If you go to the annual Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago this weekend I recommend spending some time at the many used book stalls. They’re a treasure trove for lovers of vintage cookbooks. Several years ago I found “A Taste of Ireland in Food and in Pictures” by the esteemed Irish food writer Theodora FitzGibbon, ( Food writing was the least of her accomplishments. Read her biography “A Taste for Love.”) published by Pan in 1970. Three years ago — on my birthday — I did one last search through a stack of used books before leaving the festival. I nearly fell over when among the dog-eared and stained volumes I discovered the 1959 paperback edition of the James Beard Cookbook and saw that it had been autographed by the great man himself.
I felt like the universe had given me a birthday gift. Both of these vintage cookbooks have become indispensable in my growing collection. I can’t wait to see what I find this year.