Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Musings on a Cookbook

Do you know what that is in the photo there? It was, at one time, a book - but not just any book, that there is a piece of my family history. This cookbook belonged to my father, who referred to it as his "cooking Bible." My father loved to cook, but he was fairly specific about it. He didn't like to make a recipe too many times - the fun for him was in trying something new, and he didn't want to do everyday cooking, my father pretty much only cooked on Sundays or when one of us was sick and needed a treat. This was his "go-to" book whenever he wanted to try something really different. As you can see, it has seen a fair amount of wear. It isn't actually a book anymore. It was used so much that it became stack of recipes, held together by a piece of gold elastic Christmas ribbon. That colored piece off to the left? That's the "cover."

One the best Christmas gifts I ever gave was the year I discovered that out of print books could be bought online. I found my father a brand new copy - hardcover. He would hardly let anyone touch it! And I ended up with the original, in all its glory.

I pulled it off the shelf recently because friend of mine had a couple extra cans of crab meat she wasn't sure what to do with and asked if I wanted it. I gladly accepted, but wasn't quite sure what I was going to make with it either. That's when I thought of my dad. He used to make the Deviled Crab recipe that you can just barely make out in the photo. For some reason, we all called it "Crab Imperial," which was a completely different recipe in the book, but it was "Deviled Crab" we all liked. Surprisingly enough, I had all the ingredients on hand, so I whipped up a batch last night. Man, that is good stuff! However, the reason I bring all this up isn't just so I can take a trip down memory lane and have a fabulous dinner, all which are worthwhile in themselves, but because this book symbolizes a little more to me.

Look at this book - it is in crazy, ridiculous shape. But you know what? It still works. The recipes are still readable and just as good as they were when I was a kid. Okay, you have to take a little more care when opening up the pages, but that has become part of the tradition for me. It makes me go a little slower, and as I am carefully laying the pages open, I am thinking about my dad.

I love getting new cookbooks, but not one of them can compare with the feelings I have when using this one. Truth be told, I am sure that there are still copies of this floating around, I could buy myself a "new" one, or at least one with a proper binding, but instead I am going to hang on to this one. Not only because of its special meaning to me, but also as a reminder to thoroughly use things to their limit - not to be wasteful - to value well loved antiques with all their flaws and "character."

Once upon a time people used things until they were completely worn out. Now everything is so disposable, poorly made and easily discarded. Something gets a little dirty, has a tear, and we throw it out, get a new one. Then you look at all the landfills which are overfull and our planet warming up and how all of us are in debt and I just have to think - why? Why are we doing this to ourselves?

There has to be a better way.


ReddH said...

So what cookbook is it? I'd love to check it out :-)

Dawn said...

Its Spices of the World by McCormick -

Let me know if you decide to try it out!

louise said...

yes those type of things are priceless,I have grandmas old cookbook in a similar condition, I love looking through it and seeing her old handwritten notes in margins, it just brings back memories of watching her cook as a kid.

Dawn said...

Exactly Louise! I love seeing all the comments. I used to hate writing in cookbooks because I prefer my books to be pristine, but somehow, cookbooks are different. Once I realized how much I like the notes that my parents wrote in theirs, I started writing in mine.

Lise said...

OMG! I have that cookbook, too! It was my mom's, and I used it to my first real recipe, Oven-Fried Chicken! I stole it away from her when I graduated :) Mine has bunches of pages falling out, too, but the cover's in fairly good condition.

Dawn said...

Lise - that's hilarious! I have known anyone else who had this cookbook! They must not have had the best bookbinder though.