weeding cookbooks, or how librarians entertain themselves


(Weeder’s note: the library from which I got these cookbooks automated in the mid-nineties, although I’m not sure whether they’ve kept circulation records since then, given the vagaries of updating computer systems)

1) The best of Near Eastern Cookery; favorite dishes from the Balkans, Turkey, Israel Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Arabian peninsula, by Ann Seranne and Eileen Gaden. Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1964; 158 p. illus., map (on lining papers) 22 cm
This is a reasonably comprehensive collection of recipes from an area the cuisines of which are often overlooked in modern cookbooks, and the recipes are simple, both in ingredients which may be found in the rural Midwest and in instructions. On the plus side, the recipes are frequently low in cholesterol as a result of relying on olive oil rather than animal fats, and many might serve for people with food allergies or intolerances to dairy, eggs or wheat. (Well, not the baklava…) Unfortunately, the dated layout of the book itself lacking much illustration, not to mention all the changed political issues in the last 48 years, makes me consider this a candidate for withdrawal. As an example, Iran’s name change from Persia would have been as recent an event to people reading this book as the fall of the Berlin Wall today. Circulated 13 times since automation.
Verdict: withdraw….and give it to me!

2) A Book of Favorite Recipes compiled by D.A.N.K. Ladies Society of German American National Congress Benton Harbor – St.Joseph Michigan Shawnee Mission, KS : Circulation Service, c1968-1979. 70 p. : col. ill., spiral bound ; 23 cm.
As the citation suggests, this was brought out by a local women’s group in the late seventies, and the recipes have a strong Midwestern German feel to them—herring, liver and cabbage are common ingredients. Judging by the publication dates for similar items held in the MEL ILL database, compiling collections of recipes was a popular activity in the 70s in Michigan. I confess that I’ve always found this sort of cookbook to be endearing: the local groups are invariably earnest though the recipes may be derivative and dated even as the book is published. Based solely on its merits as a cookbook, I’d withdraw it—the recipes are outmoded, the layout and design outdated and it’s only circulated thirteen times since the library automated. It has, however, a donation plate, and is by a local group, and at least to some degree reflects local history/society.

Verdict: depends on the library’s policy of keeping books of local interest or with presentation or memorial plates.

3) The Vegetarian Gourmet: 315 international recipes for health, palate and a long happy life Sally and Lucian Berg New York: Herder and Herder 1971
While there is a distinct paucity of vegetarian cookbooks even today, at forty years old, this cookbook’s long overdue (if you’ll forgive the pun) for withdrawal. Although the book includes a wide range of cuisines—it is truly international in this regard—the layout is dated, the book’s cover is worn and tatty, and without a dust jacket, the copy fades into the background in comparison to modern cookbooks. To compound this for American readers, the book originally published in England uses slightly different measurements than what Americans are used to: by weight rather than volume. The book has only circulated twice since the library automated.
Verdict: withdraw—age, condition and lack of circulation

4) The New Vegan: fresh, fabulous, and fun Hudson, Janet London: Thorsons 2005
This book are straightforward and would probably appeal to people accustomed to a European meat-based diet who haven’t had much prior exposure to vegetarian and vegan cuisine; many of the recipes rely on vegan products designed to resemble the animal-based equivalent, such as tempeh turkey and wheat gluten cutlets. The cover design is colorful and brightly attractive but the internal layout isn’t terribly organized. Circulated 30 times since purchase.
Verdict: Keep, but continue looking for vegan cookbooks

5) Recipes from the regional cooks of Mexico Kennedy, Diana New York: Harper and Row 1978
Kennedy is something of an authority on Mexican cuisines and cooking—think Julia Child in regards French cuisine—and her cookbooks are similarly authoritative/accessible for people wanting to learn how to cook it for themselves at home. That said, this specific cookbook is showing its age a bit–the dust jacket is fading and the layout dated–the recipes may still be valuable but the library should probably look into getting some of her more recent books. Checked out 21 times since the library automated.
Verdict: keep until it hasn’t circulated in three years or until we get more of her books, whichever comes second. And then give it to me. I love Diana Kennedy’s cookbooks and indeed have a few suggestions for future purchases.

6) The New York Times Soup and Bread Cookbook. Tarr, Yvonne Young Quadrangle Books 1972
Forty years on, the soups and breads in this cookbook have (I think!) survived reasonably well—not surprising given the authority of the presiding agency. A sufficiently large number of the recipes include cream and eggs to make modern cooks with dietary restrictions a trifle wary, but as the cookbook as a whole assumes the cook is starting from scratch, it isn’t unduly unhealthy. Unfortunately, physically the book is looking a bit tatty; it lacks a dust jacket and the top and bottom edges of the spine are showing shelf wear (not surprising given this is a library book!) Overall, it lacks the illustrations and photographs that catch patrons’ eyes in a modern library, and so we might consider keeping it until circulation slows. Checked out 23 times since the library automated.
Verdict: keep until we find a similarly international, similarly basic soup cookbook…and give this to me. I love soup. I love collecting outdated cookbooks.

7) The Big Book of Soups and Stews Vollstedt, Maryana San Francisco: Chronicle Books 2001
While not as complete as the New York Times soup cookbook above, this is a reasonably attractive, non-intimidating introduction to (as the title suggests) soups and stews the author makes brief forays into Asian and Hispanic inspired dishes, but there are also comfort food mainstays such as chicken and dumplings and Irish stew. Vollstedt has published a couple of other similar books; if this shows enough demand we might want to consider purchasing them. Checked out 36 times since purchased.
Verdict: keep.

8) The Japanese Menu Cookbook Chang, Constance Garden City: Doubleday 1976
The recipes themselves may be acceptable in a community without a significant Asian population and the idea of seasonal dinner menus and accompanying menus is intriguing, but this book’s starting to show its age, both in wear and in the photography, typical of books from the 1970s. Circulated 17 times since automation.
Verdict: consider withdrawing as soon as we purchase a more recent Japanese cookery book

9) Siamese Cookery Wilson, Marie Rutland, Vt: C.E. Tuttle Co, 1965
Given that the country has not been uniformly called Siam since before this book was published, my doubts about the book’s currency began even before opening the cover. The author, a Caucasian-American who lived in Thailand for the first few years of her marriage, attempted to adapt the cuisine she had come to love for the ingredients available in the United States in the mid-60s. In a more attractive modern design with more socially sensitive glosses, the recipes might not have been bad in this context. Circulated seven times since automation.
Verdict: withdraw–age

10) The Key to Chinese Cooking Kuo, Irene New York: Wings 1996 (originally published Knopf: 1977)
An interesting introduction to Chinese cooking technique—I caught myself poring over the author’s description of proper chopping and slicing technique in utter absorption before returning to my assignment–but not very eyecatching, and that is what I suspect matters more to non-librarians. It’s got a plain white cover with the title and a few sketches of ingredients, and there aren’t any glossy photographs or simple recipes with step by step illustrations within, but rather extensive descriptions. A fat tome with plenty of recipes adapted to American groceries likely to be available in the mid-70s (and still likely to be available in the rural Midwest), this is the sort of thing that I would like to keep in the collection if at all possible, as the information is more useful than anything I’ve seen in the collection so far. The question is, of course, how to promote it? Circulated six times since automation.
Verdict: keep and try promotion—compared to the other books on Chinese cookery, six circs isn’t bad…but not exactly great. (If we have to weed it…first dibs!)

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