Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

late dinner

Monday, June 18th, 2012

cooking later


These long days of June always sneak up on me.  We’ve been eating later and later as the days stretch out and we try and take advantage of every minute of daylight. In the dead of Winter we would get home long after the sun had set. Eat dinner in the complete night. And while that was many months ago, the idea of it lingers in my head. It is just two days to the Solstice, the beginning of Summer, the longest day of the year. I want to soak in as much light as possible to store it under my skin for those months to come. Those months we won’t speak of just now.

I look at the clock when we are putting dinner on the table and it is 8:30, 9:00, sometimes if I get really ambitious it’s even 10:00.  I just had to make a tart of Chard and Cheese last week and only realized this was necessary at about 7:00, because there was so much light still in the sky.  I had thought it must be about 5:00.  It was a delicious simple tart from Nigel Slater’s Tender Vol. One, that went together quickly, but the tart shell had to chill in the fridge (so it wouldn’t shrink too much upon baking) for about a half an hour.  One thing led to another and we sat down to eat at about 10:00.  Don didn’t complain, luckily the tart was worth the wait, and we did snack on some cheese to tide us over.

The light of the long days plays tricks on my mind. I’ve got plenty of time to sow another row of beets before it’s time to make dinner. I like moving with the seasons this way. We eat by the calendar, why shouldn’t meal times be equally sensitive? Why not spend more time breathing in the fresh air, watching the bees do their thing, chasing after the groundhog (!)?  Dinner will happen when the time is right. Let all those time tables go, eat when it seems right, eat what tastes good, when it’s time to eat it. We will be celebrating the Solstice with some good friends, good food and a bonfire. Take this moment to slow down and soak the season in, it’s worth it.



ladders and boxes and sinks

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

It’s a little crazy around here while we get ready for Saturday.  We just got our three bay sink, which will not be functional by the weekend, but hopefully soon after.  Our trusty and trusted Karen is here shelving and alphabetizing.  Don is assembling another Metro shelving unit.  Raleigh is skulking around, nervous about all the activity. Baker & Taylor(one of our distributors) has delivered some new books, will do so again before Friday, as will Ingram (another distributor).  It’s a little chaotic at the moment but will all come together before 11:00 on Saturday.  Do hope to see some of you then!

The New Space

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

The long view

Some images of Rabelais’ new home in the North Dam Mill in Biddeford.  As the space takes shape we will be posting more photos.  We are very excited about our new home.

A little post-Christmas/moving Sale

Friday, December 30th, 2011
There.  Another years Christmas is wrapped up. We had a delightful day exchanging presents and eating a delicious meal with family. All that lead up to one day, it always seems to go soooo fast. We are just starting to catch our breath.  There were a couple of luxurious afternoon naps tucked into our days off.  Good for re-charging the batteries.  I am happy to see that some of the lights are still lit.  While I may know intellectually that the days are getting longer, my eyes cannot yet discern the difference.  So the lights keep me going through the dark winter. Proust and his memories seem quite fitting for this cold December day.
We are approaching the day when our 86 Middle Street location will close for good. The movers have been contracted and we are stockpiling boxes. This is a bittersweet prospect.  While we are excited for our new journey we will also miss this location with it’s intimate proximity to some really fantastic neighbors.  Rabelais started with an idea about this town and we are proud of what we built from that seed. Leaving this location we take with us some delicious memories.  We thank you all for helping us create them. The loft will be a fitting place to build a whole raft of fresh ones.  New year, new space, new beginnings. We hope we will see many of your smiling faces when we re-open our doors down in Biddeford in early Spring. Stay tuned to the blog for all the details of our new digs and the hours.  An open house to celebrate the re-emergence is in the plans. We will also send out some emails with our progress along the way.  And of course we will always be available by email until the doors open.

In the meantime we have decided to have a little sale. The idea of having to pack up all of these books is just a hair too much for us.  So for our last three days here on Middle Street, from January 5th through the 7th, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we will have a sale. All new, in-print books will be 25% off and all used books will be 40% off.  The rare books will not be included in the sale, but everything else will be.  Help us thin this inventory down, come out and take some books away with you.

Happy New Year!



Friday, December 9th, 2011

I had to pick up some items that I can only get at Whole Foods yesterday.  I walked in the door and was met by a couple of shopping carts filled with food and leaflets being handed out by folks.  I took a leaflet and read.  It was a request for donations for a local food bank.  As I cruised through the store (which I try and do efficiently) I noticed the signs pointing to preferred items for the food bank and picked up a ginormous vat of peanut butter (organic, dontcha know) and a couple boxes of Macaroni and Cheese. After checking out I dropped the items in the shopping cart in the front and got a round of hearty and heart-felt thanks from the people manning said carts.  I walked out of the store feeling better about myself than I had in a while.  It was quite remarkable how that little gesture could create such a feeling of satisfaction and dare I say it, real joy.

Don’t get me wrong, I am neither altruist nor misanthrope.  I have never volunteered at a food bank on a holiday but I don’t snarl at bell ringers either.  I have been struggling for the past number of years about exactly what Christmas means to me.  Being in retail is a challenge.  In case you are unaware, most stores of our sort make all their money in this six-week period.  So it is good business to encourage shopping. I sincerely believe that cookbooks make great gifts.  They give over and over every time they are used by the recipient, which reminds them of who gave them the gift.  Every recipe cooked from the book is an individual gift as well.  Win win all around.

Most of my holiday gifts have been home-made for the past decade or so.  Either knitted items, home-made preserves or piles of sweets.  My freezer currently holds seven different cookie doughs just waiting to be baked and shipped.  I get the giving part of this holiday.  I like that part, especially since I realized that giving makes me happy, regardless of whether the recipient is appreciative or not.  That might not sound right, I think about what I give people, but it is something I make instead of some item reflexively bought. Being in the presence of so many cookbooks all year round means much inspiration for my giving. Realizing that the planning and executing and giving of my gifts is my holiday cheer has made the whole season less stressful and more enjoyable for me.

Tomorrow is the East End Shops Holiday Stroll, and we are happy to be participating again.  This will be a good weekend for shopping in your neighborhood. Click through on the link to see all the shops where you can spread some holiday cheer this year.

Amazon has launched a one day campaign tomorrow to encourage people to not shop locally, ironically on this same day as the local celebration.  Perhaps it is less than jolly for us to include this information in our communications, but this campaign is particularly predatory and we feel strongly that you are aware of the challenges of being a small business in this day.  This is why it is so important for us all to shop locally as much as possible.  Whether you shop with us this holiday season or any of the other fabulous locally-owned stores in the Portland area, remember that your dollars stay here and support your community when you shop here. Part of the money you spend here goes right back into the tax base for your roads and schools and other services.  Purchases from large internet-based businesses and box stores go into pockets in other places far away and do no good for anyone but them.  Shop the Holiday Stroll.  Or Picnic. Or Merry Madness.

OK, I’m getting down off my soap box.  An update to our raffle prizes for the Stroll.  We will be offering two prizes.  A grouping of five of the Global History books: Caviar; Lobster; Ice Cream; Sandwich and Soup.  The other prize will be a copy of Heston Blumenthal at Home.  We hope to see your smiling faces. There will be cookies and cider and other goodies.  So stop in and say hi.


‘Best of’ list… Mission Street Food.

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Mission Street Food.  Anthony Myint & Karen Leibowitz.

McSweeney’s, 223 pages   $30.

Hey, let’s make a restaurant! That’s just what Anthony and Karen did, and with their food cart/borrowed restaurant they made history, becoming one of the early pop-ups and an experiment in culinary hospitality with a social mission. It’s an inspiring read that makes me want to open a restaurant (don’t worry, I wont) and the tasty recipes make me want to cook right now, from the simple – ‘chicken wings,’ or the ‘Mission Burger’ – to  the deluxe – ‘marrow stuffed squid’.

–  Don

The sun came out!

Sunday, May 15th, 2011
Our minds are like our stomachs; they are whetted by the change of their food, and variety supplies both with fresh appetites.”

Marcus Fabius Quintillian

Pea shoots

Finally wednesday the sun came out.  We have had a good two weeks of cold wet weather.  Nothing to compare to the mid-West and their tornadoes.  But bad enough to seriously impede my gardening chores.  While I did get my peas in a couple of weeks back and they are straining to reach the trellis already, I just planted our potatoes yesterday, along with some brussel sprouts, cauliflower and celeriac.   Then today I got in a row each of carrots, beets and bush beans, and planted the whole plot of shell beans (Marfax, Canellini and Taylors Horticultural).

In past years I have started seeds indoors.  This winter there was just too much going on for me to focus on the impending garden, so no seeds were started.  Therefore when planting season arrived I was at the mercy of others.  How lucky we are to live in an area where there are so many farmers who sell at the market.  Last Saturday, during an uncharacteristic break in the rain, we loaded up on seedlings: chard; celeriac; brussel sprouts; parsley; cauliflower; and even some more snap peas to fill in some gaps where germination didn’t happen. Thanks to Black Kettle Farm, Rippling Waters Farm and Kennebec Flower Farm our garden will happen this year.  After much sweat equity over the past two days, while fighting a spring cold, we now have the garden three quarters planted. Whew. I’ve set the calendar on my iPhone to remind me to plant another row of carrots and beets next week. And then in another week or two I will plant tomato and eggplant seedlings (which I will again buy at the Farmers Market), and then direct seed the cucumbers and zucchini. Then we’ll be in business.  That is if the good weather holds up. On to the flowers…..

Thank you to all the folks who came out for the sale.  It was a great success. We lightened our load considerably.  Staying alive as a book store in this economy, in this market, is a challenge.  One that we work with every day. The more times we see you come across our door the healthier our business is. Please remember that shopping local is good for all of us, all of the time.  Just as you patronize your farmers to keep them around you patronize your retailers for the same reasons.

While the store is quieter this time of year (and just to remind you, current store hours are posted on the sidebar) we still have new books as they come out.  From Phaidon, who brought us The Silver Spoon, come two big cookbooks: Vegetables From an Italian Garden and Tuscany. The University of Chicago has just published a beautiful book on mushrooms, The Book of Fungi, with 656 pages of fungi from around the globe.  We are stocked up on foraging books, if that’s your bent.  And then there are the Rabelais classics, books that we would carry come hell or high water.  So while it is quiet, Rabelais is humming along.   Come visit when you need a break from the garden.  Your back will thank you.


We’re going to have a sale…

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

The Alan Davidson books arrived the beginning of last week and Don has been enthusiastically unpacking and cataloging them.  In addition to the individual items we knew were coming, there were a couple of box lots that yielded some delightful surprises.  Kinda like Christmas in April.  Some of the books are now on our shelves, if you’d like to come in and see them.  If they don’t have the bookplate shown here, they have his initials next to the price.

We have received a flyer here in the store from a gas company.  They tell us that Middle Street will be torn up from Hampshire on down to Union until about Memorial Day.  Seems appropriate timing.  It’s been pretty quiet around here lately, and in our experience it will be until about July.  So we got to thinking about things and came up with a clever idea.  With all the antiquarian material we have bought lately we are stretched to the limit in this space.  What this means to you is that we are going to have a big sale.  We have had sales around this time for the past two years.  This one will be different.  We will still have tables with $1, $3 and $5 books, but we will also have most of our inventory priced at 40% off.  You would be doing us a great service if you would please come and help us make more room.

Along with the sale we are going to reduce our hours for the Spring.  Four years of business has shown us that people are otherwise engaged this time of year, in the garden most likely.  So we’re going to take this time to plot some new ideas for Rabelais, and work on our garden.  We will be open Saturday through Monday, and by appointment if there is something you cannot live without.  Then in July we will go back to seven days a week.

In the meantime, please come to the sale and take home lots of books.  The sale dates are Saturday, Sunday and Monday, May 14th through 16th. The hours will be 11-5:30 all three days.  There will be books from all sections (except the rare material) and if they aren’t $1, $3, or $5, they will be 40% off.  We really need to pare down, and we need you to help us do it.  So think of it as your civic duty alleviating our inventory issues.


2011 New York Antiquarian Book Fair

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011
Despite our patience on the waiting list, no exhibiting dealers dropped out, and the Armory’s dimensions failed to expand. So this year we were shoppers and not exhibitors. We arrived in the city in time to attend the receptions at Jim Cummings and Ursus on Madison Avenue and found it very pleasant to first see colleagues and friends in such pleasant surroundings, drink in hand, and not schlepping or unpacking boxes. Thanks to both for their hospitality.

All the time aware that business was already in progress over on Park Avenue, Samantha and I took the day on Thursday to visit friends and shop for fabric in the Garment District. We also took lunch at the Batali/Bastianich behemoth, Eataly, in the old Toy Building on 23rd Street. While New York is constantly offering up something new, this place is a riot – Harrod’s food court crossed with a desperate attempt to rebuild some pre-Berlusconi respect for Italy.

The Thursday night opening event seemed more energetic than some recently past years, perhaps because people were repelled by the offering of Yellow Tail and carrot sticks at the bar and therefore spent more time on the floor looking at books. Opening night remains a social occasion, and it’s difficult to get up and down the aisles without a great deal of conversation, so we accepted a leisurely pace and completed only one and a half – of five – aisles (approximately 200 dealers). We spoke with London-based Rick Gekoski about the dangers of reading the ‘comments section’ of his own blog posts, and with Sophie Schneideman who was exhibiting for the first time. We found a few things to purchase, and so much to admire. Among the many antiquarian treasures, we found one new book, bookseller Peter Grogan’s Companion to Drink. It’s an A-Z smartly covering much of what one need’s to know to drink intelligently. We’ll be ordering copies for our shop.

We made up for the slow pace of Thursday by completing a full round of the fair on Friday. It seems the foreign dealers were in full force, in particular the French and the Italians. The French have always had a strong showing in New York, both in number and in quality, but the Italians seem much more robust than usual. And the books of the avant-gardes – Russian, Italian, Japanese, French and American – were there in force. Ten years ago, only a small handful of dealers exhibited the avant-gardes. In New York I had the opportunity to examine three copies of a Russian book which twenty years ago was thought to exist in one incomplete copy only. The world, and its books, have changed a lot since then.  The impact of the new generation of ABAA members and their fresh approached to bookselling was visible at this show. Dealers like Lorne Bair, Brian Cassidy, Ian Kahn, and others have, I think, outlooks which can generate new appeal for outlier collecting interests.

The high spots in our field (cookery) were stunning. We admired a 1494 Platina in the Pregliasco booth and an Elizabethan medical, scientific and cookery manuscript offered by R.L. Rootenberg. Sophie Schneideman offered a group of Elizabeth David letters, which were thankfully snapped up by collector friends. Before the show, we acquired a first Joy of Cooking in the very rare dust jacket and crowed a bit about it. But there in Peter Stern’s booth was an inscribed copy of the same. Had we been exhibiting, I might have been tempted… But the book sold quickly anyway, so the temptation was removed, thankfully.  Some modest but satisfying buying was accompanied by less modest and very satisfying eating. Excellent and enjoyable meals were shared with James Jaffe and the brothers Goldwasser at Aldea on Thursday night, and with Dan Wechsler, Pablo Butcher and Alex Obercian at Vandaag in the West Village on Friday.

Saturday,  we headed to the west side to pick up a collection of  rare NY menus. Emerging from the subway at 42nd street, we were met with pounding disco beat of ‘I’ve Got the Power’. We assumed a street performer, but instead found a sea of union labor in the midst of a protest. Teachers, steelworkers, government employees and electricians raised voices thick with the exotic dialects of Staten Island, New Jersey and Long Island, and we felt a million miles away from the Park Avenue Armory and the book fair.

Rabelais at the Sleeping Hedgehog

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Thanks to Cat at Sleeping Hedgehog for this lovely review!

“I’ve bought books on English pudding, whisky, ciders, and much, much more. As they carry both new and gently used, domestic and imported, and a fine selection of culinary magazines, I’d find it hard to believe that anyone who cooks or just enjoys all things culinary won’t find much to like (and purchase) here.”  [excerpt]

If you’re interested in intelligent reviews of quality books in lots of fields,  then we highly recommend the Sleeping Hedgehog.