What’s the most expensive cookbook you own? The DC Edition

Trust me, it’s not what you think. Or maybe it is. I’m not sure what mine is, and my mom wasn’t sure what hers was until….

Let me give you a bit of backstory, and I hope it helps to explain why I am a little bit excited about doing He Runs, I Cook from my moms house.

When I started He Runs, one of my “aunts” suggested that I cook from a cookbook called “Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine”, she suggested this because for my mom and her friends apparently this was THE cookbook to own. It came out in 1978 and apparently every educated black woman had to have it because it was essentially the first black, southern soul food cookbook. It is a cookbook I remember from my childhood, and yes I do remember it being used, I can’t remember for what exactly but my mom and auntie swear that there are some gems in there. Well, I thought this was a phenomenal idea so off I went to amazon.com to order a copy.

Cue tires screeching, jaw dropping, me falling off chair, followed by email to mother and aunt.

Why? You ask? Well, the cheapest copy amazon had was about $300. Yes, that’s right, the cheapest copy. And this book isn’t an encyclopedia and it doesn’t weigh a ton, its about the same size as a small novel and it doesn’t come with any actual food. Which is why I was shocked to see copies going for over $1,000! Seriously.

If I had been smarter or slightly more devious, I would have calmly asked my mother to forward across her copy and then hired security guards to transport it, however with the excitement and shock, I spilled the beans in an email and then a phone call, cue equally shocked mother.

As it turns out, the book is out of print, and a 1978 first edition is worth quite a bit. Unfortunately since my mom has used and abused hers over the years, it’s not in perfect condition, but it is well loved. I relayed the story to some of our guests at thanksgiving and there were a few groans around the table, apparently because the book was so common in the late 70s, post Shaft, black yuppie social set more than a few copies have been given away or thrown out without a second thought- including possibly my grandmother’s copy (yet to be confirmed).

Now that I’m at home, I can’t think of a better book to use this week. First of all, it’s unlikely that I will get my hands on one in Sydney and secondly, it would have been a favorite for my parents when I was born and I think my dad would get a kick of out of it.

I did have a look at the book, and some of the recipes are a bit questionable, they drift from yummy southern food like 20 different recipes for sweet potato towards icky soul food like chitlins- you do not want to know what they are, into disgusting backwood roadkill delights such as squirrel and opossum. And they also go into some home remedies that I’m not even going to dip my toe into and that I can nearly guarantee my mom and her friends flipped straight past. Seriously. No chance. Although they also have recipes for homemade wine, tempting but doubtful!

So it won’t be random this week- I am not winding up with deer brains with chitlins on the side, but it will be a surprise for you and for my mom and anyone else who happens by for dinner. A slightly different take on the he runs model, but, this week hasn’t quite been an ordinary week.


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