Among the many many things I like to collect are old cookbooks. I'm not really sure when I started doing this, but when I find myself in antique shops I look for three things: teacups, books on manners and etiquette, and cookbooks. Although, of late, I've slowed down on teacups because I don't have any room for them now, and books on manners are a bit harder to find. And this post is about cookbooks, anyway. I swear, I don't think about food and food-related items 24/7. It just seems like I do.
I can't really pin down what makes a cookbook worth my buying it. It can't be any ol' cookbook; there has to be something special about it. What that special quality is, however, I'm not sure. It needs to catch my eye in some way. It's just something intangible.
When I was in the far far hinterlands of upstate New York in the spring, we made sure to stop by the local mill-turned-antique warehouse. And yes, I picked up a couple of cookbooks. Here's one of them:
I'm not sure if this Amy Vanderbilt is one of the Vanderbilts of ol' New York society, but the name was certainly enough to have me pick up the book and flip through the pages, where I became completely enchanted by these little line drawings:
And I was sold, as simple as that. (Plus, that the book was only $5 didn't hurt either.) Curious as to who the illustrator was, I flipped to the title page.
Andrew Warhol? Not the same Warhol of pop art fame? The book was published in 1961, which was certainly the right time, or thereabouts. And that completely cinched the deal, the book was mine.
Unfortunately, when I got home and googled whether or not it was the same Andy Warhol who did the illustrations, I came across the fact that while they were indeed credited to the Warhol I was thinking of, some other guy did them, which shouldn't be terribly surprising, given the troubles with authenticating a Warhol.
Regardless, the book is endearing in its own way, a lovely glimpse into a different time when they made things called Pasadena canapés (ingredients: Cheddar cheese spread, flour, butter - mix together and bake, then slice and serve) and lamb kidneys on skewers - although, to be fair, there are some intriguing recipes like swiss venison stew and honey orange cupcakes.
Of course, I buy new cookbooks too - I love the ones with full page photos that bleed into the margins. My latest acquisition is the newest Donna Hay cookbook. Whether or not I'll actually cook from it (or any other cookbook in my small-but-growing collection) is moot. I just like the pictures.