In May 2013, I traveled to New Orleans for a wedding and while walking around the French Quarter, I wandered into Kitchen Witch, a vintage and antique cookbook store. The friendly owner was happy to satisfy all my nerdish impulses regarding availability of first-edition Mrs. Beeton’s and Fannie Farmer cookbooks (none of which I could afford, anyway) and then, seemingly on a whim, showed me his latest acquisition yet to be officially stocked on the shelves: an over-sized personal scrapbook of recipes, advertisements, and housekeeping columns from various media sources dating from the early 1900s through the mid-twentieth century. He had purchased the book on eBay, from a seller who himself had bought the item from an unknown third party located somewhere in Iowa. It was love at first sight for me with this book as I was enthralled with the wacky recipes, not-so-feminist advice proffered by “lady journalists,” and mysterious hand-written notes in the margins. Who was the author (or authors) of this charming (proto)Pinterestesque text? What inspired this (occasionally not so) delicious compendium of cooking projects? I guess here is where I am supposed to write that I begged the owner to sell me the book at any price. Sorry. I am boring and conservative when it comes to financial matters, the opposite of an impulse-buyer. “That’s really neat,” was all I said out loud. I WANT THAT BOOK, was the phrase the rang in my head. I walked out of the shop and proceeded to eat a lot of oysters. The next day, I returned to Houston but my thoughts lingered with The Book. Desire quickly morphed into necessity: I needed that book. Maybe, even, that book needs me. After a series of calls to Kitchen Witch, which does not seem to answer its phone between 10am and 5pm, as well as a paypal transfer of $40, The Book arrived on my doorstep. And so I began this project to explore its contents, sometimes test its featured recipes, and, perhaps, eventually identify the domestic gastronomers behind this culinary collage.
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