Post # 7 – Cookbook-o-phile

June 15, 2012 at 2:55 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I am a bibliophile.  That means I love books.  I come from a family of bibliophiles.  Books have been my joy and my curse.  They’re my joy because I love reading, and re-reading, and memorizing books.  Having books around is like having old friends visit.  They’re my curse because every time I move, I have to box the damned things up and pay for transport.  Then I have to unbox them and put them in their new home.  In the last twenty years, I don’t think I’ve had all my books unboxed at the same time.  Throwing out a book for me is truly like cutting off an appendage.

That being said, I have a lot of cookbooks.  The picture at the top of the blog is one part of one shelf of a five shelf book case filled with just some of my cookbooks.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had all my cookbooks unboxed at once.  Add to that the monthly cooking magazines, which I’ve actually whittled down to three per month, plus quarterly specials, and it’s overwhelming to say the least.

It’s hard to believe I started with one.

When I was thirteen, I was already an old hand at frying bacon, and making popcorn, and PBJ along with a variety of other sandwiches.  But for various reasons, I knew that I wanted to learn how to cook.  I went to my mom and told her that.

“Fine.” she said.  She grabbed her cookbook and handed it to me.  Then she said something that set me on The Path.  “Anyone who can read,” she said, “Can cook.”  She told me to pick a recipe, anything I wanted, and to make sure we had all the ingredients.

It was an old notebook style Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  I never knew such a thing existed.  I spent an hour browsing through it.  There was section for Beef, and one for Poultry, and one for Vegetables.  Cookies rated its own section, as did Cake.  Candies was combined with Dessert which held the recipes for pie.  Heck, I was thirteen and growing and in a state of perpetual starvation.  Handing me a cookbook was like handing me the world.  And I could make anything at all, as long as we had the ingredients.

I picked my favorite, yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  Then I went to the pantry to make sure we had everything.  Problem was, I didn’t know what any of this stuff actually was.  I mean, I knew flour and eggs and sugar.  What the heck was confectioner’s sugar?  Mom showed me.  It was in a box, not a bag like the other sugar.  And Oh My God!  An entire huge bar of chocolate?  In the pantry?  Whew!  THAT didn’t taste good.  Mom explained there wasn’t any sugar in it, just chocolate.  Eventually I found that I had all the things I needed.

I became intimately familiar with that cookbook.  I read it through it so often that finally my mom bought me one just like it.  I went through it and found new recipes!  See, up to that point, everyone that I knew who knew how to cook had all their recipes in their heads.  They made the same things time after time, and were happy.  They never needed to look anywhere else for inspiration.

Then one Christmas, a dear friend gave me a cookbook specifically for chocolate.  I still have it nearly forty years later.  I wandered through it and we decided to make chocolate eclairs with ice cream on the side.  She didn’t have any of that stuff at her house, so we went of bought it all.  Two hours later we were waiting impatiently for the shells to cool off enough for us to start assembling them.

Yeah, it snowballed from there.  I never took a cooking class, but I read and practiced and watched TV cooking shows.  I keep thinking that one day I’ll go through all my cookbooks and pull out my favorite recipes and scan them into my computer.  I just can’t bring myself to hurting a book like that.  Plus, I’d just be scanning entire books so why bother?

My Favorite?  Anything by America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Country.  Every single recipe I’ve tried has worked exactly as they claim, but they explain everything along the way.  Good stuff.


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