Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cookbook addiction

I love cookbooks. As you can see, I buy far more cookbooks than my life realistically needs. I read them, ponder the recipes and commentary and consider their cultural context with great joy; when I find scribbled notes beside recipes or scraps of paper in used volumes it thrills me. What I don't tend to do is cook from them. This strikes me as kind of silly, a waste of paper and space.

It's time to change that. I'm going to explore some of these volumes, especially the older, odder ones, and record my adventures here. I look forward to some gloriously unpleasant dishes (because our gastronomic sensibilities in 2010 are not the same as they were in the 1940s - who boils broccoli for 30 minutes anymore?) and some gems. I hope you'll keep me company on the journey and let me know what you think. I'd like to thank my step-daughter, Cara, for the off-handed remark that led to this idea.

To start, let's take a look at my bookshelves. For a librarian's daughter, these are a shameful chaos, but each book has a reason for being there. Buried in here are:
  • three copies of Joy of Cooking 
    • the copy my mom obtained when she was in her 20s and gave to me when I moved out, so worn it no longer has a complete table of contents or an index
    • a slightly newer copy I bought at a yard sale so I could use the index
    • my husband's copy, newer still, brought into our home when we moved in together
  • binders and folders of recipes my mother-in-law collected over 50 years of cooking. I don't believe she used most of them
  • my grandmother's Jewish cookbook. I can't imagine she ever opened it
  • a stack of recipe cards from my great-aunt that include a startling array of uses for prunes
  • recipes my husband's grandmother cut out of the newspaper in the 1930s and '40s
  • many recipe booklets that came with appliances and goods (blenders, toasters, household ingredients) that I've collected over the years
  • guy cookbooks from my honey's single days
  • church and community fundraising cookbooks from around the country
  • gourmet and specialty cuisine cookbooks
and so on. I admit it. I have a problem with cookbooks. But boy, they are fun to read. And now I'll be cooking from them, too.

I look forward to your comments - does anyone else out there have a similar problem with cookbooks? I'd love to read your thoughts about cookbook addiction, cooking from obscure and forgotten tomes and more.

(c) 2010 Laura S. Packer

7 comments:

Mare Kalka said...

I just had to do an inventory when I saw your blog; I have 202 (!) cookbooks, ranging from the early 1800's, Morocco to Laos, the Philippine's to Hungary, local church cookbooks, cooking with Crisco, and an appetizer book from the 60's with some of the worse recipes you could imagine. I love them all!

Diandra said...

When I packed my books in January to move to a new flat, I decided I wouldn't buy any new cook books until I had cooked at least one recipe from every cook book I own. Fortunately I don't own nearly as many cook books as you do, so I guess I should be done with it in a few weeks. But we definitely need more kitchen shelves!

ms.linnie said...

I love the little booklets that come with blenders and crock pots. I buy cookbooks from the used book section of the library. For some reason there are always new old cookbooks on the shelves when I go there.

Beth said...

I had to actually winnow out some cookbooks earlier this year - ones I had inherited and knew I would never cook from. But I still have a good solid bookcase full including at least two copies of Joy, an assortment of ethnic & specialty ones, a bunch of historical ones.... I do try to cook from them but when I realize I haven't in years, it's time to put them into the box for the next charity to ring up and offer to take away things.

Jean at The Delightful Repast said...

I had to laugh -- you sounded so much like me. I almost never cook from a cookbook, but I keep buying them! My mother was the same way. We just read them like novels and then go into the kitchen and make stuff up!

~TrainMama~ said...

I have a recipe obssession! I am a hoarder of cookbooks :) Everytime the library has books for sale I run to the table because I know I can get a cookbook for .50 to $2.00! I don't cook from them as much as I use to but I do sometimes. I look forward to seeing more of your recipes on here. Thanks for joining my swap!

QueenQuisa

Lesley said...

This is fantastic! I love the messy/lived in look for this shelf. It looks great :)