New acquisitions. thrift-store books.
A few weeks ago I found myself with an hour to kill while waiting for my mother, as she had an appointment in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. It was almost mid-afternoon - too late for lunch, too early for a snack. I don't know Ballard very well; one of my favorite restaurants, Volterra, is here, but otherwise I never come to this part of town. I could buy a drink and sit in the car reading like a bored chauffeur, or I could walk around and explore. I wandered through a little Norwegian deli/grocery, the last reminder that this neighborhood was once an immigrant community before they died out and the yuppies moved in, and into a small store that sold twee little greeting cards and local souvenirs. Then I discovered two things: a) Ballard has a lot of thrift stores, and b) thrift stores sell books, a fact that has somehow escaped me until now.
I drifted through three different thrift stores before I suddenly find myself in possession of three cookbooks that I could not resist because they cost about a dollar each, even though I find it highly unlikely I will ever try any fondue recipes from a cookbook published in 1969, or cook something from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks With Wine, and I most definitely will not be making anything from Turkey: The Bird For All Seasons, which was published in 1984. Judging from the author's inscription inside, this whimsically illustrated (with pen-and-ink cartoons of turkeys) book was only available at craft fairs and community fundraisers. Page after page of every dish imaginable, all featuring turkey - leftover roast turkey, fresh turkey that you separate into breasts and thighs and legs and cutlets, or pieces bought as you would buy chicken.
That first thrift-shop experience was a revelation. The books were even cheaper than used-bookstore books, 99 cents or $1.50, $1.99 at most, making it impossible to resist even a 1962 paperback copy of The Red Badge of Courage. (It's possible I have a problem). I found another thrift store on my way home from work; I had passed by almost every day for over a year, and it was not until yesterday that I went in. Neighborhood shoppers browsed amongst the clothes and assorted furnishings, flipped through what looked like hundreds of old records in their battered sleeves. But I struck gold in a cache of cookbooks, those Time-Life Foods of the World books that were published in the 70's. These books - everyone seems to have the full set thirty years ago - are filled with (by now somewhat dated) information about the regions they cover, with glorious photographs of regional dishes with that patina that vintage photographs seem to have. They cost between $2.50 (after some mysterious discount that I still don't understand) and 50 cents (again, after discount), and there were over a dozen of them. I had to go back the next day for more, because I couldn't carry them all.
I think I need a new bookcase.
postscript (for J.): I found a copy of A Year in Provence amongst the unsorted, randomly shelved books. I can't wait to read it, but I'm saving it for a trip later this month. I know I'll love it as I do the other Peter Mayle books.