COLLECTING COOKBOOKS OR COMPILING THEM

The Friends of the California Lancaster Library book sale that I wrote about the other day was especially profitable from my point of view—I have been collecting cookbooks since 1965, little dreaming how the collection would grow, little imagining how many cookbooks are published year after year. Somewhere in my files is buried an article about how many cookbooks are published every year—but the author was writing about published cookbooks, those with a copyright and meeting requirements for publication—not included are the thousands of little church and club cookbooks wherein the good ladies of the church go around collecting favorite recipes from parishioners of the church and frequently published by a member of the church who works for a printing press. Many others are put together by the ladies of the church themselves, typed up and put together by whatever means available to them.

When the San Fernando Beachy School PTA ladies decided to put together a cookbook, I immediately volunteered my services—based on the fact that I collected cookbooks myself AND had a working knowledge of how to go about getting the cookbook published. By this time I was aware of cookbook publishers who often published their ads in women’s magazines.

Several PTA ladies collected the recipes and delivered them to me. I was too busy with four young sons, two of them toddlers, plus a home typing job, to do more than type up the recipes as they were collected and delivered to me. I held a meeting at my house and told the women how we could go about putting together a cookbook and this was how I became acquainted with Mary Jaynne (who drew the illustrations for our cookbook), and Rosalia, who both became lifelong friends.

In time all the recipes were typed, the illustrations drawn, and submitted to a cookbook publishing company. The year was 1971. Our little cookbook has stood the test of time; I refer to it occasionally when I want a particular recipe.

Years passed and I was involved with several other cookbooks being published but none to the extent of that first cookbook which we titled “Recipe Roundup”.

And years after that, I was involved with the compilation of an office cookbook that, after being referred to as the Office Cookbook for years before it was officially published, was given the title of The Office Cookbook.

In the 1990s, my sister Becky and I began compiling a family cookbook that we named after our paternal grandmother—who had managed to make each grandchild firmly believe that he or she really WAS Grandma’s Favorite. My sister Becky died from breast cancer but lived long enough to give copies of our cookbook to her children and grandchildren. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks, because so many of the family favorites, including some of grandma’s recipes, are in it.

This has been a long round-about way of wanting to tell you about some of the cookbooks I found at this week’s Lancaster Friends of the Library’s booksale which I am especially delighted about. (You can never have too many cookbooks!)

The titles of the books are as follows:

CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS by Patricia Quintan

LOWBUSH MOOSE (AND OTHER ALASKAN RECIPES) by Gordon R. Nelson

FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING by Tammy Algood

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS by Cheryl and Bill Jamison

LILIES OF THE KITCHEN by Barbara Batcheller

THE MINIMALIST ENTERTAINS by Mark Bittman – and –

HOW THE WORLD COOKS CHICKEN by H. J. Muessen

All of the books are in good-to-fine condition—in fact, Tammy Algood’s FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING is brand-new, with a plastic wrap sealing it. Someone had donated this cookbook to the library without ever opening it. The cost to me was a dollar for each cookbook. (If I had waited one more day for the half price sale, I could have gotten the books for fifty cents each—but they might have been sold to someone else, if I had been patient enough to wait another day.

First on the list was CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS, subtitled “The authentic seafood and vegetable cookery of Mexico”, by Patricia Quintana with Jack Bishop. Published by Simon & Schuster, I was surprised to discover that Patricia Quintana   has also published The Taste of Mexico and Feasts of Life (plus 6 additional titles published in Mexico) and is a name unfamiliar to me and took me by surprise (not that I am any kind of an expert in any foreign cuisine—but several of my bookshelves are packed with Mexican cookbooks—you can’t live most of your adult life in Southern California and not be well acquainted with Mexican cuisine!

In the Introduction, the author explains “This book is somewhat different from the works we traditionally call ‘cookbooks’ and therefore needs some words of explanation to readers.”

She goes on to say that five years ago, she set out to write about the regional cuisines of coastal Mexico that rely o n seafood, vegetables and grains. She writes, “As I explored the coasts, rivers, and lagoons of my country, learning about the ways of Mexico’s first inhabitants, I felt an irrepressible connection with the past.

Although I make my home in Mexico City the inland capital of the country,” she continues, “I found myself drawn back to the sea for sustenance. It became the source of my spiritual and intellectual inspiration…”

When it was time to write, Patricia could not decide where to begin—how to capture her feelings and thoughts and put them into words. The scope of her project—to catalog the indigenous coastal cuisines and the changes that have occurred as a result of the introduction of new peoples and ingredients over the past five centuries—was massive.

As she tried to develop a logical organization for the book, it dawned on her that the shape of Mexico’s coastline, which swings south from the California border along the Pacific, then curves east to the Yucatan, and eventually rides back north along the Gulf coast to Texas, matches the mythical icon of Mexican culture, the snail. Water quite literally surrounds and encircles Mexico, with the Aztec capital—the sacred kingdom upon which Mexico City was built—at the center of this spiral.

Patricia continues to write that “the silhouette of the snail has inspired me to organize this book along somewhat unusual lines. The book is divided into sixteen chapters, each devoted to one coastal state…” (she adds that she has added the central region, which includes Mexico City, because of its role as disseminator of Mexican gastronomy and culture). She continues, “I also wanted to write about the customs, traditions, and culinary specialties of each coastal state, but found that a standard descriptive approach did not suffice…” Instead, Patricia created a number of characters—local individuals who relate their personal and cultural histories—at the beginning of each chapter. They speak in their own language  about their own experiences and describe how the waters of their lands have shaped their lives. “I invoke,” she explains, “among others, the spirits of a Seri grandmother from Sonora, a young Mayan from the Yucatan, a knowledgeable cook from Tamaulipas, and the learned Spanish friar Bernardo de Sahaguin (who witnessed the Conquest   firsthand) to tell their stories..l..”

This is just a portion of the Introduction—at the end, Patricia writes, “My goal is to awaken in each reader a sense of this history as well as an understanding of the unique gastronomy of each coastal region…” -and if she hasn’t whetted your appetite, she certainly has mine…not just for the recipes, but for the history of Mexico as well. (Coincidentally, just the other day I watched a program on Nova about Machu Picchu—not, of course, in Mexico, but high in the mountains of Peru—but it awakened in me a deep desire to learn more about South America).

“CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS” is a cookbook packed, literally, with recipes, history and much more.

Patricia Quintara is an internationally known Mexican culinary expert and teacher, whose students have included many of todays most prominent young chefs. Her cooking has been featured in Newsday, Bon Appetit, Connosseur, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications.

Jack Bishop is a food writer and the author of two other cookbooks . He is a senior writer for Cook’s Illustrated and has had articles published in EATING WELL, THE VILLAGE VOICE and other publications.

CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS was published by Simon & Schuster in 1994 and I am the happy recipient of a like-new copy with dust jacket with a clear plastic cover over the dust jacket. I will be reading the recipes for weeks to come. I checked with Amazon.com and found they have a hardbound copy of a new book, priced at only $12.79. (The original book price was $25.00! this is about half). I’m sure you will be as excited as I was with CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS.

Next on my list of bargain finds is LOWBUSH MOOSE (AND OTHER ALASKAN RECIPES) by Gordon R. Nelson. (I intend to send my copy to my Oregon penpal Bev, who was born in Alaska))—but in the mean time, let me share Lowbush Moose with you.

I am fascinated with Alaskan cookbooks—as evidenced by my purchasing Alaskan cookbooks when I was a new collector. Nelson provides Alaskan recipes ranging from clams, shrimp and other deep sea creatures, to moose, caribou, fresh water fish, salmon, and many other Alaskan recipes—not necessarily animal or seafood proteins. There are recipes for berries, soups, sauces, sourdough bread—and a variety of other foods not generally found in southern California where I live. What I like is Nelson’s chatty. Friendly manner of writing that precedes the recipes. His introduction is titled “How to Write a Book and Like it” which I was able to immediately relate to. Some of the recipes were his family’s favorites. His recipe for Latta Potted Shrimp is introduced with the story that after his parents passed on, a number of his mother’s recipes came to him. One recipe in particular was on very old and dry and yellowed paper; Nelson believes that the recipe, for potted shrimp, came from his great-grandmother who came from Nova Scotia and is over a hundred years old. Will I attempt to make Latta Potted Shrimp? You bet! I have a particular fascination with old-time recipes for making food-things when there wasn’t any refrigeration.

But recipes for fish and seafood isn’t all that Nelson has to offer. There are plenty of other recipes, along with Nelson’s friendly chatter—such as a recipe for making your own sourdough starter. (I had a sourdough starter back in the 70s when making sourdough bread was very popular). If I had to make an educated guess what happened to the sourdough starter, I would venture to guess that it went the way of the fruitcake I was aging and periodically dousing with brandy. When I asked my ex (then not an ex) what happened to my fruitcake, he said he didn’t know what it was, so he threw it out. I didn’t attempt to make another fruitcake until we were no longer married—and Bob, who was my companion for 26 years, never threw ANYthing out, no matter WHAT.

LOWBUSH MOOSE is available on Amazon.com—you can buy a new copy for $5.50 or a previously owned copy starting at one cent. Just remember, when buying pre owned books, there is a $3.99 shipping charge that goes to the vendor offering it for sale. **

The third book on my list of cookbooks to share is FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING by Tammy Algood—no question about it, this book came to me brand-new and sealed in a plastic cover—AND I just discovered that it was published in 2012. Tammy Algood is a “food personality” on Nashville’s local ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates, as well as state wide on PBS; we can hear her food reports on Nashville radio networks, Clear Channel and NPR. Tammy also conducts cooking schools at various Tennessee wineries and has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers. (I don’t know how I missed her when I was spending weeks at a time at my sister Becky’s, from 2000 to 2004, unless Tammy wasn’t “out there” at that time.

FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING is packed with tempting recipes, all presented in a friendly easy-to-follow format, whether it’s a recipe f or appetizers (from Crawfish Stuffed Mushrooms to Fresh Peach Salsa –and what did I find but a Green Tomato Salsa after Kelly removed all the vines after I told him I had enough with green tomatoes this year—mind you, I canned over 40 quart jars of tomato juice or blanched tomatoes in tomato juice. Well, I’ll be ready for green tomatoes next year! Actually was thinking I could fill a notebook or a blank cookbook with green tomato recipes)

There is a wealth of recipes using fresh ingredients in Tammy’s cookbook. Just for openers, also in the appetizer category you will find a wide range of recipes; Lazy afternoon Fresh Salsa, Spring Green Spread, Pickled Figs*, Roasted Eggplant Dip and more. (*We had 3 fig trees in Arleta and I can’t begin to tell you how much they are missed. I entered pickled figs in the L.A. County Fair for several years, winning blue ribbons for them). I am also tempted by a recipe for Roasted Bacon Pecans and Good to the Core Apple Chutney.

Under the chapter for Soups are recipes for Gulf Coast Corn and Shrimp Soup, Fall Squash and Sausage Soup, Roasted Sweet Potato Soup—and Smoked Tomato Soup that I will want to try when I get a new grill.

Tammy offs nearly twenty salad recipes—plus one for making your own Mixed Herb Croutons. Salads include Fresh Spinach and Bacon Salad, Cherry Rice Salad, Grilled Corn Salad (I have been making one for this for several years—will have to try Tammy’s recipe) – plus a variety of other salad recipes.

Under Sides you will find a wealth of recipes—count them! There are nearly fifty side recipes from which to choose—just a sampling might be Black-Eyed Peas Stew with Rice Waffles, Setting Sun-kissed Parsnips, Pocketbook Zucchini, Summer Breeze Carrot Souffle, or Pan-Roasted Poblano Corn—but you could make a different side every day for a month and still have recipes left to try.

Under Breads, I confess to being partial to muffin recipes so I would surely have to try Pack a Picnic Pepper Muffins, Sage Cornbread Muffins, Sweet Corn Muffins and surely Cornmeal Yeast Muffins—but there are recipes for making Revival Strawberry Bread and Hot Water Ham Cornbread—surely something for everybody in your household.

Entrees offers a wide variety of dishes, ranging from an Easy Crust Chicken Pot Pie, to a Traditional Southern Pot Roast. I would like to try the recipe for Roasted Chicken Pecan Salad (Pecans in recipes is very southern!) as well as Spinach Stuffed Pork Roll. I also want to try Southern Catfish Cakes.

Under DESSERTS you will find much to tempt you—from Sweet Potato Caramel Pie, to Caramelized Strawberries with Meringue but there are many other very-southern favorites….FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING has so much to offer. I found it listed on Amazon.com—a prime copy is $16.74 but used copies may still be available starting at 24 cents.

The next cookbook in my recent find is AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. The Jamisons are a name familiar to me. I have a number of their cookbooks, the most cherished being AMERICAN HOME COOKING which is amongst my reference books. I also have their book SMOKE & SPICE on the shelf with other barbeque books. The title alone – AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS –is bound to pique your curiosity. It did mine. I was reminded of Myra Waldo’s travels to countries all over the world, resulting in dozens of cookbooks and along come Cheryl and Bill Jamison, traveling 50,000 miles, to 10 countries resulting in 800 dishes and—notes the dust jacket—1 rogue monkey. On the inside of the dust jacket, the publishers note, “after years of writing award winning cookbooks, renowned culinary experts Cheryl and Bill Jamison were ready to take 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

Thailand

India

China

South Africa

And Brazil

And in the process wrote yet another cookbook (It should be noted that the Jamisons are the authors of more than a dozen cookbooks and travel guides—wait! Wasn’t that what Myra Waldo started out with, travel guides? And while the Jamisons do provide some recipes in AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS, I find their book is more of a travel guide itself; I’m going to be kept reading for some time. Around the World in 80 Dinners is available on Amazon.com; a hardbound copy that is new can be yours for $12.70.

That said, the next book on my list of the friends library books is LILIES OF THE KITCHEN by Barbara Batcheller. It isn’t hard to figure out how Barbara came up with the title—the lily, after all, is related to the onion. (Many years ago, I wrote a poem about this). Barbara must have spent years collecting the recipes that make up Lilies of the Kitchen, whether Vidalia Onion Tarts or Spreme of Lees and Potatoes Gratinee—there are onion recipes for every dish and palate.

Barbara Batcheller has her own cooking school and at the time this book was published, she was living in Los Angeles. Lilies of the Kitchen was published in 1986. Amazon.com has copies for $19.99, (new) or starting at one cent (pre owned) – 9.95 for a collectible copy. This is a great reference book to have at your finger tips—if you like onions!!

The next cookbook I found is Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist ENTERTAINS, based on his popular New York Times column, featuring forty seasonal menus for dinner parties, barbecues and more. If this was any larger it would be considered a coffee table cookbook—but it isn’t that big.

I found the Minimalist Entertains on Amazon.com, hardbound coy for $4.43 (new) or preowned starting at one cent. Remember that shipping & handling for pre-owned books is $3.99.

Maybe I saved one of the best for last; HOW THE WORLD COOKS CHICKEN by H.J. Muessen offers over 375 tested recipes from all over the world Muessen provides recipes from the Pacific (Polynesia, Philippines, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand)—then he provides recipes from China, Korea/Japan, Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Indocikna, Burma and Malaysia), then the Middle East—Iran, Arab Nations, Turkey, Israel, Egypt)

On to Russia, Africa, East Europe (Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Germany, Poland) followed by the Balkans (Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Yugoslavia, Albania)

And that is followed by Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg) then to Spain and Portugal, the British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland),Scandinavia, Latin America (Caribbean. Central America, and North America (United States and Canada) –I listed everything on the dust jacket because this book was published in 1980 and I’m not sure how many of these countries have changed hands or politics in thirty-something years—even so, this is one of the most comprehensive chicken cookbooks I have ever encountered. If you love poultry and enjoy cooking chicken – this book is for you.

Amazon.Com has a copy of HOW THE WORLD COOKS CHICKEN, a hard bound cover, for 55 cents.

–Sandra Lee Smith

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