What You Get from Old Books

Okay, I was a used book dealer for > 20 years. My mother was a book dealer. My dad was a book collector. My parents met in a bookstore. You get the idea…books are in my blood, old books fascinate me. So, given my obsession with food, it naturally follows that I am obsessed with old food books, yes?

I especially like old cookbooks, homemaking books, brochures, you name it. I’ve been reading one for cooking professionals about how to reduce costs in a restaurant kitchen.

Among the things I found SAD in this is their schedule for apples, most of which either I’ve never seen, or haven’t seen for years. (The schedule is supposed to tell you which apples are in season/cheap in a given season.) These are the apples I’ve never seen/heard of for years:

Wealthy, R. I. Greening, York Imperial, Rome Beauty, Newtown, Transparent,  & Duchess.

I’ve looked for Duchess apples. I have a cookbook (which one I do NO T remember) where the woman author says, “Get a Duchess tree, you’ll never need to buy apples again.” and so I’ve been trying to find Duchess apples to try ever since.

Except for Duchess (brought from Russia?) these all seem to be American apple varieties. You’d think we could keep our own apples in production, but no, apparently not. I love Spencer apples, a recent variety, but not easily found either. They are a beautiful apple, crunchy and lightly sweet.

I have seeds from an heirloom tree hereabouts to plant this spring too. Unknown variety, the apples were ugly, but tasty! I intend to plant them, when/if I figure out wtf I did with the seed collection from last fall. (Another hoarder moment, sigh.)

The controlling food costs book also repeats, several times, that a restaurant should only spend about 40% of their income on food. Applied to us and my desired (but rarely attained) food budget of $200/month, that means that spending $200 monthly on home-cooked meals is approximately equivalent to eating $500 a month in restaurant meals.

Why would I want to know this?

It makes me absolutely feel semi-cheated in a restaurant for one thing. Not that I begrudge restaurants a profit, I don’t! But if I could easily save .60  of every $1 I spent at a restaurant, I’d do it in a flash; wouldn’t you?

The way to do that is to eat at home. I use this as a prod to eat at home instead of away. Also, it makes me feel like cooking at home isn’t really a chore, it’s a way to save/make money, approx $3600 annually. Would I want to cook 364 meals (52*7) for $3600? Probably not. That’s approx. $5.26 a meal, but that’s $5.26 I SAVE us each and every time I cook.

The other thing in this old cost cutting/restauranteur book I think I’ll implement is the idea that you plan the menu in the morning. The first step is an inventory of what’s left from the day before. The menu is planned using those items up, or giving them to the “help.” In our case, that means we (the help) eat the dibs & dabs that aren’t used otherwise for lunch and I’ll use planned transformations for dinner. This gives me a little structure where I hadn’t one before, not a bad thing!

See? Reading old books can be dangerous,you’ll find all sorts of ideas!

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