You’ll remember a few months ago that we hosted a donation drive to try to take some of your old cookbooks off your hands and onto the shelves of nonprofits or other cooks in town. After all, one person’s long-forgotten copy of “In the Kitchen With Bill” or “The Northern Exposure Cookbook” could be another’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”
Those titles were among the thousands of cookbooks that readers donated in boxes and bags over the month of January. With the help of reader Rita Rochlen, a retired librarian, I sorted the books into categories (healthy, beginner, advanced, dessert, community cookbooks, etc.) and then invited nonprofits from around Austin, including the Sustainable Food Center, Central Texas Food Bank, Fresh Chefs Society and Brighter Bites, to come browse.
Representatives from each organization picked the books they thought would best serve their clients, but there were still plenty left over, especially in the community cookbook category.
We received about 25 copies of “Lone Star Legacy,” one of the best-selling community cookbooks in Texas. But it was the lesser-known community cookbooks that were of interest to Amie Oliver and Brian Simmons, curators at Baylor’s Texas Collection, home to a 6,100-volume community cookbook library.
They pored through more than 100 community cookbooks from Texas (we received similar books from as far away as the Bahamas and South Dakota) that were compiled by electric co-ops, elementary school teachers, bridge clubs and cheerleading squads. On laptops set up in the room where I’ve been storing these books for the past few months, they looked up each title to see if they already had it in the collection. If not, the book went into a “keep” box.
After about an hour, they’d picked out 40 cookbooks, ranging from a Hays County Livestock Show and Home Skills booklet made with a school printer and white comb binding to a bright pink book promoting Elsie’s Tours out of Seguin. Those are now headed to permanent, climate-controlled storage in Baylor’s library. They even took an index-card-size book that is held together with two metal rings from one of the Children’s Centers in Austin. No community cookbook is too inconsequential for their collection.
Any remaining books are headed to Recycled Reads, but not until after one more donation effort. This fall, we’re going to set up a pop-up bookstore at the Austin Food & Wine Alliance’s Culinary Arts Career Conference, where high school students and teachers in attendance can pick out as many books as they want.
If you have any books you’re eager to get rid of or have a group (or a personal cookbook collection) that would benefit from some of these books, let me know at email@example.com or 512-912-2504.