Between the covers

Serendipity Books in Friday Harbor has my affection (and my $)–both last year and this visit, we combed the shelves and came away with lots of great finds.

My two favorites are the 1949 cookbook Operation Vittles and a 1914 edition of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat.


Compiled by American women in blockaded Berlin, the cookbook was published halfway through the year-long crisis and is a fascinating glimpse of national identity and gender issues. It also prompted me to do some reading on the Berlin Airlift. Oh, and the recipe for red cabbage (rotkohl, ja!) looks authentic and yummy.

p. 63 Red Cabbage

6 C red cabbage (shredded)
1/2 t salt
3 T onion (chopped fine)
1 apple (chopped)
5 cloves
1 C water
3 T chopped bacon
1/4 C vinegar
4 T sugar

Cook cabbage, salt, onion, apple and cloves in water for 1 hour. Fry bacon until crisp, add vinegar and sugar. Simmer 10 minutes. Pour over cooked cabbage, mix well. –Dorothy Hawkins

Many of the recipes have stories or headings that are simply delightful–I’ll treat you to a few.

p. 15 While en route to Germany we were suddenly and permanently made conscious of Army terms. The ship’s passengers had been assigned individually to eat either at A-Deck or D-Deck, invariably separating couples, when over the P-A system came the startling announcement: “Arrangements have been made for husbands to mess with their wives!”

p. 16 The American wife was hollow-eyed from a midnight burglary followed by a report to the Military Police. Much later, a lone and embarrassed M.P. rang the bell–to check data previously given, he said. “Where do you work, Lady?” he asked slowly. “I don’t, I’m a dependent,” was her weary reply. The next question tempted the little devil inside her. “Married?” he asked.

(This is followed by a recipe for Devil’s Food Cake)

p. 20 Our men like the old German recipe for the perfect woman: “Kinder, Kirche, Küche,”–Children, Church, Kitchen.

p. 22 Some of us have gazed with jaundiced eye upon the needle-point antiques so highly prized by others, but no more! We’ve seen first hand what it is to survive a looting, shooting and bombing war, to say nothing of the frightful beating the poor things get from their owners each Spring.

p. 23 We have seen the [German] cook who accepted as inevitable the assistance of little girls in her kitchen, but viewed with horror little boys stepping off their masculine thrones to help in the cooky-making.

p. 43 The battle between electricity cut-offs and the unfinished roast has often taken a roast from an oven in one sector to the oven of another where the electricity was still on. We think a lamb roast established the record when it went in and out to a total of 22 hours baking and traveling time.

p. 48 Words were always a source of amusement, both to us and the Germans. “Haferflocken” is quite a mouthful for “oatmeal,” and our neat little “bra” bears no resemblance to “Büstenhalter.” Confusion is rampant, however, when “Schinken” means “ham,” “Huhn” is “chicken,” and “Hammel” is “lamb.”

p. 96 A late arrival at the cocktail party said, “Dry Martini,” to the waiter. The man was back in a flash with three martinis, “Eins–Zwei–Drei!”

And the final recipe is for Block-Ade, with cans of fruit cocktail joining sugar, cognac, red wine, white wine, and champagne. The recipe serves 75. Let’s hope they had lots of chances to make this one!

The book ends with reproductions of German children’s drawings of the airlift.


I love the caption on this one: “Clay sagt: O.K.!”


Die Luftbrücke.

On to what may now be my favorite book in my possession, the little leather-bound 1914 Dodge edition of Edward Fizgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, with tipped-in color illustrations by Adelaide Hanscom.

A few of the quatrains, or rubaiyat:



2 thoughts on “Between the covers

  1. We share the same love for old books! I’ll have to show you mine sometime. I like the rhythm of the last book. It reminds me of Sara Teasdale. I think I have mentioned her to you before. Here is one of my favorites from her.

    After Death

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    Now while my lips are living
    Their words must stay unsaid,
    And will my soul remember
    To speak when I am dead?

    Yet if my soul remembered
    You would not heed it, dear,
    For now you must not listen,
    And then you could not hear.

    Sara Teasdale

    It’s always the last line that draws you in. I don’t know how to describe it, but I love the rhythm.

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