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Very Special Chinese Cookbook Collection, A

by Jacqueline M. Newman


Winter Volume: 1998 Issue: 5(4) page(s): 11 and 21

Some years back, I met Peter Hertzmann in San Francisco. I was jet-setting to a Chinese restaurant opening, probably one of the first to feature chefs from the lesser known regions of China. While on that coast-to-coast frequent-flyer overnight, I attended an unrelated Chinese cooking demonstration, and Peter was there. He was, I learned, an avid Chinese cookbook collector.

We discussed our collections (mine now tops two thousand volumes), even where we should donate them after no longer wanting to use and enjoy them. At that time all that we decided was that he should give his to a west-coast library and I to one on the Eastern seaboard. He kept his half of that bargain, I have yet to keep mine as of yet and would appreciate suggestions.

Peter and I remained in touch for some years and had a friendly competition of who had more Chinese cookbooks at various points in time. Thanks to him, I was able to enhance information I was to write about later because he loaned me thirty-nine volumes I did not have. When finished annotating them, I mailed them back. Eventually, I compiled data on seven hundred thirty-two books and published the Chinese Cookbooks: An Annotated English Language Compendium/Bibliography (New York: Garland Books, 1987). Shortly thereafter, we lost touch.

A few months ago, I learned that two passionate collectors of Chinese cookbooks donated their collections to the University of California at Davis. Later, I found out that one of them was Peter, the other was Gardner Pond who I would meet him some time after that. These two forward looking, independent, and enthusiastic collectors did not know each other when I first met Peter. They met later as culinary docents at the Chinese Culture Center in San Francisco. Incidentally, it was there that they, too, began a friendly collecting competition.

Gardner Pond, described his process of collecting as 'wonderful hunting.' He stopped amassing new titles when locating new ones became increasingly difficult. Some time after that, he donated his collection of mostly Chinese cookbooks in memory of his father, Perry Staples Pond, who went to the University of California at Davis in 1924-25. Pond says that Martin Yan helped influence his choice as Yan was a Davis graduate.

Peter Hertzmann's collection started on the East coast when he was a student in Rochester, New York. Later he filled suitcases everywhere with books, including when returning from a visit to Hong Kong. Collecting became increasingly difficult for him and later he tired of it. When he learned what his friend had done, he decided to follow suit. Together, their collections now are the Pond-Hertzmann Collection at Davis.

Preparing books for use in a library takes time and money. Pond made an additional donation of dollars that facilitated the process and since completed, an undergraduate student benefitted when researching pot-stickers. I had the privilege to visit and use the collection and learn of its rare items. You can, too.

Even though my collection now numbers more than two thousand volumes, the Pond-Hertzmann hoard has quite a few books I not only had never seen, but never even heard of. Thus, for me, it was very special to see and research in the rare book room where they are housed. Thanks for that are due to John Skarstad, head of the Department of Special Collections and Diane Forrest, an administrator and Assistant to the University Librarian, at the Shields library, University of California, Davis where this unique collection resides. The Rare Book Room is open to the public Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enjoy the unusual books there and all others unknown to you. What follows are a few of the volumes that were both fascinating and unusual.

The Popular Chinese Cook Book by Lorene Campbell Gibbs is a small fifty-one-recipe volume, in the 'Little Blue Book' series (No. 1548). It is edited by E. Haldemann-Julius of the company bearing that name, was published in Girard, Kansas circa 1930, and has rather Americanized recipes typical of the times. Only one recipe in this book mentions a product by trade name, it is Mazola oil. There are eight recipes for Chop Suey, one for Chow Mein, four are for salads, one for a salad dressing, and several others for other food items. A recipe for Creamed Sprouts is an example of one Americanized with two cups of milk. It also uses two tablespoons of flour and two cups of bean sprouts. A Grapefruit Salad uses French dressing and 'cream whipped.'

There are two volumes from Best Foods, maker of the above mentioned Mazola, also Argo Corn Starch and other products. The smaller is newer and of 1983 vintage. It is a thirty-four-recipe thirty-two-page pamphlet printed in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey called Award Winning Chinese Recipes. It came with twenty-four-ounce or larger bottles of Mazola oil. The recipes reflect greater appreciation of classic Chinese cuisine. Examples include Crab Toast with Plum Sauce, Fragrant Spareribs, and Lotus Blossom Roast Duck. There are adapted ones, too, including Sweet and Sour Frankfurters, Pineapple Wontons, and Chinese Gooseberry Lime Pie, to name but three. The recipes in this booklet were selected winners, know not how. Each gives name, city, and state of the awardee.

The other Best Foods volume is by Raymond T. M. Ling and titled A Chinese Cook Book. It is written as two books and published in Chengtu, China in 1945. Book One is twenty-eight pages, Book Two is thirty-two pages long, both are bound as one. The first book offers ways to cut and cook ingredients and recipes. It lists cooking and cutting techniques and recipes are ideographs with Cantonese transliterations.

The recipes include ones for rice and porridge, chicken, fish, and pork. Recipe titles in book One include Shark's Fin, Chicken in a Jar, Chicken with Meat Stuffing, Lion's Head, and Lotus Root with Meat Stuffing. Book Two has chapters titled Beef, Mutton, Duck, Goose, Eggs; Shrimp, Crab and Others, Pig viscera, Chicken viscera, Soup, and Sweets. Typical recipes include Dry-steamed Duck, Salted Eggs, Drunk Shrimps, Steamed Jelly Fish, Boiled Kidney, Smoked Celery, and Bamboo Sprout with Shrimps' Eggs. Other than a page with pictures of three manufactured Best Foods items under 'New recipe ideas from Best Foods Products,' there are no product names in the text.

Another book, the Essences of Chinese Cookery by Chiu Chan Sin is in Chinese and English, translation done by Wong Chong Lung. Published in Hong Kong in 1974, this bi-lingual one hundred sixty page volume says Book One on the cover; no Book Two was located. Before the recipes, almost fifty pages discuss and illustrate, with line drawings, the right temperature of stir frying, stewing, simmering, steaming, etc. More pages follow for these same techniques but specifically for pork, beef, eggs, spicy food, etc. Typical recipes include Spiced Pig's Liver, Legs of Frogs Fried with Walnuts, Double Cooked Pork, and Fried Beef with Kale and Oyster Sauce. Unique to this book is extensive attention to cookery temperatures and techniques.

Many people's favorite unusual item, mine included, is an item simply titled Chinese Dinner. This nine-chapter forty-two page gem by K. Fujita was published by the General Directorate of Railways of the South Manchuria Railways Company in 1940. It indicates it is 'Number One' in a series called 'Tourist Library.' This paperback starts with a discussion of the delicate taste of Chinese dinner, kinds thereof, their special characteristics, and the materials used in them, be they one or multi-course, a dinner, or a banquet. Considerable talk of wine and tea, more of the former than the latter is included as are pages about rare dishes, costly dinners, eight rarities served at them and when. This tiny item ends with dishes served, not with recipes, listed as: Costly dishes, Sea foods, Fowls, Cold dishes, Meat dishes, Soups, Vegetable dishes, Sweet dishes, and Rice, noodles, cornflour cakes and meat buns. They are titled in transliterated Mandarin and have a few words describing the 214 that are listed in these nine categories. No other Tourist Library volumes were in the collection; nor have they been located elsewhere.

Visiting this library inspired me to speed up my timetable to add to the aforementioned Chinese Bibliography. I'm planning use the listing of the holdings there and revisit the Pond-Hertzmann collection to review and expand upon some data already collected there.

When you are in California, check it out. In the meantime, if you have any Chinese cookbooks you no longer want, send them to Flavor and Fortune. If the collection at Davis does not have them, we will send them there. If they do, we will forward them to the New York Public Library whose collection has but a few hundred Chinese cookbooks. Should that library have them, off they go to the Schlesinger library in Boston, or another fine collection.

The Pond-Hertzmann donation made a very special Chinese cookbook collection in California. Researchers, cooks, collectors, and other interested parties can benefit from their generosity. Flavor and Fortune staff and readers thank them and encourage you to donate your Chinese cookbooks to enhance this collection and build others.

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