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OP: Clementine In the Kitchen (first printing)

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by Phineas Beck [Samuel Chamberlain]

Artist and printmaker Samuel Chamberlain (1895–1975) is most remembered among our crowd for his gastronomic writing, largely focused on the cuisines of Italy and France. His earliest work on that subject was first published, under the pen name Phineas Beck, as a series of articles beginning with the second ever issue of Gourmet magazine in February 1941. 

Chamberlain writes a thinly veiled autobiographical tale of his American family’s time spent in France between the world wars and eventual escape to Boston in 1939. The true heroine of the story, however, is their Burgundian cook, Clementine, employed by the “Becks” for over a decade. The jovial accounts of the cook’s culinary prowess and kitchen adventures, further enlivened by Henry Stahlhut’s illustrations, was compiled and published in 1943. 

Herein you will find such lively tales as Clementine harvesting snails from the family garden followed by their crafty escape from cardboard box and quick domination of the kitchen. A recipe for escargots de Bourgogne follows. 

Once stateside, conflict erupts as the “red-cheeked cuisinière” adjusts to the language and culture of New England—particularly humorous is an account of her argument with the local butcher who refused to cut beef in the French fashion as she demanded. The Becks never fully recovered their relationship with the butcher and opted to purchase their beef elsewhere.

Recipes, written in prose, can be found throughout, as well as in the “extracts from Clementine’s notebook” found at the end. 

We are pleased to offer a first printing of the utterly charming Clementine. Our copy is certainly well-loved, though the interior is clean, and the stock is sturdy. The case shows some blemishes and wear about the edges, particularly in the fraying of the head and foot of the spine. The jacket, present but graded Fair, is held together along the folds with tape—applied by a previous owner—discolored, and missing paper. It is now in a mylar sleeve to prevent further deterioration. Not a collector’s copy, but a book to be read and enjoyed.

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