I love cookbooks—yes, the paper kind.
My mother taught me a love for books — she loves paper books and so do I.
When I was in graduate and undergraduate school….well textbooks were exhausting: bricks on my back. And because of that I honestly rebelled against the physical book and dove into the electronic version when the Kindle and iPad came out. I wanted portability which I still have a nice library on a device–because when I travel I don’t have the ability to carry any or at least too many books. But at home I revert to the paper kind.
Today, I prefer to use a physical copy of a cookbook. You can find a recipe for anything online today but I have had many failures. I depend on the true tested cooks, chefs and recipe writers. And somehow I feel more centred when I find a cookbook because they are usually theme based–cohesive–well thought out. Today if you wanted to find a recipe for anything you can find it online. But does it work? How does it work with the rest of your menu?
Cookbooks for me inspire a menu that is intact and thoughtful. When I have a physical cookbook. I peruse–dream a bit. And then I get to business. I start to use page tabs and I get back to it later. I then jot down on paper a menu of the week. I know exactly where to go and what recipe I am going to try.
Food is sacred to me–it is nourishment and yet so much more. When I read something that was written by a person or several people I appreciate their devotion and vocation. I glean so that I might approach a special meal and that I can translate what was written for me into a completed dish.
I both want to enjoy a recipe exactly as written on a page — and yet I will also experiment on that recipe on another occasion. There are many approaches and in some recipes an exactitude is required. It was my trek of being online for recipes that sent me right back to the physical book.
I have been to Portland many times and each and every time I must visit Powell’s and the cookbook and wine book section (the orange section on Powell’s floor plan)…. and what a coincidence it is my favourite colour.
You never know what you will find there. I purchased on my visits the following cookbooks: Amana Colony Recipes, Shaker Cook Book and New Mexican Prized Recipes to name a few. What I do know if you like something or find something unique–get it–it will not be there when you return another time. Who has an Amana Colony cookbook? I want to rediscover and enjoy something from the past: I find that exciting. My love came from many pivotal points in past. I remember I went to a bake sale for a university health sciences center where I worked and someone baked Amish apple bread–I felt connected one slice at a time on a culture so remote from my experiences. I was attracted to things like Piki bread–from the Hopi tribe in Arizona and New Mexico Puebloans – I got this listed in Slow Food’s Ark of Taste. It is a blue corn bread baked (cooked) on a flat heated stone – so delightful and a feathery light corn flat bread.
I worked at Williams-Sonoma Inc. corporate offices just down the hall from founder and Vice Chairman Chuck Williams. I would bring in things that I made for him to taste and I also sought his critique. He was completely gracious and was so encouraging. I worked at Williams-Sonoma for a few years and I got a signed cookbook on my birthday which was his as well (October 2). My friend K. was instrumental for making it happen and to her I am grateful as well. I was so fortunate to have known him and to see him almost daily.
I am very touched by people who have given me a cookbook. I got from one of the dearest people to me Robert H. gave me cookbooks from Mexican food chef Diana Kennedy. She unlocks so many great things and I love read what she has written and her commitment to Mexican cuisine is legendary. Robert has given me so many wonderful books from seafood to one about one ingredient only ‘pepper’ and others on Texas’s cuisine (modern and traditional).
My chef friend and businessman Alex D. who gave me a great book called Hering’s Dictionary of Classical and Modern Cookery–what I appreciate the most is I said–“how can I be a good if not a great cook.” It is more like the title suggests–it is aa dictionary but what I like is that it has made me think of ingredient then it made me locate recipe from another source. Alex was so thoughtful and he honed in on an abstract request that I made to him into that made me more curious. The book lists all dishes containing say “Sole,” “Chicken” or “Lobster.” I start to look up a dish and I am away looking for the recipe from my collection. It is enjoyable and satisfying.
I met Jamie Oliver and he signed my cookbook Jamie’s Kitchen. I loved that he was engaged with every person. I said “I love your cookbook.” And he said “what did you like?” And I said “the Moorish Crunch Salad… love it… simply love it.”
I have learned so much and yet so much more to learn. I love the inspiration and the passion of so many cookbook writers… I love the passion and I love their love for making food.
I have been asked if I am working on a cookbook and I am but I am not going to get it out anytime soon. I need more time to test them out more and I know I will get it done some day.
Do you love cookbooks? If so hardcopy or electronic?
My love for cookbooks is a lifelong quest and one that I don’t want to make a dish just for myself but for other people as well.
James the Wine Guy
Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.
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