Holiday Recap …

My family always complains that I am hard to buy presents for.

Who … Me?

I’m That Crazy Cookbook Guy … what’s so hard?

Well, I guess some of them have managed to crack the code.  I received  eleven cookbooks this year for Christmas.  It is a win/win situation.  I get to open a lot of presents and most of the givers get to save money because what I like the best are used cookbooks … my wife gave me most of them and she knows where I like to shop.  I love you, honey!  I have to tell you, the wrapping paper was wadded up knee deep around me … that’s why I call it pre-trash.

IMG_5258[1]Let’s start with the biggest … a gift from two of my sisters, Alton Brown’s book on baking, I’m Just Here For More Food.  Talk about cracking the code … this one is signed!   I like Alton but do his books always have to be so big?  Still. it is nicely done and it has a lot of excellent information.  IMG_5259[1]I’ll be pouring over this one.  And signed, for me, is a must-buy.

IMG_5260[1]Speaking of signed … my daughter’s fiance is well on the way to buttering up his future father in law … he snagged a signed 1979 fundraiser called Dining With The Daltons … put together by then first lady of Virginia Edwina Dalton for a charity she was funding.  IMG_5261[1]It not just signed, it is even personally inscribed.

IMG_5262[1]This same prospective son-in-law sweetened the pot by giving me another quite unusual cookbook put together by an Iowa group to commemorate artist Grant Wood, The American Gothic Cookbook.  It even has recipes used by Grant Wood himself, as well as from the family and even from the the models he used for the famous painting, along with a lot of good Midwestern fair from Iowa natives and notables. The models were his sister and his dentist, by the way … a tidbit I picked up from the book.  Unusual–I like it!

  IMG_5263[1]Speaking of unusual, The Original Show World Cookbook does not have a flashy cover, but it was put together by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Showmen’s League of America.  As I thumbed through this 1974 book I realized that could only mean one thing:  Carnies!   How cool is that?  It is just the sort of offbeat fundraiser I like.  People like to call them church cookbooks but, seriously, there are fundraiser cookbooks from a wide variety of sources and organizations. Even Carnies.

IMG_5264[1]I got two Fanny Farmer selections.  One was a 1965 edition of her famous cookbook that originally dates back to the 1890’s.  I have a paperback but did not have a hardback until now.  IMG_5267[1]

I also received a 1972 reprint of her 1905 Fannie Farmer’s Book of Good Dinners. Both lack dust jackets but they are in excellent condition.

IMG_5269[1]My interest in Bi-Centennial cookbooks was addressed by a small book called The Old Farmer’s Almanac Colonial Cookbook. This is another sub-collection … one that grows and grows because it was a very popular commemorative item in the mid-70s.  For me Bi-Centennials are a must-buy.


A 1980 fundraiser called Vermont Grange Favorites was a good choice. For a source of good home-style cooking the combination of the Grange and Vermont can not be beat.  Looks awesome.


Top Secret Recipes Classics is another one that might be a repeat, but it is a hard bound copy of one I think I might have in paperback.  It is chock full of clone recipes for many well-known brands and products.


The 1978 book, Eudora Garrison’s It’s Not Gourmet-It’s Better, is a winner as well. She was a long-time food editor at The Charlotte Observer.  I have a sub-collection (or have planned one) of tv/radio/newspaper personalities’ books.

IMG_5265[1]Finally, I received E. Mae Fritz’s Prairie Kitchen Sampler – Sixty-Six Years of a Midwestern Farm Kitchen.  Part cookbook, part oral history … marvelous book.  Can’t wait to spend some time reading the stories along with the recipes.

Hard to buy for?




Tastes Like Christmas …

imageA few years ago I happened upon a cache of old family recipes at my mother’s house. There were recipes that went back generations.  They were the kind of things I should have known and remembered but sadly, somehow most of these had fallen by the wayside by the time I came along in the 50s and 60s.  Of course I was a kid most of that  time too — so I may have turned up my nose  at some of the dishes.  By the early 70s I was out on my own but by then I think convenience foods had replaced most of the old standards.

As I examined them I knew these recipes fit right in with my philosophy of cookbook collecting, old and authentic.  They ran the gamut of family members on my mother’s side, most of whom were gone long before I came along.  Some even had designations like “ten cents worth of onions” … just marvelous.  As I read, I could only imagine what aromas must have filled the house back in the 20s and 30s and 40s in their house.

One recipe was for gingerbread.  “Oh, that’s Aunt Dot’s Gingerbread recipe,” my mom had said.  In my day, Aunt Dot was more famous for her fudge because she’d whip up a batch of fudge for most big occasions and that batch did not last long.  She never used a candy thermometer either … she just had a feel for the right consistency as she stirred the pot.  She tried to show me one time … but suggested I use a thermometer, at least initially, to make sure I got it to the soft ball stage.  There isn’t anything special about that recipe, it is pretty much a buck basic fudge, but what was remarkable was her ability to do it by touch.  I’m pretty much a slave to the waffle light so I always use a thermometer.

Anyway, I was intrigued by the gingerbread.  My mom assured me that long before she settled on fudge, Aunt Dot was the queen of gingerbread.  I have to admit, this is an awesome recipe. When I bake a batch of this, like I did last night, I know it is not only beginning to smell a lot like Christmas, it is beginning to taste a lot like Christmas as well.  I’m getting another piece right now!

Aunt Dot’s Gingerbread
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup melted shortening
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup boiling water
Add beaten eggs to sugar, molasses and melted shortening
Add dry ingredients which have been sifted and well mixed and stir until moistened.
Add boiling water and mix well.
Bake in moderate oven 30-40 minutes.  Toothpick must come out clean and test it in several spots as well.

Size?  probably 11×9 pan.  You don’t want it too thick but not too thin either.

You can ice it if you want, but I usually just eat it.


A Cautionary Tale

Maybe that should be cautionary tail.  You’ll see why later.

I’m working on some new posts.  I moved some boxes in a spare room the other day and found some tubs of cookbooks I had stuck in there a couple of years ago.  It was like opening a time capsule!   Don’t get me wrong, I have no shortage of cookbooks to write about, but it was almost as exciting to find these books as it was to buy them in the first place.

Anyway, back to the warning.
Many of you will be making Christmas cookies in the next two weeks.  For us, in our tiny kitchen, that means bowls and ingredients and cookie sheets are all over the place.  Cats, as we all know, love to be in the middle of everything.  They think to themselves, “Those big funny-looking cats are fiddling with stuff … I had better check this out right away!”

imagePlease, remember to put the cat out FIRST. 

The Winner of the Cookbook Is …

My handy Random Number Generator app kicked out #2 and the second person to comment was … Patricia Kiyono

Just to make it a little more random .. with seven entries I thought it best to rustle up the entrants a little, so I closed my eyes and hit the “generate” button seven times … opened my eyes and there was the number TWO.

Patricia, please drop me a line at so we can exchange details … after that Tony Danza will come home to live with  you.

A big “Thank You!” to everyone who participated, either by viewing posts on this site or by entering.  It wasn’t quite a record for this site, but it was close.  I so enjoy talking cookbooks, especially vintage ones, so come back and follow me.
Happy Holidays, everyone!

Blog Hop – Holiday Cookbooks?

Welcome to my Holiday Blog Hop contribution.
Christmas and Cookbooks.  It’s quite a combination, isn’t it?
For this Christmas season, I thought I’d give away a cookbook!  Info at the end of this post. 
But first, I need to finish up this blog entry.  This is, after all, a blog about cookbooks, right?
I just pulled out the first Christmas Themed cookbook I came across on one of my random shelves.  It didn’t take long because there are a lot of them.
imageHoliday Flavors and Favors was a publication of  the Greensboro, NC Junior League.  This copy is a 1985 reprint of a 1975 publication.  It is unusual in that it is such a small informal Junior League offering.  I’m not sure I have another Junior League cookbook quite like it.
Small as it is, it has a quite a number of recipes, most with a holiday flair.
imageAnd we mustn’t forget “and Favors” in the title.  They have gift ideas.  If you lived in the 60s and 70s, who can forget the gift of “Russian” Tea?   It isn’t really Russian … it’s more like Astronaut Tea because the main ingredient is Tang.  But it was easy to mix up, is actually quite refreshing, and when packed in a hinged jar with a rubber seal it makes an attractive gift.  There was a similar “gift” Hot Chocolate Mix recipe on the same page so I just left it in there as a bonus.  Hmmm, a hot chocolate mix with hot chocolate mix as an ingredient.  Sort of like Hamburger Helper Helper I guess.
For appetizers, I selected Curry Dip and Chili Cheese Log.  Both were just a little different so i thought they’d be fun inclusions.
The Strawberry Congealed Salad was a surprise for me.  It is almost identical to a recipe my wife’s family has made for many decades.  In fact, the only difference I see is the addition of unflavored gelatin and I can tell you, this is a great idea.  The salad is very festive, Christmasy they call it on the page.   The way I’ve always made it, the first few spoonfuls maintain structural integrity, but it starts to loosen up a bit after you get about halfway into it.  A little more gelatin would just about do it.
The Chicken Broccoli  Casserole is pretty much a buck basic quick fix casserole with a cream soup.  Well, except for the inclusion of mayonnaise.  A nice flavor touch that probably goes nicely with the curry powder.  I’ve seen chicken casseroles with either ingredient but not both.  And I’ve seen similar recipes topped with bread crumbs or even potato chips but not with dressing crumbs.  I think I’ll make this one myself during the holidays when I need something with little fuss for people to nosh on.
Okay, we’re down to cookies … and I’ve included two.  Cathedral Windows are a mainstay in our house.  Sadly, I can’t find really good colored marshmallows around here … usually have to let pastel colors suffice.  But they are quite impressive and very good.  I’ve never made Kris Kringles but … they look great and, hey, you can’t get much more Christmas than that.
To help us all celebrate the season, I’m hosting a cookbook giveaway!
imageI know some of you prefer celebrity cookbooks but I’m all about unusual collectible cookbooks so I found a mint condition copy of Don’t Fill Up On The Anitpasto  by everybody’s favorite — Tony Danza!
Okay, sure, it is a little off the wall but what do you expect from That Crazy Cookbook Guy?  It is a delightful book.
Leave a reply below.  (Facebook users please go to the wordpress site to leave your comment) … one entry per person, please.  I will select one lucky person at noon Wednesday December 9 and I’ll post the winner’s name tomorrow.
Please go to the blog hop central link and find other giveaways, including one for a copy of my novel The Fever … that’s a different hop.

Happy Holidays!

blog hop