Food & Drink

A Readable Feast

by Cole Louison October 18, 2013
ReadA Readable Feast

 

In 1995, when Joanne Hendricks opened a cookbook store in the front room of the house where she and her family had lived for two decades, she wasn’t sure what to expect. Nor did she anticipate a specific clientele, other than “people curious to come into a small shop with a wooden door.”

Ever since Hendricks opened that wooden door, becoming one of the first antiquarian cookbook sellers in New York, she’s greeted many the inquisitive passerby. Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman and Gael Garcia Bernal all left the shop armed with vintage recipe tomes, along with a small army of food celebrities, including Florence Fabricant, Angela Harnett, April Bloomfield and Alan Ducasse, who Hendricks sent home with a pound of butter from her cellar freezer. (Her kitchen is in the next room – often producing a delicious aroma that fills the whole space.)

I’ve been a regular for five years, first drawn in from the street by the picture window that frames titles like “A Man and His Meal.” The shop offers books on everything from drinking etiquette to breakfast table decor, from tobacco (in the Spirits & Snuff section, no less) to bunt cakes.

Hendricks has been collecting cookbooks since college. She read recipes from The Flavor of France by the Chamberlains and visited the now-shuttered Corner Shop on Fourth Ave. Choosing a favorite from her own shop is a challenge, but she shares a few gems, and I added my own top picks into the mix:

Coffee and Waffles, Alice Foote MacDougall, 1926. $45
In this everything-under-the-sun breakfast book you’ll find detailed recipes, cookware suggestions and etiquette tips for the consummate hostess – along with musing on everyday life. From page 11: “But while breakfast, that hurried meal, gobbled at breakneck speed to catch the 8:25, or eated merely as a matter of form or necessity, is not a social function, on Sunday – that blessed day of rest and recreation – it may become something most convivial and constructive.” The more things change…

The Futurist Cookbook, F. T. Marinetti, 1932. $4,000
“Futurism is an experimental art movement from the early 20th-century that used found objects. They did a paperbound cookbook, and I keep it in my clothes closet so it doesn’t fade.” It’s hard to pick a favorite in here, but Martinetti’s Taste Buds Take Off sets a standard for (perhaps overly) bold, experimental recipes: a soup of concentrated meat stock, grappa, champagne and rose petals, which the author describes as a ‘a masterpiece of brothy lyricism.’ ”

The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, Alice Toklas, 1954. (First edition, British) $395
“This is the one with the hashish brownies in it. The recipe is only in the British edition, not the American. I also have a photograph of Alice and a recording of her reading the cookbook.”

A Book of Cakes,
Gertrude Mann, 1957. $60

Simply put, this book is my best friend on a rainy day spent in the kitchen. The excerpt below speaks better than I could about this sweet collection of old-time, down-home, not healthy, wonderful recipes. The cover alone – a brilliant pink – makes one want to roll up their sleeves and get baking. Why not start now:


GERTUDE MANN’S FARMHOUSE SCONES

1 pound plain flour
1 level teaspoon carbonate of soda
1 heaped teaspoon of creamed tartar
½ teaspoon salt
2 ounces butter
2 ounces lard
½ pint buttermilk or sour milk
2 teaspoons fresh milk

Sift the flour with the soda, cream of tartar and salt and roughly rub in the butter and lard. Make a hole in the middle, pour in the buttermilk or sour milk. Stir quickly to a springy dough. Roll this lightly on a floured board till a good inch thick; then cut into rounds and place on a floured tin. Brush the tops with the fresh milk and bake at once in a quick oven (gas mark 7, el. 425 F.) for 10 to 12 minutes. Take from oven as soon as cooked to split, butter and serve hot.

Joanne Hendricks Cookbooks, 488 Greenwich St, New York, 212-226-5731
Monday to Friday, 11:30a.m. – 7p.m.

All photos courtesy and copyright of Cole Louison.

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