The Blessings of Liz Seeber
November 18, 2008
The Blessings of Liz Seeber
A friend who took up carpentry in the seventies (when he was in his twenties) used to hunt second hand bookshops for books on his subject.
As he explained, nothing had really changed in relation to either tools or equipment in the last hundred odd years and the second-hand ones were far cheaper.
It is definitely to show my age if I confess that my feeling about cookbooks is very much the same.
Except for the proliferation of colour photographs in modern books most are just rehashes of books written decades and sometimes hundreds of years ago.
Bar the techniques of someone like Albert Adria (and how many of us had a home facilities to dynamite tomatoes to make the correct texture of foam) all you can do in a kitchen in 2008 could be done (even if it took sometimes a little longer) in 1908-and vice versa.
Having led a fairly nomadic life while training to be a chef I discovered that most of my constantly acquired library of cookbooks had been lost, stolen or loaned and not returned (or plain worn out) by the time I settled into my own restaurant.
Searching bookshops to replenish was only partially successful (although now Grubb Street publishers are doing a great job reprinting out of print classics)
My best hope of success was a long and tedious rummage in second hand book shops to try and retrieve my essential classics.
There are, I know, good second hand cook-book shops in London and Edinburgh but these are a bit off the beaten track for someone living in Waterford.
Then I discovered Liz Seeber.
She is an internet specialist in out of print and also rare old cookbooks.
Through her list (it changes completely each month) I have now replenished nearly all of my lost library.
Just for example take her most recent list here.
In this she had a sort of bargain basement of recently out of print books and offered three for £10.
I acquired for my tenner, Alan Davidson’s Mediterranean Seafood, a companion volume to North Atlantic Seafood my bible for buying fish in these waters.
I had been searching for a good copy of this book since I realised that I was spending all of my time in French fish mongers completely confused both by the types of fish available and their names- Mr. Davidson’s book immediately solves both problems with accurate drawings and a special title under each fish giving their names in about eight different languages.
Also for my tenner I got Roger Verge’s Cuisine of the Sun , another cookery bible of mine in the Eighties when I was in Ballinakill House but as it had been borrowed from a friend of the owner (a lass called Darina Allen, unknown at the time) and she had put her name on it I felt obliged to leave it behind.
My third book for my tenner was also by Alan Davidson and called “A Kipper with my Tea” this was an unknown to me, but is a wonderful compilation of beautiful essays about food written by a most knowledgeable food historian(now sadly departed) who writes with both erudition and humour-lots of humour-about his adventures in the food business.
I think anyone will see that I got good value for my tenner, especially with the current pound/euro rate in our favour.
Click on to my link or find her at www.lizseeberbooks.co.uk
She certainly merits a detour.
On the foot of writing this piece I wrote to Liz Seeber to thank her for my order delivered and she replied, telling me that I was out of date with my info about second hand cook book shops, apparently the one in London now only stocks new books and the one in Edinburgh has closed down.