Up the stairs and to your left, you might miss a treasure hidden in plain view. On the shelves of the Non-Fiction section, a collection of upwards of a thousand cookbooks has been growing for decades (1960’s – present).
Cookbooks and other specialty craft books like knitting, woodworking, beekeeping, and goat milking, are a boon for library patrons. Seasonal cookbooks, or specific ones on building gingerbread houses, can be prohibitively expensive, but for a good reason. Professional chefs, photographers, and writers work together to set new standards and improve how recipes are written. Unlike open-source recipe websites, a basic cookbook pairs high quality recipes with clearly written directions and pretty pictures; their quality is worth the cost, but many of us cannot afford them or don’t want to a book that would be used once. From the library, you could checkout five books on decorating cupcakes or fancy grade chocolates and simply return them after Christmas.
In short, our library is the best resource for free access to specialty books.
Since our collection is so large, you can compare recipes or food photography from the 80’s with recent publications. It’s an easily passed over opportunity for cultural research.
For example, compare Annie Bell’s Gorgeous Christmas (2010) with Helen Feingold’s The Joy of Christmas (1988). The eccentricities of both are distinct and particular to that moment in American cooking. Look at how Feingold sets her English Plum Pudding ablaze on a stately platter of fruits and nuts, while Bell diminishes hers with a sprig of mistletoe:
Feingold surrounds her pudding first with flames then with dainty morsels, but few would attempt to eat that mistletoe Bell has gently placed next to hers. The photography in Feingold’s book routinely presents food as an object to be revered and feared. The moment this photo captures provokes imaginings of an eternal flame. The dried pineapple and nuts are but a taste of what’s to come.
At first glance, Bell’s contemporary food presentation appears more approachable than Feingold’s, but it too has its veil of mystery and allure. She uses inedible items to evoke the traditional name of the recipe: a yule log cake is covered in golden pine trees; a king cake is crowned.
In her Holiday Cupcakes, Annie Rigg takes this new trend to extremes. Each of her recipes turns the cupcake into an object or a perch for something entirely unexpected. Some remarkable recipes are ‘The Flock of Robins’ and ‘Glitter Baubles’:
The sweeter the recipe, the more objectified it becomes. Perhaps, eating a ‘flock of robins’ is less laden with guilt than eating a cupcake. Perhaps, sweet and cute have become a little bit too synonymous?
Anyways, explore our collections. Remember, if we don’t have a book, you can always ask us to order it!