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Cookbooks: I think I might be done.


Chris Amirault
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Put a fork in me: I think I'm done. With buying cookbooks.

I was perusing the Cookbooks 2012 topic and realized that there was nothing on the list that was getting me excited. A tour of a few websites also left me cold. This is no critique of the current crop of books, mind you. I think I just may have hit my limit.

Don't cry for me. It's not like I'm deprived.

It's a bit mysterious. I don't really know when it happened. Anyone else have this sort of thing transpire? Anyone have ideas about why?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I go through this every once in a while. Until a book comes out that I really want. I mean, in 2011, how much more is digestible than MC?

Or if I'm perusing some used book shop or a table set up on the street and I come across a used book I really want.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Over the past forty or so years I have, from time to time, sworn off buying cookbooks only to fall off the wagon when something caught my fancy or I saw a cookbook reviewed or even heard about a single recipe.

In the case of buying cookbooks, it is better to "never say never" because nine times out of ten, you will forget your resolution within a few weeks, possibly even days. :laugh:

You may not have purchased a cookbook for months but as soon as you lay down the gauntlet, I can almost guarantee that something will pop up that will tempt you. :huh:

I speak from experience, much experience over many years. I also keep threatening to lighten the load but it becomes more and more difficult. :rolleyes:

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Over the past forty or so years I have, from time to time, sworn off buying cookbooks only to fall off the wagon when something caught my fancy or I saw a cookbook reviewed or even heard about a single recipe.

In the case of buying cookbooks, it is better to "never say never" because nine times out of ten, you will forget your resolution within a few weeks, possibly even days. :laugh:

You may not have purchased a cookbook for months but as soon as you lay down the gauntlet, I can almost guarantee that something will pop up that will tempt you. :huh:

I speak from experience, much experience over many years. I also keep threatening to lighten the load but it becomes more and more difficult. :rolleyes:

Truer words were never spoken. :laugh:

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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When I first tied the knot, my cookbook library was bursting at the seams: 15 books.

“I don’t think I need any more cook books,” I said proudly to my wife.

12 years and 150 books later…

Ben

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I, too, get bored with what's on offer periodically. But then it wears off and I come to my senses.

One of the fun things about moving to Canada was being exposed to lots of cookbooks that you tend not to see in the States. May I recommend Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's "Settlers Cookbook"? http://www.alibhai-brown.com/settlers.php

She is a Pakistani-Ugandan woman who emigrated to England after Idi Amin. She writes beautifully (and very politically!) about life and food, especially food. Lots of great recipes wonderfully described. Maybe everyone here had already known about this book, but I didn't and recently found it at a used book sale in Toronto, fell in love with it.

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I rather envy your position, Chris Amirault.

Ever since my cookbooks broke our bookshelf a couple years back, my DH has banned me from purchasing any more books. I went cold turkey for about six months thereafter, but have since started sneaking in new books. Until our bookshelf breaks again or we run out of room - at which point I will have "done" forced upon me.

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Kinda with you on this. I can see buying more books when (not really a question of if) I discover there's a new set of techniques I have to master, but as far as getting yet another fat, overpriced book I'll maybe cook a dozen recipes out of before deciding to go back to my lazy internet recipe searching ways, I'm pretty much done.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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I understand this. There are long stretches when I'm not inspired by any of the new offerings, and they're awfully expensive to buy half-heartedly.

However, I almost always find something interesting among the older and out-of-print books that I find in used bookstores. Most of the cookbooks I've purchased in the last year or two have come from these places.


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I'm with you. I've been winding down for a long time. However, Ms. Alex likes to borrow cookbooks from the library, so perhaps once or twice a year I'll see one that speaks to me (figuratively, not literally, although sometines I wonder...). When I do buy one, it's usually as much for its cultural/historical/literary virtues as its recipes.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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I think Modernist Cuisine's strength is its weakness. When I heard Nathan speak in Toronto, he said that one of the reasons he wanted to make Modernist Cuisine is because each of the books out there about modernist technique reflected an individual chef's take on food, and the modernist technique was just a way of achieving that take. Modernist Cuisine, by comparison, was intended to be encyclopedic.

But sometimes, you still want to learn more about a given artist's creativity.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I have not bought a new cookbook for at least a year, but this does not reflect poorly on current offerings. When life gets more complicated, cooking gets simpler. For a few years I cooked something new nearly every meal. That exploration yielded a long list of reliable family favorites, and choosing from that list leaves more time and energy for other things.

When I feel the need for something new, I can usually find an un-tried recipe in one of my existing cookbooks.

Edited by C. sapidus (log)
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Over time our focus has shifted regarding the purchase of cookbooks. At the beginning when we started cooking we were interested in finding books which covered a broad spectrum of cooking/techniques/ingradients - there is quite a large selection to choose from and our cookbook library grew fast. Once we got much more experience in cooking we are much more selective in what cookbook we buy - mainly focusing on either restaurants or chefs we are particular interested (e.g. Eleven Madison, Volt) or very specific regional ethnic cuisines (e.g. books covering specific small regions in Italy, France etc.) - here the selection is much smaller and so our cookbook library is growing much slower over the last several years.

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I'd ask the question - what is a cookbook?

Some books are just collections of recipes.

Others are introductions to techniques and ways of thinking about food.

Others instruct about foodways and cultures.

Still others are books that you read in bed, that talk about how food, eating, cooking and even raising ingredients fit into our lives.

I think I'll always have room for the last category, if they are well written.

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You can't just give up an addiction like that! First it will be a clipping from a newspaper, no-one said they were harmful, then the odd free download of recipes to your iPad, next step Amazon with your credit card.

Seriously though, I can see with the availability of electronic books combined a dearth of storage space my purchasing of hard copy cook books will have to fall. I've found that my purchasing decisions align with my use of cookbooks. I very rarely follow a recipe or, if I do, it's only the first time and then I modify it to suit my tastes and what is available. Once you cook like this, books are for ideas and inspiration rather than recipes. If you use them like this, the range of what you purchase reduces dramatically.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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I don't think it sounds strange, just that you've reached the point that few works really have something to offer that justifies their cost/shelf space (especially, as you mention, after MC). Once, many books may have had something intriguing/new/useful to offer, but by now, you know what interests you, and have a solid skill (and reference) set.

I doubt I buy a cook book one once in a decade, and have about half a dozen. I consult one often, another not infrequently, and the others very rarely, or for inspiration, rather than an actual recipe. Most of my ideas for what to cook come from interacting with other people, talking with them, or walking about and just looking. I've seen quite a few cook books with interesting ideas or stunning images, but much as I love books (actually, because I love books), I can't justify buying something that I only handle on those rare occasions I work up a head of steam, and dust.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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This is a very natural course of Bibliophilia. The virus lies dormant.

Only to re-emerge, or adapt and undergo tranfiguration.

My guess is your passion will continue to grow and the acquisitional phase of the Bibliophilia fever will re-emerge.

Worry not. Spend this recuperative time building new book shelves.

:laugh:

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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I have a lot of cookbooks, as many here do. maybe not as many as C.A., but close.

I read them like Food Novels. now that I have MC, i havent gotten any new ones. On the one hand Im trying to be frugal, and most books are available at my library. they know me there and new ones 'of note' aprear on reserve for me. They will always be there.

the books i enjoy are the ones that discuss a technique, and why it works or not. i have a lot of Test kitchen books but gave them up a few years ago as they seem more a re-mash industry now then at the begining: the same "recipe' appears in many many books and they don't bother telling you that but did a long long time ago.

what i enjoy now is the magazine "Fine Cooking" a while ago they changed their format to talking about a technique, say meatloaf and then rather than one recipe they include various categories where you select from them to get your lets say 'loaf' they spend a good deal of time and space discussing the the flavors of each and if you've cooked for a while you can imagine the final 'loaf' even before you try it.

there are some books that follow this method also.

but I too go the the New England Mobile bookfair and see what's new , I just then get the interesting stuff at the library.

if you see an issue of "Fine Cooking" at a newstand and are not familiar with it take a look:

http://www.finecooking.com/

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I'd ask the question - what is a cookbook?

Some books are just collections of recipes.

Others are introductions to techniques and ways of thinking about food.

Others instruct about foodways and cultures.

Still others are books that you read in bed, that talk about how food, eating, cooking and even raising ingredients fit into our lives.

I think I'll always have room for the last category, if they are well written.

I'm with you on this. And there are any number of cookbooks I like to read - currently re-reading for the umpteenth time Murder on the Menu, which is a collection of recipes often mentioned in British mysteries as well as descriptions of the various character types and locations also found in these stories. Published in 1972, for the mystery fan, it is still a good read.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I' m with Kouign Aman on this one myself, I only need one cookbook... One more.

The other day on Twitter someone hit the nail on the head when he joked (I assume) that his favorite cookbook store should just garnish his wages to make life simpler for all involved.

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