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WNIJ Perspectives
Perspectives are commentaries produced by and for WNIJ listeners, from a panel of regular contributors and guests. You're invited to comment on or respond to any Perspective on our Facebook page or through Twitter (@wnijnews), in keeping with our Discussion Policy. If you would like to submit your own Perspective for consideration, send us a script that will run about 90 seconds when read -- that's about 250 words -- and email it to NPR@niu.edu, with "Perspectives" in the subject line.

The Extra 'Ingredients' In Used Cookbooks

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A woman brought a book to the check-out table at the recent library book sale. “This book has been written in,” she said, pointing to the owner’s name in the flyleaf. She insisted she should receive a discount.

At the same time I was scouting the sale, delighted to find a few old cookbooks that had been written in. I treasure cookbooks with the owners’ comments. They literally bring another voice to the table.

Cucina Fresca was my first find. It showed signs of having been a well-loved cookbook. A recipe for soup elicited two check marks and a Yes, exclamation point, and then a whole lot of suggestions -- pasta, not rice; fresh tomatoes, not canned.

The owner of Amana Colony Recipes wrote that boiled potato dumplings would be better with 2 tablespoons of paprika, with a suggestion the dumplings are good with pot roast. This book is full of wonderful oddities, such as cotton soup, stewed squirrel, and dandelion salad. Found tucked into the front of the book was a bonus, a handwritten recipe card with Mary’s recipe for German fried bread.

Finding an old cookbook with comments is like having your mother and aunt in the kitchen with you -- and you don’t have to listen to either one. After all, these books are a reminder that recipes are only guides, and cooking is a matter of personal taste.

And the woman who wanted a discount for the book with the owner’s signature? Didn’t happen!

I’m Deborah Booth, and that’s my perspective.

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