The “Cookbook Queen” of Mar Vista is selling her collection

When you have a large collection of cookbooks, determining what to do with them once you are no longer around can be a difficult decision. Some people opt to pare down to the bare minimum when downsizing a house, others make arrangements with libraries or schools to donate their books. Ellin Palmer of Mar Vista, California, is taking a different approach: she is selling her collection one cookbook at a time.

Palmer, 82, has accumulated several hundred cookbooks since 1961, when she developed an interest in cooking. The collection dominated her tiny one-bedroom apartment, leaving her little room to much besides, well, cook. Following the sudden deaths of her son and former husband, Palmer and another son were faced with a huge task of sorting through their estate. Vowing not to put her remaining son in the same position, Palmer vowed to get rid of her books. She boxed them up but did not follow through on her promise, instead adding more books to the collection. After she was recently diagnosed with cancer, however, Palmer made good on her vow.

She decided to sell the books at a local farmers market, saying that the books “should go to someone who loves them and treasures the recipes.” She discusses the books with potential buyers, trying to make sure the book is the right fit. Although her collection includes many rare and valuable volumes, Palmer is not interested in putting a high price tag on the books, which include signed copies of Jacques Pépin’s La Technique and La Methode, as well as an original copy of Sunday Suppers at Lucques by celebrated chef Suzanne Goin. On sites like Abebooks, these volumes could fetch prices upward of $1,000 USD. “I feel like I can’t even charge $200 for a book. I’d feel terrible,” says Palmer. “I want people to buy the book, and to cook from it,” she says.

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  • gamulholland  on  July 22, 2021

    I love that she’s doing this, and that she wants people to use them and cook from them.

  • monique.potel  on  July 22, 2021

    Thank you for sharing. I love this story which talks to my heart. I do have over 100 cookbooks and over 70 this year. I have to start thinking about lightning up the load and pass on the passion

  • bogus  on  July 22, 2021

    I just passed my 90th birthday and have started to consider what to do with my cookbook collection. I still cook, but I don’t need so many books. I have over 600 of them!

  • bondmjs  on  July 23, 2021

    I have been slowly getting rid of my collection. I realize now that I can borrow any cookbook that I want from the library or have millions of recipes online to choose from. However, it is still hard to let my babies go!

  • marshillington  on  July 23, 2021

    I am in the same boat as the rest of you and I am 73. I need to get rid of a lot of cookbooks that I don’t use because of a change in diet (gluten free).

  • LFallon  on  July 23, 2021

    We have moved house twice and each time I reduce my cookbook collection down to the 200 I just cant live without.Each time the number has increased rapidly to where,at present,I have nearly 800.I truly believe that Im suffering from cookbook addiction for which there is no treatment but-my mantra these days is ‘dont worry-be happy!’

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