I was recently at a potluck dinner with friends where the host served an amazing lasagna. I had to know where this recipe came from- he then told us to guess- and we all guessed Giada. It wasn't Giada, but another culinary giant- Ina Garten (who I love). So naturally I asked what his favorite cookbook was, and his response was, 'I don't really cook from cookbooks'. That was also what everyone else said... they don't really cook from cook books. I was shocked. Really, no favorite cookbooks? How is that possible? When I asked why, the response didn't totally surprise me - 'Why would I when there's the internet?' and 'they're too complicated'
He was right, why would anyone cook from cookbooks when theres the internet, Pinterest, and like a million food blogs. Well, heres why-
Cookbooks tell a story- Just like a novel, a good cookbook has a sense of time and place. There are characters you grow to love as you read through the book and the recipes. The recipes are the tangible objects left over from experiences in the kitchen and in life. The stories of how they came to life make them what they are. If you hold some curiosity about the life of the recipe you can learn a lot about the author and the food it's self.
Cookbooks are a portal into another world- Cookbooks can give you a look into someone else's life. They can transport you to places you've always wanted to travel to or have deep love and nostalgia for. Cookbooks are about so much more than the food. Ever read anything by Ottolenghi? Grab one of his books and you will instantly know what I mean.
Cookbooks become a piece of your history- Cookbooks become an artifact from your life, much like a journal or a photo album. By the time I am finished with a cookbook it is covered in sticky notes, stains and hand written substitutions and info for me to remember for next time. Treat your cookbooks like journals, something actually useful to you and see what happens. Next time you go back to that recipe that had way too much salt or took way to long to cook, you will know that this one might be best reserved for a weekend or might need to be modified to fit your life. Cookbooks are the guide, the starting point, the diving board- cook and make changes to make them your own.
Cookbooks are curated- Ever find yourself looking for something on Pinterest, and then forty-five minutes later you're still scrolling and reading the endless loop of information/ down a crazy internet rabbit hole about how tortillas are made when you were just going to pop on there for five minutes to find a chicken fajita recipe... yeah, me too. This is why I love cookbooks. They are finite. They have a beginning and an end. They have five chicken recipes, not five hundred thousand. And when you really cook from a book and get to know it, you know the recipes you can count on from that author or book. I know exactly what to expect when I cook from Julia Turshen, or Rick Bayless, I know what I'm getting each and every time.
Cookbooks can change your life- Yes, I am aware this is a large statement, but they HAVE changed my life. Cooking from them has opened a window for me to other cultures and experiences I might not have had otherwise. While I live in Chicago and have been lucky enough to experience food from many cultures in this city, cookbooks have really challenged me to get outside my comfort zone and try something new in my own kitchen. Cookbooks have helped me learn how to prepare traditional foods for celebrating a new faith tradition I'm marrying into - helloooo brisket! Cookbooks have totally changed how I eat and think about food (thanks Dianne Sanfilippo)!
Anyway, I hope you join me on my culinary adventures and find my recommendations useful or helpful in some way. I'm always looking for new reads and eats so please jump in and let me know what you are reading right now or if I can help you find the right cookbook for your lifestyle!