I love books, especially cookbooks. My obsession with collecting cookbooks began back in 2003 when I took on the task of writing a weekly recipe column for The Boerne Star newspaper. It quickly became my mission (or at least a really valid excuse) to pick up cookbooks everywhere I saw them… book stores, thrift stores, garage sales… and if it had the word “easy” in the title, it was going home with me for sure.
After just a few years (I wrote it for nearly nine years), I ended up with quite a collection that consisted of books filled with simple recipes, and church cookbooks. The best church cookbooks were from my family members’ churches, with their and other familiar recipes printed.
When a group of friends helped move me and my daughter from one house to another, one of them commented that I had too many books and I should get rid of them. Too many books? I kept my books, but not that friend. I didn’t need friends like that.
When my husband and I started dating, I quickly found out that he too was a bibliophile, and his vast collection of books of all types could’ve started his own little library. His cookbook section made me drool. On date nights, we’d often end up at the bookstore and end the night with armloads of new reading material. I knew he was The One when he said, “Here, take this cookbook… I think you’ll enjoy it.” Swoon.
Many years later, we were finally unboxing the dozens (and dozens) of boxes of books we had in storage. The process could’ve gone much quicker if we both weren’t stopping to flip through old favorites like they were treasured photo albums.
When I thumbed through one of my mother’s favorite old church cookbooks, tattered and splattered from years of use, my heart leapt to my throat when I saw her notes and hand-written recipes on the pages.
That ragged old book is as precious to me as any family photo album. It no longer has a cover or the first few pages bound with the spiral plastic, but I know it was from my mom’s family church in Pasadena, TX, mainly because the first recipe Mom put three stars next to was my Aunt Joyce’s potato salad.
I had a stack of church cookbooks on the table, with my old and much-loved Galveston Island Cookbook on top. Opening another of the books boxes, he said, “Take a look at this…” and it was his copy of the same cookbook. We’ve both had ours for longer than we’ve known each other. We should probably donate one of the copies, but probably won’t.
I’ve got an antique bookcase that is housing the majority of my favorite cookbooks (his/ours/mine), and have many of them grouped by author, and by subject. I was happy to put my three Fannie Farmer cookbooks together, as well as arranging the Julia Child and Jacques Pepin sections. I have a Texas section, New Mexico, Old Mexico, Seafood, a television-chef section, cast iron section, and so many more. Somehow, the Italian cookbooks outnumber just about everything.
In a world where we can tap on a smartphone or computer to look up any recipe in a moment, I prefer our hundreds of cookbooks that we’ve hauled all over Texas. Authors can’t sign your smartphone, and your mom probably didn’t scribble her recipe notes in the recipes online. I treasure our cookbooks. And, I long ago donated the “easy” cookbooks so that someone else can enjoy them like I did.
Aunt Joyce’s Old-Fashioned Potato Salad
(From the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church cookbook, circa 1980s – the only potato salad recipe you’ll ever need – I grew up on this very potato salad)
3 lb. medium red potatoes (about 10)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
Boil well-scrubbed potatoes until fork tender, not mushy, 30-35 minutes. Meanwhile, mix marinade in 1 cup measure.
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¼ cup cider vinegar
½ cup salad oil
½ cup chopped green onions
Drain potatoes and let cool about 20 minutes. Peel and slice warm potatoes. Pour marinade over and toss gently to coat well. Refrigerated, covered, at least 2 hours, tossing potatoes several times. Potatoes will absorb marinade.
One hour before serving, add:
1-1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
½ cup sliced radish
3 hard cooked eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped
Toss. Serves 8-10.
Printed with permission of The Alpine Avalanche.