Cookbook Questions

cookbook.jpg yes, yes – the Friday Food News Peruse is late. Mea culpa. I promise that as soon as I return from my Sunday brunch, I shall peruse more news than you could shake a stick at. In the meantime, I’ve had cookbooks on my mind the past couple of weeks – after spending a considerable amount of time and backbreaking effort getting my mother’s collection in order. I shall have to take pictures of it one day – the collection, I mean. Not my broken back. It’s an impressive site. So while I am trying to get myself together, consider these cookbook questions:

  • What do you do with cookbooks you’ve “outgrown” or bought in a misguided moment of retail therapy? I have a pile of Chicken and Poultry cookbooks that I must donate soon. I don’t know why I bought them – except that they were marked down so dramatically and I was in a shopping mood.
  • Come to that – is it possible to outgrow a cookbook? I long ago outgrew “Cooking For One” – given to me 20 years ago as a graduation gift from one of my mother’s friends. A non-ironic gift, I am sure. Gee, thanks.
  • What are your favorite kinds of cookbooks? The ones focusing on a particular type of food or regional ones? “Themed” cookbooks? My mother prefers those “junior league” collection ones – with the spirally binding. She says it’s because those are real people’s recipes. They’ve made them, tried them and set them in front of their own families so you know they work. I like the ones that have some food history and commentary in addition to the recipes. Recipes are all well and good but I do like a little context with my instructions.
  • Do you write in your cookbooks or do you have a separate place for your personal notations? I’m currently sitting on the notation fence. I have post-its in my most used titles. One day, the “sticky” will wear off and I will lose my note. I will have to make my stand. To write in or to write elsewhere. But I’m putting it off for now.
  • How do you use your cookbooks – as inspiration or as a road map? I find I do both. I may find a particular recipe I want to try as is or I may find a recipe that makes me think – “huh? I’ve never thought of doing a sauce like that. I wonder if it would be good on this other thing. Maybe with this ingredient instead of that.
  • Are cookbooks a primary source of recipes for you or a secondary source? I find myself browsing more and more online – NOT for buying cookbooks (though I do that as well) – but for recipes. Sure, I’ve bookmarked particular sites but I also print out and collect my favorite online finds into my own “custom” cookbook.
  • Which begs the question – what are your favorite other “cookbooks” or sources for that sort of information? Friends, the internet, cooking shows?
  • And finally, a variation on the desert island question – if you could only have one cookbook, which would it be? My gut instinct is to say Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat since it’s a glorious read as well as downright useful but I am just starting to delve into Aliza Green’s Starting with Ingredients in a more serious way and I am liking it a lot.

Anyway, I found mom’s collection frustrating and fascinating at the same time. Frustrating because honestly, who NEEDS that many books and I know it’s been decades since she’s looked in some. Even worse, she has multiple copies of others and refuses to part with the dupes. But she’s had some forever – made some of her own (her handwriting is absurdly, preternaturally neat), inherited some, bought and bargained for others. I have a modest collection of my own but it is not anywhere near as well worn and used as her collection. And make no mistake – hers is a working collection. None of this carefully preserving titles in dust jackets. These books are marked and marred, stained, notated, dog eared, bookmarked . . .

Huh. This was supposed to be a filler post. Dashed off as I hurried to pull my brunch-self together. Now I’ve got cookbooks on the brain even more. Funny how that happens.

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