A vernacular binding (with skull and Band-aid!) just for Halloween

October 26th, 2017

‘Tis the season for Frankenbooks, books that, usually at the hands of a loving owner, have been stitched back together from whatever pieces may be at hand. TOTH to friend and colleague Garrett Scott for the term “Frankenbook”. Garrett and I share an interest in “evidence of use”, a term for the accretion of changes to a book that occur over its lifetime, post-publication. These

changes may include protective or preservative bindings (the present book is an example of the later), as well as marks of ownership and succession (ever write your name in a book?), revision and criticism including marginalia, navigation (dog-eared pages & Post-its are still in use), and additions, as well as the physical record of natural hazards such as stains (for cookbooks we call these “Splatternalia“), predation, smoke, and water damage. Garrett has gone so far as to begin to propose a formalized language of Vernaculopegy, a field which includes evidence of use, but also all other interventions of non-professionals with book production (a child’s handmade bookbinding may serve as an example). I full support and encourage this effort!

And so as we approach of All Hallows Eve, I offer this church cookbook in a vernacular binding as a somewhat scary example of a Frankenbook, but also as witness to the unskilled care that owners have put into certain books, and of the ingenuity employed to use the materials at hand in the domestic landscape.

The Cook’s Friend and Home Guide (1906), exists in no known complete copy. Institutional holdings consist of one copy of the incomplete 2011 reprint. Thankfully this copy, also incomplete, was saved from oblivion by its owner, who apparently also had a hand in creation of that reprint.

This book is not presently available for sale. It will be included in our forthcoming multi-volume catalogue, Local America: Cookbooks of Place & Cookbooks of Community. This six volume project will survey approximately one thousand community, church, and fundraising cookbooks, as well as other books that somehow illustrate the concept of place in American cooking. The survey stretches from the first decade of the 19th century to the early 2000s, and is organized chronologically within each state. We hope to issue volume one (Alabama through District of Columbia) in January 2018.


[Full description].

The Cook’s Friend and Home Guide. Compiled and published by the Ladies Aid Society of the M.E. Church Jollytown, PA 1906. [Jollytown, Penn.]: Ladies Aid Society, [1906]. Octavo (23 x 15.5 cm.), 144 pages (this copy incomplete, present are pages 7-144 inclusive; lacking all text prior to page 7).

Evident FIRST & ONLY EDITION. A Pennsylvania church cookbook from the unincorporated township of Jollytown in the far southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, nestled against the West Virginia border. The attributed recipes are of moderate length and in narrative form, and most appear provided by local women, although a few hail from Wheeling, West Virginia, South Bend, Indiana and elsewhere. The first 96 pages cover a fairly standard array of culinary recipes, and then the book

turns to keeping the pantry, the basics of gardening, operation of the household and related recipes, invalid cooking, etc. A final section on Temperance contains a general outline supplied by a Jennie Pollock and “How to Organize a W.C.T.U.” which includes a list of suggested topics to discuss at meetings.

The book itself is, as indicated above, a fragment, lacking the front matter, including title page, through page 6. Some of the remaining leaves are detached from the staples, and many are significantly worn at the edges. However the odd nature of the marvelous vernacular binding is of real interest. A later pencil signature to the front panel of the cardboard binding indicates a Daniel Isaac Morris of Jollytown, was at least owner and also likely the progenitor of this later binding created with the intention of protecting the book from further degradation. Two corrugated cardboard panels form the front and rear panels of the covers. There is no spine, but rather numerous tapes connect the “sandwich” of the front and rear boards. The printed title from the front board of the original volume has been cut out and affixed to the new cardboard. Materials used include: cardboard, cellophane tape, electrical tape, manila-colored masking tape, what appears to be a patterned wallpaper, duct-tape printed with a camouflage pattern of skulls, and a Band-Aid (!). If the binder lacked formal education in bookbinding and preservation, at least they had a sense that the information was important to save: taped to the verso of the front cardboard panel is a printed slip of paper, listing the members of the committee, as well as other members of the society from which the book could be purchased. Daniel Isaac Morris is also listed as supplying the cover illustration of a reprinting of this book issued in 2011 by the Cornerstone Geneological Society of Waynesburg, Penn. It may be assumed that Mr. Morris rebound this book sometime in the vicinity of the reprint edition (the skull-patterned tape also supports this late interpretation. Like this copy, the copy used for the reprint was incomplete, containing only 126 pages of 144 pages (numerous outlets are now offering this reprint as Print on Demand). Scarce, and undoubtedly an engaging object.

[OCLC locates no copies of this original publication, and one copy only of the 2011 reprint; not in Brown or Cook].

Not for Sale.




June 11th, 2017

“You gave a tramp something to eat yesterday, didn’t you?”
“Young wife – “Yes, Poor fellow!”
“Gave him some of your sponge cake, didn’t you?”
“Why yes, so I did. Why?”
“Nothing. The paper says the body of a man who evidently died in great agony was found in the willows this morning.”
Then that sorrowful young wife wished she had carefully examined the cook book to see what it said about making sponge cake.

Jessup Whitehead, Family Cook Book. (1891), page vi.

A cookbook from the creator of Los Angeles’ Eutropheons

April 13th, 2017

[Vera M. Richter]. Mrs. Richter’s Cook-Less Book, With Scientific Food Chart. [By] Vera M. Richter. Seventh edition.  Los Angeles,  California: Published by Los Angeles Service and Supply Co. and Eutropheon, 1925.  Octavo (18.5 x 13.5 cm.), 59, [v] pages. Ads. “Index” is actually a table of contents. FIRST EDITION.

A pioneering work by an original contributor to American food and restaurant history, an advocate of raw foods as a fundamental component of healthy living. Of the one hundred seventy recipes, a considerable number will not likely surface elsewhere: Turnip-Olive Salad (with dried olives), Sorrel Salad (with watercress), Cabbage-Cocoanut Salad (with cucumbers), Tangerine Salad (with sweet peppers), Prune Whip (with pine nuts), Herbade (with beet greens), Carob Bread (with dates), Flaxseed Pemiken (with almonds), Celery Cream Pie (with apples), Chop Sticks (with dried bananas).

Vera Richter compiled her Cook-Less Book from recipes developed for The Eutropheons, at first simply called Raw Food Dining Rooms, which she and her husband John Richter, Doctor of Naturopathy, had launched in 1917 at two locations, on West Second and West Sixth Streets in Los Angeles. By 1925, possibly earlier, they had moved to addresses advertised as 833 South Olive Street and 209-11 South Hill Street. The restaurants – cafeterias, probably – used no salt, refined sugar, vinegar, alcohol, or prepared condiments, and above all, became known as the only restaurants in the country to operate “without the aid of a cook stove” (according to a zealous patron, the newspaper columnist and health-food writer Phillip Lovell [1895-1978]).  In 1932, Lee Shippey of The Los Angeles Times reported on an eponymous food club – The Trophers – evidently with thousands of members (and in fact founded two years before on Dr. Richter’s birthday, according to the February 1930 issue of Vegetarian and Fruitarian). By 1941, according to the California Health News Magazine, The Eutropheons were meeting places for celebrities and tourists, able to boast of testimonials from Leopold Stokowski and his wife Greta Garbo to William Pester (sometimes called the first hippie), the athletic coach Paul Bragg, and the so-called “nature-boy” Gypsy Boots.

Not only restaurants, then, but also distribution and information centers, The Eutropheons are among the earliest documented institutions heralding the natural and health foods fixations taking root in California between the two World Wars. Los Angeles would shortly become a magnet for natural diet advocates of various stripes, among them Otto Carque, Mildred Lager, Frank McCoy, and Clarke Irvine – all of them known to or influenced by the “raw-fooders” (a term apparently coined by the Richters, although earlier raw food movements are known). The Richters themselves packaged solar-baked breads, dried-fruit confections, and raw pie crusts for sale, and invited the public to lectures and diet courses at their dining halls. The “scientific food chart” that concludes the Cook-Less Book – in essence, a list of raw foods and their attributes – derives from the content of their evangelizing, as does Dr. Richter’s informal collection of informal talks,Nature, the Healer, published in 1936. Apart from birth and death dates from census records – 1884-1960 – little is known of Vera Richter’s background, or indeed of any details relating to her formative years, including her full name. It is thought she became the second wife of Theophilus John Richter (1863-1949) in 1917, before their move from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. John Richter had already espoused a diet of “live” (that is, uncooked) foods in his naturopathic practice, attaching the letters N.D. and Al. D. to his name (presumably Doctor of Naturopathy and Doctor of Alementaria) in advertisements for his lectures on food in its relation to disease. In blue cardstock wrappers; decorated in black and gilt. Edges worn and rubbed. Good. Scarce.

[OCLC locates ten copies of all editions and printings of 1924-1925 (variously styled 2nd through 10th editions), with various pagination; Brown 146 (10th edition); not in Cagle].



“Died in an attic of the Quatier Grenelle”

April 11th, 2017
”Father la Loque died in an attic of the Quatier Grenelle, Paris, leaving a long array of corks inscribed with the names of false friends, who had helped him dissipate his fortune.”

Fin-Bec, in The Epicure’s Year Book of 1869.

Rabelais contributes to Eater National’s ’72 Ways Food Can Change the World

September 22nd, 2014

history_cookbooksI spend most of my day surrounded by rare cookbooks, examining recipes, food writing, and publishing information from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first. My primary task is researching and cataloguing printed and manuscript books, all in the hope of selling them to a small list of collectors and research libraries that purchase such things. One advantage of close contact with historical cookbooks is that it gives me perspective on what’s happening with contemporary food. It’s tempting to say that an understanding of historical food and cooking lets you see that “it’s all been done before.” So many of the touchstones of modern diet—vegan, raw, Paleo, hyperlocal, and global grazing—have precedents in the distant and not so distant past.

If your food history comes from Twitter, you might think kitchen garden cooking started with Alice Waters, but you might take a look at Nicolas de Bonnefons’ Les Délices de la Campagne, Suite du Jardinier François, published in Paris in 1654. Not only does the book provide instructions for the cultivating, preserving, and cooking of fresh garden foods, it encourages that the food be prepared simply and that the ingredients be allowed to speak for themselves. This type of gardening and cooking was a common practice, but here was a book expounding farm-to-table as a truly desirable approach.

“What persists is that food changes, and that the forces shaping the food of any time are large and manifold ”When I’m annoyed by a restaurant diner snapping iPhone pictures of a nicely plated dish, I recall the tiny engraving in a volume of Grimod de la Reynière’s Almanach des Gourmands, some of the earliest restaurant criticism. In the engraving, a group of men dine at a restaurant table, while adjacent, a secretary at a small table records their thoughts and criticisms. There’s a food career long gone.

But the “nothing new” approach is an oversimplification. What persists is that food changes, and that the forces shaping the food of any time are large and manifold: the economy, social mobility, migration, crop failure, markets and prices, scientific advances, ideas about health and nutrition, and of course war and the dislocation it brings. While food is always subject to grand forces, it is itself a grand force. Among the earliest writing, Babylonian tablets now 4,500 years old contain lists of foodstuffs and simple recipes for beer. They are the original food writing. Ancient writing like this is the province of kings and rulers of empires, and reminds us that food itself—the ingredients, the recipes, and the way we share meals—while subject to so many outside influences, is itself power.

One can hope that one day in the distant future, in a much-changed world or on a distant planet, people will notice again that food is a subject worth thinking about, worth debating and sometimes arguing over. And if they do so, let’s hope they don’t think they’re the first to do so, but turn to the twenty-first century—or the eighteenth or the third—for some perspective.

See all of the ’72 ways Food Changes the World’ comments on Eater.com.


Found in a cookbook…

September 16th, 2014



[found pasted into Charles Copeland’s The Cuisine (Boston 1872)].


July 10th, 2014

jersey queen

“Coming on a bank covered with wild strawberries, I ate all within reach, moved to a new vantage point and began again. One might stay all summer with pan, sieve and fishing rod, amassing gold and living off trout and fraises-des-bois, a sybaritic Carpathian Tom Tiddler.”

–        Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water

Post-Civil War advertising art goes gonzo

July 9th, 2014

#002A   An exhibition at the Harvard Business School.

Working on a big booze business archive

December 30th, 2013

For a few weeks now, we’ve been working away on the business archive of a 19th and early 20th century wine and spirits importer and distributor. Many boxes of financial ledgers, checkbooks, correspondence and other miscellaneous paper might look like a big mess waiting for the recycler to some, but it’s our job to make some sense of it and find it a new a home. Our friend Sharon Kitchens, of the Portland Press Herald’s Root Blog, came to check out the archive and see what it might all mean. Here’re her impressions and a brief interview with me:

And here’s a picture of just a few of the massive ledger volumes.

So what’s good this season?

December 11th, 2013
‘Tis the season of annual lists and lists and more lists (and even more lists). As the years go by, I appreciate certain things about these lists, like the fact that no matter how plugged in we are to the cookbook world, something interesting sneaks by us. But what’s really been happening is I now realize that these lists are not so meaningful, not because they are ‘wrong’, but because what’s ‘right’ about them is not right for everyone. Open any one of these things up for discussion, and it becomes clear that there is little consensus on how people use cookbooks, what people expect from cookbooks and even what some of the basic terms mean. A recent request by Russ Parsons for input on just such a list was a good example of this.

So this year, we’re just offering a short list  of a few books we like our selves. These books work for the way we like to eat and cook. They encourage and inspire us, and are a pleasure to spend time with. we carry these books in our shop, but not on our website, as there are plenty of options for buying new books online.

Two of my favorite new British books are by authors I always look forward to reading: Simon Hopkinson and Nigel Slater. Slater’s original, The Kitchen Diaries, is one of my most used cookbooks because it’s a perfect match for the way I cook; it mirrors the rhythms of the seasons and of the meals through the week. Kitchen Diaries II (or as it’s known in the States, Notes from the Larder) lets me continue into a new year.   Simon Hopkinson’s dishes always seem like old favorites, and with a bit of extra care I can elevate my cooking to something more special. The recipes in Simon Hopkinson Cooks are a bit simpler than in my favorite, Week In, Week Out, but I still approach every one of his recipes with relish.

Tim Hayward, editor of the wonderful periodical (now annual) Fire & Knives, gave us Food DIY, a how-to guide to all of the food creation that happens outside of kitchen meal prep: smoking, terrines, confits, preserving, clam bakes, spit roasting, and sloe gin among other things. It’s kind of a guy thing, and lots of fun.

I always seem to be cooking for eight, even when I’m cooking for two, but Joe Yonan’s Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook is terrific. Lots of simple recipes that yield big flavor through interesting, and now-to-me indispensable, combinations. Pasta with Squash and Miso, Guac-a-chi (avocados and kimchi), and Spicy Kale Salad with Miso-Mushroom omelet are all easy and delicious. And we have signed copies available.

Gabriel Rucker et al’s  Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird was instantly attractive, as I love cooking birds, and there are lots of tasty bird recipes to be had, including Chicken Fried Quail, Duck Nuggets, and Maple-Laquered Squab. But there’s also a lot more, including good rabbit recipes, the now famous Jacked Pork Chops, and other food you want to eat while standing around a flaming barrel clutching a tumbler of bourbon.

There are more big chef books this year than any year since 2008, which makes me nervous for the economy. I had limited time with all of them, as many are very new releases and take real work to tease out any understanding, but I’m thrilled to see Heston Blumenthal’s Historic Heston, a companion of sorts to his thoroughly modern masterwork, The Fat Duck Cookbook. In Historic Heston, the chef takes us on a 500-year chronological tour of great British dishes, which he has deconstructed and reassembled with the precision you’d expect. As an antiquarian, and a serious home cook, I look forward to spending some real time with this book. On the tables in the shop, we also have Rene Redzepi’s Work in Progress, Daniel Patterson’s Coi, Alex Atala’s D.O.M., David Kinch’s Manresa and others.

I’m a big fan of Ole Mouritsen’s Seaweeds: Edible, Available and Sustainable. It’s a masterpiece of single subject food writing. Part natural science book, part recipe collection, and part guidebook for potential food applications, Seaweeds remains readable and enjoyable even if seaweed is not a favorite ingredient. This book doesn’t just satisfy curiosity about its subject, it creates curiosity.

The one book this year that truly makes me happy to be a cookbook seller is Ed Behr’s 50 Foods. I’ve always marveled at the level of knowledge food shoppers in parts of Europe can exhibit. They really know what to look for, ask for, demand from the market sellers and grocers. Very few Americans have that sort of specific information about the uses of various ingredients, and what to look for when shopping for them. Ed Behr knows this well. In 50 Foods, he takes us on a tour of fifty foods that we need to understand if we want to cook and eat better. the writing is knowledgable, the tone is never preachy, and even the hard core food fan will come away with a better understanding of what makes great food.

There are others I’m excited about but have not yet spent enough time with, so let’s just say I look forward to cooking from Susan Goin’s A.O.C., and David Tani’s One Good Dish, among others.