Cookbook Cafe at Austin Public Library now holds Statesman archive

Former Statesman food writers Kitty Crider, left, and Addie Broyles donate several hundred cookbooks they collected over 40 years to the Cookbook Cafe inside the downtown library on April 5.

Kitty Crider is walking among friends. 

We’re at the Cookbook Cafe, the cookbook-centric restaurant on the first floor of the Central Library downtown, two former food writers browsing half a dozen boxes of books they collected over the years.

Each of the names on the covers means something different to each of us: Grady Spears, Jeff Blank, Rebecca Rather. Robb Walsh, Helen Corbitt, Terry Thompson-Anderson. Crystal Esquivel, Tiffany Harelik, Mando Rayo. 

“It’s like visiting old friends,” Crider says. 

Kitty Crider herself is a familiar name to many. For more than 28 years, this Mississippi native ran the food section of the American-Statesman, where she covered the city’s rapidly changing food community from 1979 to her retirement in 2008. 

That’s when I picked up where she left off as the newspaper’s food writer, upholding many of her traditions and creating my own. 

“It’s like visiting old friends,” Kitty Crider says of the Statesman Cookbook Collection, which now lives in the Austin Public Library's downtown cafe.

One of Kitty’s enduring lessons: being a newspaper food writer included keeping knowledge for the community. Our stories documented the people, places, events and trends that comprise “the food scene,” and those stories – and people – stayed with us over the years. (Want to hear Kitty tell some of those stories? She gave an oral history interview to the Southern Foodways Alliance in 2018.)