Rhymes With Orange

shelf o' Penguin paperbacks

For the past year or two, I’ve been fairly assiduously culling my cookbooks. They presently number something like 789, down from a thousand-ish. I have a pretty comprehensive spreadsheet for them—this was concomitantly a learn-spreadsheets trip—though at the moment with a chimeric total number; there are additions and removals not yet reflected. One of the most recent additions is an in-every-sense-small Penguin 60s UK boxed cookery set.solar generator for home

Penguin 60s cookery box

Penguin 60s were 60 miniature 60-page excerpts of famous Penguin titles on the occasion of the publisher’s, yes, 60th anniversary, in 1995. I bought a set of the American editions at the time, using a generous discount from a big chain bookstore. On the cusp between true Olden Days book-buying and the EZ online of today, there was a brief interim of loyalty-program discounts in such stores—this one was, I think, 1/3 off for special orders. Something like that. Significant! I bought my OED this way, combining the special-order discount with some kinda Sunday-paper insert coupon, and manymanymany cookbooks, as well as the aforementioned Penguin 60s. The discount reduced the already not-large price to very small, like the books themselves, UNlike the OED, which is of course not small in any sense.

I was on a casual jag back then, still am on this jag now, of picking up Penguin orange-spines, and not-orange, when I saw them for cheap in thrift and Friends of the Library stores, and I had a passing idea that the commemorative miniatures would be of introductory interest to my then-little child. This did not come to pass, probably since none, not a single one, of the 60 had the merest suggestion of aircraft, heavy construction equipment, trucks, trains, or tanks. But I added the row of little books to the Penguin orange-spine shelf. And there they reside today. Culling Mind dictated researching their value; it is, yes, small, but collaterally the existence of the UK cookery boxed set was revealed, so: not only not culling but the opposite of culling.

Penguin 60s cookery titles

At some point in my casual Penguin collecting, in a supreme thriftscore made all the better because it was on a trad birthday thrifting expedition, I found a pair of Bill Curry cast iron jack bookends with a finish improbably almost exactly matching Penguin orange. It’s similar to the orange of Orange Amplifers, which it should be noted are also UK. And not completely distinct from pre-disgrace Mario Batali’s signature color.

Penguin Curry jack

I already had some Bill Curry jacks—my first pair had been my Mom’s, which held up books in her house from my childhood on. She was both a Staten Island municipal park jacks grand champion, and had very good design taste. Her Curry jacks are a natural iron finish, like most actual jacks. I have always been preternaturally secure in their proportions being so exact that if it could in some fantastical way be engineered, they could be used in an actual game of jacks. The ball would have to be enormous…. The gods of thrift shopping have sent two other pairs my way as well, chocolate brown and silvery semi-polished chromed. Fellow thrifters should be apprised that if I see the Bill Curry giant jacks before you do they are definitely coming home with me.

Today in Parsley

Continuing in the key of parsley… I feel I should (sort of) hasten to add that I don’t set out to not use, let alone waste, parsley. Managing, minimizing waste should be a natural focus in any self-respecting kitchen.

Today in parsley, tabouli came to pass, to join a combination of lockdown pantry use-up and just-felt-like other Middle Eastern-adjacent dishes: Persian shallot yogurt, hummus, eggplant caviar (ours is Russian, but the concept is widely distributed with cultural variation), ground beef kebab, pita, and the requisite platter of tomatoes, onions, cucumber, herbs.

I say tabouli because in the mists of history or the 1980s I used the recipe in the original, unimproved, needs-no-improvement, Moosewood Cookbook. Tabbouleh seems to be more the Done Spelling now. I’m happy with either. The most important thing about tabouli is in fact what it is not. It is not those Euro-deli room-temp salades with couscous where bulgur should be. Yet, too, it is adamantly NOT a bulgur salade. It is a PARSLEY salade—bulgur, mint, tomato, cucumber, scallion, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper are condiments. Condiments for the, yes, parsley.

Veg Out

As I continue cooking into the void, I’ve found both existential fear and renewed inspiration. So not too too different from my daily state prepandemia. But a world of mass illness has an affect. One thing I can tell you for free: I sure have a lot more food on hand than usual. More proteins, more backup pantry items.

My fruit and veg habits remain the same. In a pattern joyfully repeated over decades, after a farm stand or farmers market run, my fridge is utterly and completely stuffed, its contents organically attritting until time for a restock. In Today’s World, I don’t hesitate buying a fresh bunch of parsley because the one I have at home, that I so carefully rinsed, dried, and stored, is only half gone and the remainder certainly still perfectly OK. I treat myself to a new $1 bunch, and send the older straight to hell, or heaven, depending on one’s conception of compost.