A few weeks ago, my dad’s sister, AuntieSnaps, jokingly (I hope!) told me that since I’m the “end of the line” for three separate family branches, I’d better clear out some space for all the semi/heirloom family treasures that will be coming my way… give or take another 15 years. That or make sure I have enough kids of my own to pass it all on.
A swift reminder of mortality, ticking clocks, and storage issues, all at once! Thanks AuntieSnaps. (I kid! I kid!) I think I’ll worry about the massive on rush and practical distribution of artifacts in another 15 years. Give or take.
In the meantime, though… well, I am my mother’s daughter, and as the youngest of an entire generation, I will admit that it’s often a lot of fun to be on the receiving end of cool stuff from my immediate and extended family.
Especially when it’s eminently practical cool stuff. Such as this little gem of a cookbook:
The Impoverished Student’s Book of Cookery, Drinkery, and Housekeepery by Jay F. Rosenburg
This unassuming, whimsically illustrated paperback (by which I mean cardstock-covered, 48-page pamphlet) came to me from the very same AuntieSnaps, in a box from her college days at Western Washington University in the early 70s. It was all part of a basement purge from my Grandma’s house in Ballard, and the book was tucked in among marked-up scripts, some rather ugly burnt-orange pottery (which, yes, I loved at the time of receiving), and books on stage lighting and costume craft.
The Book was cute, and the flowchart in the preface about “whether you need this book and when to properly apply its principles” was funny, so I kept it.
But it wasn’t until about a month ago, when I was looking for somethinganything to do with chicken that I truly learned to appreciate The Book.
The Book was originally published in 1967, and written by a (then future) philosophy professor. And it turns out that much of the book’s academic-leaning musings on cookery, drinkery, and housekeepery are equally useful to an Impoverished Newlywed as they are to student of the same status. The recipe we tried out for “Primordial Chicken” was truly delicious, and lived up to it’s claim to be “the absolute least amount of work” you can do to cook a chicken and have it taste “extraordinarily good.”
I am now a happy convert, and — after a little digging around online — it seems I’m joining the small but proud ranks of a cult following. Perhaps these little excerpts will help explain why:
On homemade bread:
“…one of the few gifts of the gods to man not mediated by a hierarchical priesthood.”
On “Highly Spikable Punch”
(frozen lemonade made with Sprite instead of water):
“Into a gallon of Highly Spikable Punch, one can pour with impunity an entire fifth of gin. It will not be noticed. Indeed, it can only be detected by sensitive chemical analysis. Vodka cannot even be detected that way.”
On appearing to live (and cook!) on better means than you are currently in possession of:
“Buy cheap meat and season the hell out of it.”
On kitchens versus KITCHENS:
“kitchens are gleaming chrome, formica, and porcelain constructs created for the American Housewife. Cooking in a kitchen is not utterly unlike cooking in one of the lavatories at Grand Central Station, and about as pleasant. KITCHENS, contrariwise, are small, dingy, comfortable rooms frequently found in the apartments of Impoverished Students. They contain the following two pieces of immovabilia without which all is for naught: one stove complete with oven and broiler, and one refrigerator complete with freezer. Equip yourself with one KITCHEN before beginning.”
That last one is from an article on the Reed College website, which has some other good excerpts. Good for a chuckle, at least.
You too can own it!
The Book is listed as “limited and no longer in print” at Amazon.com. I have since found listings for up to $100.00 a copy! But in the dozens of glowing reviews, I also discovered a reader who found a not-so-secret stash: apparently you can still buy it from the Reed College Bookstore, for the bargain price of $9.95. I wonder if that’s a new printing, or if their stock is also limited, and also bears the original $1.50 cover price?
Point is: The book is a lot of fun, and would make a great gift for a number of persons and situations. It’s funny, geek-friendly advice and encouragement for those of us who wish to become initiated in the joys of cooking… and who need a little help overcoming financial and environmental factors.
So thanks, AuntieSnaps, for what is becoming my own little family treasure. Cheers!