Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cookbooks are Like Shoes

Cookbooks are like shoes. Last week I broke one of my rules (One of these days I’ll have to put together a list of my rules); I bought a pair of shoes without first clearing out a sorely neglected pair. Think of my joy when I went to my granddaughter’s Zumba (or whatever it is—looked like calisthenics set to music) recital and, as the price of admission, I got to donate old shoes. My bag overflowed and the labels on the soles of most of the shoes were still intact. Empty slots….I’d better go shopping.
Cookbooks are another story. My collection, over 200 last time I counted, has moved with me from a little house to a big house to a big condo to a little house to another condo to another house. I may never use some of them, but I really do know what lies between the covers.  My recent trip to the Miami Book Fair yielded about 20 pounds of cookbooks. No, I don’t have room for them, so they are piled up on a table in front of the TV. They are waiting for me so when I take a break to watch a recording of Glee or The Big Bang Theory, I’ll have something to do. Reading cookbooks has always been one of my favorite diversions.
People Food for Pets, or whatever it ends up being called, will be my first venture into actually writing my own cookbook, although the book of recipes I taught from while I ran my cooking school is, I’ve been told by many of my former students, their go to cookbook. Someone contacted me on Facebook and asked for a recipe for ruggelach that I had demonstrated so many years ago. No way did I recognize the person, but the ruggelach, I can still taste them.
I’ve been reading Dianne Jacobs’ Will Write for Food in which she mentions one of my often used recipes from long ago, Marcella Hazan’s pork cooked in milk. Marcella Hazan’s two classic Italian cookbooks have always been on my list of favorites. Paula Wolfert’s Couscous and other Good Foods from Morocco is another. Believe it or not, I was once crazy enough to make couscous from semolina flour. It was OK, but what a waste of time. This year she wrote a follow up that has been favorably reviewed, but I haven’t seen yet.
Cookbooks are fun to read and the pictures are really enticing, but, of all my 200, I actually use only a few recipes from only a few. The New Yorker in me and the fresh paper at my door every day led me to collect the New York Times cookbooks, and I still use them. Craig Claiborne’s International Cookbook has always been my first source for foreign cuisines. His recipe for Peking Duck brings back so many memories. Hanging the ducks to dry in my kitchen really fooled my Dobermans; I didn’t think they were dumb until they barked like crazy at the swinging ducks. 
Then there was the night when a friend called me in a panic to ask about sewing up the holes left after the wings were removed. Her problem was that her husband, a surgeon, insisted in using his best medical technique to sew up the ducks and she really was getting impatient. 
I could go on and on about the virtues of Craig Claiborne’s International Cookbook, but there are more New York Times cookbooks: Heritage, Original, Chinese, and another that Craig Claiborne wrote with Pierre Franey. How I miss those little 2 or 3 inch daily columns in the Times, so many of which are stuck between the pages; one of these days, I’ll shake out all the books and assemble them.
I have some more favorites: Beard on Bread, The Joy of Cooking, everything by Julia Childs, Diana Kennedy’s Mexican books, I know there are others…….which cookbooks are your favorites?

No comments:

Post a Comment