For the love of cookbooks

In July 2017, Debbie Vanni lost almost every one of her cookbooks from fifty years of collecting due to a flood. Vanni, who runs the website, was devastated. Many of the books held special meaning to her, like her grandmother’s 1914 Fannie Farmer cookbook. Says Vanni, “Inside she had written her name and address of where she lived while in college.  Whenever I would look at her handwriting, it’s like I could feel her with me, and I miss that treasured book more than anything else that was on my shelves.”

books on shelves

Following the flood, one of the Culinary Cellar’s blog readers, Elaine Wallace, read about the devastation that Vanni had experienced and decided to do something to help. Wallace too had a large cookbook collection – 850 books – and had been contemplating what would happen to her collection once she was no longer around. She hated the thought of the collection being split up, sold piecemeal at a garage sale. So she made the difficult decision to give her entire collection to Vanni. 

There was one wrinkle: Vanni lived in northern Illinois, and Wallace lived in Wichita, Kansas, about 700 miles away. Shipping costs were going to be prohibitive, and the two wondered how to accomplish the transfer. A family friend and all around good guy Del Boyle stepped in to assist. He rented a truck and made the roundtrip from Illinois to Kansas and back, hauling the precious load. 

The books are now loaded onto Vanni’s shelves, and she took particular delight in one volume, The Dessert Lover’s Cookbook by Marlene Sorosky. It was the last book to be brought up following the flood, and Vanni is tickled that she has a replacement for such a hard-to-find cookbook. 

Update 8/17/18: Following the wonderful response to this post, Debbie has now received more than 2,000 cookbooks from well-wishers. Cookbook lovers really are the best people!

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One Comment

  • manycookbooks  on  August 14, 2018

    Oh my gosh….I nearly cried, when I read this story. My cookbook collection is a source of not only recipes, but knowledge, history, family and friendships and I can't imagine being without them. That Elaine would step up to the plate (pardon the pun!) and offer her collection is truly heartwarming and touching. What a gal! And for her friend to transport them is admirable. I think there is a special place in this world for cookbook collectors.

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