Amateur chefs and recipe experts at Cornell have some new tools in their arsenal, thanks to a donation of some 300 cookbooks to the Nestlé Library in the School of Hotel Administration.
Nancy Cameros, the wife of Alan Cameros '57, donated her collection of cookbooks before her death in September. The books cover a broad spectrum of ethnic and regional cooking, and many of them came from the couple's extensive travels over 40 years.
"We were on six of the seven continents, and wherever we went, she would make it a point to search out cookbooks," Cameros said. "It was her way of remembering the places; some people do that with photographs, but her way was collecting recipes."
Cornell seemed like a natural fit for his wife's collection, Cameros said. The books would be close to the couple's Rochester home, and people from all over the region would be able to use them.
"The whole idea that Cornell was outstanding in hospitality was very meaningful to her," Cameros said. "We wanted to put Nancy's collection in a place that we could take a great deal of pride in."
The collection includes many different kinds of books, but has a special focus on international dishes. Cameros recalled dishes his wife had cooked from Holland and Indonesia, as well as experiments with fois gras and a black bean sauce that was adopted by a cooking school near Rochester.
"There is something personal about these books," said Don Schnedeker, the Nestlé librarian. "Although they're all clean and in very good condition, Nancy obviously used some of them. You can see some worn corners and folded pages that sort of tell the story of one particular cook."
The Cameros family also gave a gift to support processing the collection, Schnedeker said, including the insertion of bookplates, so that users will know they are part of the Cameros collection. The books can be checked out normally.
Duplicates were donated to the Friends of the Library association that supports the Tompkins County Public Library to be sold at its semiannual book sale.
Schnedeker estimates that the library probably holds about 10,000 cookbooks, with up to 4,000 in Nestlé Library. Carl A. Kroch Library houses a substantial number of cookbooks in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, and Mann Library also has many volumes related to nutrition.
Nestlé Library's holdings include culinary titles and cookbooks from the Herndon/Vehling collection, acquired for the library with the help of Alice Statler. Gifts from Oscar Tschirky (of the Waldorf) and Ruth Wood Green added culinary titles from the first half of the 20th century. The Cameros' gift added titles from the 1950s to the present.
Students taking courses in the School of Hotel Administration use the Nestlé Library's cookbook collection as a reference on food culture and domestic and international cooking styles. Schnedeker noted that many staff members also use the cookbooks in their own kitchens.
Sometimes cookbook collections are not in good enough repair to accept, but "these books were different. ... The majority of the titles were unique and in very good condition," Schnedeker said. "She was obviously collecting books as well as actually using them to cook, and we're so glad they can find a permanent home in our library."
Gwen Glazer is a staff writer in Library Communications.