Louis Szathmary was a noted chef. He may, however, be more noted as a culinary collector. He donated most of his cookbooks to the University of Iowa, making it one of the leading culinary repositories in the world. Much of the ephemera, including signatures of most Presidents and Firs Ladies went to the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales.
"It isn't strange, then, that I grew up to become a book collector, although I never expected to own some 45,000 of them.
Of these, only 18,000 are cookbooks. I remember the first book I bought within a year after coming to this country in 1951 with a small handbag and $1.10 in my pocket. It was at a Times Square bookshop in New York that I purchased, for 19 cents, a little volume by Ludwig Bemelmans. I never stopped buying books since."
Well it is just no wonder that we have a kindred spirit in Louis Szathmary and while we are doing our best to rival his collection, we are no where near his numbers. We do however, have a cookbook or two with his name on them. American Gastronomy is one my favorites. I admit to being a sucker for vintage cooking prints. Szathmary filled American Gastronomy with old prints and vintage recipes from his vast collection. He made a valiant attempt to define food or culinary experience that was truly "American." This was his premise for American Gastronomy, but flipping through the book one finds foods from North to South, East to West that form no quintessential American food experience but the which do reflect the vast nature of American cuisine.
In the end, trying to define American gastronomy as one thing or another simply muddies the water. It would seem that in all his study, he did find a great love of potato salads.
Ham and Sweet Potato Salad
2 cups diced, cooked ham, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups diced, cooked sweet potato, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup diced celery, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 cup apple, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 cup fresh orange sections
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)1 cup mayonnaise.
1. Gently combine all the ingredients, adding the sweet potatoes last to avoid smashing them.
2. Chill and serve in large lettuce leaves.
3. If you wish serve additional mayonnaise.