A Thousand Things

a stack of old cookbooks next to a silver serving vessel

Books for Cooks by macinate.

Sometimes life is delightfully serendipitous. You start out looking for one thing, and end up with something entirely unexpected but perfectly fitting.

I’m talking about thrift stores, of course.

After watching My Fair Lady, I was struck by the urge to make angel food cake (don’t look too hard for a segway there; I got nothing… maybe it was the light fluffy outfits Hepburn was wearing?). Sadly, I was lacking a bundt pan, and while I could have made the cake without one, I refused on principle. So, naturally, I dragged my boyfriend thrift shopping.

I found a rather beat-up but earnest looking bundt pan for $2.25 within the first ten minutes or so. I’m a bit concerned about the fact that it is a two-piece pan; I’ve had similar pans leak in the past. But for under $3, I figured I could line it with tin foil if I needed to. I couldn’t just leave it there.

As you may have guessed, I have a tendency to anthropomorphize objects. Particularly old things, like old cookware, old books, and old electronics. (The boyfriend says he doesn’t want old plates, which spells trouble for my love of secondhand china. But we’ll see.)

Being the conniving thrift shopper I am, I kept browsing, and that was when I came across my serendipitous wonder.

A 1961 edition of The New York Times cookbook.

I couldn’t believe my luck. The dust jacket is tattered beyond any semblance of real use, but the hardcover underneath is richly colored and practically perfect for its age – there are a few faint stains on the edges of some pages, and some slight worrying along the bottom portion of the cover – but that’s all.

Confession time: while I do love modern cookbooks and all their beautifully photographed glory, vintage cookbooks are what I like to line my shelves with. Books from the late 50s to early 70s are my genre of choice. There’s something delightful about them, a sort of cooking perfect storm: many people regularly cooked at home during these years; “convenience recipes” featuring canned soups or packaged goods are present but not predominant; there’s a wonderful balance of the familiar (spoon bread) and the unknown (tarragon eggs in aspic); and there’s a sense of bright culinary adventurousness inspired by cooks like Julia Child and James Beard.

I am over the moon about my find and can’t wait to apply these classic recipes to my local foods basket!

What kinds of cook books do you have at home? Do you prefer new cook books or old, digital or print? What inspires you to get cooking with your local offerings?