From the Archives: Bookmarks

Note: This post originally appeared on The Jump at its former address in October, 2007. I was just reading Reflections at Walden last night, though, and it holds strong as a great October Book Books

I’ve been wanting to write more about the books I read and collect for a while now. My desk shelf is crammed with various theory books, organization manuals, vintage finds, and schwag — books that have been sent to me as part of my job — waiting to be blogged while the massive bookshelves in the home office creak in protest, straining under the weight of my Mighty Tomes.

While I thought about making a recurring post category, like Bookmark Mondays, I have another idea brewing for Thursdays that I think I’ll pursue first. Instead, I’ve created a new category, Bookmarks, so I can share some of the cool things I see and read with my loyal readers.

All six of you. Hi Mom.

I’ll start with one of my new treasures, snagged at the Whately Antiquarian Book Center in Franklin County, Massachusetts this weekend.

We saw this massive, brick building rising from the plains of rural Whatley and screeched to a stop, even though we’d been trolling for breakfast for half an hour.

My hunger resulted in the purchase of not one, but two cookbooks; one I grabbed immediately upon walking in, the other on the way to the register.

The first is The Small Kitchen Cookbook by Nina Mortellito, published in 1964. I was drawn in by the jubilant little cherries on the cover, but after leafing through (and noticing the original price on the book was $4.95 – I paid $11.75. ‘the hell?), I realized that this is one handy little guide to Improvisational Cuisine.

“A small kitchen need not be a deterrent to preparing meals in the grand manner,” assures the introduction, which is followed quickly by the reminder that “small kitchens and small budgets usually go hand in hand.” How does Mortellito know I didn’t choose a small kitchen because I like to feel cozy whilst I cook? Eh, who am I kidding.

The book begins with a chapter called Tips for Cramped Quarters, and there’s nothing listed that I wouldn’t fully expect to read in Real Simple. They’re useful tips with a little bit of quirk; I love, for instance, that the author suggests a pegboard for kitchen accessories and is sure to add that “it looks quite decorative.”

Mortellito was also an environmentalist before her time — she recommends crushing cereal boxes before throwing them in the garbage — and apparently a boozehound: “Serve inexpensive wine, and try buying it in gallons,” she says (Lovely, reuseable decanters mask the quantity, I gathered).

Finally, the recipes are great for entertaining or inventing a meal when the only things left in the fridge are pre-wrapped slices of American Cheese and A-1 Steak Sauce. This is a common occurrence in my small-yet-cozy kitschy kitchen.

There are recipes for everything from potato salad to fritto misto, using relatively accessible ingredients. Want some spaghetti and out of sauce? All you need is some grated cheese, a few bits of bacon and a couple of eggs. Whip. Serve.

I’ll leave you with one of the cooler cocktail party recipes as a treat:

Fast Cocoa Souffle

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

5 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 pint heavy cream

Sift together sugar and cocoa, beat 3 egg whites until stiff, add sugar mixture, beating constantly. Add vanilla and salt, beat until mixture points and peaks; Butter inside of 1 1/2 quart souffle dish, pour souffle into dish  and place in a pan of warm water. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Whip heavy cream serve immediately with souffle.


Published: Wednesday, 24 October 2007

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