Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cookbook Corner

Among other hobbies, I collect cookbooks.  Surprise!  From what I've read, lots of people collect cookbooks - they like to collect books from a certain author or a certain region (Southern US) or a style of cooking. I tend to lack that kind of focus, and get whatever looks interesting and organize it as I go along.  International cookbooks were my main passion for awhile.  I do like to cook from them when possible, but sometimes it's just interesting to read them and wonder who first thought that a certain food (rotted shark, sea urchin roe) would be a good thing to eat.  In some cases (rotted shark), I wonder why no one has thought maybe it would be a good thing to stop eating.  (Rotted shark fans, I welcome your responses!  If it's really super-tasty, that would be an interesting thing to know.) 
   For awhile I wanted to get some Canadian and Australian cookbooks to compare with generalized American ones.  Since all three nations began as English colonies but landed in different climates with different resources, I thought it might  be interesting to look at the differences and similarities in the cuisines.  Not now, since everyone is all globalized, but maybe between 1940-1970 or thereabouts.  But years of pestering online cookbook enthusiasts from those two countries did not yield a suggestion for a good cookbook or two to represent their nations.  I have no idea why, but I could not get a straightforward response.  So I gradually let it go, for the most part. 
     Right now, I'm mostly interested in local community cookbooks.  Again, not recent ones, for the most part.  Those are mostly full of things people got off of or out of magazines, and don't really represent any kind of regional cuisine in any meaningful way.  Oh, occasionally you'll get a gator casserole from a Florida book or mooseburgers from Maine, but usually that's one recipe out of 200 or so.  That's a long run for a short slide.  Also, I'm suspicious they are in there for a joke.  No, I like old cookbooks.  And Mr EA and I found a doozy in a recent trip to Value Village (we like junking).
     It is the awesomest, darlingest book I have seen in a good long while.  Originally published in 1959, my version was printed in 1969 and has a few bits that had been added on.   One of the things I love about these books is that they are a window into another time with their chatty introductory notes and household tips.  The recipes themselves are also interesting, even where they aren't really reproducable.  For instance, this tome contains recipes for making pickles out of sea kelp. One starts with instructions for gathering the stuff.  Apparently, the Alaska version of "first catch your rabbit" is "first, get out your rowboat".  Of course there are many, many salmon and seafood recipes.  Almost every mention of vegetables refers to canned vegetables, which jibes with what I have been told life was like by friends that grew up here. As is usually the case with this kind of cookbook, I have some recipes bookmarked to try, but the whole thing was a fascinating read.  I have no idea how available copies of this book are, but if you like this sort of thing too and  have a chance, I strongly urge you to grab one if you see it.  In the meantime, I'm thinking about getting a rowboat - there's kelp to pickle! 

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