Sibling Assignment #185: Reading the Cookbooks

Brother Bill gave the sibling assignment this week: "Write about what's been occupying your mind in the world of food preparation. Have you been trying anything new and different? Are there recipes or cook books that have excited your imagination? Utensils? Appliances? I think you get the point -- go about this assignment however you'd like -- but write about your life in the kitchen, going back as far as you'd like."

I have collected recipes since I was in college. I was always drawn to cookbook collections that members of an organization or church or community put together. The contributors chose their favorite recipes and there was always a favorite pot luck salad to try or a new dip which sounded perfect for a Super Bowl party. I have also cut recipes out of magazines, wrote them on note cards, and shared them with family and friends. I do find I don't use as many of these Velveeta Cheese, cream soup, shoestring potato recipes now.

Then there are favorite online recipe sites and Pinterest.  Why do I need anything else? Every recipe I would ever want to prepare could be found online. I am old school. I like the paper copy of most recipes. I print them. Mine are organized into notebooks. I scribble notes on them. I make changes in ingredients. I spill food on them.  Because I love food photography, I also love to visit a group of favorite food blogs. These sites are go- to places when looking for specific recipes or information on preparation. I learn from other cooks what worked, what they tweaked, what they would change next time. I also get to study the gorgeous food photos. 

Nearest and dearest to my heart are my cookbooks.  I have learned about food preparation and how to put a recipe together by reading and rereading my cookbooks. Sometimes when I am making a dish for a family dinner I find five or more different versions of the same recipe, then study what was added or combined to make each recipe unique. I have also gained knowledge with the tips and advice cookbook authors add.

What has been occupying my mind in the world of food preparation? Cookbooks. I have been reading each of them more like a memoir than a book of instructions. I have gained new and vital information about food by reading the authors' stories and studying how a recipe builds flavors and how the science of measuring ingredients is the secret to successful baking.

One of these cookbooks is My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl. When she learned the magazine Gourmet which she served as editor in chief was ending publication, she rediscovered cooking, the joy of textures,the pleasures of fresh food from the market, and quiet, simple meals at home. She also shared a delicious collection of recipes that were not daunting to prepare. They just embrace the goodness of food. I reach for this cookbook often these days. I want to try her "Gingered Applesauce Cake Glazed with Caramel" with apples that were just picked. Enjoy more with Ruth here

I have been following Deb Perelman's blog "The Smitten Kitchen" for awhile. I decided to get her cookbook recently by the same name. One reason is because she manages to do amazing things in a tiny kitchen. I had to read her tips since I have now acquired a tiny kitchen. Her stories are a family history, as she shares recipes relatives has passed on and new, exciting ones using fresh food and herbs. One of my favorite parts of her book is the section "Build Your Own Smitten Kitchen". She gives sound advice that helps cooks see what they really need in their kitchens to cook effectively. Her food photography is spectacular. You can find her blog here

Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite is the third cookbook I am loving. It is organized in chapters that make sense to me like "Things With Cheese" and "My Mother's Sandwich Theory of Life". Her recipes give a background story, things she has learned by making and remaking the recipe and variations. She presents so many  delicious things to do with chicken I haven't even began to try them all. Her book is user friendly and her stories draw you back again and again. You can find her "Recipe Box" from her food column here.

This may have to be another part 1 with more coming. I have only touched the surface of my cookbook reading.

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