Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cooking with Books

When my cousin was here a few weeks ago, she’d just seen the movie “Julie and Julia.” She loved it—and thought I would, too—and wanted to see my copy of that first, original Julia Child cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

It’s not unreasonable for her to assume that I would have it. I’ve been collecting cookbooks since before I could read and have a pretty good collection.

The majority of them are here:


A couple of key volumes are in the kitchen, here,


and here,

DSCN4176 -including a Simone Beck! (That one was a gift—I’ve never actually used it.)

The rest are in two mis-matched bookcases in the living room; some are stacked with the Christmas  and Easter books (I love Easter); and some absolute favorites, plus all the recipes I tear out of magazines or get from friends and can’t wait to try, are in two big drawers in the kitchen.

But I didn’t have that one.

It took me almost two years in the last house to get all my books organized. And I mean ALL my books: the classics, the books on natural history, the children’s books, the writing books, the photography books, the sci-fi and fantasy books, etc.  And they were REALLY organized: for the first time, maybe ever, I had almost enough room, and had made the time to sort them all. A lot of them were shelved two deep, but for a brief, glorious moment in time I knew where every single one was.

And then I moved again.

I tried really, really hard to keep them organized as I was packing. How does that saying go? “We plan, God laughs.”

So now I don’t know (yet) exactly where all my books are, I still don’t have enough bookcases (is there such a thing?), and even the categories that are more or less all in one place, like my cookbooks, still aren’t sorted properly.

Which is why I couldn’t find the Julia Child book when my cousin asked for it. I didn’t even think I had it—I’ve never been big on French cooking, and couldn’t remember ever using it. And I hate to admit it—but for a while there, Julia Child was a little bit of a joke. I knew someone in college who worked for her for a while, and there were some stories….

Anyway, we did manage to find another book of hers, which, after paging through it for maybe half a minute, my ‘cooking-is-so-NOT-my-favorite-thing’ cousin handed it back with a “well, the movie was really good. I think you should go see it.”

So I finally did.

And I did love it. It’s nice to know that a movie like that can still get made.

And it turns out that I have every single one of the cookbooks they showed in the movie (except for the one with the ‘Marshmallow Fluff”).  And so I started stressing a little, thinking maybe I should get a copy of  “Mastering…” after all, and thinking that all the good, old, copies are probably expensive by now, and consoling myself that a new one would do just as well, when, near the end of the movie, they show Julia receiving her first copy of that first book.

And I realized that, of course I had it. And I knew exactly where it was. I came straight home, went straight to the bookcase, and pulled it out. (I’m a very visual person. I just didn’t remember what it looked like.) And since my cookbooks still aren’t sorted properly, it wasn’t where it should have been.

It’s right there, in that first photo of the green bookcases, just a scootch southwest of dead center: the (slightly torn) paper cover is kind of a teal green with white spots, and it has a soft orange box around the title. It’s on the wrong shelf—that’s the shelf where the baking/chocolate/candy making books are. Or should be. It’s a 1969 edition. Just eight years after it was first published, they were already on the eighteenth printing.

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could say that about one of my books someday?

But Julia’s still on the shelf for now. There’s a recipe for a scrumptious-sounding dessert I’ve been wanting to try in that pile in the kitchen drawer…and I’m going to make it tonight, so it’ll be ready for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.

I’m grateful for so many things. Being able to read is one of them. Scrumptious desserts are another. And having family and friends to share them with, most important of all.

Bon Appétit!