Displaced Geek

Just a city geek and father coming to terms with being replanted in farm country


I’m not a fan of my library. Don’t get me wrong, I love libraries in general, but my local library is just a small puny thing that never seems to have anything I want to read. You see, my library is part of the county’s Library System. But only a small part. If you know exactly what it is you want to check out, that’s not an issue. Simply pick your book out online, and pick it up in a few days. If, on the other hand, you’re more of a browser when it comes to books, like I am, well then you’re sol.

The main branch of the “library system” is only half an hour away, but that’s an hour long trip plus browsing time that just doesn’t get made that often. Especially since when I do check out a book, I generally finish it in roughly the same amount of time that it takes to make two of those trips. It just isn’t a good system.

Once a year, however, I do make the trip.
That’s because once a year, they have their annual Friends of the Library book sale. I am not a friend of the library. Not in their eyes, anyway. But I am a lover of the printed word, and I wouldn’t miss this sale for just about anything.

It’s a three day weekend sale, and as with most sales setup like that, by the last day, the organizers just want to move their product. That’s why on Sunday, you get to fill up an entire paper grocery bag for five bucks.

I’ve seen many people (my father included) simply pile their books into their bags all willy-nilly and be happy with it. There are others, like the used book dealers, who buy only trade paperbacks in order to maximize their book to bag ratio, regardless of the books purchased.

Together, Emma and I got two bags of books. Unlike last year when I showed up when the doors opened, we arrived much later and many shelves were already picked clean. Nevertheless, after careful consideration and a few days to mull it over, I think we got a decent haul.

As you can see, the real winner was Gabriella, as mommy let her pick out whatever she wanted to.
I didn’t really think we got any gems when we left the library, but I was pretty happy nonetheless. In truth, we did get a few pretty neat picks.
I thought I’d end up grabbing some DIY/home fix-it type books, but they were all well out of date – like “newer homes are now being built with copper indoor plumbing” out of date. I ended up bagging Giuliano Bugialli’s Classic Techniques of Italian Cooking, which reads like the Joy of Cooking, but focused on only the good parts. 😉
While we’ve already used Giuliano’s book to make dinner, making the $10 pricetag of the whole collection worth it, there was one more special find that I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention. Its title is “Toscana in Bocca”, and my meager writing skills fail to adequately put into words why it is so awesome. So, I’ll close by letting award-winning chef and media personality Mario Batali explain:

Ten years ago, a brand new arrival in New York City, I was given an odd-looking book by a customer at Pó, my first restaurant. He said I’d definitely understand the meaning of its contents. The cover was made of cheap cardboard, and the printing and binding looked almost homemade. The cover art bordered on childish, and the actual pages seemed to be crude cheap parchment. The title: “Umbria in Bocca.”

My copy - not Mario's

The first clue to the genius of the book was the magnificent preface, followed by the first recipe, in Umbrian dialect and printed in script. This was followed by regular typed versions in standard Italian and then English. The recipes are written in the Italian style; that is to say that the text (the practical and technical steps) and the ingredient list are woven together as a paragraph.

I have since discovered that this is part of a series, no longer in print, of 21 or so books, one for each region (or thereabouts) in Italy, most of the volumes published in the 1970’s and 80’s. I have now collected 15 of them, and eagerly search them out. My cookbook-mecca hero, Nach Waxman, of the Kitchen Arts & Letters bookstore in Manhattan, has a few in the store but will not sell them, so I can only go and look at them. . . . I have them almost memorized.

NYT 2006

Written by Peter

November 14, 2011 at 000

Posted in family

Tagged with , ,

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  1. […] eat, and I end up cooking fairly often. So that’s why I picked up several cookbooks when we went to our library’s book sale. The other night I put one of them to the […]

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