I have an addiction.
For some reason, I can’t pass by an old cookbook at a garage sale, flea market, used book store or secondhand store without picking it up. Flipping through the pages. Unfolding the hidden scraps of paper to decipher the faded penciled lines of a forgotten recipe (an amazing number of which turn out to involve Jello). All too often, I end up buying the darn thing.
Community cookbooks are the worst. I always think they’re going to be a treasure trove of cherished family recipes. The cold reality is molded salads, cheese balls and 8,000 or so ways to use Cream of Something Soup to fool your ingredients into thinking they’re something exotic.
Hint: exotic food does not often begin with a pound of ground beef and a can of cream of mushroom soup. Nope. Doesn’t matter if you stir in a whole quarter-teaspoon of garlic powder or a half-cup of water chestnuts. It’s still as exotic as Aunt Dottie’s bunions. (And why water chestnuts? They’re in half the meatball recipes ever written. Usually coupled with a daring dash of soya sauce.)
I don’t know where “The Pilgrim’s Cookbook II: Ye olde Recipes of Ye Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony and Marietta Colony” came from. I also can’t believe this is the second volume. And yes, I typed the title exactly as it appeared. Maybe I bought it for my daughters, thinking there would be reproductions of Pilgrim fare. The first recipe is for Serbian Spinach and contains frozen spinach and “Velvetta” cheese, two ingredients I don’t think the founders of this country had access to.
Another one I’m culling from the collection is “Favorite Recipes of New York,” compiled in 1964. I almost kept it just for this photo.
So someone out there thought that after you trussed and roasted your chicken, you needed to put frilly little anklets on it, garnish the bondage with a lemon twist, and stick olives into every crease. Sounds like a really bad date I had in the 80s.
I’m also jettisoning a book about Asian markets, the Midwestern Farm Bureau Family Cookbook and a handful of spiral bound community cookbooks.
This is not embarrassing. What’s embarrassing are the ones I’m keeping, including entire books devoted to Bundt pans, sandwich presses, fondu and pancakes. I treasure the Better Homes and Garden volume that my mother gave my grandmother for Christmas the year I was born, along with the first cookbook my mother bought for me, a compilation my cousin Hal made of his mother’s recipes, my Joy of Cooking, several Weight Watchers cookbooks (who am I kidding?), and a quirky little tome called Mood Food that tells you what to eat when you’re bored, depressed, tired, celebratory, hung over, amused, scandalized, up to late or just hungry.
And you’ll take my Alton Brown collection when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.