The Daily

Out of Print

Furious George

December 27, 2012 | by

We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

George Leonard Herter ran a sporting-goods store in Waseca, Minnesota, by day and self-published bizarre cookbooks, travel guides, and hunting books by night. I fell into Herteriana six years ago, after reading about him in an article on out-of-print cookbooks. I was promised “the origins of women’s panties, the best time of year for eating robins and meadowlarks, the effects of menstruation on mayonnaise-making and the unheralded kitchen pioneering of Genghis Khan, the Virgin Mary and Stonewall Jackson,” though this barely scratches the surface of the strange world of George Leonard Herter. I immediately started collecting his books. Happily for me, Herter was prolific. I am now the proud owner of the three-volume Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices (volumes two is delightfuly subtitled Plus Famous Restaurants and Night Clubs of the World ), How to Make the Finest Wines at Home in Old Glass or Plastic and Jugs for as Little as 10¢ a Gallon, The Truth about Hunting in Today’s Africa and How to Go on Safari for $690.00, and several others. I picked up George the Housewife, one of my favorites, at Bonnie Slotnick’s cookbook store in New York a few years ago.

Most of Herter’s books, including George the Housewife , are credited to both George and his wife, Berthe, but they are all written in George’s hectoring voice. Herter explains in the introduction to George the Housewife that he is “a man who has cooked, kept house and brought up children, not a fly-by-night socialite and bridge player.” His advice is arranged in hundreds of short chapters, seemingly arbitrarily arranged: “Small Tear Gas Guns No Protection from Molesters: Hatpin Is Still the Best Bet,” “Do Not Let Your Small Children Grab Your Husband by the Legs,” “Alcoholism and Worcestershire Sauce,” “How to Remove Insects from Your Own and Children’s Ears,” and, of course, “Watercress Can Kill You.” The advice comes to an abrupt halt about two-thirds of the way through the book, and Herter devotes the rest of the space to excoriating New York City and its restaurants. “Few of us ever get to New York or even care to go,” he says, “but New York restaurants and some of their recipes have had some influence on American cooking and it is worthwhile noting a little bit about them.” Herter finds little to like in New York. The view from the Rainbow Room does nothing for him, he finds Central Park a disappointment, and he is upset by the decline in the quality of the pretzels. He documents his trip with staid vacation snapshots, captioned in his distinctive ornery voice.


 

Kim Beeman lives and works in New York City, where she is the librarian at The French Culinary Institute.

5 COMMENTS

3 Comments

  1. j gold | April 19, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Bull Cook is one of the most magnificently awful relics of its time. Copies used to be passed around certain segments of the food world like samizdat. It’s nice to know the thrill is still there.

  2. A. | April 19, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Fantastic!

    (by the way, I know someone whose father saved a man’s life by removing a bug from his ear. It was during the 70s.)

  3. Joan Mooney | October 3, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    The Waseca County Historical Society is launching an all out “Remembering Herter’s” exhibit in 2014. We kicked it off in July with a Herter’s Mark III Flying Fish Runabout on display at the County Fair. I appreciate your article on George.We are capturing as many stories as possible from people who worked there over the years. I am also trying to locate taxidermy that was on display at the Waseca store. The polar bear and a giant jackalope for starters. I woulds like to refer to your article with your permission. We are rather prould that George made it into your world. Thanks!

2 Pingbacks

  1. [...] I know you perhaps do not live in New York, but The Paris Review has some amazing mid-century observations (like the one above) from George Leonard… [...]

  2. [...] Beeman for introducing me to this literary cult-figure (of sorts) in her recent contribution to Paris Review. Beeman is an avid collector of Herter’s works, and she aptly describes him as the [...]

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