August 31, 2011

Dell Book 798

I learned to love books and reading from my mother, for which I am forever grateful. For a long time, I used to keep all of my books, but they've been culled and carefully weeded out over the years. There is no fiction in my house now right now other than what I'm currently reading. Limited shelf space holds no place for hardcover fiction which was banished long ago, creating more room for non-fiction and my collection of cookbooks. The exceptions are a few paperbacks that I've saved soley because I'm sentimental about them.

I don't remember much about my earliest reading experiences, but I do remember sitting at my school desk in the first or second grade, diligently working in my Ginn Do and Learn Book. Tom, Dick and Jane were strangers to me back then; I read about Tom, Betty and Susan.

I remember carrying home the Scholastic Book Services order sheets later on in elementary school. My mother always let me order as many as I wanted. I can remember my smudged and erased, then carefully rewritten, pencil marks alongside the list of books. They were evidently a bargain at fifteen to twenty-five cents apiece as I was allowed so many of them. I keep a few of these SBS paperbacks to remind me of that joyful time, when there was still a whole world of books in front of me to explore.

I vividly remember my turn at reading Valley of the Dolls, borrowed from one of my best friend Mona's big sisters. It seemed much more grownup and realistic than the gothic romances of my mother's I had started reading. I'm sure we thought we were hot stuff reading that book on the sly. Was this the beginning of my love affair with New York City? It seemed so much more interesting than Houston.

Peyton Place was a soap opera that my mother and her friend watched on television every day while having coffee. I read the book years later after coming across it in a hot and dusty used bookstore. I think I keep that one because it reminds me of their visits--two housewives having coffee every day, watching the soaps and playing cards in the kitchen.

I discovered the books of Harold Robbins in the tenth grade. I loved those earlier titles of his and I suppose I keep one around to remind me of that time in my life.

I'm culling again, this time from some of my cookbook shelves. Despite my love of cookbooks, I've never been interested in the cookbooks that were in the early paperback pocket book format. I've loved the covers, but the contents never held much visual appeal. They always seemed so boring and uninspiring.

This isn't to say that I've never picked any up and brought them home; oh no! Oftentimes they were part of a large lot and I simply took them along with the rest. Usually tattered and falling apart because of the cheap bindings, I kept them around because of their interesting covers.

While the books I mentioned above have once again made the latest cut from the bookshelves in the other rooms, I simply don't have the space for everything. Cooking For Two, Dell Book No. 798, must go.

This revised and abridged paperback edition by Sally Larkin was published in 1951. Cooking for Two by Janet McKenzie Hill was originally published in 1909 and was meant to be a housekeeping help for the inexperienced bride or career girl. It was up to its fifth edition when the Dell book was published. This new Dell edition was also aimed at older women who might be cooking for two once again after her family was raised and gone.

While the cover is extremely appealing to me, the inside of the book is not. That's not to say that it might not contain useful information or tasty recipes, but I am a visual person and I much prefer illustrated cookbooks. There are no illustrations of any type, not even a single line drawing, to complement the text.

I'm not sure if the previous owner ever actually used the book in the kitchen, but someone along the way at least thought about it as there are handwritten notations on the cover and inside the book. No food stains, however, grace the pages as is sometimes the case with a well-loved cookbook.

Perhaps the previous owner skimmed the contents and recipes and planned which dishes she'd like to try while riding the bus or train to her job. This cookbook would have fit neatly into her bag, easily accessible for reading when she had a spare moment.

There's a newspaper clipping of a recipe for Potatoes mousseline taped inside the front cover. Although the tape is yellowed, it doesn't have that brittle, dried out feeling of the old cellophane tape but is more smooth and satiny like Scotch Magic brand. Perhaps the clipping was added years later by her or someone else.

The Table of Contents page contains more scrawled notes. From the list, Scalloped Oysters, page 152 and 2 Egg Cake, page 188 have check marks next to them, as if she had eventually tried these recipes. Other potentials were Quick Mix Muffins, Potatoes Anna, Baked Custard and Hashed Brown Potatoes.

The book begins with instructions on where and how to market, and what to buy. There follow menus and recipes for the three main meals of the day, brakfast, luncheon, and dinner,and for informal entertaining at home. Then comes a chapter on baking. This is followed by a chapter the inexperienced cook will want to refer to often, "The Cook in the Kitchen."

New methods, new manners, new ways of buying and cooking foods have been included so that the inexperienced cook can soon become the skilled cook.

In the first chapter, To Market, To Market, there are basic instructions only of which foods to buy and how to buy them. Although Janet McKenzie Hill was the author of many cooking pamphlets for well-know food companies, no mention of specific brands to buy are suggested, other than a plug for shortenings such as Crisco and Snowdrift.

Sixty years after publication, this copy is tattered and worn. The pages are yellowing and a few are detached from the text block. Someone took care to preserve the last page with a taped repair.

On the pages above, the Standard Two-Egg Cake recipe has a check mark next to it. It also has what looks like a date, 3/73 next to the title as well. I interpret that to mean that someone used this recipe to bake a cake in March of 1973.

The rear cover contains more handwritten notations as well as a summary of the contents.

I can now feel like I've looked at this book closely enough so I am able to remove it from my shelf into the pile destined for our local FOL sale. I'm pretty sure it will end up on the shelves of the girl who beats me to the cookbook section every time. I hope so, because it needs a new good home.


At 3:36 PM CDT, Blogger ~~louise~~ said...

This post touched my heart in more ways than one, Kathy. Oh how I remember those scholastic books. Although we were never ever allowed to order anything from school, my mother always made sure she "sneaked" in an order for those. I wish I could remember those files of books the teacher left on the window sill for our enjoyment. Oh they were my educational salvation. (I was very quiet and shy in school:)

We can't be that far apart because I too remember Valley of the Dolls and Peyton Place. Books we too "snuck" under the sheets at night to read with a flashlight:)

Thank you for this post, Kathy. You have done Cooking for Two justice with this lovely post and I'm sure the legacy will continue with it's next owner...

At 6:43 PM CDT, Blogger Kathy said...

Louise - Have to admit I was a little hesitant to reveal my early reading interests for all to see. None of it can be considered great literature by any means. :-)

Yes, I think we are close in age because I've noticed many of our memories are of the same things. I was also quiet and shy in school. I'm sure the teachers loved us!

At 6:29 PM CDT, Blogger ~~louise~~ said...

Great literature, nay. Memorable? Yes indeed!

At 8:11 PM CDT, Blogger Rochelle R. said...

I remember one year the school book clubs has a special summer program. I can clearly remember reading a book about scary deep sea monsters.
I have a soft spot for what I call little paperbacks. I have a rather large collection of them. I guess I like them because my original cookbook collection from when I was a young thing is mostly little paperbacks.

At 8:38 AM CDT, Blogger Kathy said...

Rochelle - I remember reading a lot of books about horses. I think perhaps everyone is nostalgic about the cookbooks they started out with. I have several hardbacks that I no longer use but keep simply because of the memories.

At 8:52 PM CDT, Blogger ~~louise~~ said...

Hi Kathy!
Just popped in to invite you to the Cookbook Party we're having over at my place. Drop by if you get a chance. It's my blogoversary!!! (and cookbook month:)


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