We collect books. I fancy mainly cookbooks, Aki will collect anything from cookbooks to home improvement to mysteries and science fiction paperbacks. Books provide an escape. They provide a point of reference. In our line of work they are often a resource. Last week I heard about the tornado in Brooklyn, the closing of subways and the soaking of Marie's basement. I was concerned when I heard that the roads and sewer systems flooded. I was more concerned when I heard the basement of the house had been filled with over a foot of water. While there seems to be no major structural damage to the house, the basement, our temporary storage facility had been ravaged. What do a couple of chefs store? Books. Well, books and wine and a few other odds and ends. However, the wine is stored in styrofoam packaging and it has its own protective barrier, a glass bottle, so I am a bit less concerned about it. The first priority is the library. The paper books are stored in cardboard boxes. Paper and water do not mix well. Wet cardboard boxes filled with books in a hot and humid NYC become giant petri dishes for fungus.
Today we discovered that a good portion, although not all, of our books have become home to large amounts of mold. In going through the mildewed boxes I traveled down memory lane. A container of all our Ducasse cookbooks, the complete collection, now decorated in fuzzy colors, reminded me seeing La Riviera d' Alain Ducasse for the first time and then being able to score a copy at Books for Cooks when I traveled to London to cook for a bit. That was also where I picked up my El Bulli El Sabor del Mediteráneo, currently out of print. Books do not only provide recipes, inspirations, ideas, benchmarks and points of reference, they provide memories. Each book is a remembrance of where and when we bought it and what was happening while the book was read. The information between the two covers is important. The recollections associated with any tome in our library is what makes each and every volume special. Books themselves are (mostly) replaceable, the memories are priceless.