It seems ironic that we spend a good portion of our lives accumulating things and then spend more years trying to get rid of things. Downsizing, divesting, whatever it’s called is a lot of work.
Books are a good example. I had filled a wall of bookcases and reached the point of getting rid of one any time I bought another. Now I’m faced with the task of putting them all in a much smaller place along with the ones that Max has accumulated.
There are the dozens of cookbooks that I’ve treasured and spattered with grease and batter over the years. It seems impossible to part with them but if I’m truthful with myself, I mostly find recipes on the Internet these days. I’ve copied many or my favorites from the books to my computer. It’s so much easier to find them.
I can probably give up the many volume set of Woman’s Day cookbooks with all the Christmas cookie recipes I made each year, I only do a few old standbys anymore. And I can part with the Lobster Tales Cookbook, and the two volume Encyclopedia of Cooking, Dr. Oetker’s German Cookery (did I ever even open it?) and the Best of Bon Appetit.
The Moosewood cookbook stays as does The Silver Palate duo, and battered as it is, The Joy of Cooking, my bible when I married. Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volumes I and II stay for sure, but not her later cookbooks.
The decision to keep or not keep takes on a huge emotional significance. James Beard’s Bread Book hasn’t been opened for more years than I can remember but it was the source of the bread recipes we made, 8 or 10 loaves at a time, Saturday mornings when our children were growing up. I’ll let it go.
I adored reading Feasts for All Seasons by Roy Andries De Groot even though I may never have made a recipe from it. It has to stay. (Note: I just looked it up on the Internet and a copy in good condition is priced at $155!)
The Andover Cookbook stays despite the broken plastic spiral binding, too many favorites in it, The Alaskan Heritage Seafood Book goes, as does The Art of Fine Baking by Paula Peck. My days of spending an entire day making an elaborate dessert are over.
I’ll keep The Blue Strawberry Cookbook by James Haller. It brings back memories of many wonderful meals at the tiny restaurant on Ceres Street in Portsmouth. It’s gone now but we discovered it soon after it opened in 1970 and it became our favorite place for special dinners. It was our first experience with a prix fixe menu, we were very impressed. The same starter, soup, and salad were served to everyone. There were only three choices of entrĂ©e: meat, poultry, or seafood prepared in an unexpected way, and then dessert was always fresh strawberries for dipping into sour cream and brown sugar..
The two chefs cooked in a minuscule kitchen, visible when entering the restaurant, and then served the food themselves from big platters. They described it as it was presented. We were awed by the unusual combinations like Five Minute Breast of Chicken in a Sour Cream Sauce with Fried Peaches and Zucchini or Mixed Fruit in a Roquefort Meringue.
The Full title of the book was The Blue Strawberry Cookbook: Cooking (Brilliantly) Without Recipes. No specific recipes just ideas for putting foods together. Haller believed that recipes imply rules and stifle creativity. Here’s one from the book.
POTATOES STUFFED WITH GREENS
Take any kind of greens, spinach, beet greens, chard, etc. Chop into small pieces and cook them until just wilted.
Bake some potatoes. When done cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the potato keeping the skins intact. Mash the potatoes with the greens and pile the mixture back into the shells.
Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 15 or 20 minutes. Haller doesn’t say to but I’d put in salt and pepper and sprinkle a little grated cheese on the top.