The Cookbook

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There was a woman with an old, ragged cookbook. The cover was faded; what was left of the glue was dried and brittle. As she looked at the book, scanning for the night’s meal, she reflected on her family. Her children were grown and moved away, and her husband could no longer stomach some foods, but she still loved the old book with its many folded corners, stained pages, and penciled-in additions.

She decided she would have the cookbook rebound.

When she finally found a bookbinder, she went there with her cookbook safely stashed in her purse, zipped up in a plastic food storage bag to keep it from falling apart even more. The door struck a chime as she entered, alerting the man at the counter. He was a smart-looking man with spectacles and a plaid flat cap. “Hello,” he said, smiling. “How may I help you today?”

As she walked toward the clerk, the woman took notice of the shelves and tables overloaded with books. Some were new titles she’d never heard of. Many were obviously rebound, older volumes and classics: Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Tolstoy, even a few dozen academic books about physics and astronomy. All the books looked very important, maybe even stuffy.

“I need a book rebound,” the woman said plainly.

As she reached into her purse and pulled out the cookbook, the man’s grin went flat. She handed her possession over to him and he took it, uncertain. He thought it odd someone would want to rebind a cookbook. In his twenty years in the book business, he’d never been asked to do such a thing. On his shelves were works by the great names: Twain, Tzu, Hugo. But, Betty Crocker?

He couldn’t help but ask, “I can, ma’am, certainly, but it will cost a pretty penny. Why not just buy a new cookbook?” he said, shaking his head. “It’ll cost you more to rebind it than it’s worth.”

The woman thought a moment, then replied, “I’ve read many of the classics I see on your shelves: The Scarlet Letter, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Jude the Obscure, Tom Sawyer…” She swept her arms around the room. “Even On the Origin of Species and Age of Reason.

“But,” she said, leaning forward, grinning, “The book that helped me to feed my family is no less important than the books that helped me to teach them.”


What do you think of the old woman’s philosophy?

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