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Los Angeles, CA

The Art of Reading and Everything At Hand to Make It More Enjoyable --

     Highly-desirable vintage and modern books,accessories and art

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a selection of the very best vintage books & authors

Filtering by Category: vintage cookbooks

Cooking Celebrities

S.A.

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I've been collecting cookbooks for years. This is rather odd, since I rarely cook.  I'm foodie at heart (and, also at stomach), so cookbooks are my idea of a Disney fairy tale. All I need is a magic wand to conjure up a handsome prince, who also happens to be a(magic) chef!  And Voila! Cook books inspire me to keep that dream going. Thus, I have a  bookcase full of vintage cook books, mostly by and about artists, or from other countries. (Anybody know where to find a multi-lingual-painting-prince who can cook like Gordon Ramsay?) Cooking for Charity in 1966

On the other hand, there are certain vintage cookbooks I collect that are definitely not in the dreamy category. This is  the case with Dinah Shore's  The Celebrity Cookbook,  a far cry from Disney. Alas, no brilliant color photos to dream over. Published in 1966, the book is aged and worn, like a starlet who just couldn't get a part. The dust jacket is tattered. There are a few stains, here and there.  But, if you don't or can't cook like me, this book is dual-purpose. Not only does it contain quaint old-school recipes, it's a great reference for autograph and entertainment collectors who avidly seek authentic signatures and ephemera.  Illustrations aside, this book has a certain panache. Or should I say, "ganache."

For starters, there's  Jacqueline Kennedy's recipe for Waffles and Bette Davis' Red Flannel Hash. Then, there's Edith Head's Chicken Casa Ladera and Lucille Ball's Persimmon Cake. Each recipe was signed, when submitted to Dinah for inclusion in this book, and later  printed in facsimile. So, with the help of this book,  you can compare Sandy Koufax's signature to the one on the baseball you are thinking of buying. (Never mind his recipe: boiling water for coffee).

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The other most charming fact about this book is that it features the home addresses of many late celebrities. Gene Kelly, the great dancing star, lived on North Rodeo Drive, presumably cooking up some Coq Au Vin in the kitchen. The great writer, Fannie Hurst, lived & cooked on West Sixty Seventh Street in New York. Dean Martin , who contributed Martin Burgers (plain hamburgers with a side of chilled bourbon), lived on Graciosa Drive in L.A. Not every famous person/politician's address was included with their recipes, but enough of them  to whet a paparazzi's appetite (had they existed, back then).

Designer Chicken

So, yes, the 1960s were simpler and more idealistic. People shared. Not only their recipes, but their addresses.  And, this book, with its personal details, is witness to that.  And, like that.

Cooking in the Rain

The Art of Chinese Cooking, 1956: Woking the Wok

S.A.

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Here's a picture of my new favorite cookbook: The Art of Chinese Cooking. It didn't sell recently, and boy, am I happy about that! 1956 Artful Chinese Cooking

Yesterday, I scooped it out of the failed-to-sell pile and hurried it over to a place of honor on my kitchen counter. Because, I believe,without doubt, it will turn me into a more accomplished cook, as fast as you can say: "Better that a Man should wait for his meal, than the meal should wait for the Man." (ancient Chinese proverb, according to the book).

The Sisters Signed their book

Thus far, after many, many years (but who's counting?), my culinary efforts currently consist of killer meat loaf, killer tuna noodle casserole, killer potato salad, and if I am very motivated, killer Quiche. But when I discovered this charming cookbook,I realized it was time to move on to something more exotic and challenging (at least, in terms of cooking): Vintage Chinese Food!

Who better to teach me Old-School Chinese Cooking than The Benedictine Sisters of Peking, who not only wrote this 94-page, spiral-bound book in 1956, but signed it, also (see the Title Page).

According to the blurb on the back, "These two delightful and courageous American women (Nuns) came to Japan from a war-ravaged China with little else than their skill in Chinese cooking. To earn their living, they started to teach, and, as their celestial cuisine won (so much) fame in Tokyo, they could not keep up with the demand...." This cook book, the blurb continues, contains their Secrets and their Tricks of the Trade. "Use them - and good eating." I ask you - isn't there something so motivating about Chinese cooking secrets divulged by the Benedictine Sisters of Peking?

The Secret of poorly-cooked Rice

So there it is - in a chestnut shell! I am about to embark on DIY cooking. Tonight I start my culinary journey by creating Chicken with Eggplant, or, Chi Ch'ieh Tze , as it is also known.

Once again, I am so very glad a vintage Chinese book collector or cookbook collector did not recognize the potential and promise of this charmingly illustrated little cookbook. Because soon, very soon, I hope, with the encouragement of the Sisters, I will get the Rice right.

Some of the Vintage Cooking Art

The Most Beautiful Vintage Cookbook in My Collection: Charlie Trotter's

S.A.

nullCharlie Trotter's (1994) is one spectacular cookbook - in fact, the most beautiful in my entire vintage cookbook collection. Although just a few years short of what is now considered "vintage" (the 1980s), this cookbook, as it ages, will likely still reign supreme among the most beautiful. It is that gorge. Charlie Trotter's Cookbook

Lest you think I don't know what I'm talking about, let me say I've been collecting and selling cookbooks (older and newer) for decades. Among them, Julia Child First Editions, the vaunted early Larousse, the ever-popular Vincent Price cooking volume (A Treasury of Great Recipes), early Betty Crocker books, and so on. Over the years, I've developed an eye for food beauty, even if I lean mightily towards the 1940s graphics (both illustrated and photographed) in cookbooks of that era.

Over the years, within my own collection, I've developed a sub-genre: artist cookbooks. These include recipes from Georgia O'Keeffe, Monet and Picasso, artist anthology cookbooks, and so on. But given all of the cookbooks I've bought, sold and am now selling, I have to say, I never saw a cookbook as beautiful as Charlie Trotters. Please consider  this  my homage.

The esteemed chef, Charlie Trotter, closed his Chicago townhouse-restaurant in 2012 and is now presumed off globe-trotting and/or studying philosophy. But 16 years before he shuttered his name-sake restaurant, photographer Tim Turner turned 72 of his favorite dishes into works-of-art in this book. Take a look:

If wishes were dishes--

Rabbit & Braised Turnip Lasagna with Sweet Pea Sauce

Nominated at least 5 times for a James Beard award for food photography, Turner elevated Trotter's food masterpieces into four-color plates worthy of framing (at least, I think so. but, mais non, I would not).

If you are a foodie, Hunt high & low for this book, as it is likely to grow in esteem. It's a treasure.

The Culinary Artist's Just Desserts: A Study in Apricot

The Great American Writer's Cookbook: Ray Bradbury, Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates

S.A.

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Image As the old saying goes, "Writers write," and, so I suppose, Cookers cook, and some times they do both. When I'm in the mood for a laugh or even a self-indulgent "I can do better than that," I turn to one of my most-treasured books: The Great American Writers' Cookbook. 

Inside this 1981 spiral-bound beauty are 200 "recipes" from 175 writers, including those alive back then, and those not (Ernest Hemingway, for one). The recipes range from Appetizers and Beverages to Soups, Stews, Meats, Poultry & Game, Seafood, Eggs & Pasta, Vegetables, Breads & Cereals and (as all's well that ends well )- Desserts. The 221-page book has an introduction by Craig Claiborne, which gives it legitimacy as an authentic cookbook, since he was both writer and chef. Although some recipes are more legitimate than others.

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Take, for example, Joyce Carol Oates' recipe for "The Career Woman's Meal" - "1 Campbell Soup can (any variety), 1 can-opener, 1 saucepan, 1 can water, 2 soup bowls". (and now you can see why I laughed). And how about Allen Ginsberg's "Mushrooms & Steak Pork Fish Etc Broiled"? He writes, "Whenever you broil a meat, etc. scatter a dozen mushrooms in,  5-6-7 minutes before the cooking's done. The mushrooms retain their juice but are dry-broiled outside." I think this recipe is a Howl - or, at least, a Hoot.

Speaking of Mushrooms, one of the more complex recipes contained herein is from Norman Mailer :"Stuffed Mushrooms." This is a five-paragraph recipe, longer than I am allowed to quote in a blog, but if you would like more description, please consult your Larousse, as Mailer's Mushrooms are a derivative of recipes in that venerable French cookbook.

Lest I leave you with the wrong opinion, there are, however, some fine recipes from other writers, including Tom Wolfe, who offers up his "Ten O'Clock Compote" (a breakfast dish) and Katherine Anne Porter's "Variation On My Feesh Deesh." (8 raw lobster tails, a pound of raw shrimp and a pound of raw scallops to start).

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Although I've owned and coveted this book for more than a few decades, if I didn't own it, I I'd surely want it -  for one recipe alone: Hunter S. Thompson's "Open Face Cigarette Special Hot and Cold Sandwich With Artichoke Appetizer." This recipe is even longer than Mailer's, with a step-by-step guide to creating it, including "Drink good whiskey while boiling artichoke and frying bacon"... and so on. I suppose a glass or two of good whiskey might well pave the way for Dr. Thompson's finished dish, which consists of ingredients like cold cottage cheese, a can of Orega green chilis and toasted dill rye bread, among others.

Perhaps I've whetted your appetite for the recipes, including one from the late Ernest Hemingway (it's a cocktail, natch) and, likewise, for those from William Faulkner and F. Scott Figzgerald. (Hint: none of the three required a stove).

In the long run, all of these recipes  have something to say about what writers put in their mouths when they weren't writing, or even when they were.

Cheers for a vintage cookbook, like this,  that can make our mouths water - for all the right reasons