On the menu: Bluffton man has a lot on his plate with cookbook collection

Special to The Bluffton PacketMay 30, 2012 

  • Bluffton resident John Lynch owns more than 1,500 cookbooks. Here are some of his firsts, favorites and priciest:

  • First cookbook purchased: Betty Crocker, Fannie Farmer or Good Housekeeping. He can't remember which came first.

  • Favorite basic cookbook: "Joy of Cooking," by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (1975 edition)

  • Most expensive cookbook: "Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking" by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet. Six-book collection lists for $625.

  • Newest to collection: "Spoon Cookbook," by Alan Ducasse

  • Favorite celebrity chef: Tyler Florence of the Food Network

  • * Favorite cuisine: Italian

"What's for dinner?" can take on a supersized meaning at John Lynch's house. The same can be said for "What's for brunch, appetizers, dessert?" or anything that involves cooking.

That's because Lynch, who lives at Eagle's Pointe in Bluffton, has more than 1,500 cookbooks to turn to when he feels like creating something in the kitchen.

"I like cookbooks," said Lynch, perhaps stating the obvious. "I just like to collect them. It's fun to have them and it's fun to go out and find new ones."

Lynch's hunt for cookbooks began in the mid-1980s, although he can't recall what book he bought first. His interest in cooking began when he was 5 years old, growing up in suburban Philadelphia, long before he could read recipes.

"I'd climb on the counter and make myself scrambled eggs for breakfast," said Lynch, 65.

For most of his adult life, Lynch and his wife, Elaine, lived in King of Prussia, Pa., where Lynch worked as a corporate finance executive for a manufacturing company in Philadelphia. The couple has two grown daughters, their oldest taking up a career as a pastry chef who teaches at the Culinary Academy in Austin, Texas.

The Lynches moved to Bluffton in 2002 after vacationing here throughout the 1990s.

No cookbook was left behind, and the collection continues to grow.

"I also pull recipes out of the newspaper and off the internet," Lynch said, who also is an avid bridge player. "I like any medium of cooking and find a lot of interest in it."

Lynch's cookbooks are neatly arranged on bookshelves throughout his house. He keeps an inventory record on an Excel spreadsheet, which is at 1,518 and counting. The collection has grown so large that stacks of books are being stored in closets.

A glass-case cabinet in the dining area is reserved for treasures that include a chef's hat personally autographed by Julia Child. The toque was a birthday gift given to him by his pastry-chef daughter, Jennifer, who helped bake desserts for the American icon's last birthday party in her hometown of Pasadena, Calif.

Others in the case include Child's classic "Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Vol. 1)," and collector books "Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School" (1904 and 1910 editions), and "Young Housekeepers Friend by Mrs. Cornelius" (1864).

Lynch is hard pressed to pick a favorite recipe, but his latest "go-to" dish is something he has re-created off an Olive Garden recipe in a newspaper ad.

The ad listed ingredients, which Lynch assembled into an Italian chicken dish. The entrèe has been a hit with family and Elaine Lynch's co-workers at Harry & David at Tanger Outlets.

"I usually follow recipes pretty closely, but here and there I'll do things," Lynch said. "If I don't have something a recipe calls for and I have something else, I'll use it. But I pretty much stay to the script."

Lynch said there's no telling if or when his cookbook collecting hobby with stop. But for now, he'll keep hunting down books that interest him.

He's also not sure what will happen to his collection in the future. But that's something that doesn't concern this passionate collector.

"If (my daughters) don't want them, they can sell them," he said. "I'm not going to worry about it if I'm not around."

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