This is an odyssey that began before we even opened our bookstore. It started in much the same way the bookstore itself started. It started as a “what if” conversation, not much more than a day dream that we were willing to put some effort behind. You know those conversations: “What if we open our own independent bookstore”, “What if we choose every book in our shop individually”, and “What if we re-acquire the rights to your Mom’s cookbook and bring it back as the cornerstone for our cookbook section”. You see my husband Rob’s mother, Marcelle Reese Couhig (Nootisie), ran a very well known restaurant at The Asphodel Plantation here in The Felicianas and she had written a Cook Book originally sold as recipe cards in a Cook Box which contained her most popular recipes complete with dinner recommendations, and tips on hosting a dinner parties, brunches etc. Well it took more than a little bit of effort and a whole lot of time but a bit over a year after our first inquiry to the publisher The Asphodel Cook Book , The Asphodel Cook Box and all of the remaining inventory held by the publisher has come home to The Conundrum.
This Cook Book / Box is not simply a list of ingredients. Every card starts with a few sentences about how Ms. Nootise found the recipe, why she likes it or how to use it. It is written very much in her voice so that as you read the card you feel like you are having a conversation with a friend about what to serve for dinner. I particularly appreciate this because I never had the privilege of knowing my Mother-in-Law and since I was taught to cook by my Italian Mother I did not have a whole lot of French or Creole cooking in my repertoire when I first married. It became almost humorous (almost) at first. In the first year or two of our marriage every time we had anyone over for dinner, it was always commented that they were so surprised I did not serve Asphodel Bread. Twice, I came home from work to find copies of The Asphodel Cookbook or Box on my front porch with notes saying things like “Thought Rob might like this”. So the recipes from Ms. Nootsie’s cookbook became part of my life as well. I cannot tell you how many people over the years have contacted me to ask for the recipe for Asphodel Bread or Ida’s Biscuits. Now we have the entire collection in its original, unique format.
When the inventory first arrived I was a bit daunted. The boxes were printed 40 or more years ago and sat in a warehouse for the intervening years. When we received them I seriously doubted we would have anything salvageable in the bunch. I unpacked every box and book and wiped down each item individually. I inspected and cleaned every Cook Box and re-packaged them in new tissue. I organized them and brought a few to the shop to see what would happen. Many of the boxes were damaged and we could not salvage every piece but we did end up with some Cook Boxes and a number of Cook Books which I considered to be in first rate “vintage” condition and ready for sale. I say vintage because the recipe cards in the Cook Boxes are a bit yellowed at the edges due to age and I thought of this as a negative. Well , immediately upon showing them to others in the shop, everyone let me know Vintage and a bit yellow at the edges is cool!
On Friday I brought a few boxes to the shop. I had one sitting on a table when a publisher’s rep came in for a visit. The rep remembered Ms. Nootisie’s book and cookbox from many years ago and predicted that our supply of the boxes would be 60% sold in less than 2 weeks. He was a bit off. Sixty percent of the boxes were sold or promised out in just over one week.
So if you want a Vintage Cook Box or one of The Asphodel Cook Books from the last printing (Boxes last published in the 70’s; the Cook Books we have were published in the mid 1980’s) get it soon either in store or online at www.conundrumbooks.com/shop quantities are EXTREMELY limited and moving quickly! So glad to have this little piece of Rob’s family history and Feliciana tradition home at The Conundrum.