Media people

Russ Parsons purges his cookbooks after 30 years

parsons-cookbook.jpgRecently retired (from daily journalism) Los Angeles Times food editor Russ Parsons showed up in Sunday's Washington Post writing about the process of disconnecting with the cookbook collection he has gathered over 30 years. He had something like 1,500 cookbooks, some of them never taken out of the wrapper, but some first-editions signed by famous authors. He still has about 1,000 but at least the purge has begun.

"I wound up with books tucked away in almost every room of my house," he writes. "They were stuffed into shelves in my living room, study and guest house, and those that didn’t fit were heaped in great, towering stacks on the floor." So it was time.

For years I had been promising myself that I would get around to making some sense of the mess. But there was never enough time.

Then, late last year, I retired from daily journalism and found that I not only had the time, I had the inclination. I was ready to explore new worlds. Getting rid of some of those cookbooks seemed like a good start to my transition. Like shedding an old habit.


I ended up loading enough cookbooks into my Prius to fill it to the roof and taking them to my local Long Beach Public Library, where, I’m told, they are establishing a culinary collection in my name.

There will be many more to come. Those 500 or so donated books represent only about a third of what I had. But they were a start.

He kept signed first editions of the first books of his favorite authors, as well as classics such as "The Joy of Cooking" and Marcella Hazan’s “The Classic Italian Cookbook.” He held on to an LA Times cookbook from 1905. Books by chefs and culinary memoirs tended to go. He details the process and adds a sidebar with six of the titles he held onto. The tagline says Parsons will be joining an online chat at the Post on Wednesday.

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