Archive for April, 2011

Spring feasts

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

“The carp was dead, killed, assassinated, murdered in the first, second and third degree. Limp, I fell into a chair, with my hands still unwashed reached for a cigarette, lighted it, and waited for the police to come and take me into custody.”

Alice B. Toklas

EastoverIt is most certainly Spring here in Maine.  Cold wet days, punctuated with flashes of gorgeous sunshine, harbingers of what’s to come.  But first we have to get through this cold dank stuff.  I did not plants my peas on Patriot’s Day last week.  I just planned the garden beds yesterday so I had no idea where I was going to plant those peas a week ago last Monday. I am choosing to be smug that my peas are not languishing in the cold wet soil.  Maybe, since it seems not to be raining, I will plant them today.

We had a delightful Spring feast on Sunday in the barn at Broadturn Farm.  Long tables filled with smiling faces, happy to be out of the house and communing with friends. I love Winter in Maine, really I do.  But by the time we get to April I am jonesing for the company of others, and fresh air.

Next weekend is the MARIAB fair in Wilmington, MA.  Don will be manning the booth solo (I’ve got to go to DC for a family party). But we hope to see many of you Massachusetts folks there.  Don will tell you a little about what he is bringing down, and there are VIP passes for those who click through.

The sky is lightening, time to plant the peas.



Saturday, May 7th, we’ll be loading up the wagon to exhibit at the Boston Book and Paper Expo , in Wilmington, MA. It’s an easy drive, closer than Boston. This rare book fair is one of the last big shows of the year, and will feature more than 85 dealers from all over the East Coast, as well as presentations, exhibits and talks on topics of books and book collecting.

Rabelais be bringing an assortment of American, English and Continental cookbooks from three centuries, along with cocktail, beer and wine books from our large collection. Many of the books have not been shown before, and haven’t even made it to the store, so come see what’s new (or old, really).  Some highlights include a beautiful copy of Mary Harris Frazer’s Kentucky Receipt Book, which includes the first recipe for banana pudding; an original 1931 Joy of Cooking in the ultrarare dust jacket, featuring St. Martha slaying the dragon of cooking drudgery; and a collection of European and American manuscript cookbooks.   Some of our recent purchases from the library of Alan Davidson will be there as well.

Just how much will this cost me, you ask? Well, nothing! The show’s promoter, Marvin Getman, has provided us with special VIP passes for our customers. Just click here to download and print out the special pass.

Sale boxes
In case you forgot, we will be having a store-wide sale May 14-16th.  That’s a Saturday through a Monday for those of you in the industry.  And there will be new material put out every day.  The Antiquarian books are the only things not on sale.  There will be tables of $1, $3 and $5 books and then the balance will be 40% off.  Help us make some room!

Alan Davidson auction, Bloomsbury, London

Monday, April 25th, 2011

On the shelves

Some photos from our time at Bloomsbury Auctions in London, March 2011 for the Alan Davidson library.

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.


Early Lunch at Ottolenghi, 3/11

Monday, April 18th, 2011
A delightful lunch

Plates at Ottolenghi

London and New York

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

It is remarkable how time can get away from you.  At my last bakery job I was ribbed for using a timer when I would bake off cookies. Somehow everyone else at that job could keep track of how long a sheet tray had been in the convection oven.  I relied, heavily, on my timer. I hated, hated, burning cookies so I would always set my timer.  That way I could allow myself the freedom of becoming wholly engaged in my next task without having to keep some part of my brain on those cookies.  When the timer would go off I could turn my attention from weighing out the butter for the pie dough back to that tray of chocolate chip in the oven.

It’s been two weeks since we returned from London.  How did that happen?  I need my trusty timer.  Perhaps because we only brought a small handful of the books we purchased home with us in our luggage, the rest is being shipped and should arrive any day now.  When that shipment shows up then the auction will reassert itself in my consciousness.  We bought well.  Not everything that we wanted, but then that’s how auctions go, isn’t it? You hope that the lots you are interested in, crave, are of no interest to others so that you may win them inexpensively.  When a competing paddle is raised repeatedly you wish the holder of said paddle bodily harm. You feign disinterest,  pretend boredom even, so that your target is unmolested, usually unsuccessfully. Watching various bidding styles in the room was predictably fascinating. The room was full, standing room in the back.  It was a big auction, over 400 lots, so there was traffic with folks coming and going during the four + hours it took to dispatch Alan Davidson’s library.

In the end we did well.  We won about twenty lots. We are looking forward to cataloging them, and sharing them with you. The trip to London was delicious with fabulous (sorry, but it is the correct term in this case) meals at St. John, Moro and Nopi (Ottolenghi’s new restaurant) among others. We wandered London’s warren like streets, visited Books For Cooks and Sophie Schneideman on Portobello Road, basked in the warm Spring weather (blissfully dry the whole time), and managed it all with no jet lag.

Since returning from London we have been to New York City and back.  Unfortunately this was not the year for us to debut at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair.  We spent two days roaming the aisles, chatting with colleagues and friends, and came home with a few well chosen purchases, but next year we will be exhibiting.  In the meantime, we have many new (to us) books in our collection.  We will be exhibiting next at the MARIAB book fair on May 7th in Wilmington, MA.  We hope to see some of you there.  We may even be doing some TV as promotion for that fair, but we will be sure to let you know more about that.

Now where is that timer…


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.