Thursday, January 8, 2015

Cookbooks and the Art of Letting Go

It's a new year and a good time to cull the unnecessary items from our lives.  Habits, possessions, etc.

And when I wake up at 5:00 a.m. for no earthly apparent reason, it is this particular task I feel inspired to do.  Especially cookbooks.

I really am of two minds about my cookbooks.  With nearly every imaginable recipe available on the Internet, cookbooks seem to be a thing of the past.  Why limit yourself to a few dozen in one book when a hundred dozen are readily available in a few clicks?  And sometimes, websites can give you search and filter capabilities that just aren't possible in a book.  Consumer habits are also contributing to a decline in cookbook/recipe quality (no empirical evidence here, just a hunch...I never said I was a scientist).  People want cookbooks with their favorite Food Network personality's recipes RIGHT NOW, that sometimes I wonder how much testing can really be done for a quality finished product.

It would be seem so so so simple to throw out all the books.  A conversion to the dark side would be so easy.

But.  It's books.  About food.  By people or institutions I respect in the industry. And those three simple things alone are enough for me to hang on to some of my food tomes.

One cookbook, though (out of the three I eliminated this morning), that did not make the cut was a Food + Wine cookbook.  I think I blogged about it earlier in the year when I found it at a consignment store...but ultimately, the recipes weren't that inspiring or some of the ingredients were nearly impossible to find around here.  It's a shame, yes, because Food + Wine is a great, credible source of recipes for me...but I'd only used a handful of so-so recipes in the last few months, so...bye-bye book.

When I began this task this morning (way too early this morning), I thought one major criteria would be: if I hadn't picked the cookbook up and used it in several months, then it was time to go (after all, I often use this criteria when sifting through my wardrobe every few months).  But, as I began to compile my cookbooks for the cull, I realize that particular criteria meant I'd be parting with books especially close to my heart, namely: Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food, Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy, and the cookbook from Thomas Keller's restaurant ad hoc.  And I had no intention to throwing those books out, because a.) they contain some time-tested wonderfully classic recipes and b.) not only do they contain recipes, but anecdotes and information that I consider invaluable.

And naturally, as I flipped through each of these books, I found several new recipes I wanted to try, namely an Orange and Olive Salad and a Winter Minestrone in the Waters book and a Chickpea-Tomato soup and a Sweet Potato Flan in the Madison one.  Naturellement!  And as I flipped through these books, I was re-inspired to play around in my kitchen!  That's what Alice Waters does for me!

Other sacred tomes I own include three textbooks from school (one cooking, one garde manger, and one baking), Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and two by Michael Ruhlman (Ratio and Ruhlman's Twenty).

And I will try, the very best I can, not to purchase any new cookbooks for the duration of 2015...because obviously I have enough recipes and techniques right here at home.

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