CHUSday: What Do Your Cookbooks Say About You?

We’re having company to dinner.  Four friends we traveled with to Guatemala several years ago are coming to eat my homemade tortillas with all the (vegetarian) fixings.  Along with this I’ve made Cuban black beans and brown rice.  You can’t serve this meal to just anyone, but these friends?  You bet.  In exchange, they’re bringing photos of a recent trip they took to Africa. 

A good evening ahead, particularly since Michael’s just made our daughter-in-law’s Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie Gelato to top off the meal.

To ready the house, Michael and I continued our “we-will-be-moving-why-do-we-have-all-this-junk” rampage.  Somehow I got suckered into going through my cookbooks.  We will live in two places once we move, so some are to go north and some are to go south.  Choosing which was the easy part.  Then came the inevitable “these-cookbooks-shouldn’t-go-anywhere” moment.  And there were many that fit that description.

Wouldn’t you expect that part to be tough?  After all, if the cookbooks had taken up valuable room on my kitchen shelves all these years, of course they were worthwhile.  And hadn’t I hosted CHUsday here, nudging all of us to make recipes from cookbooks we hadn’t used in, say, forever? 

So what a surprise to discover that I owned not just wonderful, “I-will-use-you-someday-I-promise” cookbooks, I still had far too many “I-would-not-cook-anything-in-this-cookbook-ever-again” cookbooks.  Lots of them.  An entire box, in fact.

Even more surprising was the way the cookbooks mirrored my personal and culinary history.  How about the one with stories about a young woman’s adventure exploring 1960s communes and getting recipes from each?  Couldn’t toss.  I did, after all, spend two years in Berkeley, California in the early 1970s, so I also kept Moosewood and it’s Tassajara buddies, too.  Ah, the memories.  Then there was a set of Better Homes and Gardens basic cookbooks, none of which had been opened in years.  Browsing through them, I understood why.  Out they went.  We think differently about food now.  These were relics.

How many crockpot cookbooks does one family need?  Particularly a family that doesn’t often eat meat?  And three bread machine cookbooks.  Really?  I haven’t owned a bread machine since I started baking bread the old-fashioned way several years ago.  Muffins?  Waffles?  French county cooking?  And all those collections from charities or causes I can’t even remember.  Some stayed, some left.   One of my favorites, from the New Orleans Junior League, will forever be enshrined in my personal cookbook hall of fame.  Michael, be warned, don’t touch this one.

These days we cook with fresh ingredients, little if any meat, lots of whole grains, plenty of herbs and spices, and olive oil.  Shortening?  What’s that?  Butter, just a dot, not a stick.   I was surprised and pleased at how many cookbooks and food habits I’ve left behind, and how many great recipes I still have to try.

So, if you’re ready for a quick personal growth inventory, you might look through your cookbooks, as well.  The memories are great, but the recipes may not be.  I bet, like me, you’ll find that you and your tastes have changed.  Let us know how.


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