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How to care for your vintage cookbooks

cookbooks

We've talked about collecting secondhand, vintage, and hand-me-down cookbooks before. But once we have acquired the precious tomes, how do we protect them and keep them in the best possible condition? Indexed blog The Kitchn provides advice from the experts.

The Kitchn asked respected booksellers Celia Sack (of Omnivore Books in San Francisco) and Bonnie Slotnick (of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in New York City) about how to care for vintage cookbooks. Sack says that the first thing you should do is to remove any notes, newspaper clippings, or other bits of paper in the book. While we may find these notes charming or sentimental, she notes that they can eventually leave dark spots on the pages. If you want to keep the notes or clippings, put them into an archival plastic sleeve.

If you're using the cookbook, you should remove the dust jacket before doing so to prevent damage to the jacket. (But always keep the dust jacket as it can add tremendous value to the book.) Slotnick recommends using a piece of plexiglass or glass to cover the book when in use to prevent any drips or spills onto the book's pages. (This is excellent advice for non-vintage books as well.)

As for storing the cookbooks, both women agree that while we may want to show off the books in the kitchen, that's probably the worst place to store them. You want to keep books away from light, heat, and moisture, all of which are found in the kitchen. Sack recommends keeping the books on a bookcase away from direct sunlight. There should be adequate spacing for the books so they can be removed without much tugging or wiggling.

If you are going to photocopy pages from the book, try to do it just once, says Slotnick. Repeated exposure to the light of a photocopier can degrade the pages. You might even try photographing them, sans flash, with a cell phone or tablet, and then printing out the saved image.

Read the full article at The Kitchn for more tips on how to handle and store your favorite vintage books so you can enjoy them for years to come.

Diana Henry on the book she "was always going to write"

Diana HenryDiana Henry's award-winning cookbooks never fail to delight EYB Members. She has just released another book, A Bird in the Hand, which will no doubt please her many fans. (Enter our contest for your chance to win one of five copies of the book, US only. Diana is supporting the book with a tour; find details on our World Cookbook Calendar of Events.)

In her online journal, Diana explains how she knew she would one day write a cookbook about chicken. What follows is an excerpt from her journal (see below for a link to the full article.)

 


 

My books never come about because I think 'I want to write something else now, what will it be?' I don't sit and try to come up with ideas. Usually they've been percolating for quite a few years, or they may even have been there from before I started to write about food at all (as was the case with my first book, Crazy Water Pickled Lemons). My newest book, A Bird in the Hand, was always going to be written, it was just a question of when. My grandfather was a farmer, primarily of dairy and poultry, and we were brought up to think that the chicken was important as well as being good to eat. From an early age we were taught to pick every morsel of meat off the bones - right down to those juicy little 'oysters' on the underside - to appreciate the crispy, salty skin of a roast and to understand how economical chicken could be. A roast chicken provided at least three meals in our house: the original dish; one made with the leftovers; then my mum's chicken soup. Throwing out the carcass was absolutely unthinkable. The smell of simmering stock, and the parsley stalks and celery that went into it, often filled our kitchen and hallway.

Chicken Maryland, a big chunk of golden-skinned bird served with fried bananas and bacon, was what my siblings and I ordered when we went out to supper as kids. Sitting on modish chairs with scratchy seats, our feet barely touching the ground, we tackled plates of this in the local 'grill room' (such things existed in the 1970s). As teenagers, picnics weren't based on sandwiches, but on a whole cold roast chicken whose meat we would tear apart and stuff into soft white rolls. Chicken curry (the old-fashioned British kind made with curry paste, raisins and the remains of the roast) was the exotic accompaniment to Sunday night telly. When I was taken to supper by a boy I really fancied - only to have him tell me that he was really interested in my best friend - I was eating chicken (and that was one of the few times I didn't finish my plate of it). And the first meal I ever cooked for my partner, at his request, was a braise of chicken, leeks and apples (that recipe is in the new book).

At the end of a filming day with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (I was a TV producer before I was a food writer), we were finishing dinner when Hugh looked at the remains of the chicken on my plate. It was hard to tell from the clean little bones what I had eaten, but Hugh knew. 'What did you do to that chicken?' he asked, laughing. 'I stripped it to its bones,' I said, a little proudly, 'Just as I was taught.'

Read the full article on Diana Henry's website.

Cookbook giveaway - A Bird in the Hand

A Bird in the HandAward-winning author Diana Henry's latest cookbook, A Bird in the Hand, features chicken recipes for every eating and entertaining occasion imaginable, whether you need a quick supper on the table after work, something for a lazy summer barbecue, or a feast to nourish family and friends. Diana explains how important chicken was to her family in an excerpt from her journal. She's supporting A Bird in the Hand with a book tour that you can find on our World Cookbook Calendar of Events.

We're delighted to offer five copies of the book to our Members (contest limited to US addresses only). One of the entry options is to answer the following question on the blog post:

What is your family's favorite chicken dish?

Please note that you must enter the comment after signing into Rafflecopter or your entry won't be counted. The contest ends May 21, 2015.

 

All hail king garlic

Roasted garlic

Most cooks today wouldn't want to be caught without garlic in their pantry. But for decades, the "stinking rose" was persona non grata, at least in much of the UK. The Guardian looks at the changes that restored garlic's place among the pantheon of flavorings in British kitchens.

For a time in the Victorian era when French food was seen as the height of sophistication, garlic was popular. But after the Second World War, it fell out of favour, which food historian Ivan Day attributes to garlic being "seen as 'foreign muck' by the generation of men and women living off bully beef and reconstituted egg." Says Day, "they got a taste for simplicity." 

There is nary a mention of garlic in most British cookbooks of the 1950s, and it wasn't until a decade later that hints of it starting showing up in restaurants. Garlic's climb to back to the top of the culinary ladder was a long slog through the 1970s and 80s, when Natasha Edwards' family started a garlic farm on the Isle of Wight.  "We started the farm when garlic wasn't that popular," she recalls. "None of my friends knew what it was and those who did thought it was foreign and gave you bad breath."

Garlic's come a long way since then. Fergus Henderson notes while people used to complain about smelling like garlic, "now, the musk of garlic on the breath is the musk of a good lunch."

Photo of Roasted garlic from The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon

 

Me and my cookbooks - Dianne Ross

Dianne Ross

We're pleased to present another installment of the "Me and my cookbooks" series. Many EYB members have told us they enjoy meeting members and special guests through this feature. We'd love to introduce more people, so if you'd like to be featured, just email us at info@eatyourbooks.com.

 


 

Dianne Ross has a cookbook collection that many EYB me­­mbers will envy: nearly 1,000 cookbooks gathered over 50 years, 744 of which are on her EYB Bookshelf. Most of the cookbooks are kept in her home in southern Ontario, but some of the collection has migrated to her vacation cottage. In her home kitchen, an entire wall covered with bookshelves from floor to ceiling houses the most frequently used cookbooks. Dianne and her husband were both English teachers, so it comes as no surprise that their home and cottage contain a multitude of bookshelves, with cookbooks comprising only part of their extensive library.

Dianne recalls her first cookbook, a Canadian tome titled Fare Exchange, published in the 1960s. Fare Exchange was based on the Canadian melting pot, featuring recipes from Canadian cooks that highlighted recipes from their family's heritage, including Ukrainian, Polish, and Italian cuisines among others.

That book, like most cookbooks of the era, didn't have any photographs. Dianne credits Martha Stewart for popularizing photographs in cookbooks, especially her early book on entertaining that featured rich, stunning photos. While describing her early days of cooking, Dianne recalls that in those days "one did not walk into a grocery store and buy fresh herbs." She relied on her ever-growing cookbook collection to learn about herbs and spices and grew the herbs that she couldn't get from the store.

When Dianne really started getting serious about cooking, she turned first to Julia Child's cookbooks for instruction. She learned about different cuisines from authors like Fuchsia Dunlop, Nina Simonds, Madhur Jaffrey, Paula Wolfert, Lee Bailey, Julie Sahni, and Nathalie Dupree. Dianne recalls with wry amusement that her husband often complained that he never got the same dish twice.

Dianne has read her most of her cookbooks cover to cover, highlighting the recipe in the index when she made a dish that she and her family liked, and penciling in any changes she made to a recipe. Like most EYB Members, Dianne utilizes the EYB search engine to find recipes for specific ingredients or types of cuisine from her large collection.

Unlike most Members, however, Dianne uses a audio screen reader to allow her to perform searches and retrieve the results. That's because seven years ago, a medical condition caused her to completely lose her sight overnight. Although it was a tremendous obstacle, being blind hasn't dampened Dianne's enthusiasm for cooking or collecting cookbooks, although it has changed how the cooking is done in her household.

During most of her 54-year marriage, Dianne did all of the cooking, but when she lost her sight, the cooking duties fell to her husband Alan. Like most experienced cooks, Dianne had developed her own sense of taste and had learned many tricks and shortcuts through years of experience, all of which she relayed to her husband when he began cooking. Alan would read the recipe to her, and she would tell him how it needed to be tweaked, or why he should use a different technique than the one described in the recipe. Under Dianne's tutelage, Alan has learned "to taste a recipe in his head," and has transformed from appreciative diner to competent cook. While he may do the cooking, Dianne retains the title of "Executive Chef," planning all of the meals.

Dianne still collects cookbooks even though she can no longer see the sumptuous photographs. She relies on Alan to describe the photos, and she forms a mental image through his description. Recent cookbooks that Dianne has enjoyed include Heritage by Sean Brock and Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi. When she gets a new cookbook, Dianne uses Eat Your Books to scan through it without having to rely on someone reading it to her. The screen reader she uses, called JAWS (Job Access With Speech), provides speech output for popular computer applications. Dianne uses the arrow keys to navigate through the page. Dianne loves that she can use Eat Your Books to plan meals and get ingredient lists to compile a shopping list for her husband.

Although she's still using her cookbooks on a daily basis, Dianne has long-term plans for her collection. She is currently teaching her grandson (age 20) and granddaughter (age 25) how to cook, and she hopes that one day they will cherish the cookbooks as much as she does. In the meantime, Dianne and Alan continue to expand the collection, learning new recipes and updating older ones with the skills acquired over 50 years of cooking.

Not steeped in tradition

Annelies ZijderveldAnnelies Zijderveld is a San Francisco-based food writer and creator of the literary food blog the food poet, selected by Alimentum Journal as one of their favorite food blogs. Her passion for working with good food companies started during eight years with Mighty Leaf Tea. She's turned that tea expertise into a new cookbook, Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea. (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the book, and visit the calendar of cookbook events to find information on the corresponding book tour.) Annelies talks about her love for and knowledge of tea while discussing her cookbook, which uses tea in dishes both savory and sweet. 


 

Have you always been a tea drinker?

Growing up, my Dad drank iced tea like water. In the fridge at any given time, he would have several pitchers queued up and full of brisk black tea. I learned how to drink iced tea from him and while I drank hot tea in college, the experience that made me a hot tea drinker happened in India. A friend added and stirred together the ingredients to make a pot of Masala Chai. Watching her brew the spicy, creamy, and slightly sweet tea hooked me. That act of hospitality left an indelible imprint.

How many different types of tea are in your cupboards? Which is the most unusual?

We have oodles of tea at our house from trips, and to be brewed for different occasions. A double happiness porcelain urn holds all the individually wrapped tea bags-- if a guest visits and doesn't know what they want to drink, in goes their arm and out comes a tea bag-- see, double happiness. The urn sits on a free-standing cabinet packed to the brim with tins, bags, and boxes of loose tea. A cherished bag of Pu Erh Tuocha pressed tea that I picked up in Portland, Oregon is stashed in the cabinet. The tuochas resemble small bird nests that taste and smell like sweet sticky rice.

Where do you buy your teas?

I tend to collect teas from all over--I recently visited Mexico City and brought back several tins of tea including a rooibos blend with cacao nibs and coconut I've been enjoying. Living in the Bay area means great tea is easily within reach at local teahouses, but I also appreciate the convenience of being able to keep my stock of Organic Earl Grey tea pouches full from visiting my local market.

What combinations of tea and ingredients worked really well? And were there any that you rejected?

Matcha and chocolate are a natural pairing--their bold flavors blend well together. I'm obsessed with chamomile and corn. The chamomile amps up the corny flavor and plays up the sweetness. Also, I like to combine Dragon Well and carrot or broccoli. I tried braising eggplant in milk and Lapsang Souchong but it turned out to be better in theory than reality.

Which recipes in the book might people be surprised to find contain tea?

I think Evelyn's cake would be one where the inclusion of tea will surprise people. Another recipe that comes to mind is the hash.

In your book, do you go into the health benefits of various teas?

I focused on the flavor benefits of tea rather than the health benefits, knowing resources already exist.

As a Brit (we love our tea) I'm horrified by the warm water brought with a teabag in American cafes. Maggie Smith rants about this wonderfully in the new movie, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. What are your tips for making a great pot of tea?

Ah, there's a topic to rile up tea drinkers. Maggie Smith is always prone to having just the appropriate thing to say at any given moment, isn't she? I anxiously await her zingers in Downton Abbey. The tips for making an excellent pot of tea every time involve brewing the best tea leaves, ensuring the temperature of the water suits the tea being brewed, and keeping an eye on how long the tea has been steeping.

I've been reading your food poetry on your website The Food Poet and it is lovely. Have you always been a poet and have you had any of your poems published?

Thank you! I have been writing poetry since I was young.The Food Poet came about in 2010 as a way to marry my love of poetry with my work in food and see if they might get along. Additionally, I had this idea that everyone loves food but not everyone loves poetry and wondered, what if they were introduced to poetry with a gastronomic persuasion? In this, it's like tea. When I meet people who tell me they don't like tea, it makes me think that they haven't found the right tea. When the words of the right poet fall upon the ears of the right person, it's hard not to be thunderstruck. My poems have recently been published in the Alexandria Quarterly, EAT / ATE, and Sated Magazine.

Photo of Annelies Zijderveld by Yesica Arrendondo

Cookbook giveaway - Steeped

SteepedTea is not just for drinking anymore, thanks to Annelies Zijderveld's new cookbook, Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea. Zijderveld finds inventive uses for tea in everything from morning eats to evening sweets. Romance your oat porridge with rooibos, jazz up your Brussels sprouts with jasmine, charge your horchata with masala chai! You can learn more about the book in our author interview, and don't forget to check the calendar of events for book tour details.

We're delighted to offer five copies of Steeped to EYB Members. One of the entry options is to answer the following question on the blog post:

What's your current favorite recipe that uses tea?

Please note that you must enter the comment after signing into Rafflecopter or your entry won't be counted. The contest ends May 18, 2015. 

Clear fruit brandies make a comeback

Pear brandy cocktails

Have you ever seen a bottle of pear brandy where an entire pear rests serenely at the bottom, and wondered how the heck they get the pear in there? Wonder no more, as NPR's The Salt explains the process of making fruit eaux-de-vie, and how the liqueur is experiencing a renaissance.

Perhaps you already figured out that the pear grows inside the bottle. Each spring in Alsace, workers tie bottles onto pear blossoms. Once the fruit is ripe, "they remove the bottles and pluck off leaves, clean the pear and glass, and finally, pour in colorless pear brandy - distilled from last year's harvest. Once they seal it up, voila, they've made a beautiful bottle of brandy with a whole pear inside. This is the astonishing, age-old tradition first invented in Alsace in the 1700s and known as eau de vie de poire, or pear water of life."

Lately, this type of clear fruit brandy has made a comeback, especially in America, as part of the locavore and craft distllery movements. Dozens of U.S. distilleries have begun crafting dry, fragrant liqueurs from mashed and fermented fruits including cherries, pears, plums, raspberries, apples and peaches. (Unlike the pear brandy, these usually don't have whole fruit inside the bottle. More's the pity.)

The eau-de-vie making process is fairly straightfoward, as mashed fruit pulp is fermented and distilled. It takes about two weeks to ferment the mash with yeast and form alcohol from the fruit sugars. The mash is then loaded into a still and clear brandy with essence of ripe fruit emerges. The distilled liqueur is aged for about a year before being bottled and sold.

So what happens to the pear inside the bottle of pear eau-de-vie? First, "the pear releases sugars into the brandy, giving it a sherried quality, while the fruit absorbs the alcohol." Aficionados eat the brandy-soaked pear by carefully breaking the bottle and washing the pear thoroughly to remove any glass fragments.

Higher proof brandies are often served as an after dinner digestif or used in cooking to add fruity aromas to sauces. They're also perfect for making cocktails like the Pear-brandy cocktails from Food Network Magazine pictured above. 

Cookbook all-stars

cookbook collage

When there are tens of thousands of cookbooks available (the EYB Library currently has over 144,000 books), how can you possibly winnow down a list of favorites to less than a dozen? Epicurious decided to do just that with the ten cookbooks every home cook should own.

After starting with a long list of 50 cookbooksand soliciting contributions from readers to expand the list, the editors of Epicurious sat down to "commiserate, kvetch, argue, and barter" until they whittled the list to a final, definitive ten. In setting out the criteria they used to determine what being "the best" meant, the editors had some characteristics in mind. 

The noted that a great cookbook contains "delicious recipes that work, beautiful photography, writing that inspires and intrigues, and, most importantly, it covers a type of food that people are excited to eat. A truly amazing cookbook earns its stains through frequent use, and can almost become a family member as it reappears year after year at birthdays and holidays."

Instead of just choosing 10 cookbooks from the same genre, they selected the books "to function as a library, as a group: If you only own ten cookbooks, these are the ten you should own." The article further explains the shortcuts they had to take to come up with the list, including an American-centric focus and little attention to bread or cocktails.

So which books made the final cut? Some of them are obvious, like Joy of Cooking, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and Plenty. Others may surprise you, like MomofukuBaking From My Home to Yours, and the Yankee Church Supper Cookbook. Rounding out the list are The Taste of Country Cooking, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, and Mexico One Plate at a Time.

Do you agree with this list? What changes would you make?

When books don't represent the end, but the beginning

Cheryl Sternman RuleEver wonder what it's like to write a cookbook? Author Cheryl Sternman Rule provides her perspective of the writing process, and how the journey led her to create a new website. Cheryl's cookbook, Yogurt Culture: How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World's Creamiest, Healthiest Food, comes out on April 28.

 


 

One of the greatest pleasures of writing a cookbook is holding that book, that physical object, at the end of what can be a very long process.

Some authors - across many disciplines, not just food - spend a year, or many, drilling deeply into one topic. We amass endless notes, interview write-ups, travel diaries, and recipes inspired by people we've met along the way.  This collection of knowledge, of insight, informs our books, sure, but not all of it will make it into the final product. As with a feature film of predetermined (and often inflexible) length, some material invariably ends up on the cutting room floor.  We can say goodbye to it, I suppose, or we can find another way to tell those stories, to share that hard-won knowledge.

We can accept the book as the end of a journey, or re-imagine it as a beginning.

I'm extremely proud of my forthcoming cookbook, Yogurt Culture. I learned everything I could about yogurt and immersed myself deeply in the subject. I read financial documents and nutritional studies, visited yogurt shops and factories, spoke with scientists and academics, traveled abroad, and interviewed cooks from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

This process had both its intended consequence (it educated and informed me so I could write a really informed, inspiring book) but it had a surprising corollary outgrowth as well: At the end of the book process, I was left more interested in the topic than ever before. Some people get burnt out working on a single subject for so long, but for me, once my curiosity was piqued, it just kept growing.

I therefore launched a website called Team Yogurtas a living outlet, in some ways, not only for the content that couldn't fit within the confines of the print book, but also for all the new information I've amassed since and will continue to amass moving forward. Every day I learn something new about yogurt and the people who make it and eat it, and the site allows me to share this information in real time.

Team Yogurt

I've brought on a team of talented contributors who represent different points of view (culinary, visual, and otherwise) and who themselves are passionate about yogurt. And I'll welcome additional contributors over time. After all, I may be an expert, but I'm not the only one. The more of us who give voice to a single passion, the greater the benefit for those who love what we love.

On the site's new Facebook page, people from all over the world have already come to gather. Over time, I expect we'll swap stories, recipe ideas, and country-specific yogurt inspiration from our respective perches in far-flung lands.

The original end (the book) is now a beginning, and this beginning has no end in sight.

If you like yogurt, please join us. The circle's ever-widening.

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!

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