I collect comb-bound cookbooks like this one. Its content seems stark by today’s standards. The simple language reads more like a manual than a restaurant menu. These cookbooks were published before celebrity chefs and without words like “artisanal” or “heirloom.” Before every recipe, there are no photographs, no breezy, platform-building prefaces forcing the reader to scroll through the details of the contributor’s philosophy and personal brand, until finally, at long last, mercifully, the ingredients and instructions finally appear.
Instead, these cookbooks are pure text.
If they’re fancy, each section is printed on different colored pages, but don’t dismiss them because they look simple. Many of them aren’t just a collection of recipes, they are practical culinary and rich cultural guides that often begin with a chapter on household and cooking hints, tables of weights and measures, and particularly important at that time in Hawaii, a list of substitutions for ingredients.
I returned from Hawaii a few weeks ago wanting to reignite my blog but read this cookbook instead. Its introduction titled, “Important Observances.” The first section is “The Seasons for Reflection (O-HIGAN).” Here are the opening sentences,
Traditionally in East Asia the Buddhists regard the spring and autumn equinoxes as the seasons for religious reflection. Known as Higan in Japanese, the time between the heat of summer and the cold of winter provides man with the ideal weather to reflect on the meaning of true fulfillment in life.
As Spring begins this Sunday, I return to public observation and reflection on my life’s work. I have learned a lot during my ongoing streak of daily writing and although our seasons aren’t as apparent in Los Angeles, they can be on the page and online. And so as nature in the northern hemisphere renews, so does our conversation here.