Sunday, January 27, 2008

What's Cooking?

Yesterday was a difficult day as I'm continuing to have weird physical symptoms and I don't go back to "Our Lady of Perpetual Waiting" Clinic until Feb 6th. I notice that when I have the most swelling of things such as fingers, eye lids, ear canals, joints, and now intercostal rib tissue, I feel as if I have lived for a thousand years on one hour of sleep and a single shot expresso.

So I am going to feed myself comforting things today. This has sent me ferreting through my cookbooks for some tasty recipes. It has also made me stand back and laugh at myself for how I use cookbooks.

I have one all time favorite cookbook, Fannie Farmer. My copy is ripped, stained, and falling apart. I think it is the ultimate cookbook for sound, everyday cooking. Nothing fancy, nothing flashy, just competent recipes for the incompetent cook.

The rest of my cookbooks (I probably only own ten or so), are one hit wonders. It's as if I opened them up, tried the first recipe, found it delicious, and never tried another. Every single cookbook, aside from Fanny, has one single page that is stained and well loved, and the rest of the book is pristine. When I pull it down off the shelf, it flops open to that page and the spine is nearly cracked. It won't lay flat on any other recipe. It knows I will go no further.

What is it with me? I love The Vegetarian Feast, I have taken her tortilla soup recipe and made it my prize winning dish. I make it with her garlic based broth and then I jazz it up with some poblano and jalapeno peppers. It is to die for! Everytime I taste it anywhere else, I just kind of shrug and think, "Yeah, that's good, but not as good as mine..."

So, have I tried anything else in this book? This book that I have owned for more than ten years? Ahhhhh, no.

And it's like that for every single cookbook I own. I even have a couple cookbooks from the Barefoot Contessa and I have never made anything in them, but I have made plenty of things from her show. I just print them off the internet the second I see something tasty and stuff it in the cookbook when I'm done. Chicken with forty cloves of garlic??? YUM!
(You may notice a garlic theme here. I have a deep and abiding fear of vampires and require at least one garlicky food a day).

So, what's the deal with how normal people use cookbooks? I know some people are addicted to buying cookbooks just like others are addicted to buying knitting books. What attracts you to a cookbook? Do you go through each recipe? How inspired are you to try new things? How complicated does a recipe have to be before you decide against doing it? And how many bizarre condiments have you purchased for a single recipe only to never use them again? (Jerk chicken seasoning? I'm looking at you.)

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

I have maybe 30 cookbooks. Like you, though, I've pretty much quit buying them in favor of looking stuff up online.

A lot of cookbook purchases are inspired by something I've seen online that I want to learn more about without having to hunt the information down. Like... how to create fake cheeses ("The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook" by Jo Stepaniak -- bought last summer and I still haven't made any fake cheese!) When I get a new cookbook I usually browse through all the recipes. Mainly I'm looking for inspiration -- a new way of treating an ingredient I especially like or a recipe that just "sounds really good".

Complexity and weird ingredients are definitely a factor. Every now and then, I'm willing to venture out into uncharted cooking territory with something like...oh, ground sumac berries. Once in a while the results are so great that the ingredient earns a place on my regular shopping list (black mustard seeds, rose essence). Other times...er...no.