The League is up and running again, blogging for your delight and edification five days a week (and posting interviews at weekends!)
And I’m back too.
I was thinking earlier about cookbooks and such, and cooking in general. I love cookbooks. I read them like literature, and they’re the only books whose pages I dog-ear (so if I’m looking for something to cook one night I don’t have to page through recipes that don’t interest me.)
But I tend to dislike modern cookbooks (with one exception, which I’ll get to later.) Most modern cookbooks are for hobbyists; people who have money to spend on exotic ingredients and cook once a week, or do a special brunch sometimes, or whatever. All attractive and often looks great, but not very practical for someone who has to get dinner on the table at least six nights a week (assuming the hubs takes pity and we go to McD’s or something once.)
(Actually, “takes pity” sounds bad, because I genuinely enjoy cooking. I just don’t always want to do it by the end of the week.)
I simply don’t have the time or the inclination to faff about the kitchen for hours julienning vegetables or infusing things (unless it’s a special occasion, in which case I am happy to faff), and we certainly can’t afford to buy a whole shelf full of exotic foods.
That’s why I like old cookbooks.
In Ft. Lauderdale there was a used bookshop that had a whole section of old cookbooks, mostly from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and I used to clean that place out when I went. They usually only cost a couple of dollars each at the most, and are great. Fun to read (I have recipes for sweetebreads and whole roast suckling pig, y’all, right at my fingertips). They have a lot of basic information that’s useful–a lot of these books assume you’re a SAHM looking to branch out or looking for new ideas, so it’s all non-fussy and with detailed instructions. Lots of casseroles. Lots of stuff you can freeze (I hardly ever do, but you get the point). I have a pasta cookbook from the mid-70s that is one of my favorites of all time, though it’s missing two pages which irks me. Best of all for someone with a sensitive stomach like mine, there is very little emphasis placed on “International” (which usually means spicy) cuisine.
I have an “Antoinette Pope School” cookbook that uses MSG in almost every recipe (I omit it) and explains how to can foods and make jelly (I have never tried it, nor will I. Are you kidding? Me, with my pathological fear of food-borne bacteria?) I have an entire cookbook of fish recipes–good ones, with fish you can get at any supermarket instead of exotic ones you have to find a fishmonger for. I believe I literally have recipes for just about anything. Steak tartare? Got it. Tripe? Got it. Brains? Head cheese? Oh, yeah.
I also adore those cheap pamphlet-y cookbooks you can buy at the checkout lane in grocery stores. “Cooking With Beer” is my favorite (like I wouldn’t buy a cookbook titled that) but I have some fun Halloween ones and local cuisine-type ones too.
I use those all the time. My modern books? Not so much. Except Nigella Lawson’s “How to Eat”, although I usually have to adapt her recipes because she’s overly fond of peppers (to which I am violently allergic) and spices like cumin which I just plain don’t like.
I actually started writing a cookbook once. It’s got about thirty recipes in it but I never finished–I keep telling myself I need to keep going, so I can offer it as a free download or something. That’s one of the reasons I post recipes at the Overflow blog, too, just in case someone cares. Nobody seems to, but that doesn’t stop me! Oh no!
What do you cook from, if you cook? Do you like to cook? Got any recipes to share? How do you feel about modern cookbooks? Have any cooking tips? Bring ’em on!