If the Guinness Book of World Records had a category for cookbook collecting, Carol Francis
of Belton would be a top contender.Francis
has accumulated more than 800 cookbooks of all types and sizes.Her
collection ranges from homey church fund-raising booklets that are just a few pages in length to massive coffee table-style books like one titled "Texas the Beautiful" that breaks the state into different cooking regions, incorporating color photography with the recipes.Being a cookbook collector was not a goal that Francis had set for herself; rather, her assortment of books began simply enough, with a cookbook that she received more than 40 years ago when she was first married.
"My first cookbook was a Betty Crocker or a Better Homes & Garden cookbook," said Francis
, who grew up in Higgins and Pampa."The one with the red, checked cover that every bride got.And it just grew from there."When it is time to wind down for the evening, Francis, who has been a career and technology counselor with the Killeen Independent School District since 1998, said she likes to grab a cookbook.She
enjoys delving into various books, paging through volumes like the one she
picked up from the Texas Rangers Museum
that includes historic notes and anecdotes.
"I enjoy reading cookbooks, rather than, say, a novel, before I go to bed," she
said."With a novel I can get caught up in the story line and will want to keep reading.But with a cookbook when I get tired I can just put it down."
As one might expect of someone who collects recipes, Francis
enjoys spending time in the kitchen.She
credits the women in her
young life - her
grandmother, mother and stepmother - for developing her
love of cooking and baking.She
grandmother, Helen G. Miller, was a good cook who lived on a farm near Higgins.Under her
grandmother's tutelage, Francis
learned how to run a milk separator, churn creamy butter and to choose the ripest fruit to pick from the trees.With those skills she
also gained an appreciation for the taste of fresh, homemade foods.
would fix these big meals that always included five or six different pies," said Francis
."It was more food than you could ever eat at one meal."
Over the years Francis' assortment of cookbooks has grown through her
own purchases and gifts from family and friends who know she
Of all her
treasures two special volumes that she
inherited from her
mother and stepmother.
"I inherited my mother's wartime cookbook," said Francis
, whose mother, Helen Ruff Miller, was killed in 1947, when a tornado tore through Higgins.
received a volume titled, "Food for 50 - Food for 500."
That collection of recipe cards and notes also found their way into her
has a set of Southern Living (magazine) cookbooks.They put out an annual cookbook and her
collection goes back to 1979," he
said."When I want to cook something, I usually pull out one of those cookbooks.I use them more than any of the other ones."
When the couple decided to build a home, they made sure the blueprints included a spot in the kitchen for a bookcase to house the 65 dozen-plus books and a closet for their cooking equipment, like a pasta maker, bread maker and a growing host of smaller gadgets.
While others snap photographs or collect postcards while traveling, Carol Francis
is always on the lookout for an interesting cookbook.