Like many people, I try to read for pleasure during the summer months. As professional hazard, I am addicted to books and read and basically how literacy has become a lifelong learning tool. Through the many books which pass through my hands, I have travelled to many places and eras in history via my imagination. As a result, I tend to borrow books from either the local library, or the library in which I am working it at that point in my life. Could you imagine what my house would look like it I actually purchased the many books I read? My home would be a real life version of Sarah Stewart’s The Library! Yikes!
As I am enjoying Julie and Julia, I find myself scanning my personal book shelf….which is located in my kitchen. While I purchase very few books for my own personal ownership, I do succumb to purchasing cookbooks. Many wonderful Christmas gifts sit on these shelves calling to me when my busy schedule permits. A number of my students have kindly given me book shoppe gift cards at Christmas time. The purchase resulting from these gift cards are normally cook books. So many great books have traveled with me over the years, during my many moves motivates by employment and marriage. While I cannot claim to be on par with Martha Stewart, Bonnie Stern, James Barber, Julia Child’s, nor Julie Powell, I do find enjoyment in the kitchen when creating a dish. So many great books which have enhanced our Christmas celebrations. The Joy of Cooking’s Christmas Cookie book can fall open on the counter to the gingerbread recipe. (I swear by this recipe… always successful!). The lemon curd bar recipe provides a lovely light zing option to the popular chocolate flavorings of the season.
My stay in the state of Vermont has brought a profound appreciation for the quality of King Arthur Flour company’s flour as well as its award winning cookbooks. I proudly own the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion (2003), The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion (2004) and the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking (2006). This company has been around since1790 and produces a both a fine quality of flour as well as trustworthy cookbook.
And most importantly, one cookbook on my shelf hold a position of reverence. Another flour company (with yet another medieval theme) sponsored cookbook The Robin Hood Flour Cook book. While I can remember my mother cooking from this book, I am honored to possess my Grandmother Rivier’s copy of this very book. In Canada, it was a popular manual to cooking for many home makers in the 50s through to the 70s. So many recipes, which are not fashionable by today’s nutritional standards, it is an artifact of my childhood. Many pages are gritty under my fingers as I feel flour, egg yolk stains and other stray kitchen counter ingredients. All bring back memories of my childhood, cooking with my Grandmother, recipes which taught me how to measure properly, how to not over beat an egg, how to cook.
As food commentary novels, M.F.K. Fisher’s The Art of Eating, How to cook a wolf and Gastronomical Me document Fisher’s food experiences in France. Much like Child’s, Fisher was an American living in Paris. Fisher’s writings depict food as not only a personal taste but as a social and emotional force within life. These volumes exist on my shelf as that they transport me to another time and place, where food is viewed a not a means to sustain life, but as an enhancement of one’ s life experiences.
My eyes also stop scanning my cookbook shelf at the Rose Levy Beranbaum series: The Cake Bible (1993), The Pie and Pastry Bible ( 1998) and more recently , the award winning Bread Bible (2003). Ms. Beranbaum’s first book, The Cake Bible makes for an interesting read. While it is a cook book, it came about as part of her Master’s Degree in Home Economics —- wrote her master’s thesis on the effects of sifting on the quality of yellow cake.. As a kitchen chemist extraordinaire , the author includes lengthy discussions on ingredients and equipment and concludes with a special section on the chemistry of cake baking. I will confess that my autographed copy of The Pie and Pastry Bible comes off the shelf as a confirmation that , yes, indeed, I can make the need pastry to fashion my Christmas tourtiere pies. ( Or ‘torture pies’, as my non French Canadian husband calls them). Pastry making is a skill which has eluded me.
In this regard, I can relate to Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia . Her desire to create is great, a motivation to connect to the cookbook author by recreating their recipes. The journey in which to learn is never perfect, though is a learning process neither the less. Culinary failures are still positive learning experiences about cooking as well as herself. Cooking has always given me a comfort of place. .. of being in my kitchen, of creating, sometimes successfully, other times not. Much like Julie Powell, I have learned much about myself though the journey of cooking in my kitchen. And my cook book shelf is a testament to this journey.