Is there anything sweeter than a community cookbook?
Often compiled to raise money for a good cause, they tend to be stuffed with all manner of extra ingredients. Corny jokes, endearing illustrations, poetry, sage advice, tips for hunting, gathering, and fishing, the names of book committee volunteers and recipes from others fondly remembered, even celebrities stepping in to share their favorites – these and more are in vintage cookbooks at the Montauk Library.
Published by the Montauk Chamber of Commerce in 1959, the Montauk Guide and Cook Book is one example. Sure, there’s Mary Wood’s recipe for Lobster Newburg from Shagwong Tavern and a Montauk Clam Chowder by “Mrs. George Sears,” not to mention contributions from many a Duryea, Gilmartin, Tuma, and so forth.
But the book also includes a lengthy history of Montauk “through the centuries,” suggestions for which bait will snag which fish, swordfish contest records, a tide table, birdwatching tips, and media quotes praising Montauk. The advertisements alone are worth the price of a read. Many are not only for long-gone motels publishing the full names of “your hosts” (who could be reached at phone numbers that began with “MO8”) but also for sportfishing boats whose captains’ names many old-timers will remember.
Would you like an oft-repeated piece of culinary advice? Fish is NOT cooked to become tender. Fish is ALREADY tender. This stern lecture comes from the slender little Dock to Dish: What to Do With a Fish, which is not above making piscatorial puns. “Even you weakies can show your mussels in the kitchen. Try these recipes just for the halibut.”
Published in 1983 to raise money for Jerry Lewis and his “kids,” the quirky Gurney’s Inn Presents Cornucopia: a seafood cookbook is rife with similar groaners: “gotta stop to smell the roe-ses”; you get the idea. Dick Cavett and Nancy Reagan were among the high-profile contributors.
Local artists like Barbara Friedman, Mary Whelan, and Pattie Adams contributed some seriously nice illustrations to several of the cookbooks, whose beneficiaries ranged from the Friends of the Montauk Library to the Most Holy Trinity School Parents Association to East End Hospice to the Montauk Historical Society. Some of the cookbooks are now on display in the library’s Local History Exhibit Center.
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