I am not going to lie — well, right now at least. I enjoy stepping onto the escalator at Barnes & Noble, running my fingers across the spines of crisp and shiny tomes, and spending $24.95 on one brand spankin’ new paperback that will inherently lose value as soon as I strut out of the store. I’m not going to wax poetic about how I love the smell of the dusty books in my municipal library stacks. It’s a nice notion, but in reality, aging doesn’t exactly turn me on.
But, but, what I will concede is that used bookstores and libraries are a gold mine of scarce and out-of-print books, books that not even Google knows about, that have never seen the light of Amazon, and that will go on largely forgotten and unpublicized until some heroic blogger (ahem) decides to plug them. We are lucky enough to have one of our own used bookstores in our midst, the Russian Hill Bookstore (2234 Polk at Green).
The shop is the source of the latest addition to my home library, a hilarious cookbook by a ’60s ad man. Want to hear about it?
The Madison Avenue Cook Book by Alan Koehler is “for people who can’t cook and don’t want other people to know it,” and it was published in 1962 by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc. From what herbs to use to what background music to play to how inebriated you should get your guests, it is full of tongue-in-cheek yet honest-to-goodness advice for hosting a dinner party, in addition to a tasty array of recipes for every course that require little skill, ingredients, or tools.
The author’s bio reads, “Dissembler that he is, Alan Koehler works at a Fifth (rather than a Madison) Avenue advertising agency, but at least he cannot cook.” So, he fittingly alluded to various ad agencies of the time with pun-filled recipe titles, such as “Baked Beans ‘Durstine & Osborn’,” (i.e. BBDO), “Shell Steak in the Bag ‘Ogilvy’,” and “Steak ‘Schpeppervescence,” (a nod to a 1946 Schweppes ad).
Here are a couple excerpts:
Ready-prepared foods are used wherever possible. Their use, should anyone have the temerity to raise the question, must be deprecatingly denied. Of course their wrappers, jars or cans are thrown down the incinerator before the first guest arrives, and they are always doctored somehow so even their own Aunt Jemima wouldn’t know.
You may, if you wish, excuse yourself to your guests and appear to snip fresh unidentified herbs from a window box, and then go ahead and use dried ones.
This little old tome is an ideal gift for your ad friends who can’t cook, but will certainly give even you a laugh, as well as, believe it or not, some yummy recipes. Oh — and did I mention that the author is totally handsome? A real life Donald Draper!