Do you like cookbooks? I do. I love them big, shiny and filled with pictures. I love the feeling of flipping through the pages, inhaling the inky scent which is unique to books, all the while imagining how divine all those glorious meals and treats must taste. Cookbooks take up a full two shelves of my five tier bookcase. Now that’s been established, I have to share a rather embarrassing revelation: I don’t use them.
Not even one.
Oh, I read them. I stare at the pictures and I read the ingredients and go, ‘oh yes I could make that,’ or ‘haha you’ve got to be joking,’ and sometimes something in between. But once I’m done looking and imagining, I carefully close the cover, put the book back in the shelf and walk away. Most nights when I cook, I make meals I know off by heart. When I bake, I make the same chocolate cake I’ve made all my life, because it is familiar and I know that it will always be delicious.
Piper has taken to crawling up to my bookshelf and pulling out all the books she can reach, purely so that she can throw them on the floor and laugh. The books within her reach? Yeah, my cookbooks. Just the other day, as I bent to pick them up again, straightening bent pages and smoothing things back into place just so, there are several books I don’t even recognise. How is it possible that I have books on my shelf that I don’t even know about? How long have they been there? Did I receive them as gifts or did I buy them?
So instead of putting the last book back in the shelf, I tucked it under my arm and took it over to the couch. I sat. I read. Oh, the wonders of those pages. It might sound odd, but I will never forget those moments of discovery as I carefully inspected each and every recipe, looking at it anew and this time, with purpose. Curled up on that couch, I made a decision. It was time to eat my way through the recipes in my many cookbooks. Time to give them an opportnity to become part of my life, instead of collecting dust on my shelves. I set myself a challenge to cook one new recipe out of my cookbooks every week. If the meals are not to the family’s liking or the book has nothing appealing in it, then I will give it away to either friends or the local opportunity store. This way, I can allow myself to buy new cookbooks – as long as I use them.
And we will eat our way through the cookbooks. It’s now been six weeks since I made the decision, and in that time I’ve discovered six new and healthy recipes to share with the family. Four of them we’ll eat again, two we won’t – I think that’s a pretty good score so far. Some of the meals become experiments, which has been fun. For example: a recipe for roasted quail with fig and quince became, subject to my budget and ingredient availability, roasted chicken with apple, sultanas and dried cranberries. And it was amazing. Chicken is a really good value family meal for us so I am always looking for good chicken recipes.
How about you? Do you use your cookbooks or do you create meals that you’re familiar with? Or do you hate the cooking and get someone else to do it, whilst secretly salivating over those glossy, gorgeous pages?