Confession: I took some cookbooks to the thrift store. So now I only have 175 cookbooks, not more than 200. It’s still an impressive collection, and you get to peak onto the shelves and into the books today.
And no, I haven’t cooked a single thing out of any of these cookbooks.
That’s the thing with cookbooks – and all of the recipes out there online. Who has time to cook all of these things?
First, book with a boring title: Salads, Appetizers, Entrees, and Sides. It’s by Elsa Petersen-Schepelern.
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I’m attracted to this book for June because this is the time of year when I eat mostly salads. They’re superbly easy to prepare, and are always satisfying. The first chapter is dedicated to basics: choosing and preparing greens, preparing protein, preparing dressings, vinaigrettes, mayonnaise, and more. Each gives simple recipes and variations.
For example, the mayonnaise pages includes a recipe for classic mayonnaise, aioli, rouille aioli, potato salad dressing, thousand island dressing, and green goddess dressing. There’s even a handful of paragraphs dedicated solely to the proper use of garlic in salads. I don’t always care for this kind of basic breakdown in a cookbook, but here it works.
And the photography? You could eat off the pages.
Recipes span the globe: Moroccan-style tomatoes with preserved lemons and harissa vinaigrette, Italian Lentil Salad, Thai Mango Beef Salad, Chilled Japanese Salad with Shrimp and Soba Noodles.
Even the standard Waldorf Salad is updated – or perhaps “backdated” is more accurate. The author found a recipe in an Edwardian cookbook and combined it with the standard Waldorf of our time for a nice twist. She uses Granny Smith apples, peeled, lemon juice, celery, walnuts, and a lemon cream dressing.
Some folks love hot and spicy food. I’m not one of them, but certainly appreciate the complex flavors in these next two cookbooks. First up Cafe Vietnam by Annabel Jackson.
This 1998 publication is an easy, breezy introduction to Vietnamese cuisine with chapters on appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, and finally desserts and drinks. There’s the requisite introduction to the Vietnamese pantry and kitchen as well. The food photography looks dated perhaps because the interwebs have changed how we expect food to look when photographed.
Recipes? Plenty: Coconut Creme Caramel (Banh Flan,) Fried Rice with Lemon Grass and Shrimp, Haiphong Noodles, Braised Duck Breast with Pineapple, Stuffed Squid, and Sauteed Clams with Toasted Sesame Rice Crackers.
But then, there’s a problem.
Do you see it?
Not only is the book packed with flavor, it’s also jam packed with color. I mean, seriously, yellow, white, hot pink, lavender, spring green, purple – and more? It makes it hard to read the print and takes the focus away from the food. So stop already.
Don’t do this in your cookbook. Ever.
The Burmese Kitchen
Clearly written well before Burma became Myanmar, The Burmese Kitchen: Recipes from the Golden Land is by Copeland Marks and Aung Thein.
There is no fancy food photography in this cookbook because you don’t need any. I swear I can smell some of these ingredients right off the page:turmeric, fresh squid, dandelion, lemon, red chili pepper, coriander, paprika, scallion, fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic, fish balls.
Be Paung (aka Special Festive Stuffed Duck) on pages 146-147 requires the cook to procure not only fish balls (not as obscene as they sound,) but also duck liver, quail eggs, shrimp, and hen’s eggs.
Recipe titles? Fried Spareribs with Star Anise, Sweet 100-Layer Pancake, Squid and Dandelion Stir-Fry, and several Curry options. This is definitely a cookbook to look for if you want to cook your way around the world.
The 2 in 1 International Recipe Card Collection for Mixed Drinks and Hors D’Oeuvre
I just grabbed this gem from the shelves at the thrift store over Memorial Day Weekend for a whopping $1.99. It’s a classic 1977 recipe box – literally, box. Plastic box.
There are a whole gaggle of people out there preparing recipes from yesteryear. Or, in the case of this “name too long for it’s own good” collection, the 1970s. Vintage Recipe Cards has prepared a snootful of these recipes. I suspect Yinzerella at Dinner Is Served 1972 would die to own a full version.
Like the one I have in my hands right now.
I could go on and on and on about this collection for so very many reasons. Let’s start with the index, shall we?
First, why, oh why did the authors feel the need to write these instructions:
- If you’re pining for a cool rum drink, look up RUM, under “R.”
- If you want an Apertif or an After-Dinner Drink, consult the Index under “A.”
- The second section lists the food recipes, also by name of recipe and by type of food group (for example, “Dips,” “Spreads,” “Desserts,” “Chicken,” “Shrimp,” and so forth.
- In the Food Index, you will also find such entertainment aids as “Party Themes,” and “Party Planning.”
- Someone please stop the extensive use of quotation marks.
This set has more than 300 cards, each with a drink recipe on the front and food recipe on the back – hence the “clever” 2-in-1 title. Card #90 is for American Brandy – brandy, dry vermouth, grenadine, orange juice, and port wine. There’s an optional American Beauty No. 2 which substitutes white creme de menthe for port wine and a suggestion to garnish with a rose or mint leaf.
The flip side has a “recipe” for a Radish Rose Garden. Oh my.
Promise yourself one: A gleaming dark platter decorated with scarlet radishes artfully sculptured into rose buds and filled with a delectable variety of creamy fillings. It makes a refreshing appetizer all by itself and a gay addition to a cocktail party buffet table.
And the instructions for “how to” carve those radish rose? Just “cut thin petals around the radishes.” There’s far more to it than that, as this video clearly illustrates:
The mid-century genius (ahem) of this collection shines like a mirrored disco ball, blindsiding you with oddities with every flip of the card. You can find a copy on Ebay for around $25, though I’ve seen complete collections in pristine condition as high as $45. I’m keeping this slighted scratched, defiantly demented copy all to myself.
Sweet Cream and Sugar Codes
Decidedly celebrating summer, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones is from the Bi-Rite Creamery Company in San Francisco. Chocked full of tempting recipes and gorgeous photography, I love that this book is also separated into ingredients. For example, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, nuts, berries, and citrus all have their own chapters, as do coffee and tea, herbs and spices, and tropical fruits.
I’ll just list some of the ice cream recipes. Do you need more than that?
- Brown Sugar Ice Cream with a Ginger-Caramel Swirl (Oh my.)
- Malted Milk Chocolate Ice Cream with Bittersweet Chocolate Chips (sigh.)
- Peanut Butter Fudge Swirl Ice Cream (A must.)
- Earl Grey Ice Cream (I’d have to try this.)
- White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream (Oh yes.)
- Orange-Cardamom Ice Cream (Might have to try this one, too!)
- Honey Lavender Ice Cream (Mmmmm.)
- Toasted Coconut Ice Cream (With hot fudge sauce?)
And that’s it’s for this month’s peak into my cookbook collection. Anybody wanna go get some ice cream? What’s your favorite kind?