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November 19, 2004 - Image 46

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-11-19

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Cover Story

COOKBOOKS from page 45

plenty of expression, from their finds.
"What's nice is that I am lucky
enough to be married to somebody who
is interested in children's books," Elaine
says. "That makes it so much more fun."
AmtrtuRrsAmorioilianues rum
When friends or relatives of friends
travel abroad, the Harrises ask, "If you
happen to see a bookstore and don't
mind going in, would you see if they
have any children's cookbooks?" Or
sometimes, Doug and Elaine find them-
selves in an ethnic neighborhood, and
they do the asking themselves.
As a result, the Harris collection
includes Dookola Swiata. a Polish chil-
dren's cookbook, two French cookbooks
for children (surprisingly rare, the
Harrises say), and a Charlie Brown
cookbook in Japanese.
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'A friend of mine went with her
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a a a a a
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family to Israel, and I asked her to
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just check around," Elaine says.
. .
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"Well, when she came back, she told
me, 'My brother was ready to kill
me. I made him stop in every single
• • •
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Elaine has "at least a zillion Jewish
• • •
•• • •

cookbooks," many for children,

V' • •
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from which she often tries recipes.
• V •

• • •
She recommends the lemon poppy-

seed cake in Jane Breskin Zalben's To
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Every Season. "It's magnificent," she
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• Come to ow Tea Pasty
By Montag Bayley

Biirstrations by W. W. LlnsFow
The Harrises, members of Temple
for children
• . a cookbook
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Beth El, own books on Asian cook-
ing for children, Amish cooking for
Cookbooks in the collection include those for boys as well as girls.
children, and African-American
cooking for children.

children who get together to cook. The recipes
are woven throughout as part of the story.
Its interesting to see how cookbooks have
changed over time," Elaine says. "In the 1930s,
they talk about how girls should learn to cook
and clean the house to please their father and
brothers. Later on, it becomes all right for the
boys to cook, too, but only because it's `sci-


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Definition War


11/ 1 9


While Elaine and Doug are normally a very amiable,
adoring couple, it's best not to bring up the subject
of exactly what constitutes a "children's cookbook."
Elaine is the more generous of the two on this sub-
ject. Take a book like When Zaydeh Danced On
Eldrige Street. At the back is a .recipe for apricot-jam
cookies that Elaine says is amazingly delicious.
Clearly, this could be called a children's cookbook of
sorts, she says.
Add all these kinds of books in with the cook-
books not in dispute and there's a collection of about
1,400, Elaine says.
Doug shakes his head disapprovingly. 'A children's
cookbook is designed exclusively for the use of the
child," he insists. Those books that happen to have a
recipe at the back, or cookbooks made for adults
with recipes to prepare for children, clearly cannot be
included in anyone's definition of a children's cook-
book, he says.
"A1111 riiiight," his wife concedes.
That puts the collection at some 1,000 cookbooks,
they agree, and the most treasured are the old ones.
The Harrises own — Doug is downright gleeful
about this — an extremely rare copy of a 1905
Pillsbury publication, A Little Book for a Little Cook.
It's small, with just a few recipes for biscuits and gin-

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cr a


• • •

gerbread, muffins and the like; but it's rare. It's so
rare, in fact, that when a publisher recently was look-
ing to reprint it, the company tracked down Doug
Harris and asked to borrow the Little Book. It's in
astonishingly good condition, which only adds to the
"Let me tell you a little story about this," Doug
Harris says, his tone confident, assured, the voice of
a man who knows he's at the top of his game.
"I've got a competitor," he says. "And he's always
calling and asking, 'Well, have you got so-and-so?'
and I say, 'No.' Then he says, 'Well I've got it!'
"So one day he calls and says he's looking for A
Little Book for a Little Cook. He really, really wants it.
He asks me, 'Have you got it?'
"Yes,' I tell him. 'I've got it.'"
Silence. Then, "I'll give you $200 for it."
No, Doug says. He's not taking $200; he's not tak-
ing $2,000. It's not for sale.
"Well, at least tell me what you paid for it," the
competitor demands.
Doug's response: "You don't want to know." (He
got it from an out-of-state seller for a mere $20).
Another of the Harris' rare finds is Six Little Cooks,
the oldest known children's cookbook. Published in
1877, it's written like all cookbooks of the time in
storybook form. It's not just a collection of recipes.
There's a story there, too, usually about a group of

Elaine is content to enjoy each book in her
hands. Doug likes to do research.
Take Six Little Cooks, the 1877 cookbook by
Elizabeth Kirkland. Through Internet research,
Doug managed to find out that Kirkland also
Was the author of Dora Housekeeping
and that she wrote an acclaimed History
of Italy For Young People and History of
France For Young People.
Kirkland never had children of her
own and lived in Detroit in the mid-
1840s. Her father ran a girls' school
and her mother, who was friendly with
Edgar Allen Poe, wrote her own book
about her life as a pioneer, which
included some feminist remarks that
left much of the general public in a
In addition to their cookbooks, the
Harrises have a number of "offshoot"
collections, like vintage party-planning
booklets and guides to good manners.
"I wouldn't trade this for any-
thing," Doug says of a 1924 publica-
tion, When Cinderella Dined with the
Prince. It's a little booklet from
Oneida, today best known for its sil-
verware, with bright, detailed illus-
This Cinderella is quite a different story than the
one most people know. Here, the prince falls in love
with Cinderella because of her amazing manners,
such as when she concludes her meal with ice cream.
"Notice how she dipped this spoon towards her
and did not mess around with the whole pretty pink
mound," the book advises.
The Harrises' walls are filled with art reflecting
their love of children's literature: There are various
illustrations depicting Jack Sprat and his wife. Also
on the wall is a cartoon — a gift from his children
— showing Doug heading for the peanut butter.
Despite his skill as a chef, "peanut butter is his
favorite," Elaine says.
Just hearing the words makes Doug head for the
pantry, where he finds a large jar, creamy-style.
"This," he says, "is life."
When not collecting party booklets, cookbooks or
soda-shop memorabilia, the Harrises love to spend
time with their grandchildren, Jack and Emily, and
their sons and daughters-in-law, Paul; Ken and
Linda; and John and Paula.
Ken is a professional chef in California, Elaine
says. "The other two aren't chefs, but they're eaters."
Though most of their cookbooks were bought for
under $20, collecting is getting more and more diffi-

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