This past Friday, my daughter and I had some free time on our hands as we drove to the train, which would whisk her back to the hustle and bustle of New York City. In Darien, CT, we happened to pass one of her favorite thrift shops and decided to drop in, since we hadn’t shopped there in quite some time.
Generally speaking, I consider myself a better online than in-store shopper, since I’m not one of those people who can tolerate patiently sorting through racks full of clothes, one hanger at a time. Regardless, I was happy to be with my daughter, but of course she immediately set off on her own, and was swallowed up by the vast assortment of mixed-up fashions and fabrics at her fingertips.
As I wandered around, pretty much aimlessly, I came across a separate area of the thrift store that housed a shelf with deals on long-forgotten cookbooks. There were a few titles that caught my eye, but none more than the Silver Palate Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. This would definitely be a great addition to my collection, without doubt, and the fifty-cent asking price for this culinary classic, made the deal even sweeter.
As I flipped through the pages of the book I was about to buy, I discovered several unexpected surprises—newspaper clippings of recipes—no doubt of interest to the book’s former owner! The yellowed recipe clippings included, among others: The “Perfect” Salmon, New York Times, February 1998; Lobster, to Steam or Simmer? Connecticut Post, July 1997, and Wine; it’s a Drink, not an Investment, Forbes, August 1997.
I began wondering about the previous owner. I’m certain it was a woman because of her feminine script, in which she had made handwritten annotations throughout the book. She probably had a job in an office too, since some of her short recipes—for example, how to roast garlic—were jotted down on pages torn from phone-memo message books. Did she work in New York and visit the Silver Palate Gourmet Food Shop when it was open, and in its heyday? She definitely had an interest in seafood from the recipes she clipped and saved; did she own a boat and sail Long Island Sound on the weekends with her family? She also favored pasta, as indicated by the folded corners on those pages of the book. It seems her most-favorite was the Pasta Puttanesca on page 72, which she noted on the title page at the beginning of the book, as if to save the time and trouble of looking it up over and over again in the contents.
So engrossed, I suddenly became aware of my daughter calling out to me that it was time to go. We paid for our thrifty finds and left; she with her pants, and I with my book. When I got home, it brought a smile to my face to try to imagine a part of a home cook’s life based on her newspaper clippings, notes, and dog-eared pages.
Thank you, whoever you are, for sharing a bit of yourself without even knowing it, simply by cooking. It’s with you in mind that I share the recipe we both enjoyed, from page 72.
Until next tine,
The Big Tine