Tomorrow is the neighborhood 4th of July party.
I adore our neighborhood. We're a small group on a country road, with the closest grocery store 10 miles away. So none of this getting in the middle of your baking and then realize you need one more egg, or a stick of butter. But. That's not my problem today. I have all the sugar, flour, butter, milk and eggs that could possibly be needed. My problem is deciding what I want to bake.
I'm sure the neighbors are sick to death of my chocolate pound cake, and probably my lemon blueberry pound cake too. Truth be told, they're probably praying I never show up with another pound cake ever. But I love pound cake! And I especially love baking a pound cake in one of my really cool bundt pans. These pans come in all sorts of fun shapes. I only have a few, but keep promising I'm going to treat myself to another one or two - and wishing I had already picked up one in the shape of a sunflower. Or maybe the carousel. But. I didn't. big sigh. I do have two pans I especially love - they make "mini bundts." and they're adorable!! My favorite regular size bundt pan is the cathedral. I use it a lot. My friend Cat gave me a sandcastle pan and it's a beauty, except the little cake turrets seem to burn during baking and I haven't figured out a way to keep that from happening.
Oh Laws, I did it again, didn't I?
Wandered off talking about pans, when what I really want to talk about is this pile of cookbooks at my feet.
You know - with the internet being so chock full of recipes for anything anyone could ever want to cook or bake, we really don't even need cookbooks any more. But, as anyone who has ever been a collector of anything knows - "need" has nothing to do with it. For me, being a lover and collector of books also includes a cookbook fixation. I've given away quite a few recently, but there are some that I love and can't imagine parting with. Oddly enough, some of them are cookbooks that I have never ever tried a single recipe from. And then there are the "old faithfuls" that I reach for regularly. And there's that group that includes cookbooks that are so beautifully done that they're for sitting and enjoying simply for their beauty, certainly not to be placed in the category of "just a cookbook." Still another group would be those cookbooks that might contain only one single recipe that gets used over and over again. Wouldn't it be simpler to write the recipe down and put it in my recipe box? Or type it up and keep it on my computer? Well, truth be told - I've done that, but I still want to hold on to those cookbooks. Those are the ones that have been with me forever. They've been packed and moved from apartment to apartment to house to house, from state to state. They're not going anywhere.
Here's a few of my faves.
It only seems right to start off with the one I started the day out with. Earlier today I was just simply planning on baking a pound cake. Then I started "over-thinking." To the point that now I've convinced myself that the neighbors just truly do not want to ever see another pound cake from the Barley household again, ever, ever. But. If I do ever make another pound cake (probably tonight, who am I kidding), this is the first place I'll look for a recipe. The Pound Cake Cookbook by Bibb Jordan. If you can find a copy of this - grab it. It is a perfect little gem.
If I decide to do an old fashioned chocolate cake instead, the very best one I ever made came from a recipe in the Hershey's Chocolate Classics cookbook. It's the Chocolatetown Special Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting. yummm . . .
As for the cookbooks I've never actually cooked out of - well, here they are:
The Pooh Cookbook inspired by Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne by Virginia H. Ellison, Illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard. Most of us don't need a cookbook to tell us how to spread Marmalade on a Honeycomb (don't swallow the beeswax), which is the first recipe in this delightful little book, but - we might sometimes forget some of the other very important lessons it has to offer. Like sitting quietly while enjoying the sweet wisdom of Pooh.
Another cookbook that's so much more than a cookbook is The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life. It may very well have a recipe for the best ever Country Ham with Bourbon Glaze, and it might possibly tell you some of the most delicious ways to cook up some crab, but what I can promise you it has for sure is some of the best story-telling having to do with food and friendship you'll ever hope to read.
I've never tried a single recipe from The Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout. And I have to admit, there really aren't too many recipes in here I'm even tempted to try. But anyone who's a fan of Nero Wolfe and Archie and has drooled over some of their meals while enjoying their adventures will love this little treasure.
The last book I have here that I've never cooked out of is Earlyne S. Levitas' Secrets from Atlanta's Best Kitchens. When I moved to Atlanta in 1968, most of these restaurants were in business and were quite well known. Some of them did open later. I was lucky enough to be able to try several of them, and was saddened when I watched them, one by one, close. By the time I moved away from Atlanta in 1997, the only one still in operation was The Varsity. Now, I have some fond, fond memories of The Varsity, and still think their onion rings are the ones by which all onion rings should be judged. But some of the other restaurants listed in this wonderful cookbook stir up strong memories as well. The Midnight Sun was the place my mom and dad wanted to go when they came for a visit. It was always a dressy, special occasion, and one we always looked forward to and were never disappointed. Those of you who are, or were, long time residents of Atlanta will remember many from the list which includes Pity Pat's Porch, Chateau Fleur de Lis, Gene and Gabe's, Herren's, Hugo's, Justine's and The Lion's Head, along with a few more.
Here are some of my favorite old stand-bys that I know I can count on -
Country Living Country Mornings Cookbook -
Farm Journal's Country Cookbook
One of my very favorites, Somethin's Cookin' in the Mountains, which is not just a cookbook, but also a pretty special guide book to the North Georgia Mountains. Again, though - sadly, an awful lot of what was included in this book is no longer with us.
and finally, some favorites because they're just sweetly done and fun - Susan Branch's Heart of the Home cookbooks. They're all illustrated with Susan's watercolors, and include little snippets of poetry. They're just a joy.
and they make great gifts!
I know many of you are cookbook collectors also - and I'd love to hear about your favorites, please. There's always room for one or two new cookbooks on the shelf . . .
And by the way - - -
Happy 4th of July, everyone!!