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I Eat, Therefore I Am

“The two biggest sellers in any bookstore are the cookbooks and the diet books. The cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food and the diet books tell you how not to eat any of it." — Andy Rooney

Modern cooking, no. 5. 1910 Judith Jones. 2007

Well, for those of us who like to eat and avoid dieting if we can help it, a cookbook is a kitchen staple and the recipes inside a foreshadowing of many homemade meals to come. Of course, for many of us, the dish never quite looks like its counterpart in the cookbook, but the fun of using it is learning the techniques and allowing ingredient substitutions to give it your own personal touch. (Clearly, this is being written by a cooking enthusiast).

Judith Jones, vice president and senior editor at Alfred A. Knopf, has made editing cookbooks and guiding their authors (do names like Julia Child, Marcella Hazan and Edna Lewis ring a bell?) her life’s work. She was the first to espouse the kind of cookbook that taught the pleasures of cooking by defining culinary terms, demonstrating techniques and providing explicit directions and detailed explanations. She also asked cookbook authors to provide clues to the texture, feel, smell and appearance of the dish as the recipe progresses.

Words of wisdom from Jones: “Recipes should never include the unnecessary instruction ‘set aside.’ Cooks must not be scared off by long recipes but instead appreciate the detailed information they convey. How string beans are cooked is probably more important than how they are farmed. When your husband is enjoying himself in the kitchen, keep your mouth shut even if you could do better.”

In celebration of her memoir “The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food,” Jones presented a talk at the Library in November 2007. The lecture was sponsored by the Science, Technology and Business Division, which holds some 35,000 cookbooks in its collection.

The division offers many food-related resources, including Science Tracer Bullets on topics like food history and kitchen gardens, as well as Science Reference Guides on topics such as barbecue history and food writing.

There are also many food- and kitchen-related webcasts from the division that can be found on the Library’s webcast page. Searching using the words “food” or “cooking” will present webcasts from such culinary experts as Joan Nathan, Jacques Pepin and Stephen Raichlen.

A. Modern cooking, no. 5. 1910. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-70790 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: LOT 9816 [item] [P&P]

B. Judith Jones. 2007. Photo by Michaela McNichol. Reproduction Information: Reproduction information not available.