Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


The bookshop in the old church.

Lunch over, now let's walk. We're invigorated. Lunch does that to you. Either that or you want to go to sleep. Today we wanted to walk.

We walked across the threadbare lawn and out of the gardens and across the road and up the hill. We turned right into the main street and on the corner was an old Wesley Church that wasn't a Wesley Church any more, but a second-hand bookshop.

We went in through the arched doorway, which was big enough to get the twin pram through even though only one half of the arch was open. It was still like a church inside; only there were more books, quieter music and fewer customers. Fortuitously, the babies had just fallen asleep - both! together! - so we parked their pram on an old persian rug on what would have been part of the nave, right in between Crime and Biographies.

You always see the same books in new bookshops, but a good second-hand bookshop takes you back to the past. The Cooking shelves had an extraordinary range of books in excellent condition, including:

The Enlightened Cuisine, by Renée Verdon.
Cuisine of the Sun, by Roger Vergé.
The Hundred Glories of French Cooking, by Robert Courtine.
The Classic Book of Pasta, by Vincenzo Buonassisi, 1973. (Including 41 varieties of pasticcio - layered pasta. And you thought lasagne was lasagne.)
La Cuisine Réussie, by Alan Senderens.
Greek Cooking, by Robin Howe, 1960.
Carrier's Kitchen.
Boozing Out in Melbourne Pubs: an Occasional History and Sociological Study of Melbourne As Seen Through the Bottom of a Glass, by John Hindle and John Hepworth, 1979. (The sub-title is satirical. A ribald and entertaining look at some of Melbourne's most famous old pubs before many were destroyed by the wrecker's ball, the one-armed bandit or the renovator.)
American Regional Cooking for 8 to 50.
Cake Decorating, by Jean Bowring, 1969. (Full colour plates - this book would have threatened the world's coloured ink stockpile.)
Jean Jacques Seafood, by Jean Jacques Lalé-Demoz, 1986.
101 Australian Ways to Cook a Sheep, by J. & B. Hay, Sunbooks, 1969.
Continental Cooking in the Australian Kitchen, by Maria Kozslik Donovan, 1955. (First edition, black and white and two-colour illustrations. Chicken Kiev, anyone?)
The Graham Kerr Cookbook. (Full of those overhead step-by-step photos that were so popular in the sixties.)
La Méthode, by Jacques Pepin, 1979.
The Pedant in the Kitchen, by Julian Barnes, 1988.
Convicted Tastes: A History of Food in Australia, by Richard Beckett (who, as his alter ego Sam Orr was once one of my favourite food writers).

Remember the books that everyone seemed to have in the 1970s and then disappeared? They were here: Craig Claiborne's A Kitchen Primer, with its yellow cover art of eggs, bowl and beater (Penguin edition); and the all-brown Whole Earth Cookbook, by Cadwallader and Ohr. I picked up the latter and suddenly it was 1972 again and I was sitting on a brown corduroy beanbag eating a salad with mung beans and lentils and shaved carrot and sultanas in it, while the Edgar Winter Group thumped out of a Thorn stereogram and a summer breeze ruffled the bead curtains in the doorway. Then someone poked me in the ribs and I woke up.

Bookshops do it to me all the time. Sometimes Tracy makes me cross the road when she sees a bookshop ahead.


Truffle said...

you've just reminded me why i love second hand bookshops so much!

jo said...

oooooooooooooo I am so jealous. Such a yummy way to feed my addiction sans calories.
I would have picked up at LEAST a handful of those.
As an aside....I saw an older Nigella episode on Sunday where she took three Satsuma and cooked them in water for an hour,squeezed them out with her hands and bunged them into the food processor, skin and all to make a cake....sound familiar? I am so excited to try it...

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

You must have bought all those! I mean you didn't stand there and write all that down did you!
It makes me think when I get to Austrailia I must spend some time in a used bookstore. The Boozing Out is such a great title.
Ha, ha see never say never...both asleep at the same time.

neil said...

Both asleep at the same time and you went to a bookshop, yeah, I probably would too. I've got that Jean Jacques book but I don't think I've used it that much, Boozing Out In Melbourne Pubs sounds like a much better read.

kitchen hand said...

Truffle, I was so absorbed I forgot to mention the name of the actual shop - it was Barwon Booksellers. They have an online ordering system but their 'search' button doesn't work very well.

Jo, I love that tactile kind of approach - sounds like the cake with the whole orange.

I write fast, HalfCups! I bought the Convict Tastes one and a couple of others.

Neil, the author of Boozing Out, John Hepworth, used to write for Nation Review in a kind of hammered gonzo style without the attitude. Spoils you for straight journalism, really.

Anh said...

Intersting post. I love browsing through second-hand bookshop. Mainly for novels though.

Julie said...

Ah, the used book store in a church. Maybe I'm a heretic, but I think it's the best ever use for churches.

I've got a copy of the "Good Housekeeping" cookbook from the 1950s, inherited (all right, stolen, really) from my mother. It's one of those monstrous compendiums that contains many useful things like how to cook 'possum and squirrel. It's got a recipe in it for reindeer pot roast. Every decade or so I make copies of it and send it out with the Christmas cards.

kitchen hand said...

I didn't make it to the non-fiction section, Anh. Next time!

Mmmm, Julie, reindeer pot roast! I've got a book - stolen from my mother - published in the UK in the late '40s during the austerity days when things were scarce after the war. It's fascinating - how to feed a family of six with a small piece of corned beef and a cabbage, that kind of thing. I must write about it.