Spotlight on Cookbook Collectors: Interview with Comedienne Cheril Vendetti
Our Spotlight on Cookbook Collectors interview series features a special collector this week, stand-up comedienne and cookbook author, Cheril Vendetti. She has appeared at the World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood and on stage at a variety of Vegas hotels and comedy venues. Vendetti is a Clio award-winner with several film and television credits under her belt. Next to her busy touring schedule, she recently published a combination novella-and-cookbook called "Mistress of the Mob Cuisine." The cookbook spotlights twelve members of the Vendetti crime family and two wanna-bes -- all fictional characters based on her real life family members. We are excited to share Vendetti's interview on cookbook collecting with you. Read on to hear all about it.
How did you start out collecting cookbooks?
My brother David and I were very close growing up. When we were small children, he would always tell me that I had a gift for making people laugh. My first cookbook was from David. It was a black and white cookbook by Kate Smith he found at a garage sale. He told me "Sha, you gotta write your own line of comedy cookbooks about the Italian culture." Anyway, soon after receiving the gift from my brother, I started collecting cookbooks. That was over 20 years ago!
How many books do you have in your collection?
So many I rent out my neighbors kitchen. I have about two thousand. It drives my partner nuts!
What is your cookbook specialization (do you collect a particular category or genre of cookbooks)?
I collect any book that has a recipe in it.
Do you collect cookbooks to cook or to look?
Both. Some I cook and some I look at some of the recipes. You need to own stock in Williams-Sonoma to buy what you need in a recipe.
What is the most valuable cookbook in your collection and how much is its estimated value?
I'm not sure. I never had them appraised, but would have to say the Kate Smith black and white my brother David gave me. It has sentimental value which is priceless.
What is your favorite collectible cookbook from your collection and why?
I would have to say The Soprano's cookbooks as I'm Italian and I owe my people. I love The Mafia Cookbook and The WASP cookbook which my sister Kathy gave me for Christmas one year. I love cookbooks that are different and unique.
Tell us about the best bargain you ever made for one of your cookbooks and where you found it (e.g., I found a Julia Child Mastering the Art of French Cooking at a garage sale in my neighborhood for $2.50. I took it home and opened it up to discover her signature staring back at me).
Well, I was at a garage sale in the deep south and there was a big box of old Barry Manilow records (poor Barry) and underneath all the albums was "Eat This" by Dom DeLuise for 10 cents. It was unreal as my brother's friend gave him a copy. However, I wanted my own and there it was and no, I did not buy the Barry just the Dom.
Is there a cookbook title you are seeking but haven't found yet? If so, what is the title and author and what makes it special?
It is a cookbook that was written in the 50's and had great illustrations in it. I saw it once on Amazon, but did not write down the name. When I went back to find it, it was gone! I still have the image in my head. So if I saw it, I would know it. I was in bed for three days depressed over that. I know ... I have to get a life!
How do you display and organize your collection (on shelves alphabetically, by certain categories, dates, etc).
I do it by grease stains. The ones that have been used the most to the ones I do not touch as I don't want to ruin the gorgeous photos.
Do you have any advice for someone interested in getting started with cookbook collecting?
Yes, you need to buy my book" Mistress of the Mob Cuisine," as it is a unique twist on a cookbook. Funny titles such as "I Saw The Blessed Mother In My Lasagna" to "Rosary Beans," are used to describe some of the 75 authentic "family" recipes in my book. All dishes are to die for (as many people did when helping me with this book 'cuz I drove them crazy). It has wonderful illustrations that are based on the family I wish I had, The Vendetti Culinary Crime Family, and beautiful colored food photos. It smells like garlic. It is the first of a trilogy of this family and a great collectors item. I think collecting cookbooks keeps you out of trouble and keeps you grounded to a tradition that is lost in modern technology and a wonderful gift to give to our children.
About Cheril Vendetti
Cheril is currently on Kickstarter promoting her cookbook novella "Mistress of the Mob Cuisine." She participates in talk show segments on "Chaos in the Kitchen" as The Comic that Cooks. Cheril has been a guest on the CW'S Daily Buzz, Sac & Co., Good Day Texas, OKC Live, Good Morning Arkansas, and many radio shows. Her cookbook can be purchased for $30 from her Kickstarter page.