April 19, 2011

Are You an Addict?

Everyone has one and they come in many forms. They can be small and scribbled and collected or purchased in carrying sizes. I believe everyone has s cookbook. Even the Honey has one, although I’m sure he forgot about it years ago.

In November, Anne Kingston wrote an article in Maclean’s titles ‘Breaking the Cookbook Addiction’. It caught my eye because I don’t just have a love of books, many of them happen to be cookbooks. I’m not allowed to buy anymore. As annoying as it was to be ‘told’ this, I had to agree. I have too many.

Kingston’s article is about Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus and the reasons behind it. Segnit herself had become addicted to cookbooks and she realized she lacked the confidence to create something herself. After three years of research the end result was a ‘flavour reference book ‘ that is an ‘inspirational springboard’. Segnit also gained new knowledge herself and the confidence to try something new and different combinations.

Like Segnit, I too love cookbooks. I love the variety and possibilities they have to offer. They are also a beneficial learning tool – from learning what to do with a sweet potato, to reading up on how to cook steak, to experimenting with gluten-free grains. When I get a new cookbook I usually sit down with it and go through cover to cover. It’s relaxing, yet mesmerizing, going through the pages, especially if you’re in a comfortable spot with a cup of tea or a glass of wine. You could spend hours sitting there imagining the finished product. I used to dog-ear the pages I wanted to try, but that got a little overwhelming. Taking a cue from a friend I put a post-it on the page and keep it limited to five. If I tag more than five recipes I’m back to where I started.

Another thing I love are the pictures and not every book includes them. Joy of Cooking and the Moosewood Restaurant series don’t include any – maybe a sketch or diagram, but nothing to get excited over. Mollie Katzen has beautiful drawings on her pages surrounding the recipes. For Christmas my younger sister gave me a copy of a dessert book from Serendipity knowing I was unable to go there on our trip to New York. It not only contained pretty pictures and their recipes, but also the history and cult-like following of the New York landmark. More recently I picked up cookbooks by The Barefoot Contessa, Laura Calder, and Christine Cushing – all with beautiful photographs throughout (I’m getting hungry thinking about them). Another thing all three have done is include a little blurb with each recipe telling us how it came about, where they encountered it, or why they love it. Right now they are in various places in my home –

Pure is on my bedside table

French Taste is on my living room side table

And Back to Basics is on the kitchen table waiting for the markets to open.

In the last year I have had control over my cookbook addiction. Even though I have purchased new ones, I have also put some in a donation box or given them away. I also realize that my addiction isn’t that bad as I have seen kitchen shelves much worse than mine. But still, every time I see a cookbook, especially on a discount table, I need to restrain myself.

 *As a post-script: Chef Michael Smith from Chef at Home (on the Food Network) was at Foreign Affairs doing a book signing back in March and I wasn’t able to restrain myself. Maybe my addiction isn’t as under control as I thought.


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