Cookbooks

Jack Deatherage, Jr

I love cookbooks. Libraries, bookstores, yard sales, mail-order catalogs, grocery stores, the Antique Mall, flea markets, the Internet and private collections have supplied me with cookbooks to amuse myself.

A favorite cookbook was purchased at a flea market. The book was a wreck, pages missing, covers replaced with plexi-glass and duct tape. Someone had valued that book! I bought it for 10 cents; now Iím looking for a good copy of it.

I suspect that "The New Settlement Cookbook" was printed around World War II. The copy I have explains how to clean a dining room and kitchen. How to prepare milk and foods for infants, and what should be fed to invalids. Obviously infants and invalids ate better then. Nothing came from a can of chemical soup.

Not having the cover or the first pages of the book, I suspect it was written for first-time householders. There was little reliable refrigeration at the time the book was written. Butter, possibly to keep it from spoiling, is applied to almost every sandwich. Of course the book explains what to put between two slices of bread!

At age six I knew there was more to cooking than my perfect open-faced concoctions of cinnamon and sugar on butter bread, and Mom was willing to teach me. She found a cookbook written for children. Iíve forgotten its title, but "South of the Border Hamburger" was the recipe we picked from it. I learned a lot from that recipe! We created the dish twice to make sure we were doing it right. Twice I ate one of the most disgusting dishes Iíve ever put together.

I learned I had to eat my mistakes unless they were likely to cause illness or death. More importantly I learned to read a recipe. If there are flavors or ingredients I detest, I try to substitute something enjoyable. This juggling may have caused some recipes to be less than desirable, but itís saved me from having to eat dishes I know to be horrible.

From the shelves of the Emmitsburg branch of the FCPL, I recently pulled "THE BEST AMERICAN RECIPES 1999". Iíve learned not to call any recipe "BEST," but what do I know about upscale eateries?

Still the book is worth a hard look. I love roast duck and page 92 has a recipe Iím drooling to try: One duck, salt and pepper to taste. Two tablespoons of chopped garlic and a small handful of fresh thyme sprigs.

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Remove giblets from the thawed duck along with any loose chunks of fat. Rinse with cold water, shake off the excess. Sprinkle the larger cavity with salt, pepper and garlic. Smear the seasonings around the insides. Place the thyme in the cavity and make dozens of small slits in the skin with a paring knife. Be careful not to cut into the meat.

Place a cake rack inside a jellyroll-type pan and set the duck, breast side up, on the rack. Place everything on the middle rack in the oven. Every hour for 4 hours take the bird out, pierce the skin with a knife and turn it over. After 4 hours raise the temperature to 350 degrees, drain the pan, salt and pepper the skin, and roast for another hour until the skin is crisp and brown. Remove from oven, let rest 20 minutes before tearing the bird apart. Save the fat in the fridge for sautťing taters or greens later.

Dark meat lovers should consume the bird in private. Thereís seldom enough for me let alone Wanda and Jack. Fortunately they donít care for duck. Wanda gets mad at me for eating the skin, then bellyaching for days after about indigestion.

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