Me and my cookbooks – September 2013September 22, 2013 by Fiona
We’re hearing from a lot of you that you’ve enjoyed meeting some of our EYB members through our Me and my Cookbooks Monthly feature. We’d love to introduce as many as we can – If you’d like to be featured, just email us at email@example.com.
Our featured EYB member this month is James Glucksman (EYB member jlg84), currently resident of New Zealand but certainly one of the most peripatetic EYB members we know. He was born and raised in New York City and has had a world-wide career as an international health and development consultant, living and working in China, Russia, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. In 2010 he and his partner decided to pursue their mutual passion for fine food and hospitality, purchasing the historic Pen-y-bryn Lodge in Oamaru, on New Zealand’s South Island, turning it into a “New Zealand Luxury Lodge.” Today Pen-y-bryn is renowned for its exceptional cuisine, where all items served to guests are grown or produced on the property or sourced from nearby farms and producers. James is also the Chancelier of the New Zealand chapter of the Paris-based Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, serving as a judge on the 2013 New Zealand Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs competition taking place in October in Timaru.
My cookbook collection grew from the purchase in 1984 of Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Cooking while I was a college student in New York City. At the time I had no access to the university’s dining plan, so I had the choice of either eating out every day (unaffordable) or cooking for myself. While many other students would have been happy with instant noodles or macaroni-and-cheese, that was not my style, so as a fan of Indian food, and figuring that Indian cuisine is good at making inexpensive ingredients taste great and last a long time, I figured it was perfect for a student on a tight budget. From there my collection expanded to cover a wide range of cuisines, focusing rather heavily on Asian and Mediterranean, while also eventually covering a base of the classics of American cookery, such as Julia Child and James Beard.
Not long after my cookbook collection started to grow, I encountered my first logistical challenge – what to do with the collection when I moved overseas. At the time, there were only around 30-40 books, so it was not too difficult to take them with me to my first destination, Hong Kong, where I added only a handful of Chinese-language books to the pile, but shortly thereafter I moved to London, where I discovered Delia Smith and Nigel Slater, significantly increasing the collection’s bulk. They all followed me to Moscow in the late 1980s, where they came very much in handy as I tried to relieve the gustatory boredom of late Soviet cookery, though it also meant that I was forever asking visitors to bring parcels of spices, sauces and special ingredients to allow me to use these books when confronted with the scarcity of exotica in the Russia of those days.
Eventually I returned to the U.S., where my collection again began to grow almost exponentially. Since my work had me travelling around the world, and every time I would return from a project overseas my friends expected me to throw a dinner party where I’d serve up specialties from wherever I had just been, I was always returning with cookbooks from all over the culinary world, not all in languages that I actually understand fully.
In 2006, the collection – now numbering over 400 – stayed behind when I moved to China, until eventually I realised that this was a terrible mistake. While the food in China is amazing, it is almost all Chinese, and even a great lover of Chinese food like me eventually wants to have something else so, after a few years of separation, I was again reunited with my collection, which occupied an entire room of our apartment.
In 2010 the collection and I emigrated to New Zealand, where I discovered yet more amazing books by local authors that I would never have encountered in the U.S. or elsewhere. And since I now cook for guests at our lodge in Oamaru, the books get much more of a workout than they ever did before. I now have more than 500 books (511 that are listed in the Eat Your Books library, plus countless others in languages other than English that are not listed), arrayed in three rooms of our 125-year old house. Guests always comment on how eclectic the collection is, and it’s not uncommon to find guests thumbing through books, copying down recipes that they want to try out, and reminiscing about meals that they had long ago.
The collection continues to grow, with about 20-30 books added each year, though now some of them are e-books. And of course there are also the 12 cooking magazines that come to me every month, further adding to the collection. Thank goodness I don’t anticipate moving again anytime soon…
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