Food for thought

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 at 8:45 AM

With my microwave, stacks of TV dinners in my freezer, and a take-out menu collection that's almost as lengthy as the Encyclopedia Britannica, cooking has become more of a hobby than a necessity for me. I often watch cooking shows, flip through magazines, and troll the Internet for ideas on my next culinary endeavor. When it's actually time to start preparing a meal, I'll inevitably pull out one of my trusty cookbooks.

Not too long ago, I came across this article, which talks about the place of cookbooks in the age of so many other avenues of information:
A particular copy of a particular cookbook provides a lasting physical link between a cook, or generations of cooks, and the meals they feed their families and friends. Many of my favorite cookbooks open naturally to my favorite recipes, because those are the pages that are splashed and stained from duty on the counter, propped open with a pot lid.
This certainly rings true for me. The pages of my oldest cookbook, the Better Homes and Gardens "Red Plaid," are dog-eared and stained from meals past. Page 122 is singed (don't ask). Page 343 is forever unreadable, due to a Hollandaise sauce accident.

The Cheese Board is another favorite. Flipping through its pages brings back memories of eating crispy-crusted pizzas in front of its small storefront on weekend evenings, in addition to providing the recipe for my favorite apple walnut scones. Alice Waters, prolific organic chef and Chez Panisse founder, wrote the forward.

I also collect cookbooks as souvenirs. I took a class at Tante Marie's Cooking School a few years ago. Flipping through the pages of Tante Marie's Cooking School Cookbook often gives me the confidence to try something a bit beyond the scope of my skills.

That is the beauty of cookbooks for me: the sense of nostalgia, history, and authority they conjure. While I might find an interesting recipe for chocolate croissants on, I'm liable to consult my copy of The Ghiradelli Chocolate Cookbook, just to make sure 'punkin10' knows what she's talking about.


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