Happy almost-spring (the cookbook count continues)!

It is almost mid-March, and it feels like the start of 2021 was just a couple of weeks ago. It isn’t like time flying by and having fun, more like time runs together when you work remotely most of the time. I think of that as different than “working from home” because then you are setting your own hours. I’m still working the M-F 8a-5p on the clock; the difference is the commute takes 15-20 seconds to walk down the hallway. I do enjoy being able to do my job in the comfort of my own home, with as much hot beverage as I want.

Have you started spring cleaning your house yet? We are lucky with the weather being so nice in Central California (I know, the 100+ summer temps are coming!), and have started prepping the garden area to get things planted in a week or two. The plum trees are loaded with blooms, and all three citrus (lemon, lime, and kumquat) should be ready to do the same soon. There is nothing quite like fresh fruit and vegetables that you grow yourself. Watch for pickling, drying, and other preparations as the summer progresses. I have plenty of books and am not afraid to try something new.

The cookbook collection list will be updated soon, as I get the new layout for the web pages completed. Over the last few weeks I’ve been sorting and grouping books for ease of use. You can’t use it if you can’t find it. I’m curious to see what the final count will be, but I think it will be around 1200 cookbooks, give or take. There is one full bookcase of celebrity chef books, and that isn’t even a drop in the bucket. After listening to Simon Majumdar’s podcast episode about cookbooks, I am being very careful as I catalog the collection. The oldest one is from 1883, but I still have a few more boxes to sort out.

It is fun looking through the older cookbooks to see how things changed over time. The style used to be more of a combined paragraph style, whereas now the ingredients are split out from the preparation instructions. Measurements also have gotten more precise or smaller in quantity as household sizes changed. Instead of a bushel, we measure by cups or ounces. When I was pulling recipes for the Valentine videos, I compared some of the hardbound recipes to those online plus a few that had been translated into English. Those could be even stranger to look at. One online recipe called for something to be cut into 1/64 squares. Nope. I went for 2 inch cubes because no one is going to try to figure out what 1/64th of ANYTHING is. Another cookbook had a measurement that called for 7/8 cup of something. That one caused me to giggle a little. I rounded it up to a cup and adjusted the other ingredients; the recipe turned out just fine.

There are some cookbooks that definitely are time-stamped by their contents, while some breeze through the years without showing any age. There are also a few in the bunch that you’re never quite sure how serious (or joking) the authors were. Take 70s Dinner Party by Anna Pallai for starters. There is a whole section of (shocking) pictures of gelled or foods in aspic complete with sayings like, “For crimes against eggs, I sentence you to 7 years’ hard labor.” You get the idea. If you have a chance, go to see what an older relative has on their shelves. You might find a real treasure in their cookbooks. If you like a good podcast, I also highly recommend Simon Majumdar’s Eat My Globe. You’ll get bits and bobs of interesting food history along with a “dad” joke or two.

Well, I think I’ve rambled enough for today. I’m off to dig into the stacks for cookie recipes, and to try to fit a few more books on the shelves. Wish me luck. Or wish my husband the same, since I’m sure he’s hoping for dinner in a timely manner once we’re both off work for the day. Either way, more food adventures await in 2021 as it becomes safe to travel.

***BTW, if you haven’t heard, Alton Brown is touring starting later this year. Great showman, and always fun to interact with.

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