I have a confession to make. If there was a self-help group for collectors of cookery books, I’d have to attend in an effort to curtail my habit. The cookery circle would likely meet in some drab church basement, we’d sit in a circle and I’d offer: “Hi my name is Mick and I am addicted to cookery books.”
I’d tell a tale of not being able to pass by a book store, gradually circling closer and closer to the “C” shelves, then browsing the books on food and recipes. And invariable I’d succumb to one book or another, or another and another …
It’s not quite that bad but there are certainly a good 50 or so in shelves or in boxes.
I have one on Sri Lankan cooking with lists of ingredients that are impossible to find in the stores of Britain, Ireland or Spain. There is no substitute for murunga or Maldive fish paste, so that book is hardly ever used. Ok, never used — who am I trying to kid?
I have another on Lebanese mountain cooking which also has ingredients that are difficult to substitute. Imagine walking into a shop in Ireland and the conversating would go something like: “Excuse me, but do you have any baharat?”
“Behar go somewhere else. No, we’ve none of that there butter at.”
That Lebanese mountain cookbook doesn’t get much use either.
I’ve two on cooking like a caveman with a fad called the Paleo diet. They cut out things like sugar and salt, dairy and things like potatoes. The trouble is those recipes are missing all of the good stuff that makes food interesting. So those books are not used much either.
I make a mean risotto — at least my friends tell me I do. Yep, the secret is my own stock from a chicken carcass and having all of the ingredients ready to hand. That’s called “mis en place” or “All in place” in French cooking. I learnt that from a cookbook. And from Larousse Gastronomique, which is considered to be the definitive encyclopaedia on cooking and was first published in France in 1938.
The Germans invaded the next year. That book doesn’t get used too much either as it’s a hard read with no pictures of what food should be like, and it’s not strictly a recipe book either. But I still have two copies of it.
My mother was a good cook and most of her recipes were in her head. I can’t ever recall her looking at a recipe or indeed having a single cookbook in her kitchen.
It’s a friend’s birthday soon and he likes to barbecue once in a while. I’ve just ordered him an excellent book on the techniques of grilling that has more than 500 recipes. And while I was online I purchased one on barbecue recipes from all around the world. It was two for one and I was cutting down on mailing costs too, having the two delivered at the same time.
I have one email I set up purely for my recipes. If I see something interesting, I email it there. There’s more than 2,000 in that gmail account, and it certainly gives a new dimension to my Spam — which is actually tinned cornbeef and not inappropriate for my food emails.
Those emails don’t get used much either, but I am going to try making potato and courgette rostis tonight — a new recipe — along with roast herbed lamb and a pan jus. I just have to remember what cookbook I read it in …