The gift of cookbooks (Recipe: sweet potato bread)
Almost every Saturday, my friend Laura visits yard sales. Her "finds" are the stuff of legend.
A real diamond ring forgotten in a box of junk jewelry. A set of mid-century modern patio chairs and table for $10.
To me, though, her most exciting finds are cookbooks (well, perhaps not quite as exciting as a diamond ring), classic and contemporary, the relics of other people's culinary whims, sometimes with notes penciled in the margin or recipes cut from newspapers and used as bookmarks.
Wonderful friend that she is, Laura often passes those cookbooks on to me.
My cookbook library also grows every time Ted takes a business trip; how great is it that he always looks for local cookbooks to bring home? I loved the Chinese cookbooks from Vancouver, and the eclectic selection from a great book shop in Toronto. The French-language book of Canadian cuisine, from a trip to his home town of Montreal, presented a bit of a challenge; merci, Pauline, for your offer to help with translation.
Chuck Williams, who owns Eagle Trading Company in Assonet, Massachusetts, the most wonderful used cookbook store in all the world, occasionally adds to my book pile things he thinks I would like. Last year he gave me the gift of Claudia Roden's A Book of Middle Eastern Food. I use it all the time.
Kate's son Max snagged some locally-produced, English-language books from Ecuador; Barbara picked up a book on Argentinian cooking in Buenos Aires. Candy brought a lavender cookbook from a festival in Washington State (along with some lovely culinary lavendar). And Kim, who traveled around the world, sent local cookbooks from every country she visited: Belize, India, Thailand, New Zealand... I still treasure every one.
Thank you, to my husband, friends, assorted relatives and cooking buddies who enrich my life, my cookbook collection, and my pantry -- and who know that I am a world-class, overflow-the-bookcases, can't-have-too-many, unrepentant cookbook junkie.
Sweet potato bread
A few weeks ago, Laura's yard sale scavenging unearthed the Global Feast Cookbook: Recipes from Around the World, published by the Mystic Seaport Museum. If you want to know how to make bayngan bhurta (eggplant casserole), Aleksandrikook (Alexander torte), boniatos glaseados con ron (rum-glazed boniatos), safran isai (Estonian saffron bread), or jolly jumpbuck in a tuckerbag (lamb in puff pastry), look for this book at a yard sale near you. This bread, a Native American recipe, serves 8-10.
2 large sweet potatoes
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp melted butter + additional for topping
1-1/4 cups warm milk (use whole milk)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Parboil sweet potatoes in a saucepan for 50 minutes, or until tender-crisp. Cool. Peel sweet potatoes; cut into 1/4-inch cubes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Sift cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt into bowl; mix well. Stir in mixture of honey, 2 Tbsp melted butter, milk and eggs. Fold in sweet potatoes. Pour batter into greased 8x8-inch baking dish. Bake for 1 hour. Cut into squares; drizzle with additional melted butter.