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Publication: Syracuse New Times
Author: English-Bowers, Molly
Date published: October 12, 2011

They're the workhorses of many a kitchen, their stains belying their frequent use and outing them as favorites. They're not pots, pans, appliances or Grandma's china, either, but the utilitarian cookbooks. Joan Green knows a thing or two about these repositories of recipes: She owns nearly 2,000 of them, collected over an adult life spent learning about, teaching and, above all else, actually cooking.

She and her husband, Ed Green, a longtime Syracuse University trustee and local mover and shaker, are selling their large Cazenovia home and all those tomes can't come along. "We have sold our house and we are going to move into a smaller place, and my children weren't interested," she says. "We have been married 62 years, and the cookbooks really run the gamut from 1948-on." So she contacted longtime friend Suzanne Thorin, dean of libraries at SU, and asked if she would like the cookbooks.

The result is a cookbook collection event that will be held Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Crowne Plaza Syracuse Hotel, 701 E. Genesee St., from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $40 and are available by calling 443-8782. The event makes a great way to celebrate Joan Green's renowned love of cooking while contributing to the SU Library Associates and their support of the library's Special Collections.

"I didn't set out to collect cookbooks," Green answers when asked how she accumulated so many books, "I set out to learn about cooking. In the course of that, I was so curious that I kept buying cookbooks to try this, that or the other thing, or cook like Julia {Child}." Was she surprised to have garnered several thousand? "You might say that-to me it just looked like shelves after shelves, and then all of a sudden it was 2,000."

Green studied Chinese cooking in New York City under well-known chef Karen Lee, whose books, all out of print, she is keeping for now ("The library will get them eventually," she says), and then taught Chinese cooking locally, first in the Country Kitchen, once in Fayetteville, and then in her home. "I bought every Asian cookbook I could lay my hands on."

Green's 2,000 cookbooks will augment the 1,000 books the library already owns and that had belonged to Kay Shaw Nelson, who graduated from SU in the first class of Russian Studies majors. "She became a CIA spy," notes Ronald Thiele, assistant dean for advancement at the SU libraries, "and she used cooking as her cover. Joan was just fascinated by that."

Most of the cookbooks are housed at Carnegie Library, and Thiele says they are used for general reference, so most of them don't circulate. In addition, the duplicates found in the SU collection as well as Green's either will be donated to other libraries or booksellers or the university will gift them to entities that hold book sales.

The event, titled "Joan's Table," will feature wine and cheese, conversation with Green and fundraising for a good cause: a library. "I'm still cooking," Green declares, "and the dirty little secret is I'm still buying cookbooks."

-Molly English-Bowers

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