Many of you have been collecting cookbooks for years. You might have received them for wedding or birthday presents, or maybe you’re a garage sale hound who can’t pass up an old copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Maybe cookbooks are your favorite souvenir after a memorable meal or vacation, or maybe you’ve inherited boxes of books from the cooks who came before you.
No matter how we acquire them, cookbooks can be hard to give up.
That’s probably why so many responded to our call earlier this year when we decided to collect and distribute donated cookbooks. For dozens of you, dropping off books at the Statesman, knowing I’d try to find a new home for them, may have felt like a better option than dropping them off in a bin where they might as well be headed to the recycling plant.
You wanted to make sure someone else appreciated the books’ continued usefulness or felt a fond nostalgia upon seeing their covers. Throughout the year, I’ve been working to get these books in the right hands.
Several local nonprofits, including Brighter Bites, Fresh Chefs Society, the Central Texas Food Bank and the Sustainable Food Center, were grateful to take home bags of books for their clients. Archivists from Baylor University’s Texas Collection were thrilled to see the boxes and boxes of community cookbooks that came in through the drive and ended up taking 50 books for their extensive cookbook archive.
But I still had hundreds and hundreds of books.
It just so happened that Mariam Parker, executive director of the Austin Food & Wine Alliance, had hundreds and hundreds of high school culinary students coming to the Palmer Events Center in early October for a conference on careers in the culinary industry. I combed through the remaining books to pull the ones I thought students might find interesting — some historical, others technical, some just easy and fun. Many of you had dropped off old issues of Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated, two magazines that never go out of style, so I brought those, too.
On the day of the conference, I spent four hours giving away books. The students were surprised to hear about where the books had come from and even more surprised that they got to pick any book they wanted to take home for free. The students’ eyes lit up when they started browsing and saw the older books next to the new ones, the pastry textbooks alongside the meat guides, the smaller single-subject books trying to stand out in a sea of “America’s Test Kitchen” tomes.
We got to talk about the books and the authors. I told them about my job at the newspaper and other kinds of food writing jobs. I heard about their ambitions in and out of the kitchen. Many of them aren’t sure they want to pursue careers in food, but because of their culinary education programs, they are building a solid foundation for cooking. And now they have some new fuel for that creative fire.
If you have cookbooks you’d like to donate to this project, we’ll continue accepting them at the Statesman, 305 S. Congress Ave. If you have a group that could use some books, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s what some of those students had to say about the books they picked and their love of food.
Which book did you pick? “The Best Italian Classics.” I really like Italian food, any sort of pasta or bread. Basically, carbs.
How did you get interested food? In eighth grade, I took a skills class, and we did a baking unit.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? Work in baking.
Which book did you pick? “Recipes of All Nations.” It’s nice to know the different food from other countries.
How did you get interested in food? My dad cooks, and we cook a lot of Filipino food.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? I want to become a better cook. I love to make adobo.
Which book did you pick? “Larousse Gastronomique.” The cover. I enjoy older books, and it just caught my eye. It has a lot of stuff I could learn in it.
How did you get interested in food? I always cooked with my grandparents and my aunts.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? I’m not sure exactly what, but I know I want to do something in food.
Which book did you pick? “500 Cupcakes.” I’m very interested in baking. If I were to choose culinary arts, it would be pastry.
How did you get interested in food? My mom. She was a big influence. Growing up, I was always in the kitchen helping her. I would ask to help. We’d made traditional Mexican food. That was my favorite thing growing up.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? I’d love to open up my own restaurant one day. A full restaurant or a food truck.
Which book did you pick? “Porridge.” I like the fruits and nuts. It’s really pretty, and I feel like they’ll taste good when I put them together.
How did you get interested in food? Eating food and wanting to know how to make it.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? I like cooking, but I don’t think I’d enjoy working with food. If you mess up something and contaminate food, that’d be pretty scary. I’m enjoying learning about just how to cook.
Which book did you pick? “Le Cordon Bleu: Complete Cooking Techniques.” Whenever I was younger and got interested in culinary (studies), I learned about Le Cordon Bleu, and once I learned that, I realized it was probably something prestigious.
How did you get interested in food? I’m a foodie and enjoy cooking for other people.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? I’d love to be an executive chef, but not for my own restaurant.
Cameron Morales Anderson
Which book did you pick? “Bean to Bar Chocolate.” Because I love chocolate. Chocolate is my favorite
How did you get interested in food? I like eating, and I wanted to create new stuff by myself.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? Pastry chef, definitely.
Which book did you pick? “Fish and Shellfish.” Seafood is my favorite, my go-to.
How did you get interested in food? I’ve been cooking since I was, like, 7. I’ve just been into it for the longest time.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? Everything. I want to learn how to do everything. I want to cook for myself and cook everything I possibly can.
Which book did you pick? “The Best of America’s Test Kitchen: 2014.” It looked like it had a bunch of great recipes.
How did you get interested in food? Joining culinary club. I wasn’t really into it, but then I found this passion. It’s cool to know about the different flavors.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? I’m planning on becoming a modern chef, like doing stuff with molecular ingredients.
Which book did you pick? “Rotisserie Chicken to the Rescue.” I thought it was funny how the chickens on the cover are holding up food like they were serving food at a restaurant.
How did you get interested in food? Food is just so good. I learned how to cook some from my family.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? I want to be a baker and bake cookies and have a little restaurant.
Connally High culinary instructor Brian Sedatole
Which book did you pick? “Charlie Trotter’s Seafood.” Charlie Trotter was incredible. To see a cookbook by him on a table just out there, I can’t believe somebody hadn’t picked it up already.
How did you get interested in food? I was a high school band director for 25 years but decided a long time ago that I wanted to pursue cooking. Three years ago, I went to the Art Institute and got my culinary degree. This is my first year teaching culinary.
What do you want to do next in food? Teaching and food. It’s a lot of fun. It’s everything I was hoping. I’m in.
Which book did you pick? “Quick and Easy Thai Recipes.” I’ve always been a lover of Thai foods, and I’ve always wanted to make them, but I’ve never known how. So now I can surprise my mother and make her all kinds of Thai food.
How did you get interested in food? Baking and cooking has always been a hobby, so when I saw we had a new teacher, I’d been interested in the program, so I joined and I love it.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? I’ve already decided on biomedical engineering, but I enjoy cooking, so I still might change my plans.
Which book did you pick? “Practical Professional Cookery.” I like to cook, but I’m trying to get into it so when I’m independent, I know what I’m doing and don’t have to go out for fast food all the time.
How did you get interested in food? My mom was a single parent, so she was in the military and traveled a lot, and she didn’t always get to cook for me, so we ate a lot of fast food.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? I have scholarships for basketball, but I might try to do cooking, too.
Which book did you pick? “American Food: The Gastronomic Story.” It looked interesting. I like history.
How did you get interested in food? I want to get better at cooking.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? Right now, it’s for my personal benefit, but I’m also working in fast food at the moment.
Steele High culinary instructor Teal Albert
Which book did you pick? “Life and Food in the Caribbean.” One thing we’re focusing on this year is globalization, so the concept that, especially in culinary, we aren’t just focusing on people in the U.S., we are focusing on food from everywhere.
How did you get interested in food? I fell into food. I was teaching career and college readiness and was asked to teach culinary (studies), so I took some crash courses and figured it out.
What do you want to do next in food? Growing our culinary program. It started with one teacher, and we’ve built our program from the bottom up. The school itself is only 15 years old, and we’ve added 5 teachers in our department. For the intro kids, it’s all about learning a life skill. They see the cool stuff on the Food Network and want to make it happen.
Which book did you pick? “Introductory Foods.” I want to know the science behind it so I can be a better cook. If you know the science, you already know how to make things taste good, but you want to know how to make it right.
How did you get interested in food? I’ve always loved food since I was a little kid. I was always in the kitchen standing next to people, trying to find out what was cooking, what smells good.
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? I want to be a chef. For sure, I want to go to culinary school in Denver or Escoffier (in Austin).
Which book did you pick? “Roasting.” My mom is trying to eat healthy, and I think this would help her. I could cook for her.
How did you get interested in food? I like to eat. Cooking is fun. My mom said, “If you eat this much, you might as well learn how to cook it.”
What do you want to do in food or with food once you graduate? I don’t think I want to make a career out of it, but I just want to learn more about it.