HOW TO WRITE A LETTER

It was the most amazing discovery—I was leafing through the latest “Martha Stewart LIVING magazine for May, 2016—primarily in my never-ending quest for recipes and there were a lot of cute cupcakes on the cover—when I came across an article that took me by surprise. It was an article titled how to WRITE A LETTER.

Below that was the caption “In these modern times of instant messaging and email, it’s especially sweet to receive a handwritten and heartfelt note—even more so when it’s adorned in a way that has it bursting out of your mailbox. But you don’t need to be a calligrapher to do this yourself. On these pages, learn how to unleash a simple skill and easily embellish cards and gifts, decorating them with love in every letter….” What follows is Writing/decorating 101 for those of us unfamiliar with making cards and letters stand out.

However, I want to tell LIVING that they are mistaken if they think the entire world has forgotten how to write letters. The following is from a 2012 post on my blog:
The JOY OF MEETING PENPALS

Go back with me, in time, and let me share with you how things were before email came along.

I began subscribing to Women’s Circle magazine (not to be confused with Woman’s Day or Family Circle) in the mid-1960s. Specifically, I think I “discovered” Women’s Circle in 1965 and it seems to me that I began finding the magazine on the magazine racks of the supermarket where we shopped, in North Hollywood. Around that same time, I became interested in collecting cookbooks. Simultaneously, a friend of mine told me about a Culinary Arts Institute cookbooklet on Hungarian cuisine that she was searching for.
“I bet I know where we can find it!” I told her. I wrote a letter to Women’s Circle, asking for the cookbook, offering to pay cash. As an afterthought, I added that I was interested in buying/exchanging for old cookbooks, particularly club-and-church cookbooks.

Little did I suspect what an avalanche of mail would fill my mailbox when my letter was published! I received—and responded to—more than 250 letters. We purchased several of the Hungarian cookbooks and I began buying or trading for a lot of other cookbooks which formed the nucleus of my cookbook collection. And I have to tell you something that I think was pretty spectacular—I was never “cheated” or short-changed by anyone. Even more spectacular were the friendships that I formed, as a result of that one letter, which still exist to this day.

One of the first letters I received was from another cookbook collector, a woman who lived in Michigan. Betsy and I—both young mothers at the time (now both of us grandmothers)—have remained pen-pals for over 50 years, while our children grew up, married, and had children of their own. The first time I met Betsy and her husband, Jim, they drove from Michigan to Cincinnati, where I was visiting my parents, to pick up me and my children, so that we could spend a week visiting them in Michigan. A few years later, my friends repeated the gesture – driving hundreds of miles to Cincinnati to pick us up and then returning us to my parents a week or so later. On one of those trips, I took my younger sister Susie along with us and we all have fond memories of going blueberry picking at a berry farm. We visited the Kellogg factory and went to some of the flea markets where you could find hundreds of club-and-church cookbooks for as little as ten cents each (remember, this was the 1960s!). On one of those visits, I met Betsy’s British pen-pal, Margaret, who was also visiting. We had such a wonderful time together.

Around this same time, I responded to a letter written to “Women’s Circle” by an Australian woman (whose name I no longer can recall). She received such a flood of letters from the USA that she took them to her tennis club, spread them out and said “If anyone would like an American pen-friend, here you are!” A young woman named Eileen—who was, like myself, married to a man named Jim, and—like me—also had a son named Steven—chose my letter. We’ve been corresponding ever since. In 1980, when we were living in Florida, we met Eileen and Jim for the first time and from the time they got off the plane and walked up to us, it was just like greeting an old friend or relative. We liked—and trusted—them so much that we lent our camper to them to drive around the USA. When they reached Los Angeles, they contacted, and met, friends of ours who lived in the San Fernando Valley.

About a year later, our friends from California were visiting us in Florida, when the best friends of my Aussie friends (who lived in London) contacted us in Miami and paid us a visit. The following year, when my California friends visited London, they paid a return visit to their new London acquaintances. (I hope you have followed all of this).

Another young woman who wrote to me in the early 1970s was a housewife/mother who lives near Salem, Oregon. She wrote in response to a letter that I had written to Tower Press, noting that we shared the same birthday. I believe they first visited us at our home in Arleta around 1975, on their way to Disneyland. In 1978, my husband and children and I drove to Oregon where we met my pen-pal and her family.

I’ve lost count of the number of times they have visited me in California. In 2007, for the first time, I flew to Oregon where my Oregon penpal and her husband met my flight, and
I spent a week with them. We celebrated our birthdays together—in person–for the first time ever.

Another pen-pal acquired in the 1960s was my friend Penny, who lives in Oklahoma. We first visited Penny and her husband Charles and their three sons in 1971, on our way back to Cincinnati for a summer vacation. We spent a night at Penny’s and were sent on our way the next morning with a bagful of her special chocolate chip cookies. What I remember most about that visit was my father’s baffled reaction when we arrived in Cincinnati. “How,” he asked, “is it that you know these people in Oklahoma?” (The concept of pen-pals was a foreign one to both my parents).

Two other pen-pals were acquired when we moved to Florida. Lonesome and homesick, I wrote yet another letter to Women’s Circle, and mentioned my love of Christmas (and preparing for it all year long). One of these was a woman in Louisiana and the other was an elderly widowed lady who lived in my home state of Ohio. Sadly, I no longer have these two penpals. I know that my Louisiana penpal had a stroke and could no longer write letters; her daughter sent me a letter to let me know.

I don’t know what happened to my Ohio penpal…this is perhaps the downside of having penpals who were twice my age to begin with—when something happens to them, no one lets you know. But, I enjoyed these friendships for over thirty years.

Before everyone owned a computer and Internet services flooded the market – we had Prodigy. The concept of Prodigy, at that time, was to offer bulletin boards devoted to particular topics, to which you could write, and have your letters posted, asking for friends, recipes, whatever. It was through Prodigy that I became acquainted with my friend Pat and her husband Stan. We met for the first time when Bob & I went to the L.A. County Fair one year. Pat & Stan came to visit us at our motel in Pomona; they lived in nearby Covina. Eventually, Prodigy would be overcome by AOL, Earthlink and Verizon—and the dozens of other Internet services which have changed our lives so drastically. I think the one greatest thing about the Internet is that it has brought so many of our family members and friends back together again. And sadly, my friend Pat is now living in a nursing home, suffering from Alzheimer’s.

As for Women’s Circle—the first food-related articles I sold were to this magazine. It was thrilling to see these published. One included photographs that a photographer friend took for me. Then, in 1977, I went back to work full-time and the Tower Press magazines slipped from my radar. But the friendships forged by these magazines have remained an integral part of my life.

And now—going on my seventh year of having a blog, I have been forging friendships through my articles on Sandychatter. I think the love of letter writing, of having penpals and enjoying friendships with like-minded people throughout the world, is so ingrained in all of us, that even though many of us no longer write “real” letters, we have created different kinds of friendships though the internet.

That being said, I still correspond with my Michigan penpal and two of my more recent penpals are Canadian girlfriends with whom I became acquainted in 2006. We have become the best of friends=and correspond by email as well as actual letters—and we have been known to decorate the envelopes from time to time. I am still in contact with my Oklahoma penpal, Penny. I have been corresponding for many years with a penpal who lives in Ithaca, New York who doesn’t have a computer, brought together by our love of cookbooks back in the days of the Cookbook Collectors Exchange.

Doreen, Sharon, and I were three of the women Wendy, editor of the newsletter INKY TRAIL NEWS, put together into a small retiree-email group in January of 2006. Eventually, Doreen & Sharon and I dropped out of the group but by then the three of us had become good friends.

In addition to my meeting Doreen on Mother’s Day in 2008, when she and her husband were on a cruise on which their ship docked for a few hours in Southern California—Bob and I were invited to have lunch with them onboard The Amsterdam–and it was a memorable experience.

Then, later in August of that same year, Sharon flew to California and we took our memorable California Adventure road trip, traveling up the coast, visiting Pismo, San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay—then continuing up the coast and then inland to see the Redwoods—and finally traveling south again to visit Yosemite.

Then, in 2009, I flew to Buffalo where Sharon met my flight and took me to her home in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I enjoyed a memorable vacation with her and discovered much about Canada that I did not know; the upshot of all of this is that the three of us have forged a close relationship even though my two Canadians, Doreen and Sharon, have not met each other in person yet. We’re working on that!

It’s a special occasion that we who have been writing to penpals for years meet in person, with a little trepidation and a lot of eagerness. You’ve been exchanging letters (nowadays mostly emails) and photographs and small gifts for a few years—and now you are going to actually meet in person.

Then, in 2012, Doreen and her husband flew to Arizona (from their home in Canada) and enjoyed several weeks of sightseeing. They drove a rental car to Palm Springs and after a few weeks with Canadian friends there, they drove to the Antelope Valley. We had dinner together at my place on a Tuesday, and the next day, Wednesday, February 8th, the three of us drove to Pismo Beach, one of my favorite places on earth. I had reserved the kitchenette suite at Dolphin Cove so there would be plenty of space for three adults, and took along a cooler filled with bacon, eggs, juice, and other things to make it easy to have breakfast and/or lunch in our suite—or go out to eat if we chose.

There was also an ulterior motive to my wanting to go to Pismo. Bob had mentioned to my daughter in law that he wanted to be cremated when he died, and have his ashes strewn into the ocean there. Bob passed away in September, 2011, after a year of battling cancer. The night of February 8th was clear, with a full moon, and beautiful high tide.

After a lot of soul-searching, I complied with this last wish of Bob’s, who had been my life-partner for 26 years.

Next day, we drove to Morro Bay and walked out to the rock, and then visited San Luis Obispo to have lunch and have some rolls of film developed. Many places have discontinued developing and printing film but I was delighted to find a CVS store across the street from where we parked the car—and they still had the film printing machinery. My CVS store in Lancaster has already removed the film printing machinery —fortunately, a Walmart store near me still offers developing and printing of film to its customers—and the prices are good!

Once, that morning of February 10th 2012, as I was taking pictures, a tiny white feather came slowly floating down and landed at my feet. I looked up and could not see a bird anywhere. I thought it was a gift and put it into my pocket to bring home.

On Friday the 10th, we repacked their van after making breakfast in our kitchenette, and retraced our route from the 101 to the 166, from the 166 to I-5 and from I-5 to the 138 which crosses the Mojave Desert back to Lancaster and Quartz Hill. When we reached my home, Harv unloaded all of my “stuff” and they headed back to their hotel. I invited them back for dinner and made stew out of the leftover roast beef we had enjoyed on Tuesday. We drank another toast to Bob, who—I know—would have enjoyed their visit as much as I did. Well, perhaps he did. Did he go along for the ride spiritually as well?

I put the little white feather in the box Kelly and Keara had purchased for his ashes. It also contains a small vial of Pismo Beach sand.

It has been so gratifying that for most of my adult life, I have had penpals to share it with. Perhaps the evolution of the Internet has changed how penpals communicate with one another—but we have evolved, too, turning in our pens for keyboards—but I hasten to add, there are still letter writers in our world in 2016—notably, my penpal in Australia and I have now been exchanging letters for fifty-one years—ditto my penpal in Michigan and I have been exchanging letters as well as emails for over fifty years.

This is how we write a letter!!

–Sandra Lee Smith

A LOVE AFFAIR WITH DOLL HOUSES

(Originally titled “Something about Doll Houses 2006” and featured in the Inky Trail News Newsletter and posted January 2012 in this blog)

When I was a little girl, Santa brought me a doll house for Christmas one year. I think I was about five years old. It was one of those 40s tin-dollhouses, furnished with Bakelite furniture and a bendable family of four. I loved that dollhouse and spent many hours playing with it and rearranging the furniture. Then when I was about twelve, I came home from school one day to discover that my mother had given my doll house to an acquaintance for her daughter. I was horrified.

“You never played with it anymore!” my mother claimed. (It was the bane of my existence, as well as that of my siblings, that our mother would arbitrarily decide which of your possessions you could keep and which she would decide to give away)
While she kept things like used envelopes (to make lists), all shapes and sizes of plastic containers, empty lipstick tubes and all string and rubber bands—she gave away my brothers’ baseball card collections and collections of comic books—or equally perversely, she would decide to burn those things. If something was in her basement or under her roof, it was hers to dispose of. That was my mother. One time my son Steve asked her if he could have a few of the comic books that were stored in the basement. She said no, and later got rid of all of them.)

She was mistaken about the doll house. I did play with it. I never tired of rearranging the furniture and moving the dolls around. I had a tiny little lamp that you could hold close to an actual light and then the tiny lamp glowed in the dark. (Needless to say, this doll house didn’t have real, working lights!)

I never quite got over my mother giving away that doll house. Obviously, I was ripe for collecting doll houses. I didn’t intend to collect doll houses but I’ve heard that if you have more than three of something, it’s a collection.

I found the first doll house in a thrift store in Burbank. It was in five or six pieces and the price was ten dollars. A girlfriend helped me carry the pieces to my car. Bob put the frame back together and it sat on a coffee table in the living room for several years without any additional remodeling. We began collecting an assortment of tiny dolls and dollhouse furniture. My niece and nephews and grandchildren played with it whenever they visited. But I wanted a Christmas Doll house. Bob began working on the doll house in his spare time. It became his hobby.
In 1997, we finally got the dollhouse up and decorated. It turned out too cute for words. We bought some strings of itty bitty lights and put up a Christmas tree in the living room of the doll house along with a Santa and his sleigh on the rooftop, taking off with his reindeer.

We spent two weeks adding fine touches; one night I was laying on the floor in front of the doll house, sticking furniture inside, and Bob was handing me pieces from a basket of “stuff” we had collected, when he suddenly says, “You know, we could be committed for this. Most people would say we’re crazy.” But we had such a good time with the dollhouse – not just the decorating and remodeling, but spending hours poring over miniature catalogs we received in the mail. It became our joint hobby.
Another time, he said to me, “You should take that bed out of the master bedroom” and I said “well, gee, then we wouldn’t have a BED in the master bedroom” and HE says “yeah, and then you wouldn’t have all those BABIES in the nursery.” (Our nursery had about 10 little baby dolls in it. I think 3 are triplets. They started taking on a life of their own).

That house looked darling alongside the tree! The following year we began to finish off the 3rd floor, creating a teen-age girls room and a bathroom. One time I found miniature ball gowns at a shop in Disneyland—creations patterned after the various Disney princesses; I bought two of the dresses which I think were intended to be Christmas ornaments—and then decided that, since we had those dresses, the two teenage girls were going to a ball that night. Since the two teenage girls were getting ready to go to a dance, a girlfriend made petticoats for them to have on.
The Christmas doll house became an on-going project for many years. The doll house’s mother is in the kitchen putting finishing touches on a gingerbread house; the doll house’s father is about to eat a Dagwood sandwich and sits in the living room which has a Christmas tree and a lot of presents and toys – the babies are all snug in their beds while Santa Claus is taking off in his sleigh, on the rooftop.

Every so often I’d find something perfect for the dollhouse–one year a Hallmark ornament that is a refrigerator, just the right size for the doll house—another year it was a Hallmark stove. (it disappointed me that Hallmark didn’t come up with more “creations” that would fit into my Christmas doll house).

The rooms light up and we calculate that some of the lamps, and the chandelier, cost more than some of our real household lamps. That Christmas doll house became our pride and joy.

But, I still longed for that 50s tin-dollhouse. Some years ago while on vacation and visiting relatives, we found one in an antique store in northern Ohio. Those tin dollhouses had tabs and could be taken apart and laid flat, so, we took it apart and laid it inside one of our suitcases to bring home. Meanwhile, a girlfriend found another tin dollhouse for us, complete with furniture, at a shop near her home and bought it for me. Ok, I now had three dollhouses. A collection.

Then another friend found “Grandma’s cottage”, a little dollhouse constructed from one of those kits. It was perfect for a grandmother’s house. Grandma is sitting in her rocking chair while two grandchildren play at her feet.

The piece de resistance is a huge, heavy dollhouse that we learned about from a doctor friend. It once belonged to the daughter of an artist who lived in the nearby Hollywood Hills. The artist had built it for his daughter. He had passed away; the daughter had outgrown the dollhouse, and her mother was moving to Santa Barbara. Did we want to buy the dollhouse? Of course we did! We lugged it home in the trunk of my car, tied down with rope.

This dollhouse shows obvious wear from being played with for so many years and requires paint, wallpaper, wiring—the works. The neat thing about this hobby is that it was a joint venture; Bob did all the actual work while I’d stand back and make suggestions. We’d both study hobby catalogs choosing wallpaper and bathroom tile flooring*

We acquired a respectable collection of books about doll houses, including some that are hundreds of years old—fascinating! There are actually tours you can take to visit those dollhouses throughout Europe!

I searched constantly for just the right doll house furniture. Another neat thing is that now my best friend has gotten into dollhouses too—she’s refurbished and furnished one and is working on her second. When we are together, we can always go antiquing and search for anything suitable for our dollhouses. Another friend found some 1930s oak bedroom dollhouse furniture and gave it to me one year for my birthday. Another time a niece sent me a boxful of ornate dollhouse furniture that I have since seen featured in a Hobby magazine. Who knew?

And since the Christmas doll house was now furnished (expensively, I might add) it was no longer suitable for the grandchildren to play with. We solved this by first buying a Fisher Price Loving Family dollhouse for the kids to play with when they were here visiting. And, the tin dollhouses are furnished and children are allowed to play with them. The original children to play with our doll houses were my sister’s children – now grown. Then along came my grandchildren, all of whom – including the boys – would make a beeline for the dollhouses when they visited. Now those children are “too old” for dollhouses … and we have two more little girls ready to play with these houses when they visit Grammy.

*This post was originally written some years ago, for Inky Trail News, a newsletter for women and seniors. Since writing the original version, Bob passed away, on September 22, 2011. That last doll house we purchased from the woman who was moving to Santa Barbara? It’s in Bob’s workshop, incomplete. He was shingling the roof when he became too sick to work on it anymore. Our oldest granddaughter says she is going to finish it but that may take a long time, considering how busy she is with school and other interests.

–Sandra Lee Smith

APRIL 7, 2016 in memory of Bob Fend, who loved the doll houses as much as I did.

THE KITCHEN DIARIES

*previously posted January, 2012

I began collecting cookbooks (primarily church-and-club type) over 45 years ago. Soon after, I discovered a “manuscript” cookbook – or more accurately, it discovered me. I was rummaging around in a used book store in Hollywood when the owner said “I have something interesting in a cookbook – let me show it to you”. It was a small 3-ring binder with an old leather cover and it was filled with hand written recipes as well as hundreds of clipped-and-pasted on recipes. Its owner had kept her notebook cookbook for decades – and I bought it for about $10.00 (which doesn’t sound like much, now, but at the time I was raising my family and it was a lot) – but I had to have it. Over the years, I’ve found a few more manuscript-type cookbooks but they’re really scarce. My theory is that this type of cookbook remains in the family. I don’t believe that the owner of that first manuscript cookbook, whose name, I discovered, was Helen, had any children. Surely, one’s children would never allow something so precious to end up in a used book store.

Then I became interested in recipe boxes when I found an old, green, wooden recipe box in Ventura, California, at an antique store. It was packed with the former owner’s collection of recipes. I was so intrigued by this type of collection – what I think of as a kitchen diary – that I began a diligent search for filled recipe boxes. These are just about as scarce and hard to find as handwritten cookbooks. Often, you can find recipe boxes – in thrift stores or antique shops – but they are usually empty. I think the storekeepers don’t imagine anyone would be interested in the contents, which are often scrappy little pieces of paper, recipes clipped from the back of a bag of macaroni or flour, recipes written on a piece of envelope, – but over the past 15 or 20 years, I’ve managed to find quite a few of these filled recipe boxes. One time my niece, who lives in Palm Springs, found three of them for me at a yard sale; it helps that so many people know about my fascination with old, filled recipe boxes. Another time, a girlfriend of mine was telling me about helping a friend of hers clear out her mother’s apartment, after her mother had passed away. “Oh,” I said “Ask your friend if her mother had any recipe boxes”. She did – and I got it. She also had, and gave to me, several cookbook autographed by cookbook author Mike Roy, with whom her mother had been acquainted. On yet another occasion, I was given half a dozen filled recipe boxes that had belonged to the aunt of a woman I worked with.

Now, I collect all types of recipe boxes but the ones I cherish the most are those filled with someone else’s recipe collection. One of these boxes is so old that the contents are extremely fragile and bits of paper disintegrate whenever you handle them.

Yard sales where I live rarely yield such treasures although once we were at an estate sale and I happened to find a cardboard box – shaped like a file drawer – filled with handwritten recipe cards on oversize cards, about a 4×6” size. I was able to buy it for $2.00. Part of the charm, or intrigue, of owning these boxes is going through them piece by piece, and trying to learn something about the person who compiled the box. I leave all of these boxes exactly “as is” because I feel to change them would change the integrity of the collection.

What makes these recipe boxes so enticing? I think old recipe boxes, filled with someone’s collection of recipes, are a window into our culinary past. Eventually, no doubt, someone else will discover these treasures, too, but in the meantime, I like to think that what I have is a fairly unique collection.

–Sandra Lee Smith

AN UPDATE ON THOSE INCOMPORABLE BROWNS: CORA, ROSE & BOB — COOKBOOK AUTHORS

AN UPDATE ON THOSE INCOMPORABLE BROWNS: CORA, ROSE & BOB — COOKBOOK AUTHORS
(previously posted 9/2012)

Back in 1965, when I first began collecting cookbooks, one of my first cookbook penpals was a woman in Michigan, Betsy, who has remained my friend to this day. I have been the happy recipient of many of her cookbooks as she began to downsize.

Betsy was the person who “introduced” me to the Browns – Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, authors of over a dozen really fantastic, outstanding cookbooks. Betsy had some duplicates of the Browns’ cookbooks and sent them to me. Well, I was quickly hooked. And it was the Browns’ “America Cooks” (published 1940 by Halcyon House), that really turned me onto church-and-club community cookbooks. (I was stunned to see “America Cooks” listed at $300 by an antiquarian book dealer. I bought an extra copy for $5.00 some time ago and gave it to someone who didn’t have a copy!)

Everyone of you who reads cookbooks like novels (and thinks you are the only person in the world who does this) would find “America Cooks” a most readable cookbook. Since “America Cooks” was published in 1940, others have followed in the Browns’ footsteps with dozens of cookbooks with “America” in the titles. None can compare with The Browns’ “America Cooks”.

In the foreword, the Browns wr0te, “We put in twenty years of culinary adventuring in as many countries and wrote a dozen books about it before finding out that we might as well have stayed at home and specialized in the regional dishes of our own forty-eight states. For America cooks and devours a greater variety of viands than any other country. We’re the world’s richest stewpot and there’s scarcely a notable foreign dish or drink that can’t be had to perfection in one or another section of our country….”

“For many years we Browns have been collecting regional American cooking lore, gathering characteristic recipes from each of the forty-eight states (Hawaii and Alaska had not yet become states in 1940) with colorful notes on regional culinary customs. Our collection is complete and savory. It has been our aim to make this America’s culinary source book, a means whereby each state and city may interchange its fine foods and dishes with every other, from coast to coast and from border to border. Here are forty-eight different cookbooks merged into one handy volume—a guide to the best in food and drink that this bounteous country offers. Obviously, no one person nor three, can cover every kitchen, even with such enthusiastic help as we have had from several hundred local authorities. But we believe this is our best food book, and in order to build it bigger and better in later editions, we should like to swap regional recipes and gustatory lore with all who are interested…”

And seventy something years later, I think “America Cooks” remains the Browns’ best food book. However, that being said, I found the most elusive cookbook of the Browns to be “THE VEGETABLE COOK BOOK”, subtitled “FROM TROWEL TO TABLE” by Cora, Rose and Bob Brown. Published by J. B. Lippincott Company in 1939—I only recently obtained a copy through Alibris.com and paid a whopping $25.00 for a copy. (I justified it by it having the original dust jacket and being a first edition—although to tell the truth, I rarely spend that much on a book. And it seems that other copies are going for much higher prices.

Cora Brown, Robert’s mother, was born in Charlotte, Michigan, graduated from the Chicago Conservatory of music, married and brought up a family. She took up writing fiction and in 1920 went to Brazil to become co-publisher with her son and daughter in law, Rose. Cora lived with Bob and Rose in Japan, China, France, Germany, etc, becoming familiar with foreign customs and kitchens and collecting recipes with Rose. Cora is the author of “The Guide to Rio de Janerio” and co-authored ten cookbooks with Bob and Rose.

Rose Brown was born in Middletown, Ohio (not far from my hometown of Cincinnati), and graduated from Barnard College and Teachers College. She was a teacher, interior decorator, and journalist, contributing articles on cooking to Colliers, Vogue, This Week and other magazines. Rose was co-author with Cora and Bob on most of their cookbooks. One cookbook that does not list Cora is “Look Before You Cook” which shows Rose and Bob as authors. One cookbook authored solely by Bob Brown is “The Complete Book of Cheese.” “Culinary Americana” was written by Eleanor Parker and Bob Brown—Eleanor becoming Bob’s wife after Rose’s death.

According to Lippincott, the initiation of Rose into the mysteries of cooking was over a camp fire with game and instruction by her father. During World War I, she worked as a writer for the Committee of Public Information in Santiago, Chile. In Buenos Aires, Mrs. Brown became co publisher with Bob Brown of weekly magazines in Rio de Janeiro, Mexico and London. Rose Brown had her own kitchen in a dozen countries and traveled all over the world, always pursuing her hobbies of collecting recipes and cooking lore—and going fishing with her husband. Rose Brown passed away in 1952.

Bob brown was born in Chicago and was graduated from Oak Park High School and the University of Wisconsin. He arrived in New York in 1908 to enter the writing lists, contributing verse and fiction to practically all the periodicals of the time. One of his first books, written after the end of Prohibition, was called “Let There Be Beer!” He then collaborated with his mother and wife Rose on “The Wine Cookbook,” first published in 1934 and reprinted many times. A 1960 edition was re-named “Cooking with Wine” .

Robert Carlton Brown (1886-1959) was a writer, editor, publisher, and traveler. From 1908 to 1917, he wrote poetry and prose for numerous magazines and newspapers in New York City, publishing two pulp novels, “What Happened to Mary” and “The Remarkable Adventures of Christopher Poe” (1913), and one volume of poetry, “My Marjonary” (1916).

In 1918, Bob Brown traveled extensively in Mexico and Central America, writing for the U.S. Committee of Public Information in Santiago de Chile. In 1919, he moved with his wife, Rose Brown, to Rio de Janeiro, where they founded Brazilian American, a weekly magazine that ran until 1929. With Brown’s mother, Cora, the Browns also established magazines in Mexico City and London: Mexican American (1924-1929) and British American (1926-1929).

Following the stock market crash of 1929, the Browns retired from publishing and traveled through Asia and Europe, settling in France from 1929-1933. Brown became involved in the expatriate literary community in Paris, publishing several volumes of poetry, including” Globe Gliding” (1930), “Gems” (1931), “Words” (1931), and “Demonics” (1931), as well as “1450-1950” (1929), a book of visual poetry. While in France, Brown also made plans toward, and wrote a manifesto for, the development of a “reading machine” involving the magnified projection of miniaturized type printed on movable spools of tape. Arguing that such a device would enable literature to compete with cinema in a visual age, Brown published a book of “Readies”—poems by Gertrude Stein, Fillipo Marinetti, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and others, typeset in a manner appropriate to operation of his projected reading machine. Although Brown’s reading machine was never developed, his papers include letters and papers pertaining to its projected design and technical specifications, as well as a collection of his own published and unpublished visual and conceptual writing. (Bob Brown was way ahead of his time – today, we have the Kindle and Nook. I can’t help but wonder if someone came across his manifesto and ran with it).

In 1933, Brown returned to New York. In the 1930s, he wrote a series of international cookbooks in collaboration with Rose and Cora Brown. He also lived in cooperative colonies in Arkansas and Louisiana, visited the USSR, and wrote a book, “Can We Co-Operate” (1940), regarding the parameters of a viable American socialism. In 1941, he and Rose returned to South America. While traveling down the Amazon they amassed a substantial collection of art and cultural artifacts and collaborated on a book, “Amazing Amazon” (1942). The Browns eventually reestablished residence in Rio de Janeiro, where they lived until Rose Brown’s death in 1952.

After thirty years of living in many foreign countries, and following the deaths of Cora and Rose, Bob Brown closed their mountain home in Petropolis, Brazil, and returned to New York, where he married Eleanor Parker in 1953. Brown continued to write and ran a shop called Bob Brown’s Books in Greenwich Village and ran a mail order business until his death in 1959. Shortly after Brown’s death, a new edition of “1450-1950” was published by Jonathan Williams’s Jargon/Corinth Press.
During his lifetime, Bob Brown authored more than a thousand short stories and thirty full length books.
The Browns appear to have used a number of different publishers for their cookbooks. While “Soups, Sauces and Gravies,” “Fish and Sea Food Cookbook,” Salad and Herbs” were published by Lippincott, “The Complete Book of Cheese” was published by Gramercy Publishing Company. “America Cooks” and “10,000 Snacks” were published by Halcyon House and “The European Cook Book” by Prentice-Hall, Inc. A few were published by companies I am unfamiliar with; “The Country Cookbook” by A.S. Barnes and Company, and “Most for Your Money Cookbook” by Modern Age Books. “Culinary Americana”, co-authored by Brown Brown and Eleanor Parker Brown, was published by Roving Eye Press (Bob Brown’s own publication name). For whatever reason, the Browns appear to have shopped around whenever they had a book ready for publication. (Or did they copyright them all first, and then shop for publishers?)
Recently, I began to rediscover the fabulous cookbooks written the Browns. Some unexpected surprises turned up—for instance, as I was browsing through the pages of “Most for Your Money” I found a chapter titled “Mulligans Slugullions, Lobscouses and Burgoos”—while I am unfamiliar with mulligans and lobscouses, I’ve written about slumgullion stew in sandychatter and have received messages from readers from time to time, sharing their stories about slumgullion stews of their childhoods. It starts out “Jack London’s recipe for slumgullion is both simple and appetizing…” providing some enlightenment about the history of slumgullion. (some other time, perhaps we can explore the obscure and mostly forgotten names of recipes).

And – synchronicity – I had just finished writing about sauces for my blog when I rediscovered, on my bookshelves, the Browns “Soups Sauces and Gravies” which simply reaffirmed my belief that the best cookbooks on sauces will be found in older cookbooks. This cookbook by the Browns was published in 1939.
The most complete list I have of the Browns’ cookbooks is as follows:
The Wine Cookbook, by Cora, Rose & Bob Brown, originally published in 1934, revised edition 1944, Little Brown & Company. In 1960 Bob Brown published a reprint of The Wine Cookbook with the title “Cooking With Wine” and under his Roving Eye Press logo.

The European Cook Book/The European Cookbook for American Homes is apparently the same book with slightly different titles. Subtitled The Four in One book of continental cookery, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France. I saw and nearly purchased on the internet an English version of the same book from a dealer in England. I already have three copies, don’t need a fourth! However, it should be noted that the original European Cook Book for American Homes was published in 1936 by Farrar & Rinehart. The 1951 edition with a shortened title was published by Prentice-Hall.
The Country Cook Book by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1937 by A.S. Barnes and Company.
Most for your Money CookBook, by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1938 by Modern Age Books
Salads and Herbs, By Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1938 by J.B. Lippincott
The South American Cookbook (what I have is a Dover Publication reprint first published in 1971. The original was published by Doubleday, Doran & Company in 1939 – Cora, Rose and Bob Brown
Soups, Sauces and Gravies by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1939 by J.B. Lippincott Company
The Vegetable Cookbook by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1939 by J.B. Lippincott
America Cooks by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1940 by Halcyon House.
Outdoor Cooking by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1940 The Greystone Press (*notes that parts of this book appeared in Collier’s and Esquire magazines)
Fish and Seafood Cook Book by Cora, Rose and Bob Brown, published 1940 by J.B. Lippincott Company
Look Before you Cook by Rose and Bob Brown, published 1941 by Consumers Union of the United States, Inc.
10,000 Snacks by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1948 by Halcyon House—the format and chatty style of 10,000 snacks is quite similar to “America Cooks”.
The Complete Book of Cheese, by Bob Brown, published 1955 by Gramercy Publishing
Culinary Americana by Eleanor Parker Brown and Bob Brown is a bibliography of cookbooks published in the cities and towns of the United States during the years from 1860 through 1960. It is believed that the first fund-raiser cookbook was compiled and published during the Civil War, by women to raised money for the Sanitation Commission. Culinary American focuses primarily on “regional” cookbooks, and notes that, “Certainly, it was after the War (i.e., the Civil War) that we find them printed in many states of the union,” writes Eleanor Parker Brown in the Introduction to Culinary Americana, “A survey of 200 cookbooks of our own collection, published at various times during this last century in Massachusetts showed that they came from seventy-four different cities and villages. In the case of many of the smaller places, these titles constitute the only books ever printed in these localities, which makes them important landmarks in the history of bookmaking in the state.
The regional cookbooks are a treasure trove of original recipes, as well as a record of old ‘receipts,’ reflecting the nationality background of the settlers of the community. Thus you will expect, and find, German foods in the old books of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Scandinavian receipts in the pamphlets of the Midwest, and Spanish dishes in the booklets published in the southwest…the little books, some in the handwriting of the contributor, often with signed recipes, gives us a glimpse of the gallant women who proudly cooked these meals and generously gave up their secrets ‘for the benefit of…others…”
Eleanor Parker Brown also shares with us, in the introduction, “Bob Brown first got together a cookbook collection for reference when he began to write about cooking. He had 1500 volumes which were purchased promptly by a grocery chain store as nucleus for their research library. It was then necessary for him to start a new collection. This was the origin of an interest in cookery books which lasted, and grew, to the end of this life. Bob saw cook books as social and cultural history in America; particularly, those regional books which were so close to the heart of the country…”
Eleanor says that after Bob’s sudden death, she continued work o this bibliography.” Culinary Americana includes listings of all the regional cookbooks we could either locate or obtain information about. It runs the gamut from ‘fifteen cent dinners for families of six’ to the extravagant and elaborate collations of Oscar of the Waldorf….”
“Culinary Americana” is the kind of book that cookbook collectors simply drool over.
As an aside, I find it curious that the Browns flooded the cookbook market within the span of a few years; from “The Wine Cookbook”, published in 1934, to “Look Before You Cook” published in 1941, the Browns published eleven cookbooks. Then they appear to have gone on hiatus until 10,000 snacks was published in 1948. However, given the extent of their travels and living in countries all over the world – it crossed my mind that perhaps all of these cookbooks were “in the works” while they lived abroad—and perhaps came home to get their cookbooks published. I’m speculating, of course. The first time I wrote about the Browns (for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 1994) – information was scarce. Almost everything I wrote about was gleaned from the books or their dust jackets. Today, thanks to the internet, there is more biographical information available but not enough to satisfy my greedy soul. Of all the authors I have collected in the past 45 years, those by The Browns remain my all time favorites. I was stunned to discover Bob Brown had a bookstore and that he wrote over a thousand short stories and 30 full length books. Yowza – this trio did it all.
Another update! Some months ago I was stunned to receive a message on my blog from Rory Brown—Bob Brown was his great grandfather; Cora Brown was his great-great-grandmother. It isn’t the first time (and hopefully won’t be the last) that a descendant of someone I have written about on Sandychatter has written to me. It was with Rory’s assistance that I located a copy of the Browns’ Vegetable Cookbook. I’m not sure why this particular cookbook has been so elusive—possibly because it was never reprinted like some of the other cookbooks have been? The Brown descendants have mentioned the possibility of having the books reprinted—wouldn’t that be nice?
Meantime, here’s a bit to chew on from The Vegetable Cookbook – it starts out “Speaking of Spinach” and introduces us to Cora’s great-granddaughter, Sylvie—then age 4—at a Thanksgiving dinner of the whole Brown family “Last Thanksgiving” which I assume to have taken place in 1938, since the book was published in 1939. The Browns noted that “She possessed herself in patience until the napkin was knotted in place and the plate set before her. Surveying the many good things, she made a quick choice, jabbed her fork into the beans with a forthright gesture, appraised the mouthful, wiped a buttery trickle from her chin, beamed around at everybody and gave a little squeal of delight—‘Oh, I just love string beans, don’t you, Bob?’” and the authors take it from there.
Well, I love Spinach and home-grown cooked green beans (aka string beans) and the Browns write that “Greens are only an appetizing nibble at our subject, for in Florida alone, the State Department of Agriculture lists more than sixty local favorites” which they go on to list. The Browns stated they had, for years, been ardent readers of seed catalogs and had gardens of their own whenever they had the chance. It was from growing their own that they had the idea of writing The Vegetable Cook Book – from Trowel to Table”. They wrote of being fed up with “woody turnips, wilted spinach, limp beans and peas that would give you some bruises on the gullet, frayed heads of cauliflower, broccoli and iceberg lettuce past their prime, as well as those terrible lopsided little scallions that are sold for spring onions by grocers nowadays, we got a head start with a compost bed and survey of half a hundred catalogs…”
I wonder what the Browns would think if they could observe the produce department in many supermarkets more than seventy years later—the array is, admittedly, dazzling—but I find too often that whatever I buy fresh needs to be used almost immediately. A few days later, most lettuce and other greens has to be thrown out.
But returning to The Vegetable Cook Book – I was entertained (and reminded of personal experiences) as they wrote of their first vegetable gardens, forgetting what was planted where when the little sticks identifying various veggies would be lost or blown away and other hit-or-miss experiences…everyone who has had similar experiences will relate. For almost 25 years, I had a house-mate also named Bob, who tended our compost and planted the veggie gardens at our home in the San Fernando Valley, until we moved to the Antelope Valley in 2008 and discovered the need to re-learn gardening in the desert.
But getting back to my favorite cookbook authors, following their introduction and induction into vegetable gardening, the Browns move forward, alphabetically from Artichokes and Asparagus to Avocados (with a side-trip into the variables of vegetables that are a fruit, or fruits that are a vegetable, such as tomatoes and avocados). There are chapters on cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery and chives, Kohlrabi and parsley, parsnips, peas – and many more…all the way down to Yams. I suspect that possibly one reason why The Vegetable Cook Book is so difficult to find is that it’s a dictionary of sorts, listing all the vegetables available to the Browns—with ways to cook them—maybe it belongs with my reference books rather than the cookbooks!

“The Vegetable Cook Book, From Trowel to Table” may pose a challenge for sandychatter readers to find a copy—but it’s sure to become a favorite reference cookbook if and when you do. (Cookbook collectors love the challenge of searching for a particular book).

—Sandra Lee Smith

THE KITCHEN DIARIES

I began collecting cookbooks (primarily church-and-club type) over 45 years ago. Soon after, I discovered a “manuscript” cookbook – or more accurately, it discovered me. I was rummaging around in a used book store in Hollywood when the owner said “I have something interesting in a cookbook – let me show it to you”. It was a small 3-ring binder with an old leather cover and it was filled with hand written recipes as well as hundreds of clipped-and-pasted on recipes. Its owner had kept her notebook cookbook for decades – and I bought it for about $10.00 (which doesn’t sound like much, now, but at the time I was raising my family and it was a lot) – but I had to have it. Over the years, I’ve found a few more manuscript-type cookbooks but they’re really scarce. My theory is that this type of cookbook remains in the family. I don’t believe that the owner of that first manuscript cookbook, whose name, I discovered, was Helen, had any children. Surely, one’s children would never allow something so precious to end up in a used book store.

Then I became interested in recipe boxes when I found an old, green, wooden recipe box in Ventura, California, at an antique store. It was packed with the former owner’s collection of recipes. I was so intrigued by this type of collection – what I think of as a kitchen diary – that I began a diligent search for filled recipe boxes. These are just about as scarce and hard to find as handwritten cookbooks. Often, you can find recipe boxes – in thrift stores or antique shops – but they are usually empty. I think the storekeepers don’t imagine anyone would be interested in the contents, which are often scrappy little pieces of paper, recipes clipped from the back of a bag of macaroni or flour, recipes written on a piece of envelope, – but over the past 15 or 20 years, I’ve managed to find quite a few of these filled recipe boxes. One time my niece, who lives in Palm Springs, found three of them for me at a yard sale; it helps that so many people know about my fascination with old, filled recipe boxes. Another time, a girlfriend of mine was telling me about helping a friend of hers clear out her mother’s apartment, after her mother had passed away. “Oh,” I said “Ask your friend if her mother had any recipe boxes”. She did – and I got it. She also had, and gave to me, several cookbook autographed by cookbook author Mike Roy, with whom her mother had been acquainted. On yet another occasion, I was given half a dozen filled recipe boxes that had belonged to the aunt of a woman I worked with.

Now, I collect all types of recipe boxes but the ones I cherish the most are those filled with someone else’s recipe collection. One of these boxes is so old that the contents are extremely fragile and bits of paper disintegrate whenever you handle them.

Yard sales where I live rarely yield such treasures although once we were at an estate sale and I happened to find a cardboard box – shaped like a file drawer – filled with handwritten recipe cards on oversize cards, about a 4×6” size. I was able to buy it for $2.00. Part of the charm, or intrigue, of owning these boxes is going through them piece by piece, and trying to learn something about the person who compiled the box. I leave all of these boxes exactly “as is” because I feel to change them would change the integrity of the collection.

What makes these recipe boxes so enticing? I think old recipe boxes, filled with someone’s collection of recipes, are a window into our culinary past. Eventually, no doubt, someone else will discover these treasures, too, but in the meantime, I like to think that what I have is a fairly unique collection.

–Sandra Lee Smith

originally posted 4/2011

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS

CHERYL AND BILL JAMISON are names you should recognize if you have been following my cookbook reviews for any length of time—I am unable to find my history on this couple at the present time—possibly because I lost a lot of material when I bought a new computer—and that came about after being seriously HACKED although I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would be interested in hacking MY files – inasmuch as everything I have written about cooking and cookbook authors can be found on my Blog. Well, let me get to the point—I was unpacking a box of cookbooks to put on the shelves in the garage library (I think someone must have given them to me) and I found a cookbook by the Jamisons that I was totally unfamiliar with!

And it was published not so very long ago, in 2008 (for me, that’s recent); the title is AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS, The Ultimate Culinary Adventure, with the intriguing subtitle “50,000 MILES, 10 COUNTRIES, 800 DISHES AND 1 ROGUE MONKEY” This book is in pristine condition with a spotless dust jacket that I wish I knew how to copy and post with this article. Published by Harper Collins, the dust jacket offers a charming photograph of the Jamisons, with the notation “Cheryl and Bill Jamison are the authors of more than a dozen cookbooks and travel guides. They appear regularly on television, and are frequent contributors to publications, including COOKING LIGHT and BON APPETIT. They live just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.” I have to confess, my bafflement has just increased—I subscribe to both Cooking Light and Bon Appetit and don’t recall seeing any of their articles. (which means I will get out stacks of the latter magazine, which I keep, to search for the Jamisons)

Well, the first thing on MY mind, maybe yours too, was “Where did the Jamisons go? Per the dustjacket, “After years of writing award-winning cookbooks, renowned culinary experts Cheryl and Bill Jamison were ready for a break. So in the fall of 2005 they packed their bags, locked up their house in Santa Fe, and set off on a three-month-long visit to ten countries—all on frequent flyer miles. Among their stops were

Bali

Australia

New Caledonia

Thailand

India

China

South Africa

Brazil

–and don’t forget France

I have to add that this book reminds me so much of the foreign countries one of my favorite authors, Myra Waldo visited and wrote about decades before the Jamisons. I can’t help but wonder if the Jamisons knew about Myra Waldo or were inspired by her.

“AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS” is as much prose (their adventures) as it is poetry (the recipes). Now, there have been many cookbooks written about food in other countries (perhaps more so after WW2 than prior to it, when our soldiers returned home with new recipes and in many instances, brides as well—but anything that the Jamisons write is sure to be interesting and transporting the reader to another country.

And while “Around the World in 80 Dinners” may take you on charming visits to these countries, I have to tell you there are only actually ten recipes in the book itself (yes, I counted) – so you will have to read the book for the ADVENTURES more than the recipes—although there is one made with your Wok, Charred Long Beans with Black Olives, that I have already earmarked to try.

If you yearn for a cookbook providing more recipes, may I suggest another Jamison favorite, AMERICAN HOME COOKING, which contains over 300 recipes.

I really enjoy the Jamisons’ style of writing—whether recipes or travel adventures; you feel like you know them and are a part of their circle of friends.

 

Continue reading

(Still) TENDER AT THE BONE

TENDER AT THE BONE BY RUTH REICHL was previously posted on my Blog—but reading Reichl’s latest book, RUTH REICHL, MY KITCHEN YEAR, 136 RECIPES THAT SAVED MY LIFE” reminded me of my love for her early memoir, TENDER AT THE BONE – and so I am re-writing that memoir:

“I just finished re-reading Ruth Reichl’s early memoir TENDER AT THE BONE and want to tell you, this is a must for all of us—for everyone who loves to cook, for anyone who grew up in the 40s or the 50s but especially in New York; for anyone who appreciates good food, for all of us who enjoy a good story—for those of us who have suffered in the not-too-distant past the idiosyncrasies of our mothers—but mostly for all of us who appreciate the lure and calling of the kitchen.

I first read about Ruth Reichl’s TENDER AT THE BONE in a lengthy, fascinating review that appeared around the time Reichl’s memoir was first published and was reviewed in the Los Angeles Times. The review was actually a reprint of chapter two, titled Grandmothers, and it captivated everyone who read it—along with everyone who ever enjoyed having a wonderful grandmother. In it, Ruth describes the relationship she enjoyed all her life with her father’s first wife’s mother, Aunt Birdie, who was—at four feet eight, the smallest grown-up that Ruth or any of her friends had ever seen.

From Aunt Birdie and Aunt Birdie’s cook, Alice, Ruth was introduced to the kitchen and from Aunt Birdie, Ruth received the one thing all of us as children need and cherish—unconditional love. Aunt Birdied, incidentally, so desperately wanted to be a grandmother that she presented herself at the hospital when Ruth was born, and volunteered herself for the job.

Ruth Reichl has been a restaurant critic for the New York Times, New West Magazine, California magazine, and the Los Angeles Times newspaper, and was editor in chief for Gourmet Magazine until it folded (I began re-subscribing to Gourmet when Ruth became editor its chief. I loved everything she wrote and attempted to follow her career). She also edited ENDLESS FEASTS which was a tribute to sixty years of writing from Gourmet. ENDLESS FEASTS was published in 2002. It’s the perfect book to carry around with you on errands to the post office or bank, wherever you may find yourself standing in line—the short stories are ideal for waiting-in-line and the book is small enough to fit into most purses.

Ruth Reichl was a writer and editor who was the Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine for ten years until its closing in 2009. Before that she was the restaurant critic of the The New York Times, (1993-1999), and both the restaurant critic and food editor of the Los Angeles Times (1984-1993). As co-owner and cook of the collective restaurant The Swallow from 1974 to 1977, she played a part in the culinary revolution that took place in Berkeley, California.

From Ruth Reichl’s official biography, we learned that she began writing about food in 1972, when she published “Mmmmm: A FEASTIARY”. Since then, she has authored the critically acclaimed, best-selling memoirs Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Garlic and Sapphires, and For You Mom, Finally, (originally published as Not Becoming My Mother and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way). She is the editor of The Modern Library Food Series, which currently includes ten books—I was curious about this series and checked through both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble to see what all is in the series. (It looks like something I will want to order and write about—one thing that stunned me was the discovery that Henri Charpentier is the subject of one of the books. I wrote about Charpentier in January, 2011, on my blog—but had written about him long before that, for the cookbook Collectors Exchange).

Reichl has also written the introductions to Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery: Recipes for the Connoisseur (1996) and The Measure of Her Powers: An M.F.K. Fisher Reader (2000), and the foreword for Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, by Shizuo Tsuji (2007). She is featured on the cover of Dining Out: Secrets from America’s Leading Critics, Chefs and Restaurants, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page (1998), History in a Glass: Sixty Years of Wine Writing from Gourmet, 2006, and Gourmet Today, 2009.

Ms. Reichl has been honored with six James Beard Awards (one for magazine feature writing and one for multimedia food journalism in 2009; two for restaurant criticism, in 1996 and 1998; one for journalism, in 1994; and Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, 1984) and with numerous awards from the Association of American Food Journalists. In 2007, she was named Adweek’s Editor of the Year. She received the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism, presented by the Missouri School of Journalism, in October 2007. Ms. Reichl received the 2008 Matrix award for Magazines from New York Women in Communications, Inc..

She is also the recipient of the YWCA’s Elizabeth Cutter Morrow Award. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in the History of Art from the University of Michigan and lives in New York City with her husband, Michael Singer, a television news producer, and their son.

Whew! I hope you were able to keep up with me listing all of that!

Right now, I’d like to focus on TENDER AT THE BONE, an early memoir but not the very first. That would be “Mmmmm: A Feastiary” published in 1972.

TENDER AT THE BONE is the story of Reichl’s life and how it led her to the kitchen from early childhood to the present. This is not really a cookbook although it does contain some of Reichl’s favorite recipes, including Aunt Birdie’s famous potato salad and Alice’s apple dumplings with hard sauce.

Many of Reichl’s experiences in life struck a familiar chord – when she tells of being sent to a French girls school in Canada—where everyone except Ruth spoke French—and how out of place and foreign she felt – I was instantly reminded of my first year at a Catholic Girls’ High School where everyone seemed to know where to go and how to behave, except me, (one nun never forgave me for walking into the cloister to get to my science class, not believing that I had no idea what “cloister” meant—although fifty years later when we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our graduation, Sister Seraphia—reading my confession about the cloister in the school’s quarterly booklet—conceded that I probably didn’t really know what “cloister” meant). As for me, I made it my business forever after to learn the meaning of any word I was unfamiliar with. It was a good lesson).   And while my mother may not have been quite as outrageous as Ruth’s, mine may have run a close second. It took many years for my siblings and I to discover that it wasn’t the food we disliked; it was the way mom cooked it. (Oh?   You mean rice isn’t intended to be a hard sticky ball like library paste?) Ruth says her mother was taste-blind, as some people are color-blind. My mother was pre-occupied with managing to feed seven people with one pound of hamburger meat (you keep adding bread to the ground beef. None of us knew what a real hamburger tasted like until we grew up and could order something from a local Frisches’ diner.)

TENDER AT THE BONE, write the publishers, is the story of a life determined, enhanced, and defined in equal measure by unforgettable people, the love of tales, well told, and a passion for food. In other words, the stuff of the best literature. The journey begins with Reichl’s mother, the notorious food-poisoner, known forevermore as the Queen of Mold and moves on to the fabled Mrs. Peavey, onetime Baltimore socialite millionairess, who for a brief but poignant moment, was retained as the Reichl’s maid. Then we are introduced to Monsieur du Croix, the gourmand who so understood and yet was awed by this prodigious child at his dinner table that when he introduced Ruth to the soufflé, he could only exclaim “What a pleasure to watch a child eat her first soufflé!…”

In an Amazon.com Internet interview with Ruth Reichl, she explains that she didn’t start out thinking she was writing a memoir; she just really wanted to do some writing that was not just restaurant reviews. We also learn from the interview that Ruth is a kindred spirit to us all—she has hundreds of cookbooks. The Fannie Farmer cookbook is one of her all-time favorites (and in TENDER AT THE BONE you discover her introduction to, and friendship with, cookbook author Marion Cunningham who wrote the latest version for the Fannie Farmer Cookbook).

Ruth says she loves Marian Morash’s vegetable book THE VICTORY GARDEN COOKBOOK and was greatly impressed with Rozanne Gold’s RECIPES 1-2-3, (previously reviewed on my blog).

Ruth Reichl also loves Richard Olney’s books, especially SIMPLE FRENCH FOOD and says that one more book she really loves and has had for about twenty years is GOOD FOOD OF SZECHWAN.

TENDER AT THE BONE is available on Amazon.com or from one of many private vendors for a pre-owned copy. Alibris.com also has pre owned copies .I do hope that all of Ruth Reichl’s fans will buy a copy of RUTH REICHL – MY KITCHEN YEAR. (which I will write about when I finish reading it)

review by Sandra Lee Smith