Sunday, October 16, 2011
*I was going to call this post 'My Inability to Walk Past Clearance Cookbooks,' but then I thought you might prefer something more useful.
What is it about a cookbook that makes me covet it? Fixate on it? Feel incomplete without it? If there are two cookbooks on the clearance table - both marked down to $3.99 - why do I buy one and not the other? What on earth would compel me to buy a cookbook at full price?
1. It's full of recipes I know I don't have already.
I have dozens of cookbooks lining my shelves, and yes, I do pull them down and flip through them pretty regularly for ideas. But unlike organic chemistry I have an inordinate ability to remember where recipes for this or that reside. And I know when I've seen a recipe or not.
So if I pick up a cookbook at the bookstore, and it gives me ratatouille, spinach and feta pastry, and pumpkin risotto ... I'm likely to put it straight back down. If it gives me smoky ratatouille with spoonbread, or spinach and feta in a cashew-pastry, or roasted pumpkin risotto with balsamic onions ... it has a much better chance of coming home with me. And I mean that strictly in reference to cookbooks, of course.
2. It promises to make my life easier and/or healthier.
I like cookbooks based around simple recipes, using ingredients I'm likely to have at home. Or ones I can get at the natural foods store. Cookbooks that are realistic about the time you have to cook, or that explore new and interesting ways to incorporate whole grains or veggies into everyday meals.
3. It reminds me of a place I visited, or would like to visit.
A book of Greek food just recently fell into my shopping basket ... because, well, I like dreaming about wandering the white sands of Greece. And what tells you more about a place than its food? This is the reason I now have a burgeoning collection of French cookbooks, even though they're largely meat-based and I'm a vegetarian.
4. It's so beautiful I want to eat it. Preferably now.
I'm a sucker for great photographs, and those that tell a story. Particularly those that remind me of my dreamy alter-existence in a farmhouse in a European village (or the Blue Mountains, or the Daintree ... I'm not picky). Most of the food blogs I follow are those that take fabulous photos - and I like that in my cookbooks as well. I do have quite a few cookbooks without photos, but if you want to catch my eye and my dollars you're more likely to do so with some pretty pictures.
5. It's useful.
This seems intuitive, right ... but there are lots of coffeetable cookbooks out there. A fun read, maybe, but never destined to be splattered with pancake batter or smeared with melted butter. Sigh. And, to be truly useful it must be adequately and completely indexed by ingredients, not just recipe names. Don't get me started on that.
So there we go. What are some of your favourite cookbooks?