today to their cookbook DINNERS ON A DIME—it’s one of my favorites because of all the thrifty inspired recipes. I submitted a recipe to Dinners on a Dime and it was accepted for publication. If you submit a recipe and they accept it – you receive a free copy when the books are published.

The recipe I submitted was my Aunt Annie’s Chicken Paprika. I even found one for Roosevelt Dinner that was the contributor’s mother in law’s famous recipe. She had found Roosevelt Dinner in a newspaper many years ago. What caught my attention is that this contributor lives in Ravenna, Ohio, where my brother Bill also lives.

But DINNERS ON A DIME offers a great deal more than just my aunt’s chicken paprika and/or someone named Amy’s Roosevelt Dinner. The first chapter is devoted to Shoestring Suppers but there are Hearty & Thrifty Soups, Cent-sational Sides. Slow-Cooker Savings, Penny-Pinch Pantry Staples and a lot more. I think DINNERS ON A DIME is about the 6th Gooseberry Patch cookbook that I received free—you can submit some of your favorite recipes to http://www.gooseberrypatch.com – then wait and see if you get a letter congratulating you for your entry being chosen.

Gooseberry Patch is also on Facebook, if you are interested. I love the Gooseberry Patch cookbooks so much that I often give them for Christmas or birthday presents. I misspoke on my count of the spiral bound Gooseberry Patch cookbooks – I also have about a dozen oversized books, mostly dedicated to the holidays. You can order their books directly from their website – for example, DINNERS ON A DIME is listed on Amazon.com for $11.53, new, or $4.26 also new, or starting at 73 cents from a private vendor—but prepare yourself, when you see all the other titles published by Gooseberry Patch.

That concludes five of MY favorite cookbook titles you may not know about!

–Sandy

OLD FRIENDS AND OLD BOOKS

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

Years ago—when I was young and cute and the mother of only two little boys instead of four (1965, actually), I was working at Weber Aircraft when I found myself in need of a new 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.

Those two five year olds could get into more mischief than half a dozen other children their age. Once I came home to find Connie attempting to put together half a dozen bicycles and tricycles. Michael and his buddy Sean had taken apart all the bikes and trikes—to see how they worked, I think—but they were careful to keep all the parts in one pile. What one five year old didn’t think of doing, the other one came up with. Another time I came home to hear they had painted circles on the fences and whatever else they came in contact with.

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, books about the White House, Southern cookbooks and religious groups that formed in the United States in the 1800s. These were just a few of our mutual interests.

It was because of Connie that I started working for the Health Plan where I was employed for 27 years, until I retired in December of 2002.—I only went to work “part time for six weeks IN 1977 to help out”, and there I was all those years later, casting an eye towards retirement and pleased that I had a pension. My job literally saved my sanity when I went through a divorce in 1985.

Our sons started kindergarten together, and Connie’s oldest daughter lived with me for about six months, as a mother’s helper, when she was in high school.

More than a decade ago, on June 29, 1998, Connie died of lung cancer. It seemed incongruous that someone so devoted to eating healthy should die of such a terrible disease. In 1971, Connie and I quit smoking together, at the same time. I never went back to smoking but a year later, Connie began smoking again. It was hard to understand—why would you take up something again that had been so hard to give up in the first place? (I don’t have the answer to this).

One night, Connie’s oldest daughter brought three boxes of books to the house, explaining that it has 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 she left, I opened the boxes and began laying 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 “WHAT’S COOKING IN THE WHITE HOUSE KITCHEN”. 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 was 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. There were several books about soups that I had never seen before another subject I have written about previously, first for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, and again on my blog. 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. (The first time I saw “Gone with the Wind” was with Connie.

My best friend and I drifted apart some years ago, after a difference of opinion –we remained friends but were not as inseparable as we once had been. She made new friends and so did I. But it was she who urged me to return to work in 1977, for which I remain forever grateful.

But I am deeply touched that some of her treasured books have come 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.

Old books and old friends have a lot in common. As I have grown older, some of my dearest friends have passed away—but their books, now mine, remain treasures in my collection of books.

–Sandra Lee Smith

CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM

Christmas on the Farm, edited by Lela Nargi, is a collection of favorite recipes, stories, gift ideas and decorating tips from The Farmer’s Wife. First published in 2011 by Voyageur Press, it is a beautiful hardbound book to add to your favorite Christmas collection.

In the Introduction, Lela Nargi writes “The Farmer’s Wife (which is enjoying a resurgence of popularity for the past few years—Nargi has been publishing a number of “Farmer’s Wife” cookbooks, all available to check over on Amazon.com)– was originally a monthly magazine published in Minnesota between the years 1893 and 1939. In an era long before the Internet and high-speed travel connected us all, the magazine aimed to offer community among hard-working rural women, to provide a forum for their questions and concerns, and to assist them in the day-to-day goings-on about the farm—everything from raising chickens and slaughtering hogs, to managing scant funds and dressing the children, to keeping house and running the kitchen.”

“Christmas was the be-all, end-all celebration on the farm—more than Easter, New Year’s or even Thanksgiving,” she writes. “This quintessential holiday of giving and togetherness gave rise to pages and pages on the topic in every December issue of the magazine. And these pages weren’t just about food—although recipes for all the various components of dinners and parties and holiday gift baskets certainly abounded. The magazine’s experts expounded on the best and latest ways to decorate home, tree, and parcels. Its monthly columnists devoted themselves to the matters of home-made gifts for family and friends, and games to be played to festively capture the spirit of the season. Its readers wrote in with tales of Christmases in other lands, in times gone by. Its editors rhapsodized in and out of two wars, on the value of peace and compassion.”

“In short,” Lela explains, “The Farmer’s Wife” presented its own opinion—both grand and humble, broad and minute, and always, always bearing in mind the idea of community among its readers—about the ways in which Christmas should be celebrated…”

CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM presents, with nostalgia, a way of life that has to a certain degree disappeared from the American landscape and lifestyle. The book starts off with the Christmas, 1920 issue of the magazine (you’d have to be a mentally alert ninety-three year old citizen to remember that decade);

Lela writes, “To those who live in the land of snow and Christmas trees, the twenty-fifth of December blends all its associations with the gleam of snow on hills and fields and woods, the fragrance of fir and pine, the leaping light of Christmas hearthfires. But Christmas is a world-wide day and the environment determined by climate is but an external.

They tell us, too, that ‘Christmas on the Farm’ is the only ideal Christmas. The Farmer’s Wife carries its Christmas message into all zones, from Florida, to the frozen North and from its own home in the corn belt to the edges of the continent where the oceans roar out their accompaniment to the carols of the good, glad day. It is a message of love, and faith and cheer as befits a Christmas message of love, because love is always the winner of faith, because without that staunch quality, nothing would ever be accomplished, of cheer, because when we have love and faith, the flame of cheer follows as a  matter of course—as light follows the burning torch….”

I may have been born in the wrong period of time—as I read and typed the above, it crosses my mind that this message would be “politically incorrect” in the world we live in today. You can’t even say “Merry Christmas” – you have to say “Happy Holidays”—and let me say that I say MERRY CHRISTMAS at every opportunity in December. But I digress.

Curiously, in 2010, I wrote a series of poems for a poetry group I belonged to, under the umbrella heading of “An American Childhood” and I will share one of these poems with you. Mine were written before CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM was published, so I’m not stepping on anybody’s toes.

Christmas Dinner in 1929 presented its readers with an illustration of the proper way to set your table and follows with an assortment of beverages to serve your guests—from Fruit Punch taken from the January 1913 issue of The Farmer’s Wife to a Cranberry Cocktail from the 1934 issue and including a November 1937 recipe for Cranberry Gingerale Cocktail. To go along with the drinks are an assortment of hors d’oeuvres starting with Candied Nuts from the January, 1913 issue of The Farmer’s Wife but includes recipes for a relish plate (November, 1934) to a Cheese and Cracker Tray (also from the November, 1934 issue (in recognition, perhaps, for readers who might not know where to begin with cheese and crackers or preparing a relish plate) but offers as well a recipe for Cheese Puffs ((July, 1922) or pinwheel cheese biscuits (October 1926)—or, to my amusement, a 1919 Pigs in Blankets recipe…a recipe that is updated and still around 94 years later (think: Pillsbury crescent rolls and hot dogs cut into smaller sizes to fit the dough)—it makes me wonder if the Pillsbury Crescent rolls with hot dogs was a Bake-Off recipe way back when! There are also several recipes for oyster hors d’oeuvres which at one time were enormously popular—not so much today.

What follows next is a selection titled Table Talk, which presents inexpensive recipes for Yuletide Dishes; Main Courses featuring roast goose roast duck and turkey recipes, an impressive chart of all the correct dishes to serve with your selection of a holiday bird makes it easy for the cook to plan the entire meal easily. There are recipes for baked spiced ham, crown roast of lamb—even a curried rabbit (not my favorite meat but certainly had to be a familiar sight on the farmland table, especially during hard times. Under a chapter titled Smorgasbord, taken from the December, 1937 issue of the Farmer’s Wife, is a recipe for meat balls for your smorgasbord, followed by many still great side dishes, from a French Dressing for salad (October, 1911 issue of the Farmer’s Wife)—over a hundred years ago—as well as a Sweet Cream dressing for salad published in 1934, and red dressing for head (Iceberg) lettuce from November, 1924—but all of the salad recipes would be doable today, most for a fraction of the cost, considering that most of the recipes in Christmas on the Farm cover decades of the Great Depression plus two world wars. –the exception might be a recipe for Lobster salad—but it might interest you to know that lobster and other shell fish were affordable throughout World War II. And these were items that were not rationed during the war. And, most of the vegetable and salad recipes were made up of items grown on the farm—Glazed Carrots from the January 1931 issue of the Farmer’s Wife, Creamed Spinach from the May, 1911 issue. These are just a sampling of the recipes found in Christmas on the Farm.

The Desserts found in Christmas on the Farm are mostly simple, inexpensive such as January, 1910’s Lemon Floating Island or November, 1926’s Chocolate Blanc Mange I, a Prune Souffle fro October, 1923 or a Prune and Raisin Pudding from November, 1926, Apricot Whip from February, 1919 or a January 1911 Cranberry Pudding. Still under Desserts is an interesting story  from 1937 titled “She Sells Fruitcake”, a story that began fifteen years earlier with a  young housewife who built a career empire making and selling fruitcakes. There are recipes for fruitcakes and its cousin the Steamed Pudding plus an Eggless Fruit Cake that was made up mostly of spices, raisins and coconut—certainly a welcomed recipe in January of 1913. You’ll also enjoy reading “A Farm Woman’s Christmas Cakes” which appeared in the December, 1925 issue of the Farmer’s Wife.  There are also recipes for candy and cookies, too—candy recipes that are still popular today—toffee and fudge, creamed walnuts and maple pralines from December, 1916—plus many more.

For the farmer’s wife with little cash resources, there are oodles of directions for gifts she could make—even directions for building “Dolly a House” that was published in December, 1921. There are also directions for making many other gifts, however.

By the way, you will love the 20s,-30s,40s illustrations throughout the book. It’s really like stepping back in time with CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM.  Who among all of us would have kept the monthly magazines published throughout those decades? (Apparently, someone did!)

Christmas on the Farm is a beautiful holiday book with a most attractive red cover and is sure to please anyone who buys a copy.  I was lucky enough to receive a copy from my penpal, Betsy, in Michigan—but I checked with Amazon.com; they have several paperback copies starting at $11.98 but listing a new PB copy for $15.27.   Alibris.com has copies starting at $11.98.  If you can get one of the hardbound copies, go for it – it will hold up to years of thumbing through to find your favorite recipes or new ones for you to try.  I’m looking forward to trying some of these recipes this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas, 2013!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

As promised, the following is one of my 2010 poems from a collection I called “An American Childhood”.

WHEN IT’S CHRISTMAS ON THE PRAIRIE

By Sandra Lee Smith, 2010

Come winter on the prairie and as far as you can see,

Snow makes a great white blanket across the endless prairie sea,

Pa gets the big sleigh from the barn and greases up the blades,

To make the pulling easier for the horses, on the grades.

 

Mama takes out the oldest blankets, that help to keep us warm,

Pa checks the sleigh most carefully, to keep us all from harm.

Then snug in mittens, scarves and coats that mama made from wool,

Pa takes us every morning to our little country school.

He stays a while to help our teacher fill the old wood bin,

She thanks him with a curtsy, brings out the gentleman in him.

We students hang our coats and things in the cloak room at the back,

And teacher claps her hands and says, “Since Christmas’s coming that—

 

Today we’re going to decorate a tree that kind Mr. Mc Clune

Went up north to get for us and will bring it to us soon,

For now we’ll all make popcorn garlands and chains of colored paper,”

And from a box she lifts up a silver star—nothing had escaped her.

 

No reading, writin’, rithmetic, no studying today!

We’re going to decorate a tree and enjoy a day of play;

On Christmas Eve our families will come to see the tree,

And Santa will come and give us each a bag of candy, free!

 

“Tain’t no Santa,” One of the big boys in the back row shouted out,

The little girls in front began to shriek and cry and pout;

My younger sis is with the little girls that were in tears.

I knew I had to do something to take away their fears.

 

You take that back!” I said with fists clenched, ready for a fight,

When teacher intervened and said “Now, boys, this isn’t right. 

On Christmas we all celebrate the birth of Christ the King,

George, you say you’re sorry and we’ll all forget this thing.”

 

Then teacher told a story, while we cut and pasted rings,

As we made a garland for our tree, she told of many things,

Of the birth of one small baby, in a manger far away,

And how folks far away and near remember Him on this day.

 

She told about Saint Nicholas who filled the wooden shoes,

Of all the good Dutch boys and girls to remember this Good News,

She said how now, we all remember Jesus in this way,

And all of us remember Him on every Christmas Day.

 

The big boy, George, he was abashed, and said he didn’t mean it,

But he had no ma or pa and no Santa Claus would visit;

He lived with one old aunt who had no time for foolishness,

No time for trees or holly, for Santa Claus or Christmas.

 

On Christmas Eve our families came and crowded in the room,

We’d cleaned our desks, the blackboard, and candles chased off gloom,

Then Santa came and brought a sack, and we all lined up to get

A little bag of peppermints, a night we’d not forget.

 

When all the candy had been passed out, Santa stood upright

And asked, “I wonder if a boy named George is here tonight?”

George came forward and I noticed that his face had turned beet red;

As he said “I’m sorry, Santa, I really didn’t mean to be so bad.”

 

“Oh, I know that!” Santa laughed, “Why, I know what’s good and true,

There’s just one gift I have to give, and George this one’s for you!”

And from his burlap bag, he reached and handed George a box;

George opened it and all of us heard him gasp with shock;

 

Inside the box there was a very fine Swiss army knife;

George’s eyes lit up with wonder, “I’ve wanted one all my life,

But,” he said, “I never told this to a single living soul!

Santa patted him on his shoulder and said “Oh, George, I know!”

 

We all shed tears and teacher said “Let us sing a song of praise,

That we all remember this night all our living days.”

And so we sang, then hurried home in the cold night with elation,

Before we left, I heard my ma extend a special invitation.

 

George said he didn’t think his aunt ever would agree,

Ma said “I won’t take no for an answer; dinner is at three.”

And so next day, George and his aunt and our teacher came for dinner,

That all of us told mama was so fine and sure a winner.

 

In the parlor there were presents for sis and George and me,

Scarves and mittens ma had stitched and it was plain to see

That no one had done this much for George in all his sorry life,

“Scarves and mittens!” George exclaimed, “And a fine Swiss Army knife!”

 

We all sipped hot tea with cookies ma had baked, just for this day,

And our guests all carried home tins of cookies wrapped so gay,

Before we went to bed that night, I heard my mother whisper,

“You dear old Claus, I do believe, I’d like to kiss your whiskers!”

 

Years later, when my pa was old frail and could not see,

I ventured then to ask him what had long been bothering me,

How could you know,” I asked him, “About George and that army knife?”

Because,” he said, “I wanted one, most of my own life.”
George married my kid sister and they have a bunch of boys;

Their farm is off in Kansas and sis tells me it’s a joy,

For George just loves his rowdy bunch, for them he’d give his life,

And every one of those young boys owns a fine Swiss Army knife.

–Sandra Lee Smith, 2010

 

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE COOKBOOKS

The first cookbook I want to bring to your attention is THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK, which features the best single recipes from each year in Gourmet magazine, from 1941 to 2009. The book was published by Conde Nast Publications in 2010 and is offered by Amazon.com with a wide range of price variations – if I remember correctly, I might have bought my copy about a year ago and I didn’t pay very much for the book – and probably got free shipping as I go for free shipping whenever possible.

Gourmet magazine’s demise also was a factor—since we won’t be reading the magazine anymore, it seemed logical to me to read whatever books are published under Gourmet’s umbrella.

In acknowledgements, we learn something about the birth of the Gourmet Cookie Cookbook—that it took a few people who were relatively new to Gourmet to realize what an extraordinary resource* (italics mine) the editors had. Several editors came up with the idea of featuring the best cookie recipe from each year of the magazine’s existence.

They tell us “It was not until executive food editor Kemp Minifie began trolling through the archives that we really understood that this was more than a fabulous collection of cookies; it also told a very American story.  It was no accident that every one of us found excuses to spend time in the kitchen while test kitchen director Ruth Cousineau—who threw herself boy and soul, into baking the cookies—was immersed in the project. These cookies were not only delicious; they are also a fascinating window into history that none of us wanted to miss..”

And as wonderful as the cookies were all by themselves, the editors say, “it took the passion and inspiration of creative director Richard Ferretti, associate art director   Kevin DeMaria, and photographer  Romulo Yanes to make them dance. Their vision has made this book a delight to look at…”

They also confess that in the end, the book would not have been possible without Gourmet’s devoted readers, who sent their cookies, their recipes, and their comments, for so many years.  “This book belongs to you,” they conclude, “and we thank you for it.”

For those of us who cannot cook or bake without a visual idea of what the cookie (or cake, dessert, appetizer or prime rib dinner) should look like—the table of contents will make you swoon. There is a delightful photograph of each year’s chosen winner, starting with 1941.

*I often muse longingly on that extraordinary resource buried – wherever the Gourmet magazines and accompanying research material are now stored, while wondering what editor Ruth Reichl is doing now. I was a subscriber for many years – then let my subscription lapse – because I didn’t feel that the magazine spoke to me any more. When Ruth Reichl joined Gourmet’s editorial staff – I re-subscribed – in part because I cherish and love her books, in part –because whenever she writes something, I feel like she is speaking to me. That is, I think, a gift—and one I try to impart on the readers and subscribers to my blog, Sandychatter. When someone writes to me and tells me I am speaking to them – I feel that I have learned something precious from Ruth Reichl – as well as the other cookbook authors  whose work I admire – Marion Cunningham, M.F.K. Fisher, and Jean Anderson, to name a few.

In the Introduction to The Gourmet Cookie Book, the editors tell us “Buy a cookie, and it’s just a bite of sugar, something sweet to get you through the day. Bake a cookie, on the other hand, and you send an instant message from the moment you measure out the flour. Long before they’re done, the cookies become a promise, their endlessly soothing scent offering both reassurance and solace. And even the tiniest bite is powerful, bringing with it the flavor of home. for anyone who is comfortable in a kitchen, a warm cookie is the easiest way to say I love you.

Somewhere in the back of our minds, we all know this. It is the reason we bake cookies at Christmas, why we exchange them as gifts. Not for nothing do we pack up our cookies and send them off to our far flung families. Like little ambassadors of good will, these morsels stand in for us. There are few people who don’t understand, at least subconsciously, how much a cookie can mean…”

But until the Gourmet editors began to work on THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK, it had never occurred to them to look at history through a cookie prism. When they decided to select the best cookie from each of Gourmet’s sixty-eight years and became captivated, not surprisingly, by the language of cookies, so they printed the recipes as they originally appeared. In the early years, they write, the recipes were remarkably casual—as anyone who has collected cookbooks for decades would know.  (Church and club recipes from decades ago were especially casual). Write the editors “[it was a kind of] mysterious shorthand that assumes every reader was an accomplished cook who needed little in the way of guidance…”  “Bake in a moderate oven until crisp” is a classic instruction, they tell us.  They thought it interesting to watch as numbers crept into the recipes in the form of degrees, minutes and cups…”

[if I am not mistaken, it was Fannie Farmer who standardized recipes with measurements back in the day when she had a cooking school].

Following the Introduction, one of the most interesting I have ever read, there are two pages of Recipe Tips, with good suggestions—some that even I didn’t know.

The first chapter is the 1940s,  in which the editors write, “1941 was an unlikely time to laundry an epicurean magazine. War was looming along with the possibility of food rationing, but Gourmet’s founder. Earle MacAusland, convinced that soldiers who had spent time in Europe and Asia would be loath to come back to meat loaf, saw an opportunity.  Little wonder that Gourmet, published from a penthouse at the Plaza Hotel, concentrated on sophisticated fare. Cookies did not figure into the equation and the few recipes that the magazine published leaned towards old-fashioned American classics like wafers and sugar crisps, with a couple of European treats…”

Check out “Cajun Macaroons”, a crisp, chewy little cookie introduced in an early 1941 issue in which we also discover that Louis P. DeGouy became Gourmet’s Chef.  (I wrote about Chef DeGouy in Sandychatter – he was chef at the Waldorf Astoria for 30 years and was one of the founders of GOURMET magazine; see TRACING THE LIFE OF LOUIS P. DE GOUY posted in april, 2011 Sandychatter blog post. I am frequently nonplussed by the number of famous cooks/chefs/cookbook authors who—although prominent in their day—have all but disappeared from our culinary landscape – sls)

The next featured cookie is an icebox treat—the war was on and sugar was rationed. Actually, it was the first item to be rationed.  Wanting to do its patriotic bit, Gourmet magazine printed an article showing readers how to use honey in place of sugar. [Although one reason sugar was rationed was due to it being made in Hawaii—which, as we know, was bombed in Pearl Harbor at the onset of World War II, but it was also an ingredient used in making gun powder!  I discovered this when doing research of an article of mine, called HARD TIMES).

Gourmet provides us with a cookie called Honey Refrigerator Cookies which does contain a small amount of brown sugar but also contains half a cup of Honey.  This is followed by a recipe called Scotch Oat Crunchies; Gourmet Magazine and everybody else were trying various recipes using oatmeal and this recipe, which produces a small round cookie that you pair up with your choice of filling – dates, raisins, figs or whatever.  I think I will have to make a batch of these. They sound wonderful and I’m speculating that they would travel well if you send cookies to relatives or a favorite serviceman or woman. Another good traveler, advises Gourmet, is a cookie called Cinnamon Sugar Crisps, from Gourmet’s entire column called “Cookie Jar”.

The first postwar cookie to appear in Gourmet is one called Date Bars. Write the editors, “The recipe appeared in one of the many articles about Katish, a remarkable Russian cook who had many fans including M.F.K. Fisher who comments “I think I have copied every one of her recipes as they’ve appeared…”—and OMG, now I have discovered yet another great cook who appears in one of the Modern Library Food books published by Ruth Reichl in 2001 and containing an introduction from Marion Cunningham. The book was originally published in 1947, written by Wanda Frolov, under the title, “KATISH, OUR RUSSIAN COOK”—just another author I have never heard of before.

The next recipe that I am charmed with, this from December 1946 is Moravian White Christmas cookies, which I can’t wait to try.

If you only buy one more Christmas cookie cookbook in your life, check out THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK which is available on Amazon.com but be forewarned – when you type in this book title, Amazon will present it with many other cookie cookbooks that you may find irresistible.  It is also available on Alibris.com for as little as $2.43 for a new copy.

Ok, I’m ready to start mixing Christmas cookie dough!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

APPLES, ETC – SOME COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOKS BY Christopher Idone (and others).

Christopher Idone is the author of at least four best selling cookbooks—GLORIOUS FOOD, GLORIOUS AMERICAN FOOD, CHRISTOPHER IDONE’S SALAD DAYS, LEMONS—A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK and in 1993, APPLES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK.

I need to interject a little information about Collins Publishers in San Francisco, for they were the company to come up with the concept of one-word cookbook titles, with glorious photography, and at an affordable price—the books originally were published at a $19.95 price. Thus it was that Christopher Idone wrote LEMONS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK, as well as APPLES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK. He is also the author of the best-selling cookbooks listed in the first paragraph.

My curiosity was piqued as I began searching for all the one-word title Country Garden Cookbooks—I discovered that Christopher Ione is not the author of all twelve titles I have discovered.   He is, however, the author of APPLES with gorgeous photography by Kathryn Kleinman, and LEMONS, also featuring photography by Kathryn Kkeinman. Cookbook addict that I am, I have just ordered four more of the one title country garden cookbooks. So, for the time being, let’s just forcus on APPLES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK published in 1993 – because I love apples.

Last fall I had the opportunity to visit friends who live in Oregon and have a small (about six) apple trees of various varieties. We picked apples for days, filling every container, box, or wheelbarrow that my friends have. On a chilly Saturday morning in October, they – and their children and grandchildren –began running the apples through an apple cider machine and made as much cider as would fill all the containers on hand. (I was in the kitchen making a big pot of Cincinnati chili to feed the crew, and dicing apples in between stirring the chili pot).

In 1996, Mr. Idone’s GLORIOUS AMERICAN FOOD was honored as the cookbook of the year by Duncan Hines International Association of cooking Professionals.  A teacher and lecturer, Mr. Ione has served as food consultant to New York’s Master Chef Series, produced for PBS and is a frequent contributor as writer and photographer to national publications including HOUSE AND GARDEN, FOOD ARTS, CONDE NAST TRAVELER and THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE.

Kathryn Kleinman has provided the lush photographs of both LEMONS and APPLES, and speaking as an amateur photographer, I must say that I am envious of her wonderful combinations of light, color, and many wonderful varieties of apples. Not only does Mr. Idone provide us with tantalizing recipes to try…he also gives us a crash course in apples, with a glossary explaining how to select and store apples and a list (with photos) of the many kinds of apples indigenous to the United States.
The introduction, by Mr. Idone, is prose…he tells us that his “first chore around the house when I was maybe three or four or five was gathering the apples which had fallen to the ground and filling bushel and peck baskets made of wood”. He goes on to share his favorite memories of packing up the apples in his father’s ford wagon to take to the local cider mill, which belonged to a local apple grower who allowed his father to make his own cider.

At this point, I am asking myself why my grandmother use most of the apples from her apple trees  to make apple sauce—and wondering why my grandfather, who – I know – made wine from the concord grapes that grew in a small arbor in their back yard—never made any other kind of alcoholic beverage. . I can only wonder—there is no one left, on earth, to answer my questions]. My grandmother would send a wagon full of apples by way of one of us grandchildren to the nuns at St Leo’s who lived in a house behind the school. And I remember watching my grandmother make apple strudel. My sister could remember grandma, our mother, and two aunts peeling and cutting up apples for apple sauce which was canned in quart jars. What I do remember about the apple sauce is that during the war years of WW2, the applesauce was canned without the addition of sugar, which was rationed. We had very tart applesauce with almost every meal for years—you were allowed to sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar on top of the applesauce. (My sister Becky also remembered Grandma having a still in the kitchen, with a big doily over it. I don’t remember a still).

Also included in the introduction to APPLEs is a condensed lesson on apples in history, the Publishers tell us “In APPLES. Master Chef Christopher Idone has created a  repertoire of classic apple recipes. You’ll find enticing openers such as Apple and Butternut Squash Soup, Grilled Prawns with Winter Fruit Chutney, and a Breakfast Apple Omelet.  Robust main dishes featuring apples include Sautéed Quail with Cream and Calvados, Risotto with Apples and Chicken Curry…”

As for me, I couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen to try the Cranberry-Apple Conserve and the Apple Fritters, which reminded me of those my grandmother used to make for us. Next on my list of delicious sounding recipes to try was Apple Marmalade and Winter Fruit Chutney. For something unique and colorful to serve as a salad during the holidays, may I suggest Beet, Radicchio And Apple Salad with Roquefort.

I began searching through my own cookbook files and checking titles on Amazon.com when I realized how much Collins Publishers has been able to expand on this one-title theme.  In addition to Idone’s collection of APPLES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK (published in 1993) and LEMONS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK (also published in 1993)- you may want to look for the following, all published by Collins Publisher of San Francisco:

POTATOES – A COUNRY GARDEN COOKBOOK, by Maggie Waldron, published in 1993

GREENS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY SIBELLA KRAUS, published in 1993

PEARS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY Janet Hazen, published in 1994

TOMATOES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY JESSE ZIFF COOL, published in 1994

SQUASH – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY REGINA SCHRAMBLING, published in 1994

BERRIES – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOK BY SHARON KRAMIS, published in 1994

SUMMER FRUIT – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK by EDON WAYCOTT, published in 1995

ONIONS – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY JESSE ZIFF COOL, published in 1995

CORN – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY DAVIS TANIS, published in 1995

HERB – A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK BY ROSALIND CREASY published in 1995

I already had five of the titles – and I have four more on order through Amazon.  I’m sure I will want to complete the set of a dozen cookbooks.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

My blog, 10/23/13

Chef Louis Szathmary – a Tribute to the Master

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CHEF LOUIS SZATHMARY – A TRIBUTE TO THE MASTER

The following was sent to me recently via an email:

CHICAGO TRIBUNE
NEWS
1996

Louis Szathmary, a larger-than-life chef, teacher, writer and philanthropist who operated The Bakery restaurant here from 1963 to 1989, died Friday at Illinois Masonic Hospital after a brief illness. He was 77.

After selling his restaurant, he became chef laureate at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., considered the world’s largest food-service educator. His 400,000-item culinary arts collection of memorabilia and books, valued in excess of $2 million, is housed at the university.

In recent years, Chef Szathmary divided his time between Providence and Chicago, where his food-service consulting firm was located. At the time of his death, he was working on two books and was active on the editorial advisory board of Biblio magazine.

Other donations he made from a personal library that totaled 45,000 books included a Franz Liszt collection to Boston University, cookbooks to the University of Iowa and a Hungarian collection to the University of Chicago.

A native of Hungary with a doctorate in psychology from the University of Budapest, Louis Szathmary immigrated to the United States in 1951. After cooking in restaurants and corporate dining rooms, he went into food-service research. He came to Chicago in 1959 as manager of new product development for Armour and Co. and opened his restaurant four years later.

The Bakery, at 2218 N. Lincoln Ave., brought continental flair to the local restaurant scene. Its signature dish, an individual beef Wellington, became one of the city’s claims to gastronomic fame. The restaurant’s success also made its owner a celebrity–a forerunner of the outspoken New American chefs who came to prominence in the 1970s and ’80s.

Of considerable girth with silver hair and a sweeping white mustache, Chef Szathmary was the center of attention in his restaurant dining room. He was described as indefatigable, witty, unique, blustery, egotistical and sensual by various writers.

As a book author, newspaper columnist, radio broadcaster and lecturer, the chef spoke out on subjects as diverse as convenience foods and restaurant critics. (Unlike most classically trained chefs, he was for convenience foods and helped develop frozen and dehydrated food products for companies such as Stouffer and Armour and for NASA. As for critics, “They can’t tell shiitake from Shinola,” he liked to say.)

Chef Szathmary also was active in a campaign in the mid-1970s to persuade the U.S. Department of Labor to elevate chefs from the category of “domestic” laborers.

His books were “The Chef’s Secret Cook Book,” “Sears Gourmet Cooking Forum,” “American Gastronomy,” “The Chef’s New Secret Cook Book,” and “The Bakery Restaurant Cookbook.” He also was editor of the 15-volume “Cookery America” and “Antique American Cookbooks.”

He was honored as a “living legend” by Food Arts Magazine, the Illinois Restaurant Association and the James Beard Foundation. He was scheduled to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Penn State University Hotel Society in April 1997. One of his favorite tributes came in 1990 when the alley behind The Bakery was renamed Szathmary Lane by the Chicago City Council.

Survivors include his wife, Sada; a daughter, Magda; and a brother.

A private funeral will be held in Chicago on Oct. 12. A public memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 24 in Bond Chapel of the University of Chicago, 1025 E. 58th St. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to the Museum Acquisition Fund of the Culinary Archives & Museum at Johnson & Wales University.
***
I first became curious about Chef Louis Szathmary when I was writing articles for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in the 1990s. At the time, there was not much I knew about him other than what appeared on dust jackets of his books. I started out initially with the idea of writing capsule biographies about some of the most prominent chefs.

Finding chefs to write about was no problem—there are so many, especially nowadays, when hundreds, if not thousands, of four-star restaurants throughout the USA all boasting of their own super-chefs, who in turn frequently write cookbooks. I must have several dozen chef-authored cookbooks on my bookshelves. Other famous chefs appear on television and cable cooking shows; many of them have become familiar household names and faces. Who isn’t familiar with Rachel Ray and Paula Dean, Bobbie Flay and dozens of other TV chefs?

Many of the old-time chefs and cooking teachers of the 1800s – women such as Fannie Farmer, Miss Leslie, Mrs. Lincoln and others have been written about in depth by other writers.

I wanted tell you about some other super-chefs, starting with one you may not know much about.

My favorite Chef is Louis Szathmary! (Pronounced ZATH-ma-ree). Szathmary had an incredibly fascinating life.

Louis Szathmary, described by one writer as “a heavyset man with a generous face and large bushy mustache “(a description that matches the face on the cover of “The Chef’s Secret Cook Book”) was, surprisingly, a Hungarian who had a doctorate in psychology from the University of Budapest and a master’s degree in journalism. Szathmary was born in Hungary on June 2, 1919, reportedly on a freight train while his family fled invading Soviet troops. He learned to cook in the Hungarian army. After service in the Hungarian army during World War II, Szathmary spent time in a succession of German and Soviet prison camps and thereafter was a displaced person confined to the American occupation zone in Austria. He lived in Austria and other Western European countries before coming to the USA in 1951.

A few clues to Szathmary’s background appear in the preface to “AMERICA EATS”, by Nelson Algren. “AMERICA EATS” was published in 1992 as part of the Iowa Szathmary Arts Series. Szathmary, who knew Algren personally—and purchased the manuscript from him–wrote the introduction to “AMERICA EATS”. (Nelson Algren was a fiction writer and the author of “THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM” which won the first National Book Award. In addition to writing fiction and poetry, Algren also wrote two travel books. “AMERICA EATS” was his only cookbook).

What cookbook collector hasn’t heard of the Iowa Szathmary Culinary Arts Series? But, in case you haven’t, briefly, Louis Szathmary, in addition to being a chef and the owner of the famed Bakery Restaurant in Chicago for many years, was a cookbook collector. Actually, Szathmary didn’t just collect cookbooks—he amassed an enormous collection of rare cookbooks, scarce pamphlets and unique manuscripts spanning five centuries of culinary art. He had a collection of twelve thousand books devoted to what he called “Hungarology” – books about his native country – which were eventually donated to the University of Chicago Joseph Regenstein Library. Ten thousand books of Hungarian literature were donated to Indiana University while a small collection of composer Franz Liszt’s letters was given to Boston University.

Johnson & Wales University, the world’s largest school devoted to the food and service industry, was the recipient of over 200,000 assorted items, described as a treasure trove of historical artifacts, which filled sixteen trailer trucks used to make the transfer to the school. There were antique kitchen implements, cheese graters, meat grinders, nut crackers, raisin seeders, chocolate molds, books and even menus.

Included in the gift to Johnson & Wales was “a collection within the collection”, a presidential autograph archive that included documents dealing in one way or another with food, drink, or entertainment, written or signed by every American chief executive. In George Washington’s handwriting is a list of table china he inherited from a relative. A handwritten letter from Mary Todd Lincoln invites a friend from Baltimore to the White House for an evening of relaxation. In a penciled note to his wife, Julia, Ulysses S. Grant asks that two bottles of champagne be sent to the oval office for a reception with congressional leaders. (Szathmary referred to this collection “from George to George”, meaning from George Washington to George Bush). His gift to Johnson & Wales has been attracting thousands of visitors since opening to the public—I believe it! I would love to go to Rhode Island just to see the collection!

The autograph collection includes items written by other historic figures, from Napoleon Bonaparte to Charles Dickens, as well as a note from the fourth earl of Sandwich, inventor of the most frequently ordered food item in the world.

If all of this were not mind-boggling enough, in addition, Szathmary donated over 20,000 cookbooks to the University of Iowa Libraries, creating the Szathmary Collection of Culinary Arts. Almost overnight, according to David Schoonover, the library’s rare book curator, the institution became a “major research center in the culinary arts”.
The University of Iowa Press, in conjunction with the University of Iowa Libraries, publishes reprints, new editions, and translations of important cookbooks from the collection of Chef Szathmary. It must have given Chef Szathmary great satisfaction to witness the birth of the Szathmary Culinary Arts Series. Each title presents an unusually interesting rarity from the collection he donated to the institution. One of these published books was “AMERICA EATS”, which I have in my own collection.

“In my native Hungary,” Szathmary wrote for “AMERICA EATS”, “I was raised in a bookish family. From my great-grandfather on my father’s side, my forebears were all book collectors, and when I had to leave just hours before the Soviet army arrived in the Transylvania city where I resided and worked in the fall of 1944, I had already inherited and amassed a sizable number of books, mainly on Hungarian literature and other Hungarian subjects…”

However, Szathmary arrived, in his own words, “virtually penniless” in New York in 1951, with only fourteen books in his small wooden trunk. He appeared to have been fond of telling the story of arriving on our shores with $1.10 in his pocket, one change of underwear, two pairs of socks, one Sunday suit – and fourteen books. (It is worth noting that the 14 books Szathmary treasured most were not donated to any of the universities. The books he carried with him to America included a Bible he received as a child, three books on Mozart and several volumes of Hungarian poetry).

Upon his arrival in America, Szathmary began to collect books. Writes Szathmary, “My first purchase was a book by Ludwig Bemelmans at the Marlboro outlet store at 42nd Street and Broadway, where in 1952 all the remainder books were sold for nineteen cents each.” Szathmary confessed that he worked two jobs in the beginning, one during the day and another at night—and spent all the money he made on books. Of his early days in America, Szathmary said that he would spend hours in the Salvation Army basement searching for books, which he purchased for as little as five cents each. He said, “I rummaged through books in bins, on tables outside the door, and amid the garbage the accumulates in the back of used bookshops. I found treasures—valuable items—because I had the time.” Later, as time and money improved, he often worked at one job during the day and another in the evening. On the seventh day, he recalled, “I spent all the money I made on books.” (A man after my own heart!)

He continued to collect books while at the same time, as his interest in culinary arts and food management grew, he began to collect books in these fields as well.

Szathmary and his wife Sadako Tanino, owned and operated The Bakery Restaurant in Chicago for 26 years. It grossed more than $1 million a year for much of the time he was in business—and this was a restaurant that served only five dinners a week, no lunch, no bar and no “early birds”.

Szathmary authored several cookbooks of his own, including “THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK”, “THE CHEF’S NEW SECRET COOK BOOK”, “THE BAKERY RESTAURANT COOK BOOK” and “AMERICAN GASTRONOMY”. He was advisory editor for a series of 27 cookbooks, in 15 volumes, titled “COOKERY AMERICANA”, for which he also provided introductions. (I only have three of the volumes from the series at this time, “MIDWESTERN HOME COOKERY” and “MRS. PORTER’S NEW SOUTHERN COOKERY BOOK”, and “COOL, CHILL, AND FREEZE”. These are facsimile editions of earlier cookbooks. Szathmary seems to have been utterly dedicated to American cookery and cookbooks.

Szathmary was a prolific writer, and in addition to cookbooks, also wrote poetry. Additionally, he wrote a food column for the Chicago Daily News, and then in the Sun-Times every week for twelve years! Maybe he felt he didn’t have enough to do, for after closing the restaurant, he continued to operate Szathmary Associates, a food system design and management consulting business, and he devoted a great deal of time to what he described as “the matter of the books”. He also continued to lecture and worked continuously on new projects.

What is particularly intriguing about Szathmary as a chef is, I think, his wide range of expertise. So many of the super chefs today focus on one type of cooking. Szathmary, who could have devoted himself to solely to Hungarian cuisine, seems to have adopted the American potpourri of cookery, which embraces many nationalities. He was famous for his Continental cuisine, in particular his Beef Wellington.

What you also may not know about Szathmary is that he developed the first frozen dinners for Stouffer Food Corp. He worked as product development manager for Armour Food, coming up with new foods and ways to prepare them. Szathmary also designed a kitchen for military field hospitals that could be dropped by parachute and assembled quickly in combat zones.

At The Bakery, Szathmary’s restaurant in Chicago, he dominated the dining room with his commanding presence. He’d walk around in rolled up sleeves, wearing an apron, often telling diners in his booming voice, what to order – or to ask them why something was left on a plate. His customers at The Bakery appear to have provided the inspiration for “THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK”. In the introduction, Szathmary said he gave recipes to ladies who visited his restaurant. Apparently, they often accused him of leaving something out!

Szathmary wrote, “When I tell the ladies that I am able to give them everything except my long years of experience, they still look suspicious. So once again I launch into my best explanation, an old record played over and over again, which goes something like this: If you go to a concert and listen to Arthur Rubinstein playing the MEPHISTO WALTZ of Franz Liszt, and if you go and see him backstage after the performance and ask him for the piano notes, and if through some miracle he gives them to you, and you take them home and sit down at your piano (untouched for years), open up the notes and play the Mephisto Waltz and your husband says ‘Darling, it doesn’t sound like Arthur Rubenstein—“ what do you tell him?

Probably this: Oh, what a selfish artist! He left out something from the notes, I’m sure. Because when I play it, it doesn’t sound like when he plays it.

Well, dear ladies,” concluded the great chef, “Do you really think Rubenstein left out some of the notes? Or do you think his talent had something to do with it—and his daily practice for years and years and years?

You see, my dear ladies, cooking is just like playing the piano—it needs talent, training and practice.”

Szathmary concluded, “The best-kept secret of the good chef is his long training and daily performance. It’s not enough to make a dish once and when it’s not up to standard, to declare, ‘the recipe is no good.’” A specialty of “The Chef’s New Secret Cookbook”—if you manage to obtain a copy—is that each recipe is followed by a “chef’s secret” – Szathmary, throughout his life, was enormously generous – sharing his recipes, his collections, everything in his life. It saddens me that I never met him—but curiously, I sometimes feel, as I am typing, that he is looking over my shoulder and nodding his approval.
**
Szathmary spearheaded culinary education in Chicago by fostering work study programs with restaurants at vocational and high schools. Students and dining enthusiasts were invited to use the library on the second floor of The Bakery. He shared a passion for travel by assisting first time travelers with their plans to visit Europe and Asia.

Szathmary chose, on his own, to donate the bulk of his collections to various universities and institutions. Aside from Szathmary’s incredible generosity, what a wise move to make! Can you think of any better way to make sure the things you love most will be treasured by future generations, people who are certain to love your books as much as you do?

Szathmary explained that he had always bought books for various reasons. ‘When you bet on the horse race,” he said, “You bet for win, for place, for show. When you buy books, you buy some to read, some to own, and some for reference. You want to possess the books, you want to own them, you want to hold them. Perhaps you even hope that you will read them….’ (As a book collector myself, I completely understand this philosophy—it’s never been enough just to read my books – I have to own them too). 

And after having donated hundreds of thousands of books and documents to these different universities, Szathmary confessed “I am still buying books. It’s like getting pregnant after the menopause; it’s not supposed to happen.”

My all-time favorite Szathmary story is written in an article about obsessed amateurs. Writer Basbanes met Szathmary as the transfer of some 200,000 articles to the warehouses at Johnson & Wales was taking place. Szathmary was overseeing the transfer of his collection. Where, Basbanes asked the great chef, had he stored all this material?

With a twinkle in his hazel-brown eyes, Szathmary said, “My restaurant was very small, just one hundred and seventeen chairs downstairs for the customers to sit. But I owned the whole building, you see, and upstairs there were thirty-one rooms in seventeen apartments. That’s where I kept all the books”.

For many of us, we recognize in Louis Szathmary a kindred spirit. How to explain to non-collecting people the love of searching, finding, owning treasured books? One can only hope there are lots of books in Heaven. Meanwhile, here on earth, Louis Szathmary has left us with a wondrous legacy.

“SEARS GOURMET COOKING” was published in 1969.

“THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK” was published in 1972 by Quadrangle Books and is packed with mouth-watering recipes and lots of “Chef’s secrets” – tips provided by the master himself. “The Chef’s Secret Cook Book” was on the New York Times bestseller list for several years.

“AMERICAN GASTRONOMY” was published in 1974.

“THE CHEF’S NEW SECRET COOKBOOK” was published in 1976 and

“THE BAKERY RESTAURANT COOKBOOK” was published in 1981.

Szathmary also edited a fifteen volume collection of historic American cookbooks. One of the volumes in this series is “Cool, Chill and Freeze/A new Approach to Cookery” which I purchased from Alibris.com. This is a reproduction, with introduction and suggested recipes from Louis Szathmary, of recipes from “FLORIDA SALADS” by Frances Barber Harris, originally published in 1926, and Alice Bradley’s ‘ELECTRIC REFRIGERATOR MENUS AND RECIPES”, first published in 1928 (oddly enough, I have both of the originals).

Included in the Iowa Szathmary Culinary Arts Series are “THE CINCINNATI COOKBOOK”, “RECEIPTS OF PASTRY AND COOKERY FOR THE USE OF HIS SCHOLARS”, “THE KHWAN NIAMUT OR NAWAB’S DOMESTIC COOKERY” (originally published in 1839 in Calcutta for European colonials living in India), “P.E.O. COOK BOOK” and the previously mentioned “AMERICA EATS” by Nelson Algren.

Since embarking on the life of Louis Szathmary, I have purchased three of his cookbooks from Alibris.Com on the Internet – they have a great listing! The most recent to arrive is a copy of “The Bakery Restaurant Cookbook” which I was delighted to discover is autographed by the great chef—who was something of an artist, too! (Why am I not surprised?).

His ‘autograph’ is the face of a chef, wearing a white chef’s hat.

Louis Szathmary was a member of the United States Academy of Chefs, the Chef de Cuisine Association of Chicago, and the Executive Chefs’ Association of Illinois. In 1974, he was awarded the coveted titled of Outstanding Culinarian by the Culinary Institute of America, and in 1977, he was elected Man of the Year by the Penn State Hotel and Restaurant Society. He was considered by many to be the “homemakers best friend”, a master chef who willingly shared his secrets of culinary expertise with the world. His cookbooks read in a friendly, chatty way, making me wish with all my heart I could have known….this super chef! You would be wise to make an effort to add his books—if you don’t already own them—to your cookbook collection. Louis Szathmary was, above all, an excellent chef.

Nicholas Basbanes, in his article about Chef Louis for Biblio, described his first meeting with “this delightful, compassionate, brilliant man with the big white mustache”, relating “when I asked how it feels to give away books that were such an indelible part of his generous soul, Chef Szathmary responded, “The books I give away now, they stay in my heart, just like all the others. I don’t have to see them to love them.”
***
After writing about Louis Szathmary for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, I wrote about him again, on my blog, Sandychatter, which began in March, 2009. I wrote my updated article about Szathmary in 2011. To date, the post has received 131 messages—and THAT is what has inspired me to write about my favorite chef again.

In January, 2011 someone named Nancy wrote: “Sandy – I had the pleasure of working as one of Chef Louis’ personal assistants from 1985-1986. He certainly was a fascinating character and very aware of his own importance in cooking history. In addition to his extensive cookbook collection which included favorite church and community cookbooks (a personal favorite) Chef Louis also had an extensive post card collection. Seeing your blog about him brought back wonderful memories”.

In February, 2011, someone named Sue wrote: “Thank you so much for writing about Mr. Szathmary! I only ate at The Bakery twice, as I lived several hours away, but both times he came into the restaurant and greeted each table – such a new thing for a Midwesterner in the 70s & 80s. I have eaten in many famous restaurants since then but this first experience with great food and an interesting chef, in a unique setting, will always remain the most memorable and the best! I have all of his cookbooks and have slowly tried to collect the Americana series though some have been impossible to find.”

In March, 2011 a man named Dennis wrote: “Hi, Sandy-My wife and I had a ‘colorful’ experience working with/for Chef Louis, similar, it seems, to Grant Aschatz’s time with Charlie Trotter. Our first night in the city, the Chef bid us dine at the Bakery at his expense…but tip well! — it was great. Coincidentally, we sat at a table next to Mike and Sue Petrich; he was a wine representative for Mirassou wines. After dinner, the Petrichs and we went upstairs to our modest 3rd floor apartment rented to us by the Chef and his delightful wife, Sada. We survived four months and had a colorful story resulting from each day with the Chef. Barbara Kuch was there and incredibly helpful. The staff was wonderful. Our “larger than life” Chef brought old-world training values to his new world – such a challenge…for all. He was unbelievably generous and painfully demanding — beyond professional. Sadly, I had to witness the Chef physically threatening a very young apprentice for “f—ing up the chocolate moose.” Conversely, when my wife’s father was dying of cancer, the Chef said, “Shhh – don’t tell Sada – here is $250 for your flight home to see your dad.” I know Beethoven has an emotional breadth unequalled by all others musically; similar was Chef Szathmary in the realms of cuisine and people. Sandy – thanks for sharing; thanks for listening…there’s so much more. Thanks for the opportunity. Sincerely – d’crabb”

As you can imagine, pieces of a puzzle – the puzzle about the enigmatic Louis Szathmary – began to fall into place, through the Internet, through readers finding my article about him and wanting to share their experiences with the one and only Chef Louis.

In April, 2011, I received the following message from Helen “Hi Sandy, I must add my story. When I was about 35 years old I was married to a Hungarian. My name then was Muranyi. I was working in Chicago selling radio advertising. Unwittingly I made an in person sales call on Louis. He roared at the thought that he might need advertising. He explained that reservations were filled weeks in advance. However, he was such a sweetheart he invited me to his library to see his 14th century Hungarian cookbook and his test kitchen. Needless to say at his invitation my husband and I did dine there as often as possible and it was the “special” restaurant for occasions for the children. The two younger never got to go as they were too young and grudgingly bring it up still as adults that were cheated. Always when we did dine there we received a special appetizer (usually a baked white fish in white sauce) that we noticed other diners were not served. Could it have been that the reservation was made in the name Muranyi? Usually we had a tableside visit from Louis and sometimes his cute little Japanese wife. Actually I am searching for some information on her artwork that she had on the walls made from the wine corks. If you could be helpful in any way I would be grateful for any information or help. Those were special memories for my family. **

In July, 2011, someone named Juan wrote the following message: “Sandy, did you know that Chef Louis was responsible for the lobbying initiative that changed the US government’s classification of food service workers from ‘domestics’ to ‘professionals’. Chef Louis did, indeed, have a temper . . . . I worked there throughout my adolescence -Saturdays, school breaks, summer vacations- and I managed to get myself on the receiving end of it from time to time. Miss Lenegan (as Barbara Kuck often affectionately addressed Nancy) can attest to that! It took me a while, but I eventually realized that much of Chef Louis’ temper came from the fact that he cared deeply for and had high expectations of every single member of his “family” at The Bakery.

There were three different collage themes at The Bakery. Matchbooks, corks and obsolete currency. All of them were made by Louis and his wife Sadako (affectionately known as Sada or Auntie Sada) nee Tanino. The matchbook collages decorated the front room; the cork collages decorated “The Cork Room” (the main dining room); and the currency collages decorated “The Money Room” (the front room of the southernmost of the three storefronts used for private parties, banquets and the many cultural/social events that Louis hosted for the Hungarian community. could go on and on…….”

And in December, 2011, someone named Gabriele wrote the following: “How strange to come upon this blog today — I just happened to be wondering whether Sada was still alive and ran a Google search on her, and in the process came across your blog (which is quite lovely, by the way!).
I, too, worked with Chef Louis, but not in the kitchen. I was a part-time secretary who took dictation and typed up correspondence, articles, and whatever Chef needed. This was in 1993 and continued off and on for several years. My very young daughter came with me and stayed in her playpen except for lunchtime. She thought Chef Louis was Santa Claus!
He was working on a cookbook introduction and would ask me how to word things because he wanted to keep his Hungarian style while using proper English. It could be quite a challenge at times, and was always interesting. His wife, lovely Sada, was the epitome of grace, kindness and hospitality.

Chef Louis and I had some very interesting conversations about the Austro-Hungarian Empire as I had spent a college year in Baden bei Wien, Austria. He and lovely Sada will stay in my memories until I die. Thank you for such a wonderful post..”

Near the end of 2011, someone named Joan wrote the following message: “This is great!! I lived in Chicago until recently and LOVED Chef Szathmary and the restaurant. He was always generous and helpful and gave me perfect information re: products etc. Which brings me to why I was surfing his name. He had recommended a meat thermometer which I bought and which a guest recently broke, and I’ve been unable to find on line. It’s a La Pine (made in Switzerland). I see in his early correspondence that he’d provided a “form” to order it but I didn’t keep a copy. Do you by any chance have info regarding where I could look to order another??? Thank you so much!!!

Tributes to Chef Louis Szathmary continued to come throughout 2012:

In January, someone named Sue wrote: “…thanks for the write up on the Chef! I have his cookbook he signed for me with his legendary signature (he’d use 2 or 3 colored markers) where he made the L in Louis into a caricature of himself…the mustache, the chef hat were all drawn into the capital script L. I helped him with food prep for a tv show he was taping in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 70′s…I was only 12 or 13… he used my mom’s kitchen/stove to cook the turkey in the brown paper bag that he was going to pull from the oven on the show. Even though I was so young, he left a HUGE impression! I have used that cookbook so much that the pages are falling apart and I know it’s a treasure. Thanks for writing about him. I think part of the reason I love to try recipes, cook, etc… because of him. He was a very interesting man and larger than life… I am very privileged to have had the opportunity to have met him..”.

In March 2012, Kathy wrote “A wonderful treat to read all the comments….and stroll down the Hungarian lane….what a loss that there are not as many Hungarian restaurants to enjoy all the blessings of food, people, and their talents…one in Michigan called ‘Rhapsody’ was wonderful!! Thanks to all for sharing your stories….I will be looking for the Chef Szathmary cookbooks!!”

I have deliberately omitted all my response to messages but I thought this one was pertinent. I wrote the following back to Kathy: “thanks for writing! Thought I’d add a line – a few years ago I was visiting friends who live around central Oregon and they took me to a wonderful Hungarian restaurant for lunch. It was, for me, like stepping back in time. After lunch I spoke with the owner and told him my Hungarian connection, friends we’d had back in the 1960s – and he actually knew some of those Hungarian men – they had been Freedom fighters in the 1956 Hungarian revolution. Many escaped to the USA to avoid prosecution. I love Hungarian food, and also love the individual stories…”

In April, 2012, someone named Mike wrote: “ Hi Sandy, Thanks for posting the article about Chef Louis. He was my great-uncle. I only met him in person once but what a day! His library was massive and that was after he had given away many books. The food he cooked for us was exceedingly rich but very tasty. It’s easy to see why he shut down The Bakery, that style of food is long out of favor. I’m thinking it was easily a 2,000 calorie meal. But it was sublime food. Sada is an amazing woman and a lot of fun to be around..”

The next message I am copying (after leaving out many short messages from blog readers), is important because it comes from an employee of the University of Iowa. In November, 2012, I received the following from Colleen Theisen: Thank you for your wonderful article. If you want to see some of Chef Szathmáry’s collection we have digitized the handwritten cookbooks and put them online to be transcribed. You can find them here on our crowd sourcing page:

diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu.
Colleen Theisen
Outreach & Instruction Librarian
Special Collections & University Archives
University of Iowa

Then, in December, 2012 came a message from someone else who worked for the Chef. I received the following from someone named Andrew: “I met Chef Louis in the summer of 1953 when I was a school boy trying to be a kitchen help at the Jesuit Manresa Inst. in So. Norwalk, Connecticut where he was the Head Chef cooking three meals seven days a week for 250 or so Jesuits. To my good fortune I was able to keep up the relationship right up to the time he died in 1996. My two sons spent one summer each at his The Bakery Restaurant also as kitchen help. I was fortunate to have eaten at the Chef’s restaurant twice the last being when he had his 70th birthday bash at The Bakery. Chef Louis was kind to invite my wife and I to several events at the Johnson and Wales Culinary Museum and a private dinner at Dartmouth. If there ever was a “Most Unforgettable Character” he was it, while being a genuine Renaissance Man. May he rest in peace..”
Still in December, 2012, came this email from a man named Charles, a boyhood classmate of Chef Louis: “Upon reading your history of Louis Szathmary and The Bakery Restaurant, I felt it appropriate to send this letter detailing several reminiscences of my time with Louis. He was a good friend since our school days in Hungary, and I am hoping you enjoy these stories as you share them with others.

It is proper that I introduce myself. My name is Károly (Kahroy, Anglicized later to Charles) Bartha (the h is silent), third grade student (14 years old) at the Reformed high-school in Sp, in the Northeastern part of Hungary.
It is September of 1937. The pupils were excited to hear the news that two students were transferring: brothers, one in the first grade, the other in the fifth. (There were eight grades then). Géza (Gayzaw), the younger was in my brother’s class and lived with us in the same dormitory. The older, Lajos, immediately acquired the nickname, Poci (Potzi, one with a pouch) because of his large size around the waist.

For the Pentecost holiday next year, we received a four-day vacation. Because the brothers lived too far and the train fares were too costly, they decided to remain in Sarospatak. I asked them if they would like to spend the vacation with us. They accepted gladly. We arrived in Viss (Vish), my birthplace of about 1100 residents, unannounced. My father was the school-master for the Protestant (mostly Reformed), Jewish, and Gypsy (now Romany) pupils there.

My motherly grandparents lived with us and three more brothers in the same household. Although my parents were surprised, they welcomed the boys warmly.

There was not much to do in a hamlet with unpaved roads and without electricity. Our guests fit in fine immediately. Luckily, Lajos took along his set of pastel chalks and proceeded to make an excellent portrait of my grandpa. (Louis had a copy of it in Chicago.) Next day, he painted a picture of the mountain of Tokaj (Tokawy) and another of a manually operated ferry-boat on the bend of the nearby river, Bodrog.

Géza visited our vineyard and helped with the tedious job of red currant picking.

They went to church with us, where my father was the organist. I think they had a good time with us.

During his second year in Sarospatak, Lajos became the president of the school’s Literary and Debating Society. His talent for writing surfaced shortly and was greatly appreciated by the students and the teaching staff. After Lajos’ graduation in 1940, our paths parted. Would they ever cross again? The war was looming on the horizon.

Lajos served in the Hungarian Army, so did I. He cooked somewhere, I attended the Hungarian Royal Military Academy. He was taken POW by the Americans, I surrendered to them. I emigrated to Detroit in 1949, he followed two years later, eventually to Chicago. Around the end of 1960, I learned through emigrant papers that a fellow Hungarian named Louis Szathmary opened a restaurant in Chicago.

We dropped in unannounced for a Saturday lunch in The Bakery with our kids. We were seated, and shortly after, greeted by the Chef himself. After mutual introduction, Louis remembered me when I uttered the word, Viss. I remembered him immediately, hugging each-other.

Finishing our lunch, Louis didn’t let me pay for it.

Although he asked us to come back repeatedly, we did not for a while, fearing that he’ll repeat the hustle over the pay.
A few years later Louis invited us to a Hungarian gathering, for some cultural event. We accepted, and went back several times afterwards. Approaching my retirement, Louis asked me if I would help him in his library. Having nothing else to do, I gladly accepted his invitation.

A few years later, I began to work for him.

Arriving at The Bakery around noon, Louis introduced me to his “crew”. I knew Sada from earlier meetings, a pleasant, gracious lady indeed. Next came Barbara, the chief-steward carrying a huge string of keys, who later behaved as if she owned the place; then Laci (Lawtzi), Louis’ personal driver and general factotum, fixer of everything; Pista (Pishtaw), the creator of tortes and other sweets, and preparer of the wondrous Beef of Wellington. Sadly, I cannot recall the names of those who were present at that long table.
Later, Sada told me that she spent an entire summer in Sarospatak where her husband attended high-school, with teenagers from all over the globe to learn Hungarian. To my surprise, her Hungarian was adequate for an everyday conversation.

Four-five (maybe ten) years ago, I read an article about Barbara in a magazine. I thought her last name was Koch (with guttural ch), I might be wrong. She was referred to in the article as the daughter of Louis Szathmary. (Hence her chip on the shoulder attitude?) Indeed, Louis created a position to her as curator—with plenty of stipend—to the Culinary Museum of the Johnson & Wales University. [Sandy's note: Barbara was not Szathmary's daughter; she was an employee. He did have a daughter named Magda-sls].

My first night at The Bakery was uneventful, sort of. I was assigned temporarily to the living quarters of Louis’ departed mother. Before going to sleep, I looked around for something to read. There was a long shelf above the bed, holding about twenty large books of the same size. To my surprise, all of them dealt with cannibalism, a definitely different and—luckily—a dying-out way of food preparation and consumption. Who collected them and for what reason, I never asked. It was, in my opinion, a minuscule part of Louis’ collection of cook-books, numbering a few thousand. Somehow, I didn’t read much that evening. Everyone to his taste.

After a sumptuous lunch, Louis showed me his cook-book collection. I found it immense, rather unorganized, noticing several duplicate copies. Louis told me that I’ll have nothing to do with these. His working area, the den of a genius, was a “mess”—a rather mild description— which nobody was allowed to touch. My real job was to weed out duplicate copies, called “duplum”, in the literature part of his library and to arrange the books for dissemination.

Louis asked me to leave alone his Transylvanian collection, housed in a separate room, and his private collection in his living quarters.

For the next few weeks (year and a half, to be exact), I spent 5 to 6 hours a day on ladders, from noon on Tuesdays to noon on Fridays. If I ran across books with interesting illustrations, such as wood- or linoleum-cuts, I put them aside. After the early evening meal, Louis looked them over, creating several piles to be given to his friends. Around eight o’clock, I had a call from Louis occasionally. If there were few guests that evening, he would ask me to join him while he ate his dinner. (I normally declined to eat again.) Looking around, he would get up to greet the guests, returning to finish up his meal with a cordial.

It is difficult, if not impossible to break a habit—such as collecting books—especially if the “store” rolls up to your doorsteps. Although Louis slowed down near the end of his life, he loved to visit an adventurous Hungarian refugee’s truck, loaded with anything Hungarian, including recently released books. Sausages in one hand and 4-5 books under his arm, I encountered Louis at the back door. Asking him what he purchased, he sheepishly confessed the sausages, but not the books, of which he already had several examples. I returned the books, telling the fellow to sell Louis only newly acquired printed material.

And, finally, I feel I owe Louis the following: Besides dividing and donating his library to several universities in the USA, Louis also remembered his alma mater in Sarospatak. He sent his Kossuth collection there, not only books and letters, but also memorabilia. (Louis Kossuth (Koshut, o as in or, h being silent) Regent-President in 1848-49, belonged to the Hungarian lower nobility, so did Louis. Kossuth attended the High-school in Sarospatak for a while, so did Louis. Both were fierce Habsburg foes and pro-democracy fighters, and both were Protestants. Hence the affinity, in my opinion, between the two patriots.) Louis asked me to assure that his collection arrived safely on my next trip to Hungary. Naturally, I complied, taking numerous pictures of an as-yet unorganized collection. Louis also sent huge pallets of émigré newspapers and several hundred books to join his Kossuth collection. This was the time I left The Bakery.

One of my brothers told me recently, that Louis’ presents were neatly arranged in a separate room, in a building adjacent to the main library. At the main entrance to the high-school, there is a marble memorial plaque for the school’s famous professors and pupils. Louis’ name is on it, as the last entry (for the time being). The grateful citizens of Sarospatak also arranged a special room commemorating Louis and his deeds, in a manor-house near to their 14th century famous fortress.

May you rest in peace, Lajoskám!

Respectfully,
Charles Bartha

May l add the correct Hungarian pronunciation of Chef Louis’ name:
Sz az in s(ee),
a as in (m)a(ll),
th t is the same, the h being silent,
m same,
á as in a(re),
r same, somewhat rolled,
y as in i(n).
The accent is on the words first syllable, as you noted correctly.

His given name was Lajos, pronounced approximately: Lawyosh.
His former full name is, with Hungarian hyphenation: Szath-má-ry La-jos. Yes, family name first, with no comma between the two names.
I called him often by his affectionate name: Lajoskám, my “little” Lajos”. **

Isn’t this a wonderful email? It provides us with so many little details to Chef Szathmary’s life! This is what I wrote back to Charles: “I am in your debt and enormously delighted that you took the time to share all of this information about Chev Szathmary with me and my readers. Some of them, you may have noticed, either worked for him or had been acquainted with him in one way or another. My only claim to kinship is that one of my books of his is authographed and I wrote about him because I was so fascinated with his life. That, and a bit of Hungarian ancestry – my paternal grandfather was from Hungary. I am going to print a copy of your message to put with one of my cookbooks written by him. You can’t imagine how much I envy your being able to work with his collection. I “only” have about 8 or 10 thousand cookbooks–I stopped counting years ago and I understand how out of hand a cookbook collection can become. I’m thrilled that you wrote and provide so much insight to the man who became the quite famous Chef Szathmary. Please feel free to write to me again, anytime! Thank you so very much for writing this. – Sandy@sandychatter

The next memorable email about Chef Szathmary came from a woman named Fredricka, and was dated March 12, 2013. Fredricka wrote: “While attending a mathematics education conference in Chicago around 1972, I gathered several colleagues from Syracuse University including my Ph.D. committee chair and the University of Georgia where I was on faculty and my 17 year-old gourmet cook daughter and cabbed it from the Conrad Hilton to The Bakery. Chef Szathmary personally guided our menu decisions and autographed The Chef’s Secret Cookbook to my daughter: “To Lisa with my best wishes” followed by his unique signature embedded in his drawing of a chef’s hat. Lisa and the chef somehow got talking about his special meat thermometer (to not leave in during cooking was unheard of) and she was thrilled with her new culinary acquisition. The next year Lisa and I had occasion to return to the Bakery and the Chef remembered us. Lisa and I often remembered our lovely experiences at The Bakery as recently as a few months before I lost her this past June after a 10-year courageous battle with cancer. She ended up following her dream of having her own art gallery and creative website (lisart.com) which her clients referred to as a jewel in Philadelphia. I am using the Chef’s rib roast and Chef’s Salt recipes this Saturday for Lisa’s elder son’s 31st birthday dinner…” **

In August of this year, (2013) someone using the initials MPJ wrote the following: “I happened upon your blog and it brought back delicious memories! When I was about eight years old Chef Louie, his wife, and their friend James Swan held a program showing slides from their trip to Easter Island. Mr. Swan was a friend of my mother’s and she brought me to the program. Afterwards Chef Louie had a buffet including, as I recall, turnips or something he’d carved to look like Easter Island figures. What I remember most though was the pâté. I tried it, I loved it. He sold it for take away at the Bakery and we were fortunate to live nearby. We had it for every birthday and holiday. My mother even brought it to me in college. I miss that pâté…”

There have been numerous other messages but I’ve restricted myself to copying those that shed light on Chef Szathmary’s personality and his most incredible life.

Last, but not least, I received another email in August of this year (2013). Marie wrote: “ I ran across this site while doing some research on Chef Louis Szathmary. My husband and I buy estates, foreclosure cleanouts, auctions etc. and recently made a purchase of over 300 boxes. I was floored to learn that this is the partial estate of Chef Louis and am in awe at the contents. So much so that I have begun to research him and his professional life. Which is something I have NEVER been intrigued enough to do with any estate purchase we have made. I’m not sure what I will do with all his belongings, but learning about him will help me decide.”

I’ve exchanged many emails with Marie, who has been indexing and making up lists of the various books, menus and other culinary objects that she has determined were, apparently, at one time in the possession of Barbara Koch, the woman mentioned in some of the email messages. I bought some cookie cutters and a 2-quart Anchor Hocking measuring cup from Marie, to have something personal of Chef Szathmary.

The following is from one of Marie’s email messages:

“Yes, he certainly was an amazing character! I feel like I know him by just going through all of his belongings. We finished sorting and organizing his estate last week and today we had a rare book collector of specifically food and drink related items fly in from Maine. He spent 10 hours selecting the items he was interested in and his finds consisted of TWENTY ONE (21) boxes of items. Even with his purchase that barely skimmed the surface of what we have. If you would like to tell me what types of things you are interested in I could give you a nice selection of choices. Aside from books and cookbooks, there are many items like:

*Artwork – the Chef was quite the artist in pen and ink drawings too!

*Culinary Kitchen Tools/Gadgets – Simply hundreds, 99% of them are vintage pieces

*Photos – pictures of him cooking at different events, being silly at “the Bakery”,family pics etc.

*Liquor Collection – he collected liquor bottles, some full, some not. Some bottles date back to 1913!

*Memorabilia – Awards he received, pins, uniform patches from “The Bakery”, some of his chef hats and jackets etc.

*Paper Archives – Lot and lots of rough drafts of his cook books, doodles he drew, catering menus, personal and professional letters he received and sent, his teaching outlines and notes etc.

I’m sure I am forgetting things, but off the top of my head that is an overview of what we have. If anyone has any interest, email me with a more narrow request on what you would like to have please: icyalookn777@comcast.net

Sandy – I JUST found out today HOW these things ended up in a storage facility. His second wife put them there, and apparently she has fallen on hard economic times and couldn’t afford to satisfy the monthly storage costs…..Mystery solved!”

—Sandra Lee Smith
October 11, 2013