Cookbook Bazaar May 2011 Newsletter/Journal
Bill Holland

Yes, I know, I didn’t send one out in April. However, I will not write “bad
me” for not doing one, or mention Osama bin Laden. That’s got to be worth
something.

Thing is, I’ve been busy with other real, local things. Well, part of being
busy is my uncontrollable lollygagging over the now-obvious fact that spring
is, amazingly, here again. Not that I haven’t kept up with my family, my
bills, the news, and cookbookbazaar.com – I’ve had more sales than ever this
year, and thank you. But finally, with decent weather, there was other stuff
to attend to. Like life outside the winter walls.

I’m sure even by now, it seems like weeks rather than four days ago, but the
Washington area comes alive again in April, and even to someone who’s spent
many, many springs here, it’s always an amazement that within 30 days, from
late-March into late-April, winter finally slowly removes its chilly iron
claw.

Although one at first has to look closely, the longer sunlight hours did
their job again - the lawn and garden beneath me started to send up their
shoots ever so slowly, the old tall trees above me begin to bud, the skies
smiled occasionally, the breezes begin to shed their artic remnants, however
slowly at first, to offer the most magical gentle sights and perfumes of
sweet renewal.

Now of course, it’s all exploded, like some kid who slowly-suddenly blossoms
into a teen. May is here. My thoughts about the lawn and garden now fall to
more prosaic concerns, like not throwing my back out when I crank up the
lawn mower.

Most of these observations, of course, are is not novel notions. Some are so
better expressed…well, let me recommend a classic in D.C. nature writing, a
small book by Louis J. Halle entitled Spring in Washington. Published in
1947, it’s now back in print. It details the joys and delights of spring
renewal in various lovely spots in D.C. -- Rock Creek Park, Dumbarton Oaks
gardens, and the like. Tops!

Then, there’s Chaucer describing April across the pond 600+ years ago. You
don’t have to go read him, unless his poetry about vines bathed in sweet
liqueur brings beads of perspiration to your brow. Wouldn’t know about that,
of course.

But in between all that, on the chilly, damp days, I’ve been working on
getting newly acquired vintage cookbooks up on the website that might
interest you.

In April a customer order came in for a very rare 1917 cookbook from
Virginia, The Suffolk Cook Book, compiled and edited for The Girls’
Missionary Society there. Suffolk, which I’m sure is a swell burg, is
located near The Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Preserve, and perhaps was once
notorious for its dismal, swampy missionaries.

We found the cookbook at a “book buy” from a widower who lives locally and
gave us a call. He told me that he and his wife went on holiday auto trips
to states all over the Mid-Atlantic and the South for decades, and she, he
said, “would bring home every local cookbook she could lay her hands on.”
He said it with that slight note of puzzlement and aggravation known well
to long-married spouses of both sexes.

Another sale was for a series of original ‘50s to’70s series of cookbooks by
a go-getter by the name of Barbara Goodfellow. They were originally
self-published locally, entitled, accurately, “Make It Now – Bake It Later.”
Staple bound, their original pages hand-written, they were common sense
plain good. Amazingly they sold more than a million copies. Good enough that
Pocket Books picked them up for subsequent printings. Years later, even the
venerable art book publisher Harry Abrams brought them back in an omnibus
volume. Love to know how that happened.

Some neat more contemporary ones also came my way. One of my favorites is
Seasons of the Heart by the Oaxaca, Mexico chef Susanna Trilling, I knew the
book had been well-received when it came out – she had been compared to Mex
food mavens Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless -- but I didn’t realize how
collectible it had become until I did some Internet research to find some
“comps.” I discovered that copies are really coveted. This one, moreover,
was signed, and, amazingly, I still haven’t found another signed copy
online.

Then there’s the 1953 edition of Joy of Cooking we are offering that I
happened upon at an estate sale of a 90-year-old widow who’d recently, umm,
left the kitchen. Not too often one comes our way with a very presentable
DJ. Why was it in such good condition? “Well,” I was informed by the estate
sale dealer, “she didn’t do much cooking for her late husband. They ended up
eating out a lot.”

Finds like these, and the stories that come with them, make this website
shop all worthwhile.

I’ve been also learning that just because certain cookbooks on my site get a
lot of “hits” doesn’t mean someone will purchase them. It just means there
is interest and curiosity. Of the top 20 books that have gotten the most
glances over the past five months, only two have been chosen for a new home.

My #1 looked-at book, by the way, is André L. Simon’s “A Concise
Encyclopaedia of Gastronomy,” published in 1952. No wonder. The book is
staggeringly important to anyone who has culinary pretensions, and a
wonderful read. Why hasn’t someone purchased it? It’s a classic,
hard-to-find, and the price tag is less than your current hardcover pot
boiler best-seller at COSTCO. It’s a mystery to me.

Isn’t all this just fascinating? … I’ll stop now. Have a happy,
sunny-blue-sky-May, and make some good food for friends and family with
spring’s early abundance!