One Bookseller’s Fascinating Found Recipes


Those of us who spend a lot of time rifling around old books are always finding unexpected treasures in the pages — handwritten shopping lists, photographs, candy wrappers, receipts. What about recipes?

Michael Popek gained a following documenting what he finds at his used-book store in Oneonta, New York. His blog, Forgotten Bookmarks, is a collection of these quiet mysteries: a black and white postcard found in Death Rides a Sorrel Horse, a creased portrait of Ringo Starr in the Complete Book of Bass Fishing, a recipe for Jambalaya in How to Show Your Own Dog.

His first book, Forgotten Bookmarks, collected all the train tickets and dry flowers found in the pages on his bookstore and gave them new life. Popek’s latest book, Handwritten Recipes and Forgotten Bookmarks, showcases the anonymous scribbles of food-loving strangers, treating them like valuable artifacts.

A few recipes have been tested by food bloggers, who provide notes for getting the best results. If you’re feeling brave and want to muddle your way through the steps, these notes will help a bit. But as Popek acknowledges in his introduction, the recipes might not be delicious and won’t always make sense. But hey, cooking isn’t always the point! These scraps are weird and fun to read, and they tell stories about the cooks and readers who came before us.

I like to open Handwritten Recipes at random and imagine the cook who thought Rice Dainty was so great, he wrote it down to keep it safe.

[update: go here to take a closer look at three of Popek’s found recipes]