Just when I thought it impossible to start another collection of my own, I've been making piles of cookbooks on the floor. Cookbooks are nothing new to our home, as Samantha (a professional pastry "cook" - she won't let me use the "chef" word), has quite a collection, the growth of which I've been very involved with. But a recent trip to Maine and Doug Harding's shop in Wells, a perennial stop on our visits north, drove home to me how engaged I've become with these shop manuals for the kitchen. I was rooting in the art and poetry sections, while Samantha hit the cookbooks. She emerged happy with a small pile of books by Pierre Franey and others. But later when I viewed the cookbooks, something broke inside my brain, and I started pulling titles off the shelf for myself.
Later when we compared stacks, I realized that we saw two entirely different things in our quarry: she sought books for information she could use (although living with a bookseller she understands the aesthetic and other qualities of books), while I sought pieces of history. History in the information (about chefs, restaurants or even entire cuisines gone by), and history in the printed artifact. My finds included Pelleprat's L'Art Moderne Culinaire in a 1930's dust jacket, Rene Coste's monumental two volume work on coffee production, Paul Elliot and Luis Quintanilla's drinking manual, 'Intoxication Made Easy', and best of all a first of Elizabeth David's first book, 'A Book of Mediterranean Food"a book which British bookseller Nigel Williams call "an early example of gastro-porn'. Some other recent acquisitions include the first Zen Macrobiotic cookbook (I won't be using those recipes anytime soon) and a nice first of the most handsome bar book ever - the Savoy Cocktail Book.
Getting hungry now - must eat!