Lew Larason: Thoughts from an Epicure
Keeper of the cookbooks
Most people who cook have one or two cookbooks. Although many don’t use cookbooks, they have a couple handy for reference or ideas. My mother used to buy new cookbooks to read like she would read novels.
The number of cookbooks I have is in the hundreds, mostly old ones. I have several newer editions given by friends. But, I look for older ones to collect. I really don’t know why, perhaps for their history.
We have friends who use their computers if they need recipes. That’s fine. It’s easy and a lot less expensive than buying books, although I personally enjoy looking through books.
When I first met Patti, she had one cookbook, “The Joy of Cooking,” given to her by a sister. She did fine with it. After nearly 40 years and with all of my books, I still often refer to Joy for temperature or timing, as well as for a few special recipes like pancakes and pie crusts.
Some of my cookbooks date to the early 1900s. When I look through them and read the recipes, it reminds me of when I was growing up. Those books call for bacon fat and lard, not low saturated fat. Also, measurements are quite different. For instance, “butter the size of a walnut” really is listed in several.
Books from the 1930s Great Depression era also are interesting, especially those published by food companies. Obviously, you see the publisher’s products used throughout. Also, in my collection are many copies of handwritten recipes from family members. They date from the early 1900s until after World War II. When family households were broken up, I was the one who got the cookbooks.
Reading a summertime cookbook when the weather is cold and snowy helps rid me of the “winter blues” because I start thinking about warm weather meals.
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