Yep, you heard me. I love cookbooks. I collect cookbooks. I read them like some people read novels. Nigella Lawson is particularly good for this sort of reading. She writes her recipes in a very conversational style and has long descriptive passages where she goes on and on about the history of the dish, how she adapted it, where she got her inspiration.... This conversational style makes it hard to cook with her recipes sometimes. Try to ask Richard to make the danishes from Nigella Bites and his left eyelid will start twitching. The pictures in her books are what I refer to as "food porn". Everything is artfully styled, the accessories very expensive but not ostentatious, lighting is perfect. Chocolate is featured prominently. I want to lick some of the pages.
Some of my cookbooks came from my late Grandma's collection and when you open them a flurry of handwritten notes and newspaper clippings fly out. I love this. Some of the books are fundraisers from different community groups. A peek into these books offers a peek in to the kitchens of the many people who donated recipes. Who cooks from scratch? Who has mastered the art of mixing up cans and boxes from the store to make something new? Why do so many of the recipes call for Cool Whip and instant pudding?? Those cookbooks and her knitting needles are what I remember her by. Something I always feel a twinge of regret over is not picking up the school fundraiser cookbook while we were visiting Grand Cayman Island on our honeymoon.--It was called "There's a Turtle in my Soup!"
I have a particular fondness for cookbooks from the 60s and 70s. A couple of weeks ago I scored the complete 16-volume Family Circle Illustrated Library of Cooking. (I paid a $1.50 for the whole set!!!!) So many meats and vegetables encased in gelatin! So many things served on ice that we wouldn't dream of chilling now! So much glistening charred fat on the pages!
My mother in law gave me a fantastic book as well: Betty Crocker's New Dinner for Two. Copyright 1964. The first page of the book spells it out: "....If you are a bride, a business girl, career wife, or a mother whose children are away from home - this book is for you....." Along with recipes the book is full of tips and tricks to make your homemaking job a pleasure. If Richard ever has the guts to phone me with 1/2 hour notice to throw together a dinner party to impress his boss, I know what to have on hand at all times now. (Forget that he is self employed for a moment....) I now know how to artfully disguise leftovers and that cold pickle juice in an aperitif glass makes a tasty appetizer. I also know how to boil canned peas into submission now.
All of this talking about cookbooks and recipes has got me thinking: Which recipes are going to make my grand kid's eyes roll when I serve them? What are they going to think of my cookbooks? Will the obsession with all things low-fat and low-carb be hilarious? (OK, it is kind of hilarious now.) What are they going to say when they come across my binders full of magazine clippings and computer printouts? Are they going to scoff at my kitchen full of white appliances? What will be my culinary legacy?