The Suitcase Lady


November 24, 2015, 10:21 pm

I love cookbooks. Despite the fact that my iPad gives me access to every recipe in the universe, I prefer my well worn, splashed, stained, penciled, dog-eared and beloved cookbooks.

Michael Perry, the Garrison Keillor of Wisconsin, in his autobiographical book, Truck, A Love Story, veers off from his tale of restoring a pickup truck into the subject of cookbooks. A bachelor at the time, he owned 13 cookbooks with a grand total of 2,320 recipes. He describes his cookbook dilemma as follows:

“Combine a guilt-ridden sense of duty with terminal indecision and you will understand why I resist bringing any more cookbooks into my house. I look at my stack of thirteen and I hear an austere Depression-era voice in my head saying, ‘Hundreds of perfectly good recipes in there, and you haven’t even touched them. There is work to be done, and I am way behind.'”

I immediately headed to my cookbook shelf and counted twenty-one volumes. The task of calculating the total number of recipes was too daunting.

My cookbook collection falls into two main categories: the ones I use to cook and the ones I use to read in bed. I value both equally.

In the utilitarian category are America’s Best Vegetable Recipes and Home-Made Ice Cream and Cake. Both of these recipe collections are from the Farm Journal magazine. They were contributed by farm women long before the phrase “locally sourced” became chic. All the recipes are easy, dependable and full of flavor.

Michael Perry notes that he relies on Let’s Start to Cook by the Farm Journal when he is in need of basic cooking information.

In the second category are the books featuring gorgeous photos, lovely artwork and delightful stories. I will never make a recipe that takes two hours and requires 21 ingredients, most of which aren’t available in the rural area where I live. But I truly can enjoy reading and dreaming about these food fantasies before I drift off to sleep.

Perhaps I need to add a third category, cookbooks that make me laugh. Cooking for Crowds by Merry White would fit here. I have no need for the 95 recipes in this book that feed hordes of people. I spotted the edition at a thrift store and snapped it up for one reason: the whimsical Edward Koren illustrations. Feel free to borrow it if you are feeding 100.

Merry White



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