The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 16 - January 19, 2011


Uncle George's cookbook

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Raymond Arpke, of Euphemia Haye, is the author
of "Recipes and Rantings of a Madman."

There is a plethora of cookbooks about. One of the worst was authored by my Uncle George.

One of Uncle George's more successful business ventures was a tourist shop in famous, rockbound, Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. Peggy's Cove is a giant thumb of granite thrust into the North Atlantic Ocean with a picturesque lighthouse at its tip. Huge 70-foot waves regularly crash into the massive rocks and sweep away people from New York.

Tourists love Peggy's Cove. They go there by the busload. George's brothers operated the buses. Uncle Clary and Uncle Ed would bring by busloads of tourists and unload them into what we called George's Tourist Trap.

George sold "authentic" lobster buoys that he imported from Taiwan.

He sold "locally crafted" knitted goods and souvenir scarves that were purloined from my aunts' closets and clotheslines. And he sold gazillions of his cookbooks, "Nova Scotian Cuisine." Until he wrote those cookbooks, Nova Scotians didn't know they had a cuisine.

The fact that Uncle George had neither culinary training nor talent never occurred to him as an obstacle to writing a financially successful cookbook. My dad owned a printing company. Dad would print the books. George would sell them.

Selling the books was easy. Uncle George was an astute student of human behavior.

He noticed that tourists never really tried to read cookbooks before they bought them. They just picked them up and checked them for heft.

George maintained that tourists bought their cookbooks by the pound. The contents were irrelevant.

He considered it quite plausible and totally acceptable that a purchaser of his cookbook might never open it.

George's basic recipe formula read something like this.

Get a piece of fish....... (scallops, oysters, shrimp, lobster)

Put it in a pan.

Add a little salt.

Add butter.

Cook it.

The cook book was a great financial success. George sold literally busloads of them out of the tourist trap and never paid my father a farthing for the printing.

And George was right – it is doubtful anyone ever actually opened that cookbook. It was finally just a hefty souvenir of a visit to rocky Peggy's Cove.

He regularly told patrons that the book was real handy to hang onto if you got swept off the rocks.

On Anna Maria Island we have real culinary writers coming to our neighborhood this weekend. Professor "Big Mike" Weiss will be hosting a wine and food tasting, and book-signing this Saturday afternoon as part of the Culinary Winter Carnival. Weiss is a professor of wine at the Culinary Institute of America and a winner of the James Beard Award for his book, "Exploring Wine".

Chef Ray Arpke, of Euphemia Haye, is one of the area's truly great chefs. Arpke has penned his own cookbook, "Recipes and Rantings of a Madman." Arpke is also one of the host chefs of the Carnival's Saturday night dinner with Chef Roy Yamaguchi. Ray's book can be purchased at the event or at his restaurant. Information about the Carnival can be obtained on Page 7 of The Sun.

The proceeds from the Carnival are in aid of "little hearts" – care and research for children born with heart defects.

There are cases of Uncle George's book still stacked at Uncle Ed's fish camp. Ed says it is definitely a culinary asset. He uses them to get the wood stove started.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper