Sunday, March 26, 2017

My Life in Cookbooks

Wow!  It's spring and I need a new banner.

I have been walking a lot and it is gorgeous in my neighborhood.  A real feast for the eyes, as everything is in bloom.  (Unfortunately, for some it is super pollen time and miserable to be outdoors).

I seem to have a lot of dried beans and lentils that need using up, so that aim sent me into my cookbooks to look up my most used and best loved recipes.  I got to looking at these books as objects of my  life and wanted to share two of them here.
The first is this one:

This book is about 30 years old.  Unbelievable!!!  It is the book that taught me the most about fresh food and herbs and how to prepare them.  It has lots of lists and general basic information that I read again and again.  Some of the recipes are complicated (like Torta Milanese), but most are pretty simple.  Many of these recipes have become ones I have used so often, I no longer consult the book anymore.
My brother gave me this as a Christmas gift the same year my dad gave me a cookbook.  The one my dad gave me was a large, beautiful hardbound one with lots of amazing pictures. When I closely examined the recipes though, I read things like "gas mark 4" and "gateau" and I realized it was an English cook book for recipes in a French style and that wasn't really my zone.  Instead, "Seasonal Vegetarian Cooking" got used way more than I bet my brother ever anticipated!

And then, there is this treasure:

I got this book for one dollar as part of a "Buy one book and get three for one dollar" mail away book club offer.  (I don't even think those things exist anymore.)  I bought this book and wore it out.

There's a note from my now passed mother-in-law about how to hydrate dried tomatoes used as marker on this page.  Her recipes are all around my cooking bibliophily.

This is another one that I have used so much I no longer consult the book.  It is divided by regional ethnic dishes, and some sections I have used again and again.  It has no pictures.  It has reference sections near the back that I needed so much in the course of my adventurous life, for example metric to non-metric conversions and Fahrenheit to Celsius, etc.

These books are like little diaries of my life.  In one of my all-time favorite books called Chilly Scenes of Winter by Ann Beattie, the character who has lost his girlfriend laments her and all the cookbooks she left lying around with her notes scribbled in them, little testaments of her.  I know exactly what this is.

Recipe from a life long friend and excellent cook.  I was learning Italian at the time as evident by my penciled definitions. So much of my Italian came from recipes and food related instructions.

An instance where I combine a friend's recipe--having had this gazpacho at her house one afternoon--and the recipe in the book to hit the perfect combination of ingredients.

Not that I will be making Nocino again any time soon--because tradition says, you have to steal the nuts before the 24th of June -but when I do make it, I know exactly where to find this recipe, and exactly why one year's batch turned out better than the next year's batch. 

I will never make this Turkish dish, but the recipe was taken down  by my 1st husband ( who is now passed) as he made it with our neighbors across the hall who used to bring a bowl of it to us on occasion.  The paper and idea of this food and so much else, makes this artifact dear to me.

And last, a little shopping list of the kind I still make.

I have other well used cookbooks, but these two are the ones most full of notes and etc., the ones I've relied on the longest.  They're my most comfortable old friends.
(And no, I am not a vegetarian.)

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