We ate this ice cream late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, amidst some of the coldest temperatures Nashville has seen this year. I was just finishing my second (but not last) bowl as Parenthood ended, crying to Tim about something Crosby said to Julia and epiphanizing about how we all have these moments where we just need an encouraging word, and then the Nashville Evening News came on. We really never watch the nightly news, mostly because the beautiful flat-screen TV my brother gave us as a wedding gift for some reason only gets three or maybe four channels (thankfully one of those channels is NBC for Parenthood and another, public broadcasting for our weekly Downton Abbey fix) and so we don’t even bother turning it on unless we have a purpose. Accordingly, my reaction to what came next might have been overly sensitized, a little like that of a few generations before us the first time a motion picture hit the screen, but nonetheless, here it is:
I go to used bookstores for the same reason I look into windows when we’re driving down residential streets at night: I like to imagine the people inside. The same way I fix my gaze on the warm glow of a table illuminated by candlelight or the man who’s sitting in his recliner all alone, I pick up a hardcover, tracing over the handwriting, wondering about the person who underlined that passage or the reader who signed her name in this front flap.
This might be what I love about the first-edition copy of The Art of Mexican Cooking, written by Jan Aaron and Georgine Sachs Salom, that I found at McKay Used Book Store Friday Night. Published in 1965, this beauty has all the earmarks of another era, one in which American women still wore skirts and aprons to make dinner and in which Mexican food (along with other ethnic cuisines) was just beginning to enter the conversation.
There are hand-drawn illustrations at the division pages, created by artist Dierdre Stanforth, the same woman who did illustrations for a Betty Crocker cookbook two years later and for books on New Orleans after that. I’d never thought much about book illustrations until recently, when we went and made an ebook and hired the amazing Rebekka Seale to create the cover—now I notice them everywhere I look: on blogs, on Pinterest, when I’m flipping through the thick pages of my new vintage book.
Over the last few nights, reading The Art of Mexican Cooking before bed, usually out loud to Tim, along with continually remarking that “This entire recipe is a paragraph! One paragraph! These directions kill me!,” I’ve also been thinking about the woman who drew the maps in the front and back pages and who sketched two large pots of soup in front of Mexican tiling.