Unconsciously, I collect cookbooks.
I have a cookbook library of 73 cookbooks. My obsession makes me laugh. I say it is my unconscious collection because I don’t consciously think to add new cookbooks. I am drawn to them, inspired by the promise of their creations.
Seventeen of these cookbooks are vegetarian. Twenty-two are dessert related. Near equally, I am healthy and a junkie with a sweet tooth. Let’s call it balance.
With our recent move, I purged 16 or 17 cookbooks that weren’t worth moving. I can’t even remember what was left behind. To my joy, the prior owner left a stash of 12 cookbooks that includes a 1951 copy of Favorite Torte and Cake Recipes that I look forward to testing in the near future.
Many of the cookbooks in my collection I receive as gifts, pilfered from my mother’s stash, inherited from my Grandmother or just picked up along the way. No matter the source, I use all of my cookbooks. I read them, cover to cover, sample recipes as time passes, and make notes in the margins – dated, in ink, with my comments and family reaction.
There are six cookbooks, set aside from the rest, that are my go-to favorites.
- The Martha Stewart Cookbook is by far my most loved. Her recipes are labor intensive but worth the effort as every recipe attempted is fantastic.
- Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Barefoot Contessa Family Style recipes are loved by my family.
- Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything is a fast reference for instant success.
- Better Homes & Gardens New CookBook (the one with the red plaid cover) is filled with classic recipes you can’t live without.
- Biba’s Italy by Biba Caggiano was a gift from my mother-in-law and has provided so many incredible meals and desserts. My boys request these recipes which speaks to their advanced palettes and appreciation for great food.
Growing up, a few weeks every summer on my grandparents eighty acres in the middle of the Muskegon National Forest in Michigan, I spent nights playing cards (Screw Your Neighbor – it was the 70’s – this game is very much like Uno today) with my older sister and grandparents, and reading my Grandma’s recipe booklets that she hoarded upstairs next to our bed. This was my first introduction to written recipes. My Grandma made her own pasta noodles to serve with venison and noodles. She made paraffin topped jam from anything she could cook down. She shopped at farmer’s markets, my Grandpa hunted, and what she didn’t can, she froze. She was adventurous to cook turtle soup from a snapping turtle my grandfather caught earlier that day and she used to fry french fries in raccoon fat. Sound gnarly for you city folk? When you’re young and hungry you didn’t think about it, you just ate it. Fries in coon fat is delicious and we always begged for more. We spent these summers foraging for mushrooms, wild blueberries and sassafras roots or fishing in the lakes for bass and blue gill then having a big fish fry complete with hush puppies. We baked bread, made pies and, one time, made so much caramel corn that I gorged myself sick. Good times, great memories. It was from these summers that I fell in love with reading recipes. Granted, my choices were Harlequin romance novels or recipe booklets, which at age 8 or 9, was an easy choice I’m thankful I made today.
The cookbooks and recipes inspire and my family gives me purpose to create delicious food.
Nostalgia waves through me as I canned seven quarts and sixteen pints of peaches and one pint, seven half pints and two quarter pints of peach butter and put a gallon of blueberries and thirteen pounds of blackberries in the freezer from our first Spokane summer.