Many people are devoted to a cause, whether it’s rescuing greyhounds, sending baby clothes to needy families, or cleaning up once-derelict city parks. For James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Rozanne Gold (Eat Fresh Food, etc.), it’s cookbooks. So when she heard that Condé Nast was selling Gourmet’s collection of 3,500 cookbooks and that NYU’s Fales Library wanted to buy them, she couldn’t stop herself from getting involved—and giving the library $14,000 to acquire the archive.
PW: How did you hear that Conde Nast was selling the archives, or that NYU was looking to buy them?
RG: I heard through Marvin Taylor, who is the director of Fales Library, [whom I met when] I helped raised $50,000 on behalf of Les Dames d’Escoffier to start a new program with Fales called the new acquisitions program, which is going to help Marvin buy books every year. He called me [on December 11] and told me about Condé Nast, and I don’t know why this hadn’t been arranged or taken care of, but by [December 16] they had to sell the collection. The archivist at Condé Nast said he wished they could have donated it but it had to be sold. It was going for $14,000, and if that didn’t happen by [the 16th], it wouldn’t have a home. So Marvin was basically asking my advice, and I thought about it and said, “Wow, what a great thing to be able to do.” I took a piece of one of my advances, so that felt meaningful.
PW: What did it mean to you, personally, to be able to be involved in such a rescue mission?
RG: This was really meaningful, and exciting to be able to do it so quickly. I’ve been involved in cookbooks since I was five, when my mother told me I used to carry a cookbook around with me. Now I’m writing my 12th cookbook. I [donated the money to NYU] in honor of my mother, who said it was okay to drop out of grad school to be a cook [Gold became NYC Mayor Ed Koch’s cook at Gracie Mansion when she was 24.
PW: What did you think of the Gourmet archive?
RG: It’s a very interesting collection with a lot of books Marvin and I had never seen before. The decisions [Gourmet] made to keep certain books really tells the history of food in America and how you decide what’s important. I’m interested in seeing a comprehensive list of the books to really take a good look.
PW: Are you a cookbook collector yourself?
RG: Yes, but our collection can’t compare. We only have about 1,000 at home.
PW: So with everything that’s going on with recipes online, you think there’s still something special about cookbooks.
RG: Why do people buy cookbooks when they can buy a cookbook online? There’s something much deeper about it. Cookbooks obviously are about professional chefs, but they’re also about the unique mother/daughter transfer of history and recipes, and I really like that notion.
Photo: Phil Mansfield
This story originally appeared in Cooking the Books,PW's e-newsletter for cookbooks.