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How do you organize your cookbooks?


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When a question pops in your mind, and you want to find a cookbook, what do you think of first?

 

An author? the title of a cookbook? a general category? Something else? What is your most common venue for using cookbooks?

 

No cut-and-dried right answer, obviously. I suggest that you examine your own habits and go with a design that suits you. A library or bookstore style can offer possibilities, but they're organized to suit as many people as possible, not just you.

 

When I read your post, it sounds like you are naturally organizing your books by category. Curing, BBQ, and Butchering are all subtopics of meat cookery in general. You can have one section for Meat on your shelves, subcategories of Curing, BBQ, and Butchering, and within the subcategories, you can alphabetize by author. Joy of Cooking can go under a General/Reference category--again, depending on how you use this book. The categories themselves can be alphabetical, or you can organize them by Most Used to Least Used, the most used being placed in a convenient spot. Just one suggestion.

 

You can mix and match styles, depending on the kind of cookbook and how you use it. There are no rules here. For example, your most used cookbooks can be placed in categories and subcategories, then possibly alphabetically after that. Everything else can be organized alphabetically by author or title, or even shelved at random if they're not that important to you.

 

To suit myself, I organize my cookbooks (hundreds of them) mostly alphabetically by author, because that's how I remember and recognize my books. I make exceptions for some categories, like my wine books and literary food writing. My principal reference for meat cooking is James Peterson's book. I have a few other meat cookbooks shelved next to his, because I don't remember those authors otherwise. Same for a small Mediterranean cookbook whose author I don't remember--it's shelved with my Paula Wolfert cookbooks, which I use all the time for Mediterranean cooking. My Joy of Cooking is shelved under J, because I always think of the title of this book first, even though my system is basically alphabetical by author.

 

Sounds idiosyncratic, doesn't it? But I find everything easily because the system follows how I think about and use my books.

 

good luck, let us know how it goes.

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I also use Eat Your Books to search indexed cookbooks for recipes with ingredients that I have on hand or am considering.

 

Another plug for Eat Your Books! It's a great way to keep everything organized.

 

When a question pops in your mind, and you want to find a cookbook, what do you think of first?

 

An author? the title of a cookbook? a general category? Something else? What is your most common venue for using cookbooks?

Whenever I get a new cookbook, I'll find recipes that look interesting or I want to try and stick a post-it note with the name of the recipe on the page so it's sticking out the top. Whenever I'm in need for inspiration, I'll pick out 2 or 3 books at random and quickly riff through the post-it notes until I find a dish or two that look good and go out and buy the ingredients.

PS: I am a guy.

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I have pastry books in one bookcase, a shelf of general pastry books like the textbooks on a variety of topics, then on the other shelves they are grouped by topic: bread, ice cream, cake decorating, sugar showpieces, etc. The other three bookcases have some topical sections, like management/logistics, catering, food history, cheesy old cookbooks, celebrity chef authored, kids, modernist, vegetarian, cocktails/wine -and then the rest are by region or country. I have a shelf of general cookbooks as well: 3 editions of the Joy, a Fannie Farmer from 1906, Ranhofer with a deco binding, Amy Vanderbilt w/illus by Warhol, an 1837 pharmacy receipt book, a couple Escoffier versions, etc.

 

Cheesy old cookbooks.  My favorites.  I don't file them together, I file them with the subject.  Louis Degouy's Ice Cream book with David Lebovitz's.

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

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Cheesy old cookbooks.  My favorites.  I don't file them together, I file them with the subject.  Louis Degouy's Ice Cream book with David Lebovitz's.

 

Some of mine are too broad in nature, like 'Saucepans an the Single Girl,' 'Son of the Martini,' or the ever-popular 'Pyromaniacs Cookbook.' I guess I could put 'Scheherazade Cooks!' in my Middle East shelf, but it really captures a time in cookbook writing history for me, so, onto the cheesy shelf it goes, next to 'Fashions in Foods in Beverly Hills' (1931.)

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I currently organize alpha by author then order of initial publication. For multi-author works the author I judge to be most famous takes precedence. There are some idiosyncrasies like Christopher Kimball and America's Test Kitchen all filed under 'C' with my Cook's Illustrated books. I have a separate section for baking/pastry/dessert, for beverages and for food writing. The food writing stays mostly separate except for some of the James Beard (how the heck do you classify 'Beard on Food' or 'Delights and Prejudices'?). Baking books are sometimes mixed with the general books when the desire to keep a particular author's books together outweighs the desire to file the baking/pastry/desert books together.

I may do a re-org by how used my books are as I now have shelves in 4 places. The new kitchen shelves will get the most used volumes. The living room will get oversize and coffee-table books along with the beverage books. The dining room will still have the bulk of my collection. The spare bedroom/office gets the food writing, the extra copies, and the archival portion of my collection.

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Some of mine are too broad in nature, like 'Saucepans an the Single Girl,' 'Son of the Martini,' or the ever-popular 'Pyromaniacs Cookbook.' I guess I could put 'Scheherazade Cooks!' in my Middle East shelf, but it really captures a time in cookbook writing history for me, so, onto the cheesy shelf it goes, next to 'Fashions in Foods in Beverly Hills' (1931.)

 

OK, that's cheese from the can!

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

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Robert

 

Some great info above.  35 years a librarian here and I can tell you that Dewey is the least friendly cataloging system.  CIP (cataloging in publication) will give you both Dewey and Library of Congress cataloging usually.  Truly think about how you use your books.  Many times you use about 20% of your collection on a regular basis so you might want to create two collections:  those you tend to use most in the kitchen however you want, the rest as a reference collection by category.  Since being made redundant this July I have some time on my hands and am working more online these days so if you want to bounce any ideas off me please feel free to pm me.

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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"CIP (cataloging in publication) will give you both Dewey and Library of Congress cataloging usually.", suzilightning

OK, I had found this before and decided that Dewey must have, deep down in it, an individual value for each book.  But then I noticed that many CIPs only gave the 641 [?] and not what follows. If I had to open each book and find this, I'd spend the winter.

 

So is there an easy way to get this.  Could I take my Library Thing listing and download using the ISBN or LOC number. I had already pulled the LOC up to study after ChefPip's post.

 

I don't think the sections by type of cooking  would work for me well as most things do not lend themselves to my mind in that kind of order.  For instance, Ruhlman's Charcuterie would belong right along side Ziedrich's Joy of Pickling because they are both about preserving.

 

 

Having lousey organizational skills is a pain.

 

BTW, thanks to everyone for the help

 

Robert

Robert

Seattle

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Here is a link to the Library of Congress catalog:  http://catalog.loc.gov/

 

You might also check out the CIA library here:  http://library.culinary.edu/

 

or NYP: http://www.nypl.org/node/5629

 

hope they help

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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I spent much of Tuesday reading about the LOC stuff and had decided to use their LCC [Library (of) Congress Clasification] system.  Then I called my books up in Library Thing. There I looked at the sorting and was I suprised.

 

LCC use letters to tell what the book does. The letters for cookbooks are TX followed by numbers. The T is for technology, the X for home economics. So the first book in my list sorted by LCC is Rosso's The Silver Palete Cookbook, LCC is BD431.L42.

 

BD is defined in the LoC as the subject "Speculative Philosophy". Now I hadn't opened that book for a while so I did so; I have difficulty with calling "Winter Pork And Fruit Ragout" speculitive actually I thought it good eats when I made it acording to my note in the book.

 

So it gets worse a book of ingredents for Chinese cooking is BS is books about the Bible.... I scrapped that idea.

 

I have decided that my answer is in your posts above.  I shall put the 10 or so I actually use in the kitchen shelves and every thing else will be alphabetical by Author following CSTEFAN's method above.

 

I think that will work and I want to thank all for their help in leading me.

Edited by RobertCollins (log)

Robert

Seattle

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  • 1 year later...

This subject has been on my mind all day as I rearrange my office to purge a ton of books from grad school that I no longer need... which left me with a ton of shelf space near my desk. So I reconsidered my prior arrangement (where my "professional" cookbooks lived on a shelf across from my desk and everything else was in another room). I decided that proximity to the computer should be decided by how often I needed it when posting at eGullet :) .

 

This led to a situation where all of my Modernist books are clustered directly behind where I sit, with charcuterie books right above them. My "professional" cookbooks are just a bit to the left of the Modernist, along with confection books. Baking books and books and "specific" books are on the shelf above. All of my region-specific books are on their own shelf across the room.

 

DSC_1888.jpg.445ca0b7f8332aaf2056ce397d6

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Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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How do I organize them? Not well. The ones I use most eventually graviate to the bookcase closest to the kitchen, one that's accessible by just leaning over the doggy gate, vs. opening it and walking through to the other one.

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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I've had to cut my collection by half.  It was a very interesting exercise; now I have just the best.

 

The general cooking, spice, vegetable and fruit books are on a shelf in the kitchen.  I have a lot of vegetable books.

 

The reference (Time Life Good Cook and Foods of the World), world (heavily Italian), baking, preserving, and books about food occupy one bookcase in addition to the main shelf.

 

I am a baker, and I cut myself down to one shelf, mostly Maida Heatter and pie tomes.  

 

It makes me really happy just to look at them.

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

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