Sunday, December 19, 2010
Things fall apart
Case in point, this relic of my childhood, The Cookie Book, which I got through the Scholastic Book Club at school when I was probably seven or eight (the publication date is 1973).
This was clearly not a book that was made to last: printed on cheap pulp paper, it's literally falling apart: the spine long ago broke, and the pages are loose, crumbling, and discolored by age and splattered cookie batter.
And yet, I can't bring myself to throw it away because I have such a sentimental attachment to it. And what's more, I still use it: I maintain that it has the best peanut-butter cookie recipe ever in it (even though it never worked well at high altitude in Colorado).
I could buy a "new" (used) copy--there appear to be plenty of them available for next-to-nothing on abebooks. And the recipe isn't exactly complicated: I could easily have typed it up in far less time than it took me to write this blog.
But there's something important to me about seeing the recipe in its original form, with the kitschy 1970s illustrations and the over-detailed and vaguely patronizing instructions ("Use an 'eating' teaspoon.'"). What keeps it on the shelf is, in fact, its very falling-apartness, and the flour stains and the marginal annotations in my eight-year-old hand. It's been well used and loved.
I recently broke down and scanned the pages with the recipe, though I stopped short of scanning the whole book. I still won't throw it away, but I've seen enough of what can happen to this kind of paper after decades to know that eventually it really will be nothing but a pile of brittle brown confetti. Thank goodness for digitization, which allows us to shore up literal fragments against a book's inevitable ruin (apologies to T. S. Eliot).
Will anyone hold onto an e-book for nearly forty years? Or am I comparing apples to oranges? Or just being a hopeless, old-fashioned, curmudgeonly twit?
Let me have a cookie and think it over.
(Pictured above is the dressed-up holiday version of the peanut-butter cookies: baked in mini-muffin tins and decorated with a Hershey's kiss. Click on the recipe image for a larger, more readable version if you want to try it out!)