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MArkF

Major cookbook collection downsize

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I just got rid of more than 120 cookbooks effectively eliminating my collection. I get so many recipes on line now that I virtually do not use them anymore.

 

i just wonder if I did the wrong thing.......

 

thoughts?

 

Mark

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Isn't it kind of late to be asking that question now?

And it's really only a question that you can answer.

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~Martin :)

I try to find the good food in every situation!

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse, curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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Hi MArkF.  Nope you just have more courage than most of us.  Well, me for one.  Almost every one of the new recipes I've gotten over the past few years has come from eGullet or somewhere else on the web.  Go for it, sir.

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Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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I think there was at least one topic about this a while back, but I'll leave it to more ambitious members to locate it. IIRC, a commonly expressed feeling was that getting rid of cookbooks was like kicking your children out of the house, then grieving the loss. You certainly have memories of them, and they might come back for a visit every once in a while, but although you know it's for their (and your) own good, it's still not quite the same as when they were living with you. Eventually, though, you move on.

 

(Now that I think about it, I'm not sure if all of that last paragraph was in the old topic, but whatever.)

 

Mark, what makes you think it might have been the wrong thing to do? Do you worry about needing information that you wouldn't be able to answer in any other way -- including by getting that book from your library.

 

I don't know how you disposed of them, but I assume it was in a way that eventually will bring joy, help, or at least a little information to others. That's something to feel good about.

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"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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34 minutes ago, MArkF said:

I just got rid of more than 120 cookbooks effectively eliminating my collection. I get so many recipes on line now that I virtually do not use them anymore.

 

i just wonder if I did the wrong thing.......

 

thoughts?

 

Mark

I have a few books that I consider reference books and use on a regular basis. The remainder are "eye-candy" and their presence gives me pleasure. Even if a new recipe I am trying is published in one of the books I own I still google it so I can see reviews and print it in a large font.

 

Don't worry about having done the wrong thing because what's done is done. 

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I don't know.  I definitely sympathize with not really using cookbooks anymore but I do like having them for reference and as a reminder of what I've learned.  I've sold a couple of more rare ones and wouldn't mind getting rid of my 12+ years worth of Art Culinaire.  But used cookbooks don't fetch much and they aren't taking up too much space so I'm mostly happy to keep what I have and not buy more.  OK, so I did pick up a used chocolate book today in trade and got another one last month because it was on sale, but those are the only cookbooks I've bought in a long time!

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I have two bookcases full of cookbooks.  I have also culled them heavily at least twice.  I would guess I have donated somewhere around 400 cookbooks to the Salvation Army Thrift Store.  Well, guess what?  The bookcases are full again, the latest purchase, 300 Best Taco Recipes having arrived last week.  I have a handful of cookbooks I would never get rid of, one is the first cook I ever owned, given to me by my parents for my 22nd birthday and another is Great Dinners From Life.  A couple of other oldies in there as well.  I do not miss the ones I got rid of (I transcribed some keeper recip (es) and I enjoy my new books. What I like to cook has changed a great deal since I first pick up a pot and that is reflected in the cookbooks I currently own.  I think cookbook collections evolve and while I go on-line a lot to look for recipes, I get considerably more joy from thumbing through a hard copy cookbook.  I'd bet that you too will soon be building up a new collection.

 

 

 


Edited by ElsieD fixed two typos (log)
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5 minutes ago, ElsieD said:

... What I like to cook has changed a great deal since I first pick up a pot and that is reflected in the cookbooks I currently own. ...

 

I'm the same way. I've gotten rid of many cookbooks over the years because they were books I bought when I was first starting to learn particular methods or whatever. As I learned, I also began to realize what I prefer and what I like. The cookbooks evolve as those realizations evolve.

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Just have to say... I was talking to my sister recently about the last things we would give up and mine were my cookbooks!

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Somewhere here there are more posts of mine on this topic:  long story short, my landlord requested that I get rid of all of my books.  I had to downsize two apartments into one, got rid of 17 boxes of books including cookbooks.  Kept one shelf of general cookbooks, mostly vegetable cookery, had the rest in storage.  Rescued them one evening when I couldn't stand it anymore, along with one bookcase and edited the collection again by two additional boxes so that what I had would fit in that bookcase (in addition to the one shelf in the kitchen).  Well, I bought a house of my own, and recently two bookcases for the dining room.  The books are united in one collection and live on those shelves with other kitchen objects like a wine rack, graduated Fiestaware bowls, and picnic tins with cookie cutters.

 

So I've had a couple of years to think about cookbooks.  I love them, I loved researching my collection and culling it so that it is extremely strong and covers much of the gamut of cooking.  I also have some silly cookie books and candy books and more preserving books than I need.  I am sure that I'll continue to add to the collection and cull when necessary, because I like being lighter on my feet.  The experience taught me a lot about change and fluidity and what makes a home.

 

All that being said, I have all of my own recipes, and lots of eGullet recipes, and anything I now find to "clip" stored as Word documents.  So, like Dorothy and her ruby slippers, I had everything I wanted to cook on a flash drive the entire time. 

 

I imagine that you will buy more cookbooks when you see ones that interest you.  Our tastes change constantly, we learn new things.  It's all good.

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

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 I am very happy that you have your own home now and can make your own decisions about what to keep what you store and/or giveaway.

 

Some years back a friend was visiting and my husband and I put him up in a spare room where many of my cookbooks were stored. Among the books in that room was Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. Naturally his first question at breakfast was why I needed so many books if I had that one. 

 

I am learning to chill and accept that I love reading cookbooks whether or not I ever make a dish from them.  

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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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2 hours ago, Anna N said:

 

I totally agree

having trouble copying and pasting quotes but I agree I love having and reading cookbooks even if I never cook anything from them.  The inspiration is always ther. 


Edited by Jacksoup (log)
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Just now, Jacksoup said:

I totally agree

having trouble copying and pasting quotes but I agree,I love having and reading cookbooks even if I never cook anything from them.  The inspiration is always there.

 

 

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MArkF, A couple of years ago I suggested to my DW that we get rid of most of our cookbooks since, for the last several years, she has only looked on-line for recipes. You'd of thought I was proposing high treason. Reference point: we have been married 38 years, both cook, and added to our cookbook collection up until just a few years ago.

 

I keep trying to talk myself into using them again, but the direction my cooking has taken makes most of them of no value to me. Not that I am am accomplished cook, I just prefer simpler, fewer ingredient dishes than I did a quarter of a century ago.

 

It will be interesting to see what happens when my FIL passes and we (my DW, her siblings and I) divide up the bookcase full of my late MIL's cookbooks.

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Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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Am I the only one who doesn't own a cookbook that I bought for myself?  I mean I have 2-3 sitting far away on a shelf somewhere that I looked at once or twice, but besides baking; I suppose I rarely if ever use an actual recipe.

 

 

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8 minutes ago, TicTac said:

Am I the only one who doesn't own a cookbook that I bought for myself?  I mean I have 2-3 sitting far away on a shelf somewhere that I looked at once or twice, but besides baking; I suppose I rarely if ever use an actual recipe.

 

 

 I don't suppose for a minute you are the only one but I would guess you are in the minority.  

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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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1 hour ago, Anna N said:

 I don't suppose for a minute you are the only one but I would guess you are in the minority.  

 

Clearly it was a hyperbole, I am sure there are others - but I wonder how many.

 

 

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1 hour ago, TicTac said:

 

Clearly it was a hyperbole, I am sure there are others - but I wonder how many.

 

 

I'm wondering if it's an age-related thing. I'm in my sixties. I have quite a few cookbooks (already been through several "cullings"). I use the baking books much more than the cookbooks (I enjoy baking much more than cooking, and yes, cooking is much more flexible), but I enjoy the cookbooks for ideas and for reference purposes more than for particular recipes. (And also because they look so nice on my shelves!) I still buy cookbooks once in a while, but I find that I rarely buy new cookbooks, meaning new as in "newly published," and also new as in "not second-hand." I buy baking books usually, and I find that Amazon's used books are a great resource. The price is right (a Maida Heatter cookie book for one dollar? How can I not buy that? Even with the $4 shipping fee it's a steal.), and, as I've mentioned in another thread, I rarely find that the newer books have a lot of new things to offer. The web can be a great resource for recipes (you need to have strong filters, as with most things web-related), and I use it a lot. But I do not think it's a good resource at all for understanding the methods or styles of particular chefs, and why it's helpful to understand those different methods and styles. If that's important to you (I find it very important), then I think the cookbooks are necessary. 

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4 hours ago, TicTac said:

Am I the only one who doesn't own a cookbook that I bought for myself? 

Just curious here.  Have you never, ever purchased a cookbook for your own use?  Or have you bought cookbooks for yourself but no longer own them? 

Do you own other books that you bought for yourself?  Are you a minimalist in all things?  

 

As I said, just curious.  I have many cookbooks and purchased most of them for myself.  There are some I rarely pull off the shelves and I recently scrutinized the lot to see if a purge was in order.  Yes, there are some that I would probably not miss if they were gone, but no, I decided that they don't need to be eliminated at this time.  Eat Your Books helps me to use a greater proportion of them so until I face a forced downsizing, they will stay with me.

 

 

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I periodically purge my cookbooks. If it isn't being used then unless we have "history, it is a bible of sorts or it has sentimental value it is probably gone or going to be on the next go round:)

 

About fifteen years ago I purged almost all of my accumulated books, keeping only those that were important to me, hard to find or again, sentimental. I never regretted this and having moved since was very happy to have done so. 

 

The reality is that if you do this almost anything can be replaced online if you have regrets.  And, as others have noted, you can buy more. 

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It could very well be an age thing, I am in my mid 30's.

 

blue_dolphin, that is correct - never.

 

I am not a minimalist at all, though I do like things tidy!  At age 7 I was being taught how to cook risotto, for me, cooking is in my blood - cooking, unlike baking however; is not an exact science, therefor the need for books is minimal (for me, at least). 

 

Who needs cookbooks for inspiration when we have fantastic cooks among us who spur on creative food flowing ideas on a daily basis.

 

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I think for me, I'd sum up the case for owning physical cookbooks as "curation."

 

I can find almost anything on the internet, but it makes for a pretty large haystack when I want a specific needle. With my cookbooks, I can find a given recipe from a trusted source in moments. I don't use 'em often, because I seldom cook or bake anything that requires a formal recipe, but I want them when the occasion arises. 

 

More often than not if I open a cookbook it's just for the sake of browsing and seeking ideas. In fact I have some cookbooks I would never cook from, but I keep them on hand for when I need to "dumb down" for a cooking class or a recipe that'll be posted online as part of an article. I spend too much time around proficient cooks, and often write for non-proficient cooks, so it's a useful exercise. 

 

Some of the cookbooks I enjoy most are what I think of as "contextual"...they provide a lot of historic or cultural context to go along with the actual recipes. Duguid & Alford, Anya von Bremzen, Claudia Roden, Paula Wolfert...I could go on, but each of you could come up with a similar list of names. Those are good reads in their own right, aside from the quality of the recipes, and I keep them on hand for their entertainment value. I know I could get them as ebooks, but those (to my mind) are singularly unsatisfying for this kind of book. 

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“What is called sound economics is very often what mirrors the needs of the respectably affluent.” - John Kenneth Galbraith

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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Thanks for your response, @TicTac.  

 

12 hours ago, TicTac said:

At age 7 I was being taught how to cook risotto, for me, cooking is in my blood

At age 7, I received my first cookbook and I still remember how excited I was to read through it and choose the recipes I wanted to try.   I guess cookbooks are in my blood - I still feel that excitement when I get a new cookbook and settle in for a good read!

 

12 hours ago, TicTac said:

Who needs cookbooks for inspiration when we have fantastic cooks among us who spur on creative food flowing ideas on a daily basis.

"Need" may not be the right word, but I welcome inspiration in all forms - shopping the farmers market, random CSA box contents, cookbooks, magazines, newspapers, on-line content (my fellow eGullet members do indeed provide daily inspiration), dining out, cooking with friends - I value them all as sources of creativity and nudges to get off my butt and do something different.  

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I'm a bit of a hoarder when it comes to books in general -- I have well over a thousand volumes scattered about, most of them history, but I do have a collection of 150 or so cookbooks. I'd estimate I've cooked from more than half of them, but there are only a handful I go back to over and over. 

 

I love to sit down and read a cookbook, like one would read a novel. The first one I did that with was Shirley Corriher's Cookwise, which I credit with changing the direction of my cooking from very basic efforts to put food on the table to the adventures of taking specific ingredients through specific techniques with an ultimate goal of trying to reach a specific target taste experience. 

 

But I also love using a recipe as a jumping off point into my own creation. Sometimes it's wonderful, sometimes it's not fit to eat, but it's always fun.

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Don't ask. Eat it.

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