Collecting Cook Books

I am a cook book collector, I have too many but I will continue to buy more, especially the used, splattered and discarded kind. I buy them at thrift stores, garage sales, and church bazaars. I prefer them to new cookbooks as they tell stories, sometimes the recipes are check marked,or there are hand written notes on the pages, sometimes there are notes and dates, “Christmas 1981, everyone liked it.” These books not only tell a story of Canada at a different time and place, but are evidence of the mundane; the everyday lives of the women who cooked from them. Sometimes there are names in the books, and this too tells a story, “Mrs Patrick Smith,” from a time when apparently women didn’t have names of their own, or the names have been carefully cut or scratched out to hide the evidence?

I especially like cookbooks from the 1960’s and 70’s, a time of huge change for women. We were embracing independence and equal rights while at the same time, trying to keep it all together on the home front.

It was also a time of change on the culinary scene, as thanks to people like Julia Child, “gourmet food’ was in fashion and pasta was no longer just macaroni.

One of my favorite used cookbooks is Mme. Benoit’s Complete Heritage of Canadian Cooking. The name of the previous owner has been carefully cut out, but her brief notations in pencil still exist. I have cooked everything that she had commented on, and we have similar tastes, but who was she and why did her cookbook end up in a thrift store? And I think of my own collection and what might happen? I’ll never know who she was, but I like to think that we would have been friends, or maybe not, but perhaps we might have just smiled at each other across the grocery store aisle, carts full, just trying to keep it all together.

Mme. Benoit’s Caramel Apple Crumble

“An unusual apple-crisp type dessert”

4 large apples

1 cup light brown sugar (I use dark as that’s the only type of br.sugar that I buy)

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tbsp. rum

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup grated medium cheddar cheese

1/2 cup soft butter

Peel, core, and slice the apples thinly into an 8-inch baking dish. Mix 1/2 cup of the brown sugar with the cinnamon and rum. Sprinkle on the apples and mix lightly.

Combine flour, salt, grated cheddar, butter and remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar.

Crumble mixture evenly over the apples. Bake in a 325 F. oven 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm with sour cream or whipped cream. Serves 4.

(This is very good, I make it often in the fall and winter and always serve it warm with custard sauce)

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