Monday, March 20, 2017

Loving old books

A friend of mine on Twitter was talking about wanting to read Conrad Richter's "Awakening Land" trilogy (The Trees, The Fields, and The Town) but that they were hard to find. (I guess they are out of print). I said I THOUGHT I had one of those....turns out I have all three.

(But no, I'm not going to entrust them to the US mail as a loan to her - they are old editions, one may even be a first edition I lucked into finding. They have nice old burlappy bindings - one is blue, one is gold, the other one is red (and I even have the dustjacket for that one!)

This is what I mean
(That one is the first edition. I guess I was going for completism - I had got The Trees and The Fields and I went online - this was back when I lived in Illinois - for The Town. There is still the card from Mountain Laurel Books, where I ordered it from, in there).

KatieBea was bemoaning their unavailability so I hunted around a bit (I haven't bought many used books online recently, but I used to have a few contacts) and.....holy cow, some hardcover editions are going for $70 a go. (So yeah, REALLY not loaning those out, especially not since I'd have to entrust them to the USPS to get them to her)

So between that and the other two (The Lady, which I've never read, and The Light in the Forest, the re-reading of which started me on the Richter collecting kick), I could have $200 or more worth of books on that little shelf....

(Yes, I have a rider on my homeowner's policy for my books. And I have a separate policy for my piano, which is probably the second-most-valuable thing I own, after my house).

I dunno. I just like these editions and a few years back (Well, 20 years, now), you could sometimes find them for a decent price. Mine are probably a bit more beat-up than some of the collector's editions so maybe they're not quite $200 all together, but still...

The Light in the Forest is one of those books that used to be (at least in the part of the world where I grew up) a super-common middle or junior high school book. I suppose because it was Historical, and also because I grew up in northeastern Ohio, not too terribly far from the action where the book takes place. (IIRC, the Tuscarawas* River makes an appearance there). Also, Native Americans - the Lenni Lenape, who are sometimes called the Delawares. (I *think,* but could be wrong, that Lenni Lenape is what they want to be called and Delaware is what settlers started calling them, kind of like Dineh and Navajo).

(*In case you're curious, we always pronounced it like Tusk-a-roar-as. I THINK that's correct, at least that's how I always heard it)

I remember reading The Light in the Forest in sixth or seventh grade and HATING it. HATING it. (We also read Walkabout, which I similarly disliked). I am assuming the books were chosen on the grounds that it was young teens doing Exciting things, and also there was no sex or swears or blasphemy to upset parents.

(Years later, they had swapped out The Cay for A Light in the Forest - my brother read The Cay. And yes, you can imagine just exactly what the 13 year old boys in his class altered the title on the cover of the cheap paperbacks they had to buy to.... I think The Cay was set in the Caribbean....)

Anyway - many years later, 1998 to be exact, I was stuck home one weekend after getting spectacularly entangled in a hornet's nest doing fieldwork. I sustained somewhere over a dozen stings, my arm swelled up and I had to keep it elevated, I had a slight fever from the reaction to the stings, so I didn't want to do much other than lie around - and I found the old copy of The Light in the Forest that I had had in public school. And I re-read it. And darn it, but if it isn't a pretty good story - sad ending, of course, but still, a good story. (And I wound up finding and buying the 50s-era early edition Borzoi book of it - Babbit's had one for less than $10, and I decided I liked the design of the book - it was of a piece with The Trees pictured above - and I wanted to have my own "permanent" copy. And I still do.) I should re-read it sometime, and read the other Richter books I've acquired (I read part of The Awakening Land but got busy and put it aside).

(I suppose I "hated" The Light in the Forest because I "had" to read it, along with the other 20-or-so kids in my class. Generally I think you don't like the stuff you MUST read for class as well as the stuff you choose to read on your own. I absolutely loved Middlemarch when I read it a dozen or so years ago; I might not have felt that way if I was having to write analytical essays on it for a Brit Lit class)

I was also talking about the cook books I bought last week.

I really like the Dallas Symphony fundraiser one - there are quite a few "exotic" dishes in it (and also Danny Kay and Mstislav Rostropovich have recipes in there).

And I found another name for a recipe I've seen floating around! I kind of "collect" variant names of recipes. I knew this one first as either Marzetti or Johnny Marzetti - a mock-Italian dish* of pasta and ground beef (One recipe is here). But there are weird variant names, I suppose as it gets passed around it's like a game of telephone. I've seen Johnny Masetti, Tommy Marzetti, John Bon Getti, and now, in this book Johnny Bozzini.

I dunno, I take a certain delight in that and would love to find other names. Apparently Johnny Marzetti is the "correct" name, as it originated at a Columbus, Ohio restaurant of that name, but....

(*Kind of like chop suey is mock-Chinese)

I also looked through "The Joy of Cooking." One thing I like about this book is that the author (Irma Rombauer, though on this edition apparently her daughter Marion helped) makes the occasional little arch comment before giving a recipe (something about how people thought it was "heresy" to include apples with red cabbage, but she liked it, so she was doing it - and that's how my mom always made red cabbage, anyway).

It's an incredibly extensive book and has some unusual recipes, or some oddly named ones (No Johnny Marzetti, though, that I could find).

There's one called Woodchuck. No, not made WITH - it's a cheese dish with tomatoes, kind of like an ale-less Welsh Rarebit with tomatoes added, and I'm wondering if it's a play on words because rarebit is sometimes rendered as "rabbit" (so often that some cook book authors hypothesize that it was invented after a bad day's hunting....as replacement for the game that never materialized) and so "it's not rabbit, it's woodchuck" or something like.

There are also a lot of older recipes in there - there are a number for croquettes, which in Rombauer's version are deep-fried, but my mother often made croquettes (especially chicken croquettes, a big favorite in my family when I was growing up) and she baked them - less messy, and I suspect you taste the food rather than the oil with baked croquettes.

She also has recipes for timbales, which seem to have been quite a common thing back in the 1950s that we have forgot about. Perhaps the cholesterol-phobia of the 1970s scared them away, because they are rich in eggs. But they seem something that would be ripe to be brought back: a good way to use up small amounts of leftovers. (Have a bit of leftover salmon, shrimp, and veggies? Stick them in a timbale and you can stretch the expensive protein in the custard). Actually, they're not that far off from being very small versions of the crustless quiche I made....perhaps the idea now is "Men don't like them" because they seem daintier or something, but really, I tend to think it's silly to reject a food because it's somehow nonconforming to your idea of what your gender "should" eat. (I would never just order a salad on a date. If we were going Dutch so I didn't feel bad about spending his money, and the place had good steaks, I'd get a nice rare steak.).

She also shows how to clean and draw a chicken, which I suppose is useful knowledge in the day and age of backyard chickens (though many of the chicken-keepers I know seem to prefer to let their superannuated birds die of old age).

There are also many interesting "luncheon" dishes (small plates, often things made with eggs or cheese or leftover meat - the sort of smaller meal I am more prone to eat). And lots of vegetable recipes. Including a few rather horrifying things:

"Turnips filled with left-over food"

which sounds like a part of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch ("Yaaaah? Well, we only had turnips, no leftover food, and we were HAPPY with them!")

There's also a recipe for Lentils and Prunes, which simply breaks my brain. (Rombauer describes it as "Highly caloric but relished by both young and old" I can't....quite).

If I wanted to do a slightly stunt-y show in the mold of Mythbusters or something, I think I'd want to do one where I dug up old recipes, cooked them, and then served them to people (including myself, provided the recipe didn't include celery or cashews or one of the other things that disturbs my allergies). Lentils and prunes, though.....man, I don't know.

(My paternal grandmother used to speak fondly of noodles and prunes as a dessert from her childhood, but that seems somewhat different, especially as I have had noodle kugel and liked it).

5 comments:

CGHill said...

One of my bunkmates at my first Army duty station (post-training) was from Canton, and that's about the way he pronounced "Tuscarawas."

Suzette said...

Which edition is your Joy of Cooking? I have 4 versions that mark the major rewrites and they are vastly different from each other. My life was permanently affected by the 1964 version that included an appetizer called Stuffed Brussels Sprouts. That's still my go-to move when I want to impress somebody, although it's mostly a negative impression as they grill me about why I would want to spend my time hollowing out the centers of tiny little Brussels sprouts.

purlewe said...

OK now I am wanting to get my hands on my mom's copy of Joy (the 1964 version) and see this stuffed brussels recipe Suzette is talking about!

I will recommend (with reservations b'c it is rated R for language and I haven't seen it in a long time) the movie Big Night with Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub, they make the first Timbale I ever heard of in that movie. And once I made one like it. It was AMAZING!!!

Last I recommend to your friend using ILL thru her library system. I once got a Alice Starmore Book thru the system before she reprinted them and they were over $300 a pop online. She might have some success there.

purlewe said...

I am full of things to say.. I also onec made a cuban recipe that was for chicken and prunes. and frankly... it was actually quite good. If you consider that prunes are dried plums and you slow cook it, it is quite lovely. (and no I don't need you to approve all my silly responses. Sorry fillyjonk.)

Suzette said...

Purlewe! WHO ARE YOU? I love Big Night and because I'm lucky enough to own the DVD I watch it regularly. Part of the attraction for me is that it was filmed in the NJ town next to me. I won't spoil it for you by telling you what those buildings really are :(

Do try the JoC recipe for stuffed Brussels sprouts and let us know what you think. HOPE YOU LIKE DEVILED HAM!