Students, staff and faculty now have a new resource available in the quest for quality college cooking, thanks to Nancy Cameros, who donated over 300 cookbooks before her death in September to Cornell’s Nestlé Library.
Cameros and her husband, Alan Cameros ’57, spent a lot of time traveling the world, always making sure to sample the local cuisine, Mr. Cameros said.
“Wherever we went, [Nancy] would stop, and whether the book was in English or another language, if she saw dishes she thought were particularly meaningful, she’d collect cookbooks,” Mr. Cameros said.
Cooking played a huge role in the Cameros’ lives, and they considered themselves somewhat of “food connoisseurs,” Mr. Cameros said.
According to her husband, Mrs. Cameros used a large portion of the books in her collection and enjoyed adapting recipes taken from the books. A black bean recipe was one of her personal favorites, Mr. Cameros said.
Mrs. Cameros often used the books when hosting guests for house parties or cooking for a club or organization in which she was involved. Many of her friends looked to her for advice when doing their own cooking.
“So many of Nancy’s friends and people in Rochester identified her with the enjoyment of cooking and how important and meaningful it was in her life,” Mr. Cameros said.
Mrs. Cameros, who died in September, had been battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — since 2008.
“[The disease] made it harder for her to cook. So while she loved the cookbooks and [seeing them go] was a hard thing to do, it was time,” Mr. Cameros said.
Don Schnedeker, a librarian at the Nestlé Library, was one of the major driving forces behind the collection’s display and the actual transportation of the books to Cornell. Over the summer, he drove to the Cameros’ home in Rochester and — with Mr. Cameros’ help — loaded the more than 300 cookbooks into his car to drive back to Ithaca.
Schnedeker met Mrs. Cameros during his trip to Rochester. She “had trouble speaking but she was in very good spirits. She was happy to get rid of the books,” he said.
The books have mainly been checked out by staff and students for their own personal use, Schnedeker said. Mrs. Cameros intended the books to be available to anyone who had an interest in food and wanted to encounter new recipes and types of cooking they had not seen before.
“Cornell stands first in hospitality and presentation. I’ve had some awful good meals in Ithaca. It seemed like the natural place to put [the books] because of the emphasis on food and hospitality,” said Mr. Cameros, who attended the College of Arts and Sciences and was the sports editor at The Sun.
Schnedeker explained that the School of Hotel Administration has shifted recently to focus more on management. There are now fewer cooking classes available than in the past, so the school is less willing to buy new cookbooks. The shift in focus makes the Cameros collection an even more valuable addition to the library, Schnedeker said.
The display of Mrs. Cameros’ collection features a collage of several colorful covers of the cookbooks.
Karen Bobbett, an administrative assistant for Nestlé Library, helped put the display together. She said making the display was a lot of fun, thanks to the broad collection of books and bright, intriguing covers. Bobbett, whose husband died nine years ago, said her goal in making the display was “to give the collection its rightful place and to make [Mrs. Cameros’] husband feel proud.”
Mr. Cameros has seen the collection once since it went on display at the beginning of the school year. He was pleased with the presentation, he said, and is hoping to travel to Cornell once or twice a year and see the cookbooks.
The display will likely be up for a few more months before Mrs. Cameros’ books are integrated with the 4,000-plus cookbooks already in the Nestlé Library, Schnedeker said.