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The Theoretical Cook


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cookbook Inventory

Lately, my cookbooks have been giving me a headache. They're all over the place- some in my office, in the Faura shack, most of them in the madhouse hostel. They're all begging to be inventoried, centralized, and well, arranged according to genre. I also noticed that while I have some strange titles: The Early American Cookbook, Secrets of Salsa, The Food of Indonesia, and even - The Food of Indonesia, I still don't have the usual canons: Julia Child, Larousse Gastronomique, etc, etc.
On a graver note, I haven't even cooked from maybe 70% of these cookbooks. Hahaha. So why buy them? I actually enjoy reading them. The thing is, sometimes, I read a recipe, and I just know that I won't like the taste so I don't even really bother. The other day, I read a recipe on okra which required adding a half-and-half - the mere thought was so revolting, I had to close the book. Okra should be in laswa, pinakbet, etc - not in half-and-half! But reading them again and again has an effect of making them sound, well, normal? And after a getting used to the idea, you start toying with the possibility of cooking them. More so if you encounter these recipes in the flesh - in a restaurant, over catered lunch, in whatever venue.
Take spinach for example, or kulitis in the vernacular, my grandmother used to add this to her fish soups. I meticulously avoided her kulitis, because I felt it was weeds that I used for purposes of playing takyan (tie the bunch of with rubber band and use it as the object of takyan, superior bouncing quality). I mean, if you used something for play, you don't expect it to turn up floating in your lunch soup right? Anyway, I've read plenty of spinach recipes in my cookbooks - spinach & ricotta cheese, spinach souffle, spinach etc - and it never really crossed my mind to try cooking spinach. Until last last week when I ate spinach leaves with cream and chicken - oh, it was divine. Since then, I've been hunting for a similar recipe in my cookbooks.
With the internet and the many, many recipe sites - why buy cookbooks? Well, some cookbooks have this amazing character, and it's just wonderful reading them, looking at the illustrations, and the author's comments. I like the old Moosewood cookbooks by Molly Katzen, and the Silver Plate cookbooks with the intricate artwork, and all that. I revel a little in food porno - eg, contemporary cookbooks with high-resolution photographs of food - but there's something lovable about old cookbooks with their one-person-made-all-of-this quality. New cookbooks often feel like the author wrote them, gave the manuscript to a publishing company, and the company gave it to the graphics/design department, they shot photographs etc - and then the entire thing was published. And these days, your cookboook authors aren't matronly like Julia Child, or Josephine ___, but very good looking youngish women (Nigella, Rachel, Giada), of the Martha Stewart mold. These cookbooks have an unreal quality to them. Nevertheless, I still buy them when I can, because - because I'm addicted to buying them and reading them.
So, today, of all days, I'm finally trying to put order into the cookbooks by finally itemizing them and laying them out neatly in a bookshelf.


Blogger Therisa said...

I have an every expanding cookbook selection as well, they bring me hours of joy, reading a good cookbook is like spending the afternoon sharing secrets with an excellent cook.

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