Recipes For Memories That Linger In The HeartThursday, July 04, 2013
My father George was a journalist, a gambler, he was friends of hoods, he was a superb tango dancer but best of all he was a good cook. He told me only once, “Alexander if you want to learn you must know how to make sauces.” He never wrote down any of his recipes but I do know that he would score squeezed lemons and drop them into his iced tea (we had an ice box) the night before. To this day that is the secret of my iced tea.
My mother, who taught physics and chemistry and spent most of her hard-earned money on my education, which I just about squandered, did not know how to cook. When I complained that I did not want to eat her fried eggs because she had broken the yolks, she told me to fry them myself.
I do remember that she did learn to make scrambled eggs a la Playboy. I had read in a Playboy that the secret to good scrambled eggs was to add butter at the end. She really could not cook and because we lived in Latin American countries we always had a live-in cook.
By 1964 when she was living in Veracruz, Mexico she started using her 1953 edition of The Joy of Cooking and following the recipes by the letter she made the best lemon meringue pies I have ever had in my life.
It was in 1968 when a couple of cook books entered my life. They were Recipes for Two from my mother and The Len Deighton Cookbook a gift from my friend Raúl Guerrero Montemayor. These books were gifts as Rosemary and I were married that year. They have been a constant reference since. A third book, The Southern Cookbook my mother brought from North Carolina in 1971 when she came to live with us (Rosemary and our two daughters, Alexandra and Hilary). It was from that book that she cooked Adalyn Lindley’s Chicken a La Barbara. We were delighted and with a big smile my mother told us, most proudly, “I have learned to cook well so that you, Alex, won’t make fun of me anymore.”
Some months back when looking for recipes for peach cobbler and rice pudding my granddaughter told me to forget recipe books, “The best are on the internet.” I could not explain the pleasure of opening a recipe book with yellowing pages, full of food stains and how memories of the original owners became magic in my nostalgic imagination. A brand new recipe book, unlike perhaps an Encyclopedia Britannica, becomes better with time like a good wine.
I find it hard to believe that with eating out and all those cooking shows on TV that people do not have the gumption that my mother had. And that is to go to a good cook book store (naturally Barbara Jo’s) and secure a book that someday, with other cook books will linger not only in our taste buds but also in our memory.
Recently I received a lovely communication from Barbara -Jo's Books to Cooks. I was struck in the gut (most nicely) by this:
After a while, your best loved cookbooks develop a certain patina. Like a love note pressed between the pages of another time, they bear the happy scars of distant celebrations. A spilled dash of flower from a long lost Thanksgiving, the handwritten reminder that your old Valentine has an allergy.
I was compelled to write this blog because of Barbara-Jo's Mission (ary) Statement I have come to realize the importance of a cook book. Her statement is below:
Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks: Mission Statement
Our Mission(ary) Statement:
Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks began with the idea that cookbooks deserve a place all their own. A place where everyone from home cooks to international members of the culinary community could gather to celebrate the pleasures of the table. For 16 years, we’ve been a proud supporter of cookbooks and – more importantly - the people who continue to love them.
We believe in the tangible delight of turning a page. Just as we believe that a collection of recipes or a cooking class is a gift that deserves to be properly savoured. We believe that speed and efficiency can happily co-exist with a deeply felt sense of tradition. Most of all, we believe in the enduring power of the cookbook.
After a while, your best-loved cookbooks develop a certain patina. Like a love note pressed between the pages of another time, they bear the happy scars of distant celebrations. A spilled dash of flour from a long lost Thanksgiving, the handwritten reminder that your old Valentine has an allergy. A worthy cookbook has worked hard to earn a lasting place in your life. And, at Barbara-Jo’s, we like to think we have as well.
We’ve seen many changes over the years. Among them, a world where the lure of instant communication is constantly threatening to overshadow the power of true connection. Now, more than ever, we feel that making personal service a priority is the best way to do business.
We enjoy talking to our customers and getting to know them. Over the years, many of them have become friends and we’ve come to value their support beyond words. Together, we have made a pact to share our lives through the mutual love of books and food.
All of this takes time. And it has not been an easy journey. But every day is touched with a kind of magic. Here, we are surrounded by the cherished weight of ideas. The endless possibilities of a good book opened to thoughts of family, friends and the joys of celebration.
What have we learned? That an open cookbook demands an open heart. And an open heart is the best recipe of all.
Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks
1740 West 2nd Avenue Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6J 1H6
Telephone 604-688-6755 Fax 604-688-6759
Sundays and Mondays 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m.
Tuesdays to Saturdays 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
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