Monday, July 04, 2011

Books, books, books

Grown-up furniture in my very own house.
My childhood home is almost empty. On Thursday, all my mother's furniture came across the Golden Gate Bridge to my sister's house and mine in a truck. Finding places for serious brown antiques in houses that previously contained no serious brown antiques has been a challenge for both of us, one we take seriously. Our mother loved her things. During chemo sessions she liked to talk about who should get what and where everything should go in our houses. It made her happy and peaceful.

In addition to a lot of brown furniture, my mother had thousands and thousands of books. Books in practically every room of her house. There were strict systems for where books went. She relegated tacky-looking paperbacks to the shelves along the staircase to the basement and, of course, that was always the best place to find something you actually wanted to read. Something by Toni Morrison or Len Deighton or Herman Wouk or Judith Krantz. These were mostly books my sister or I brought home as teenagers.

Boring, handsome, old books -- noble books that her father gave her -- went in the living room. When I was a child, I remember one of my mother's friends ribbing her about the pretension of keeping pompous books you didn't read in the living room. I thought he had a point, but I also remember thinking he was being pompous in his own way. I took the boring, handsome books from my mother's living room and put them in my living room. It's not pretentious. This is just how I grew up thinking a living room should look. And it looks great.

Although. . .

What are the sources of the Japanese tradition?
Meanwhile juicy paperbacks and contemporary books are in the room where we watch TV. These are mostly books that were already in my house.

I love that The L Word  is about an inch away from The Fabrication of Farmstead Goat Cheese. I keep intending to put these books in some kind of order, but maybe I won't.

The cookbooks, of course, are absolutely in order. I could not stand to have a disorderly cookbook  collection!

When we put in this shelf eight years ago I swore I would cull before I let the cookbooks overflow.

But I didn't.

The books have overflowed to the jam shelf and a new shelf we lodged in the skinny space between the stairs and a wall and they are starting to pile up on the floor. The pile is only getting higher because 
there were about thirty cookbooks to be taken from my mother's house and I couldn't resist any of them. 

I finally found this, which I had been hunting for madly a few months ago. It contains the recipe for the first cheesecake I ever made when I was about twelve. I did not remember that the cheesecake contained dry milk, which sounds dismal to me now, but I swear it was the best cheesecake ever. I am going to bake it again soon.

And then there were cookbooks I wasn't looking for, but which I can't let go of.

I could never cast aside a cookbook that contains such gorgeous pictures:

See, I am helpless. Being a hoarder of cookbooks helps me empathize with people who are hoarders of everything, which, by a miracle of fate, I am not.

Happy 4th of July, everyone.


  1. What a wonderful post. I loved it from soup to nuts.

  2. ditto. it was better than reading someone else's diary.
    the pix were especially great.
    happy 4th to you. what are you cooking?

  3. Your collection looks wonderful and so much more upscale than the cookbooks from my family! And books make a house a home. Enjoy them all!

  4. My mother's one and only cookbook was The Joy of Cooking. You can find anything in it. I have quite a few cookbooks I don't use (mostly gifts). Plus the Joy of Cooking, the only one I actually haul out every now and then for a specific recipe I remember being in there. Little tiny type.

    Is it terrible that I now mostly use Google and just type in "Broiled Salmon" and see what pops up? Or "Grilled Chicken" or "Tilapia microwave"?

  5. I feel much better about my baking book collection having seen yours; thank you! (The only organizing principle we adhere to is that the baking books do not comingle with the cookbooks.)

  6. To save space on cook books, I have taken to buying cooking magazines and ripping out the pages I like, now I just have to organize those somehow...

    P.S. I feel jealous of your jam shelf. We must not be jam people, I think I maybe have one jar in addition to what is in the fridge.

  7. enjoyed you on Radio Times this morning.

  8. Beautiful post. I treasure my Mom's copy of Betty Crocker with it's weathered spine and loose pages. Not to mention the recipes she wrote out by hand.
    Loved your pictures--all those books with ideas and recipes aplenty!

  9. speaking of excellent pictures--make sure your bladder is empty first though!
    I have always coveted my mom's With a Jug of Wine cookbook...when my grandmother died my dad brought her copy back for me. That will be one cookbook I pass down to my kids.

  10. Those Weight Watchers cards are unbelievable.

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