I hear the collective groaning from my audience..."oh gawd, she's going to talk about books again!" heh. You know me so well. But it's not books, plural, but book, singular. One specific book. This one. Carnegie Treasures Cookbook. It's unlike any other cookbook I've ever seen and I have seen aplenty.
And now before I tell you anymore, I have to back up just a wee bit.
Perhaps you remember, about six months ago I was all aflutter about the book sale at my local library? In case you do not, the way it worked was, anyone interested showed up between the specific hours listed on the sale day with $5 in hand. For that measly five bucks the customer was given a good sized shopping bag (red and resuable yay!) and then was allowed to prowl the library book store and the tables in the lobby filling the bag to the tippity top. It was a VERY well attended event. The library staff was continually restocking shelves and restacking piles on the lobby tables because the books were gone in the blink of an eye.
There were so very many people, in fact, that "shopping" for books took a stout heart and the ability to take an elbow. Nobody was injuring anyone else on purpose, just there was a lot of enthusiasm and excitement combined with very little space. I think we all came away with a few bruises.
Well, the event was apparantly, quite a success because here we are a mere six months later and already there has been a second library sale. It happened to be on a Saturday that was only a week after my surgery. I was torn. On the one hand, I love the idea of having an entire new bag of previously unread books - especially since I was still operating in a healing slo-mo kind of state but my stamina was very low and I was concerned about flying knees and elbows. Protect the Surgerical Area! Tim and I discussed it and we decided that IF we still wanted to go, we would go toward the end of the day. That way there would probably be fewer people.
It was a great plan. We arrived about an hour before it ended and we were about the only people there. Hurrah! We handed over our fiver, received our bag and hit the stacks. Except, the one thing I didn't think of, by the end of the day, there weren't very many books left. It was slim pickin's I tell ya. Dang. Oh well, then it shouldn't take very long to go through it, was my thought.
Tim carried the bag and we both perused and occasionally added a book. Ultimately we came away with about 2 dozen book. Not bad for 5 dollars! The Carnegie Book was a last minute addition. Tim spied it and while neither of us had ever even heard of it before it was a 'what the heck" kind of decision. Why not. We didn't even look inside. Just the word, "cookbook" on the cover was enough.
As it turns out, I am absolutely charmed by this book. I think "Unique" is the perfect descriptor. Published in 1984 and weighing in at a hefty full pound, even though it's missing it's paper cover and valued at around $60 bucks (I checked on Amazon), this book is indeed, a treasure.
First of all, the recipes are presented as part of a fixed menu. That's different. And very specifically, event menu's. Awesome! Here is an example:
Everything is there, the salad, the entree, the sides, the dessert and even the drink selection!
I chose this one at random. There were picnic menu's, fourth of July menu's and harvest time as events. There are regional menu's like the above but also Asian, Scottish and Middle Eastern. I noted Holiday menus as well as seasonal ideas. Brilliant idea!
Each menu comes with a descriptor, much like the waitstaff in a fine restaurant provides. I can almost hear them saying it:
They very kindly provide a photograph of the presentation of the meal which reminds me of my Jr High School Home EC teacher who always said that a meal must be a feast for the eye as well as the stomach. This is an enticing feast indeed (although to be fair if it were served in my house I can guarantee that it would NOT look like this):
All of this is followed by the recipes for each of the items on the menu (except the drinks of course). The recipes are clear, concise and easy to follow. Perfect!
And then, drum roll please, the absolutely coolest part of the entire book, artwork. What?? Yuppers. Serving as aa prelude to each menu is a photo of a beautiful and famous piece of art! For this particular one, we have a Georgia O'Keefe piece:
But as I flipped through I saw John Singer Sargeant, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassat and more. A Feast! Especially for an art lover such as myself.
Now I am going to be brutally honest. While I am positive that I am capable of making most, or perhaps even all, of the recipes in this book, the liklihood that I will make very many of them is fairly low. These are kind of high falutin' recipes. My palate is just not that sophisticated. Beets are fine. 'Beets in Caraway Cream', not so much. Chicken we like. 'Supremes of Chicken with Fresh Figs in Gin' does not not like something I will be serving. "Salmon Mouse" just sounds wrong to me. 'Bavarian Trout Soup?' ? (I'm trying to not gag at the thought)
However, 'Scandinavia Apple Cake'? That sounds yummy! And while 'Beef Braciola' sounds ambitious, it also could be a hit. 'Chilled Avocado soup' and 'Golden Potato Casserole' both sounds very possible. There are some recipes in there even for someone as picky and plebian as me.
You know what? Even if I never made a single recipe from this book, I'd still be glad that I had it on my shelf. Even if it's just for the eccentric nature of it. I am enjoying strolling through and will again and again for years to come.
Buying books at the library sale so far has been a crapshoot. It's like buying a "mystery box". You pay the money without having any idea what's in the box hoping it's at least worth what you paid. I think between both events, I have only kept a couple of the books. But then, I only keep the really good stuff. It's possible that a book is an enjoyable read and still not be a book I will keep. This particular haul was not as good (so far) as the first. I've only delved a half dozen books deep and thus far, none of them have been worth keeping. Two went into the GoodWill box within just a few pages! But this book, this one is a keeper. Totally worth the $5 investment.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.