September 14, 2008, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Life | Tags: ,

It’s been a long time since I bought a new cookbook.  When I first started cooking about 3 years ago, the first book I bought was Everyday Italian. You can probably tell from my menu lists that this and its companion, Giada’s Family Dinners, is what I cook from the most.  Yeah I know, Food Network pimps her cleavage and she has a funny bobblehead but I like her food. These were the few cookbooks that I looked at and thought, huh, I could eat these foods every day. They’re very easy and quick to make, light, and many of the recipes are not meat-centric.

I try to choose cookbooks the way I choose my knitting books: only ones that I’m sure I’ll need/use and that aren’t too trendy or gimmicky. So far, each of my books has its purpose and I like it that way.

Last week, I had a $15 Border’s gift card to burn. Inspired by the previews of the gorgeous new Alinea & El Bulli books coming out, and the adventures of French Laundry @ Home, I felt it was time for me to get a new cookbook. Oh no, I did not buy any of those masterpieces, I went a little bit more practical. Baby steps.  I  settled on the Les Halles cookbook, because of my new interest in French bistro and because it seemed challenging yet manageable. However, the book was $37 so I walked out of the store empty handed. Being the bargain shopper that I am, I went home and checked Borders’ website where the book was listed at 20% off. The book was a cheaper to start with, they accepted the gift card, I got free shipping, and I saved on sales tax. All in all, the book is now in my hands for $10 less than what it would have cost me at the store.

pretty embossed cover of Les Halles

pretty embossed cover of Les Halles cookbook

I’m starting to have second thoughts about tackling these recipes. First apprehension is that I have to find the time. Not just to cook, but to make the accompanying stock, aioli, compound butter, and those other random sauces that you pour into a squeeze bottle and squiggle around the plate. Second, what if I can’t make most of the stuff because I can’t find the ingredients? I have to look in the phonebook for a butcher and fish monger! Pheasant, monkfish, skate? They sound so foreign to me! Ok, I admit this fear is silly. The ingredients aren’t foreign at all and I should be able to find them in a city like PVD or Boston. Third, I’m afraid of having to actually cook this stuff. I am really bad at cooking meat because I haven’t had much practice. What if I spend all of that time and money tackling ingredients and I screw it all up? Look for my screw-ups in the future.

Two other cookbooks I considered buying were Food 2.0 and The Flexitarian Table. Both had titles that made me roll my eyes, but something made me look beyond the covers and discover that they were pretty serious. Both of the books appeal to the way I want to eat every day: mostly vegetables, little meat, and light food; and both books appeal to my growing curiousity of being healthy and doing the whole “farmer’s market” life of using local, seasonal, quality ingredients. Those books are on my to-buy list in the future. The previews for the Alinea book are so beautiful I could cry. That one might be on my to-buy list too; not to actually cook from, but just to have as food pr0n.

Other cookbooks in my library:

I’m Just Here for the Food / I’m Just Here for More Food – I’ve only tried a few recipes from these books, but they’ve been really handy references, especially when it comes to cooking meat which I still need practice with.

Betty Crocker’s Slow Cooker Cookbook – I think my aunt also gave me this when she gave me her 80’s fabulous, tiny crockpot which I still use. The crockpot is probably older than I am.

Betty Crocker Cookbook – It was a gift from my aunt when I first moved out of the house. I guess it’s a good beginner reference, but as a beginner, I don’t know how to adjust the recipes so that they actually taste good. I tried the recipes but it’s just not my style of eating. It’s in my “to give away or sell” pile. Check out my review 6 months after I got it.

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World – My most recent purchase until now. Love it!

The Classic Cuisine of Vietnam – Published in 1979 and now out of print. Although I’ve never made anything from it, it belonged to my grandpa and I cherish it. What happens is I leaf through the book and get hungry for Vietnamese food & memories, realize I don’t have any of those ingredients, then give up and go out for pho.

Thai Cuisine – It’s published by a company that distributes jasmine rice, and only costs $3 from the Asian market. It’s short, but all of the recipes are home cooking type stuff I grew up on, so I had to have it.

The Food and Cooking of Thailand – Plucked from the clearance shelves of Barnes & Noble. Not exactly the food of my childhood but still yummy.. I don’t use it very much because 1) the book is oversized and it’s hard to put on the counter, and 2) every recipe has soooo many ingredients.

And that’s it. That makes up the majority of stuff in my regular cooking rotation, and I also use a lot of online recipes, like if I see something on TV or on a blog that sounds good or if I don’t know what to do with a certain ingredient. With so many online recipe sources, one doesn’t really need a lot of cookbooks unless it’s really spectacular, no?


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