In college I never really could get behind the whole “vintage” kick. I didn’t like the idea of wearing clothes that smelled like they had been packed away for 50 years and in as many mothballs, and I disliked even more the idea that I had to dig through racks and racks of overpriced crap to find one gem. The one exception to this is my brown velvet blazer that I found when a friend insisted that we go inside a vintage store. It was prominently displayed and had been recently dry cleaned, so I really don’t consider it a true “vintage” purchase.
However, while in NYC I found a store that made me rethink my anti-vintage notions. Actually, I can’t even claim that I “found” it, because the guidebook we heavily relied on during our trip pointed it out for me, with a handy dandy map and all. But regardless, Bonnie Slotnick’s Cookbooks (in Greenwich Village) is a true find. This tiny (and when I say tiny, I mean smaller than your average middle-management office) store is covered, floor to ceiling, in out-of-print, antique or just plain odd cookbooks. Because Rob was nice enough to humor me and act interested in the store, I returned the favor and didn’t linger as long as I would’ve liked. But while I was there I did find two books that had to come home with me.
The first, printed in 1950 with a reprint in 1952, is called Continental Dessert Delicacies, and honestly this one just cracks me up. It’s filled with lots of overly complicated desserts that sound good at first glance, but with instructions like “mix sugar, egg whites and almonds for one hour by hand…” seem a little too fussy. The notion that anyone would have the arm strength to mix anything for an hour makes me giggle at the author for even suggesting it, but what really makes me laugh is the forward. “The recipes are not designed for the young bride who dashes into her kitchen at five o’clock to create a heavenly treat for her new husband to eat at seven. They are to be taken much more seriously…Most are definitely party-fare and, because of their richness, should be served in small portions…” Ruth P. Casa-Emellos, Home Economist, The New York Times.
Without getting into an unnecessary discussion on gender politics, it seems to me that Ms. Casa-Emellos is trying to inflate the importance of her life of baking tarts in pearls. I have this image in my mind of June Cleaver thumbing her nose at the new housewife down the street who obviously has no idea the intellectual rigors that await her. No doubt that many a woman and man has made a well deserved, hard-earned living from baking difficult tarts, but this strikes me as an ego stroker for those bored to death with a life as a 1950s housewife.
Still it made me smile, so it had to come home with me. Maybe one day when I’m bored I’ll attempt the one-hour-beating cake, but I seriously doubt I’ll push my KitchenAid aside and try to do it the old fashioned way.
The second book I bought was the 1964 version of the Joy of Cooking. While I’m sure the current version is obviously more up-to-date and geared towards a modern kitchen, I just like the idea of having this relic in my library. Joy has been a staple in kitchens for so long that having this 1964 edition feels a bit like having a piece of history in my hand to browse through whenever I want. I really can’t wait till I have a nice rainy weekend when I can compare the current release with this one. I imagine at some point I’ll try a recipe out of this book as well, just for fun.
I picked up a third cookbook while in NYC, but this one is decidedly modern. There’s an adorable shop in Greenwich Village called Peanut Butter & Co. and everything they serve there incorporates peanut butter. If you’ve been keeping up with past entries, you’ll know that I am all about the cheese. And if there’s one thing that I love almost as much as cheese, it’s peanut butter. Anyway you serve it, I’m very likely to eat it. We didn’t get to Peanut Butter & Co. at meal time, so the hubby and I only tried their traditional peanut butter cookies (which were great–because they tasted exactly like my recipe :o)). But I couldn’t leave there without a copy of their cookbook, which features recipes like “The Elvis,” (a peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich), peanut butter and jelly cupcakes and apple peanut butter fritters. All of these dishes are on my list of things to try, along with about a dozen others. Rob thinks I’m crazy, but I think they all sounds soooooooooo yummy.