Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The cookbook wars--the wenches join the fray

Today while visiting one of my favorite blogs, Poor Richard's Almanac, I stumbled into the midst of a war--a cookbook war. Never one to retreat from battle, I shook my head in disbelief as I read that Our Friend Ben thinks there are too many cookbooks at Hawk's Haven. Silly, silly Ben! The Wenches are definitely on Silence's side on this one. We proclaim that there is no such thing as too many cookbooks! Ben, if you don't start showing Silence and her cookbooks some proper appreciation why we'll... we'll... we'll start hurling socks at you!

People who come to our house often comment on how many cookbooks we have. Considering how many books we have in our house in general, we find it odd that visitors would find the number of cookbooks worthy of noting. But apparently it's something people remember about us long after they've returned back whence they came.

A few months ago a friend from Victoria BC sent us an article from The Globe & Mail by Don Gillmor titled "You Are What You Read." While perusing a new bibliography of Canadian cookbooks Gillmor ponders his own journey through the world of cookbooks, from his grandmother's collection of old world Scottish recipes to his own adult guilty pleasures of Nigella. Reading the article, our friend said, made him think of our shelves full of cookbooks. We were intrigued by Gillmor's observation.

Cookbooks are a barometer of society; an indication of our priorities, our desires even. You could map the romantic history of the country through its cookbooks; every era gets the cookbook it needs.

What can cookbooks reveal about our past or about who we are today? We decided to take inventory.

We have a smallish bookshelf in our kitchen that holds our cookbooks. There is quite an eclectic collection residing on these shelves. Our collection is definitely international, though the Mediterranean is strongly represented, followed closely by North African and the Caribbean. There is an unequivocal emphasis on fresh produce. Some of our cookbooks are deteriorating due to high usage. Some have sentimental value, reminding us of our travels. Some are gifts from friends and colleagues. Some are unique, odd, bizarre.  A few are eye candy and are poured over only with immaculately clean hands. Here is a sampling.

Bern Union Church Cookbook compiled by Sunday School Cookbook Committee. Wing Nut's mom and grandma both have recipes included.

Folk Art and Foodways of the Pennsylvania Dutch by Jeff Dietrich and Lucetta Trexler Muth, illustrations by Gladys Lutz. A gift from Wing Nut's mom when we visited her stall at the Kutztown Festival a couple of years ago.

Cocina al Minuto by Ediciones CUBAMERICA. Because Mom said so. This was the ONLY cookbook Curmudgeon's parents ever used.

The Political Palate: A Feminist Vegetarian Cookbook (vol. I & II) by The Bloodroot Collective. Because the personal is political and the political sure better be edible. This one is from Curmudgeon's crunchy granola co-op days.

101-CocinaPP II

The Healthy Kitchen by Andrew Weil, M.D. and Rosie Daley.  At our house this one is known as "the old geezer and hip chick cookbook" since we can never recall its proper title. Wing Nut's to-die-for scones started here.

The Low GI Diet Cookbook by Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller et al. And all the other Low GI and New Glucose Revolution titles put out by the Australia based team, foremost authorities on the glycemic index. 

Salmon by Diane Morgan. Yes, an entire cookbook dedicated to salmon. Come on, we live in the Pacific Northwest. No, there aren't any desserts.

The Lavender Cookbook by Sharon Shipley. The town of Sequim (pronounced Skwim) located in the Dungeness Valley over on the Olympic Peninsula is considered the lavender capitol of the US. Every July Sequim hosts the Lavender Festival, a lavender lover's paradise. At the festival lavender finds its way into everything from lemonade to bratwurst to ice cream. Lavender, it's not just for eye pillows!


Fresh Moroccan by Nada Saleh. Wonderful recipes combined with beautiful photography. Once upon a time, way back in kindergarten, Curmudgeon had a traumatic experience with raw carrots. She hasn't touched a raw carrot since. This is the cookbook that got Curmudgeon to eat raw carrots.

Saffron Shores: Jewish Cooking of the Southern Mediterranean by Joyce Goldstein. This book rounds out a trilogy by this author, with the first two books focusing on Italy and Spain. In this volume Goldstein explores the spices of the Maghreb--Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya.

Fresh Moroccanrev saffron shores

Three Dog Bakery Cookbook by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff. Yes, we do bake our own doggie biscuits.

Biscotti  by Maria Robbins. Yes, we do bake our own biscotti.  No, you and your dog cannot come live with us.

Waffles from Morning to Midnight by Dorie Greenspan. As Margaret Atwood wrote, "One man's cookbook is another woman's soft porn."

Chocolate & Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier. This is our most recent addition. We enjoy her writing as much as her recipes.

 wafflesrevChocolate & Zrev 

What cookbooks are on YOUR bookshelf? Do tell...


Anonymous said...

Not socks! Not socks!!! Anything but socks!!!---Ben

Great choices, you two! I have several of them, including the Bloodroot Collective's when it was just one volume and, of course, the dog treats book; also the wonderful PA Dutch book. Must look for the Moroccan one!!!---Silence

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

I have all of the annual Southern Living Cook Books from 1989 to present. I am missing 2000. I am looking for it in resale and thrift shops.

Libbys Blog said...

My goodness, what alot of books, I cheat, I get alot of mine from the library get them home then try out some of the recipes, write up the rest and pop into my special book. I do own a few Nigella Lawson, Soup Books, Salad books, Bar-b-que books, lots and lots and lots of diet books :o(

garden girl said...

I see you have Clotilde Dusoulier's blog listed in the food blogs on your sidebar too. My oldest daughter introduced me to her blog some time ago. Although I've yet to buy her cookbook, I thoroughly enjoy her blog.

Kim said...

I enjoyed reading your list. I have the Three Dog Bakery cookbook, too. Otherwise, waaaaay too many to mention. I guess my two favorites are the Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins and Thymes Remembered by the Junior League of Tallahassee, FL. Most of my recipes come from magazines and the newspaper. I see something that looks interesting and cut it out to try. That's how we've found most of our favorites.

Anonymous said...

I am thrilled that you have mentioned our cookbook, Folkart and Foodways of the Pennsylvania Dutch. The book has been selling very well (wish we could sell more as all proceeds benefit our Albany Twp. Historical Society find us at Folks seem to love the book and the recipes.
Thanks, Lucy Muth