Sunday, May 24

Judging Books by Covers

I remember my Grandmother saying "Never judge a book by it's cover!"

Meaning lots of other things, besides books, or course.

Crusty old men, spring to mind, who called to visit, wearing waistcoats, & slightly grubby clothes, with a food collection in the beard! -maybe snacks for later, we giggled, as children Their 'covers' hid formiddably learned minds, perhaps gone a little absent with aging.
Which was, of course, no excuse for disrespect.

Thin women, wearing fox furs with the pitiful little dangly paws, tail & head. I can still remember the horror I felt when I first encountered that little item of clothing! The heavily applied makeup- powdery layers, the impossibly shrieking red on the lips, with bright pink rouged patches on the cheeks. The raddle of the sheep shed sprang to mind!She would forever be thought of, in my mind, as a "raddled old hag", which was very disrespectful, & wrong, since she was really quite nice, & did seem genuinely fond of my Grandmother.

As I grew up, I realised that some of the best books I ever read, have very plain, uninspiring, covers. As some of the best people I ever met, have had plain covers, perhaps, but what treasures lay awaiting, inside the covers!

I grew up in a time before lurid book covers became the norm. The full art & power of the illustration had not yet gained market control. I am sure my Grandmother would squirm in her gentle way at the sight of near naked bodies, writhing in 'suggestive' poses. Splatterings of blood pouring over the covers. Grotesquely drawn faces, enough to drive any self respecting person to nightmares.

I do think often, how the exposure to so much violence must have a desensitising effect on our children.
As I am sure, the covers on books help to sell the book, regardless of the content or measure of the written words, within the covers.

Here is a book with a very plain cover. My Mother gave it to me, when I first married. It is the Collins Red Recipe Book. It has suffered through 43 years of use, & abuse.
I keep a rubber band around it now, to prevent the loose pages from being lost.

As you can see, it has been splattered & battered- almost literally battered, when Gom, as young husband, decided to use it to make cakes!

The spine is broken, & pages are apt to fall out. There are loose pieces of paper with hurriedly written recipes, from friends or a book or magazine- often never tried, but kept all the same. The information for weights, measures & a little first aid, have suffered the stains of time.

As they grew, my children used "Mum's book" to make scones, cakes, consult for how to, as they left home, & experimented with their own cooking disasters ~ & triumphs.
Over the years, I can trace the changing tastes of the times. The friends who came & went, are marked, with recipes I added their name to, so I never forgot them.
Some recipes are pristine, never having been used. I ponder them, wondering why I ever wrote them down in the first place! Spaghetti pizza?? Using tinned spaghetti?
There are recipes of my mother's that were favourites. It always seemed, that no matter how hard I tried, they never tasted as good as my mother's did.
It has sections for various types of recipe. Meats, Savoury, Entree, Cakes Desserts, etc. As I flip through I see I occasionally wrote a recipe in the wrong category! A chicken dish in the cakes! What was I thinking!
I can trace the ruination of my handwriting too. The very early entries are so neat, the latter ones, barely readable! 'Pride' never let me descend to printing, but it should have!
On looking at these photos, it looks rather disgusting doesn't it? I wonder what the germ count would be, from 43 years! haha. I am sure no one has ever been ill from using my Red Recipe Book.
Perhaps from the food, but not the book!
Here are two "Books" with very lovely 'covers'!
Charming M, with her beautiful son, O.

And here is Grandma, reading to little O. Grandma is a teacher, so he is getting a great head start!!

I thank my Cousin for sharing these pics with me. I never tire of seeing family photos.

Roy Orbison, Blue Bayou.


Pauline said...

I've been off playing in the garden but it's good to come here and read your thoughts. I agree - there are often treasures under plain wrappings. I had to chuckle at your well-used cookbook. The one my mother gave me at my marriage looks just the same!

Anonymous said...

As the plain label flour ad says "I have never been one for fancy packaging". What lie beneath the surface is what counts.

Catalyst said...

Oh, Meggie, just keep playin' those Roy Orbison songs!

ancient one said...

As you said some of the plainest covers have the best things inside the books... and lots of people are the same.. if you really take the time to know them... My friend died this week. Her funeral is tomorrow... She was rather plain and out spoken... but she was so much wiser than most...She had a very hard upbringing and life certainly wasn't fair to her... She lost a young son and then her husband... after that she changed... careful of who she picked for her friends.. I was honored to be considered one of them...I will miss her immensely.. but she has two daughters left who will miss her mors...Sorry for the confessional... but it helps to just tell someone....

Catalyst said...

Ancient One - I'm sorry for the loss. Be all right.

Marja said...

Ah what a wisdom Meggie. See you like cooking. It was never my thing but luckily I married somebody who can cook well

persiflage said...

It is lovely to see those old recipe books. They never get thrown out, partly because they are precious and also because it is very difficult to update them. I have bought a couple of 'empty' recipe books, but although every so often I paste recipes in them, inevitably you run out of space in a section, and thus get chicken recipes in the cakes section. When it suddenly dawns that a recipe is at least 40 years old, or that it came from mother or grandmother, the continuity of human life and relationships shines before us.
The present fashion for cup cakes is one such example.

Ali Honey said...

A history, a treasure trove for sure.

My first recipe book got filled up so I transposed all the realy used ones into a new bigger book which I still use and add to. ( mine too has some messy pages )I have clear files for other printed out recipes, so does R - cause he like to cook now too. I wish I had made it into more of a scrapbook.

molly said...

I have heard it said that a tidy desk is the sign of a deranged mind! Maybe the same can be said of cookbooks/files. The tidy ones [never splashed or spattered or spilled on---never used!---could be signs of an uninspired cook!

Frankofile said...

Perhaps a frugal spaghetti pizza will make a comeback ;-) Or my Scotch egg roll - boiled eggs wrapped in sausagemeat wrapped in cheese pastry - a cholesterol nightmare!

quiltmom anna said...

Hi Meggie,
I have a recipe book that I wrote with a calligraphy pen( lord knows what I was thinking LOL) but it is pretty tattered after about 30 years.It still holds a few of my favorite recipes - sometimes I have guess at the correct amounts though VBG
My mother in law made a cookbook and printed about 1000 copies of it. They were sold to raise money for something - I have forgotten exactly what- We use some of those recipes on a regular basis and some we will never make again ( Weiner Stew- Yuck!!)
We were give a Fannie Farmer Cook book as a Wedding present ( nearly 29 years ago). We used it so much that the spine has Duct tape on it to hold it together. You do what you have to, to hold your favorite things together :O)
As for not judging a book by its cover- I think it is sage advice- the most interesting people I know are multi layered - you get to know them at one level and find there is so many more layers to get to know.
Nice post and piece of music too.
Warmest regards,

Jo said...

What a great post, and so true! I have always loved the "still waters run deep sort of person". Usually there is much more inside them than what appears on the surface, and it is so much fun finding what "lies beneath".

By the same token, the plainer the book cover, the more inclined I am to buy the book. The ones with the most lurid covers are usually always junk. :-)

Sunnie said...

A very cherished, plain covered book in my house is the recipe book that belonged to my husband's little Austrian Nana, in her very own handwriting.
One Christmas my DH called me from a business trip with the request to make the special cookies because his family was coming for the holidays and he would not be home in time.
I got the book out and found many entries for the cookies titled with the various neighbors' names who had shared their recipes ....but only a list of ingredients!
Well, *everybody* knew how to make those cookies, it was just a matter of which things each lady liked to use in hers!
Everybody but me!
I muddled through, though I am sure whatever I created did not quite look like the originals!

Jennifer said...

Your recipe book is a family treasure! I hope it stays around for a long time to come.

Stomper Girl said...

I've got my own stick and paste cookbook now (purple of course) covered in splatters, and I can't even blame the other half for them, they are all my own work!