Saturday, January 5, 2013

Work in Progress

You can tell from the picture that I'm making progress. Unpacking, but far from done. I've got a lot to think about as I go into the many cartons I brought from Hoboken to New Paltz--some purging yet to do, a lifetime of stuff that I once treasured or at least thought someday I'd need. Carton after carton was labeled BOOKS. A preponderance of those, maybe half, were marked COOKBOOKS.

A funny thing happened to me a few years ago when I read of a new cookbook that intrigued me. I thought, "I have recipes for most of those dishes already, somewhere in these books of mine," then I had a major revelation. "I don't really need another cookbook." This was followed by the bolt-of-lightning realization, "I can cook. I don't need one more cookbook." I've been cooking for over fifty years and enjoying it. I've tried many cuisines and settled on what I like and do best. I might try something totally different from time to time, from a recipe in a magazine, on television or the Internet. But I simply don't need one more book.

Yet I kept most of my cookbooks. In the same way I've kept most of my books over the years. This time, since I'm renting an apartment for one year, it would be wasted energy to unpack all my books and put them into my many bookcases, as next January I may well be packing for another move. Many of the cartons labeled BOOKS will go unopened into one of the big closets. I'll pick a few boxes at random and unpack them onto the shelves. I expect to like looking at the dust jackets and displaying the 20 or 30 books for all to see how erudite I am and am not. I'll unpack some of the cookbooks and probably use them from time to time--but then, I cook mostly from memory anyway.

A crisis occurred when I realized I don't need all these encyclopedias. I struggled to buy encyclopedias in the early 1970s, when a good set was still a necessity of my life. The Encyclopedia Britannica offered many sales plans--ways for the customer to pay in installments. Their telephone salesman was insistent that I use one of them. When I asked if I could just pay the total amount outright I was told no, that wasn't among their plans. I tried to get off the phone with that guy for weeks. He had my number and kept calling although I told him over and over I didn't want to pay in installments. We reached a stalemate and he finally gave up. On vacation in Maine I bought an unused set from a housewife who had fallen for the telephone pitch and had no use for encyclopedias after all.

I took a modicum of pride up until a few years ago that I was still referring to my Britannicas for little questions that might arise, pulling up biographies and pearls of information from decades past. But more and more I was using the Internet for such information, and by the time I got to New Paltz, with my grandsons lugging the heavy boxes to my apartment and asking, "Why do you need all these encyclopedias?" I finally asked myself the same question and had to admit it had been at least two years since I'd opened one. Now, where to donate them--or do I just put them out with the recyclables? The set is dated 1969 and there is a volume missing. Does anybody read encyclopedias? I can't think who that might be.

I continue to look through detritus and hope it's all valuable. I always thought when I moved the next time I'd find those green earrings I wore so often and suddenly couldn't find. In carton after carton I see forgotten mementos and artifacts of pasts epochs from my past. Most are fun to find; some cause me to ask, what on earth did I ever want this for? So far, no luck on the earrings. 


  1. Some of this rings of 'The Time MAchine'. The futuristic library was 'rings' and the books had turned to dust.
    Maybe ML will be immune to the haunting mesmerism of the morlock's sirens and not be
    eaten alive.... mmmmm yummy... I'd love to see the green ear rings in person. I live with one who lost one of a special pair
    when plundering her deceased mothers' closet.
    The lost ear ring was discovered almost a year later by accident by her sister . Much time had been spent by all searcing for it in months past. Ya got hope. If ya trash all your 'stuff' , those green ear rings might not be keepers anyway. I wanna see 'em on ya some day.

  2. From what I can see, it looks like you have solid oak floors and cabinets- always a good choice. I enjoyed your blog as usual, but one topic mimed my life today perfectly. I just added more equipment to my office while trying to get rid of papers and book. All my dictionaries and my encyclopedias are ancient. They serve no purpose at all. They are going to the great recycling center in the sky.
    11 hours ago

  3. Très cool. And I love your blog. Sometimes going thru old boxes is not fun... there are still a few from my last move mrph yrs ago. One day.

  4. I love your cook book stories. I just love to read them. the interesting ones that is. The other day I was nosing through the Jr. League of Jackson Mississippi looking for a fruit cake recipe and came across a recipe for using sour dough starter. Other cook books had been very discouraging about using sourdough starter - too iffy etc. Here it was and I suspect that the recipe had been passed on from those folks working in the kitchen and got printed in the ladies cookbook. A la The Help. I think sourdough starter is one of those hard times recipes that we've turned fashionable. anyhow it makes fine bread. I found the Jackson Mississippi cookbook in either the Mobile or Birmingham airports on a trip south and it is a might fine compendium of recipes and lots of good ways of doing things.

  5. I recommend (among a zillion others)The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook by Christopher Kimball. I found myself reading it cover to cover last week as I was deprived of television and most of my other books were in cartons still. I did buy Cleopatra too and got quite an education!

  6. unpacked my last box in September. And I've been here for 9-1/2 years. Pace yourself, I say.

  7. I've been in my current home seven years and still have boxes that need triage.