I am confident that anyone who has a book collection will have at least one cookery book in it!
I could say how magnificent all mine are and how I use them continually. And how I love spending a day reading, buying, prepping and cooking (I have done that in the past). But I should be honest. I make some sweeping statements in this blog and if I am incorrect, I apologise in advance.
My cookery books
My cookery books range from Escoffier, Bocuse and Marco Pierre White to the ‘The Dairy Book of Home Cookery’ (new addition for the 90’s, no less). And the legendary ‘Practical Cookery’ that all caterers used in catering college ( mine is the fifth edition from 1981).
Setting the record straight
The Practical Cookery book is legendary and my personal favourite. The recipes and methods are concise and easy to follow. Some will say it’s old fashioned and not suited to modern day tastes and presentation. But it wasn’t just a cookery book. It was a point of reference, a French to English dictionary, a temperature, weights and measure converter and so much more. I still know the difference between ‘Macedoine’ and ‘Brunoise’, ‘Duchess’ and ‘Marquise’ and the traditional vegetable or fruit used in anything ‘Florentine’ or ‘Veronique’. Adam Byatt cooks a Quail Veronique dish, so it’s not that dated! I know what to add to a ‘Hollandaise’ sauce to turn it in to a ‘Charon’ sauce. And there are diagrams of different animals telling you where each cut of meat comes from and the best way to cook them.
I have countless other cookery books by legendary older and late chefs like the Roux brothers and Rhodes. And more household names like Delia, Mary B, Jamie, Nigella, Lorraine Pascal, the Hairy Bikers and James “I love butter and cream” Martin. The list goes on. Don’t get me started on regional or specific cookery books like ‘The Feast From The Middle East’ or ‘Webbers BBQ and Smoking Bible’ or ‘The Hairy Bikers book of Perfect Pies’. And the seasonal books for Christmas and summer outdoor eating. I have books on soups and salad dressings and hundreds of pieces of paper torn from magazines, folded and put inside a book for later consumption (so to speak). Go on admit it, you’ve done that as well!
The excitement of a new cookery book
Who didn’t love the excitement of getting home with a new cookery book? You sit down with a cup of tea (or a glass of wine) turn every page with anticipation, read ingredient lists and methods and say, “ Ooh, that looks good,” or “Wow, look at that!”. “We have to try that sometime” or even sometimes, “I don’t really fancy that.” And it could be because there is one ingredient in the recipe you don’t like. That could be anything containing coriander, beetroot or goats’ cheese for me!
You then diligently mark every page with Post-Its. And then what happens in my house? The book is closed with all those stickers sticking out like little coloured flags. I put it on the bookshelf or side board and we all eagerly await the next time we have that conversation. It happens all over the country and far beyond. “What shall we have for dinner this week?”. Well the answer should be “Let’s have a look in one of our books and see what takes our fancy!” But with modern day life time pressures of work and families, how often does that happen?
But when we do of course, we all have our favourites and go-tos, mine are still Practical Cookery, basic, dated and cherished. And the well-used The Dairy Book of Home Cookery. Which I would describe exactly the same way as my other favourite. Why? Because for those of us who aren’t chefs, these books allow us to cook food that is easy to prepare and keeps us in our comfort zone. Which is where I like to be in the kitchen. Of course, I have been more adventurous over the years. But there is a limit to my skill and ambitions and the amount of failures I can explain away to my wife! It can be a little soul destroying after you have spent so long time trying, only for it not to taste or look like it did in ‘The cook book’.
Test, trial and error
We have all found favourite recipes that we love and that we may have even tweaked a little. But how many times over the years have I sat down and tried to make a dish from one of these books and it has turned out like the mouth-watering pictures? 15, 20, 25? Let’s face it, very few of us are top chefs, even if we think we are. Some are difficult and need more skills than I possess. But it was usually fun trying and at times, a little frustrating. Take today as an example, and this is the truth, I was reading a recipe that asked for 1/8 of a teaspoon of an ingredient. A what? 1/8 of a teaspoon, yeah right.
Analogue v digital
Earlier I used the phrase “who didn’t love the excitement…?” . Well that’s because now-a-days where is the first place you look for a recipe? Yep, the internet. And surely, eventually, unless handed down, my kid’s generation won’t buy or own many cook books at all. They will read from their phones or tablets. They won’t know what they are missing!
So what do we do with all these books that we bought with great gusto, excitement and intentions? Well in my house they sit on shelves or in cupboards never really seeing the light of day.
When tidying up and decluttering am I ever going to throw them out?
They’re my cherished cookery books!!!