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The Cookbook Use Throwdown -- And What Does "Use" Mean?

Chris Amirault

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I usually use the recipes as a base or an idea. Lots of substitutions and adaptations.

And I was sort of surprised that I'd actually cooked from almost half of my cookbooks. I didn't think it was that high.

Abigail Blake

Sugar Apple: Posts from the Caribbean


"Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone." Big Night

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Like other posters here, I always follow the recipe through as written the first time I make something, even if I'm doubtful it'll work out. Sometimes I'm surprised; sometimes not. Like the first time I read a Marcella Hazan recipe calling for a half cup of olive oil, and thought, "Oh, wow, that seems like a lot - won't it be too oily?" Hah! My thinking had been ruined by too many "cooking for health" recipes calling for sauteing a whole onion in a half teaspoon of oil in a non-stick pan or some such. And thinking that was the right way.

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Just took a quick count. If I couldn't think immediately of more than one thing I had used the book for, it went into the once or never used column. Of the 85 books quickly located, I've used 49 more than once - 58%. I think if I took more time to check, it's probably higher. I also have several stacks of magazines.

When I'm not feeling particularly inspired, I take some post its or page markers and mark things for later. I also started keeping a list of recipes to try that I add to when I find something interesting. These mostly come from new magazines, blogs, etc but also books that aren't used as often. I list the recipe, source, page # if magazine or book, and sometimes ingredients I am not likely to have on hand. If it's a clipped recipe or something I printed out, I attach it. Marking pages and having a list helps me focus when making menus and shopping lists and I think I make more new things instead of falling back on old standards.

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I'm surprised at how many people follow so many recipes. I'm wondering, in the cases of those who use lots of recipes from lots of books: Do you follow the recipes exactly, with no substitutions or changes of your own, or do you follow adaptations of the recipes? If you follow the recipes exactly, how do you manage in terms of stocking ingredients? I find that, for me, preparing a recipe with a long ingredients list is very difficult unless I do inefficient shopping (buying a whole container of something to use a teaspoon) or adapt the recipe.

Interesting question. As a baker, I am pretty well trained to follow a formula exactly. This does spill over by habit to recipes. However, I do improvise and adjust due to taste preferences, ingredient availability, time constraints, kashrut, and other variables.

Regarding inefficient shopping... I might grab the ingredient and then allow myself to be inspired by what remains. It's a good excuse to play with a new ingredient.


Edited by DanM (log)

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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I'm not at home and I don't do math, but I brought 35 cookbooks to the cottage with me. Of those, I use 33 of them on a regular basis for two or more recipes in them.

Pretty impressive! But:

I'll look at my cookbook shelves when I get home as I have about 200 in the kitchen. But I'm not sure how many of them I've used for more than one recipe.

Now that's the group I want tallied!

I am back at home now. Of all the cookbooks in my kitchen, my tally is about 85% of those I use for more than one recipe. I can only find 15 that I use rarely, but they are used.


Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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