Culinary Books in Library Collection

A Collection Unlike Any Other

Think about your favorite cookbook. Faded pencil marks remind you to substitute cream for butter. Another page stirs up memories of pasta perfection. Each recipe tells a story.

Plastic coverings on the cookbooks at Van Wagenen Library distinguish the cookbooks at SUNY Cobleskill from the ones in your kitchen. What these cookbooks lack in stains and wear, they make up for in telling the stories past and present of members of the campus community, as well as the College’s role as the “food campus.”

On one end of the food system, SUNY Cobleskill is improving how we grow, access, and market food. The culinary collection sits on the other end: a resource for culinary students creating meals at SUNY Cobleskill.

Examples in the more-than 400 volume collection range in age and origin, and from antiquated to exotic to just plain bizarre. A golden anniversary edition of the classic “Waldorf Astoria Cookbook” pans back to an era of casseroles, compotes, and the birth of the now-famous Waldorf salad. A reprint of the Salvador Dali cookbook, “Les Diners De Gala” – a prize of the collection – couples Dali’s artistic extravagance with concoctions like “Toffee with pine cones” and “Conger (eel) of the rising sun.”

Some cookbooks omit visuals. Others, like Dali’s, are heavy with images of completed meals you will need surrealist skill to perfect.

“How you choose to prepare a dish is about creating and using individual style,” says Beth Orgeron, dean of Van Wagenen Library. “Food is a way to express yourself, both visually and through taste. Nobody quite expresses himself, or food, like Dali. The idea, I think, is to make your own mark, in your own style.”

Feature photo: Salvador Dali’s “Les Diners De Gala” is one of many editions in Van Wagenen Library’s culinary collection that stands out from the crowd.