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Me and my cookbook addiction

I'm trying to clean up, I really am. I've used up all the kitchen book shelves, the extra shelves in the den and am resorting to stacks on chairs.

Help an addict, please.

If I post the list of books I've got, will anyone be willing to argue with me about which ones I just need to go ahead and get rid of?

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  1. I may as well come clean; I've got a new list of cookbooks I want to get.
    Please talk me in or out of these:

    Zuni Cafe
    Culinary Artistry
    Elements of Taste
    Cradle of Flavor
    Mangoes & Curry Leaves
    Roast chicken and other stories
    James Peterson, Soups / Sauces

    7 Replies
    1. re: tbilisi

      I have "Cradle of Flavor." It's a very good book dealing with cuisines that don't get a lot of cookbook coverage. Explanations are extremely detailed, maybe too much so for people who have experience with the methods of cooking and the ingredients. I'd say it's a superb cookbook for someone who is clueless about Indonesian, Malaysian, and Singaporean cuisines but wants to dive in. Lots of cultural/travelogue type info. What little I've cooked from it so far has turned out well, so I'm assuming the recipes are reliably tested at this point. I think it would be a great cookbook for that Cookbook of the Month thing that some of the chowhounders are doing if not for the fact that some of the ingredients may be difficult to find(although the author does offer suggestions for substitutions--ground macadamia nuts instead of ground candlenuts, for example.)

      1. re: Chimayo Joe

        Fortunately I'm in the Seattle area, so we have full variety of Asian ingredients. What's the Cookbook of the Month thing?

        Thanks for your notes on "Cradle of Flavor"

        1. re: tbilisi

          Several people on the Home Cooking board are picking a cookbook in common that they'll cook from for a month then tell of their results. Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" was the book for September. Looks like the book for October hasn't been decided yet.


      2. re: tbilisi

        I'm not familiar with Roast chicken and other stories, but I figure if you know how to roast a chicken, you know how to roast a chicken, you know? So why buy this book? You know?

        1. re: yayadave

          Ooh but it's a really good book! Sorry. I'm not helping.

          1. re: Kagey

            I wouldn't part with 'roast chicken' or the follow up 'more helpings of roast chicken' (?). But then I've followed Simon Hopkinson since he used to write in the paper that I read. (It's now Mark Hix and I can recommend 'Fish etc'? by him too!) Not helpful I know, move to a bigger house - install a better kitchen, buy a bigger freezer. I've run out of alternatives, it's ridiculous I know. I have cookery books that I only use for the pictures I've modified the recipe so much - not that I'd ever get rid of the book you understand!

            1. re: Kagey

              Oh! Well, if it's a really good book, then OP should get it. What's the difference between "too many cookbooks" and too many cookbooks plus one? Really. I think we're helping a lot.

        2. Well how many do you have? Which books have you not opened in two years and in which books can you not remember the contents? I did a purge a couple of years ago and donated a bunch to the Red Cross Book drive/sale. I got a tax credit and was able to free up space for more new books that I use. I still come in at 350-400 but I know what is in most of those books if I am looking for a particular recipe. Sometimes you have to get tough and honest with yourself and say am I really going to open this book again? Is there really any interest?

          1. I'm going to say 200+ I've opened them all in past two years, that's part of the problem. I find maybe one or two recipes and they go back on the shelf.

            How do you keep track of particular recipes in so many books?

            I've wondered why there isn't an index software program that lets me compile all the indexes from all my cookbooks. I don't know how many times I've gone searching for *that* chicken recipe I know I saw somewhere.

            Though, half the fun is thumbing through them, I admit.

            1. I would definitely keep Bouchon and Zuni: These are great "reading-in-bed" cookbooks, that also have stupendous recipes.

              1. Wow Candy, 350-400? Thats an amazing amount of cookbooks. I have maybe 100 or so, but have found lately that I can find lots of recipes on line. I go to the book store and read cook books and find very few new ones I'd like to purchase. I'll go a couple of times and then if I find I just have to have it will buy it. I've also found that there are great books out there, but I'm only interested in maybe 1/2 or so of the recipes. I have a friend who copies only the recipes she loves in her books, and then gives the book to friends etc. I like that idea a lot and think new cooks would just love to get some great cookbooks and am thinking of doing that myself. Lucky you that you can remember whats in each one and where to find the recipe you need, I sure can't. I think your right about getting rid of a book you haven't opened in a couple of years. You must have quite a few of those around.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jackie de

                  I get real honest every few years and there are classics I'll never give up like James Beard's American Cookery. My family bible is Marion Brown's Southern Cookbook and I have 4 copies I'll never get rid of but I will be doing another purge next year. I have hung onto Marcia Adam's'Mid-western cookbooks. I really don't use them and I can copy the potato donughts recipe, it is just not my kind of cooking. The Heaven on Seven cookbook, I like the restaurant on Wabash in Chicago but am unimpressed with the book. I was an Air Force brat and moved quite a bit and learned not to get too attached to things that are replaceable or I can go check out of the public library. I also use the library to decide what books I might want to own. Zuni was not for me, kind of a yawn.

                2. It is just a gift. I just know or have an idea of between 1-2. I think it may be more the way I organize the books which was in a discussion last week. I group books by subject or ethnicity or country or cuisine. All Italian together, all dessert books together etc. What is in what book just gets planted in my mind. I was surprised when doing my purge what I knew I would not miss. There is so much available on line anymore that only 1-2 recipes does not qualify for it to be kept. I can scan or copy those recipes and file them. To stay the book has to be really useful.

                  BTW I have Bouchon and Mangoes and Curry Leaves and love them both. Just bought M&C for friends for a belated wedding gift. Another really good book worth giving shelf space to is Frank Stitt's Southern Table if you love good American southern food. It is a must have if so.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Candy

                    Thanks for the tips on those books. Next time I go to the book store, I'll check them out!

                  2. You are not alone. I have (had ) around 250 cookbooks I guess and then I started reading cookbook reviews on Egullet. I couldn't make up my mind so I bought about 15 of them from used sources. I've asked my husband to put them away and give them to me at Christmas! Maybe I can find storage space between now and then.

                    1. This is NOT the most logical way to try to catalog the recipes I use, but I decided one day to simply number the books according to their position on my shelves that day. Some loose order, but more driven by height of shelf than any purer system.

                      I put the number, the title and the most germaine recipe titles and pages in the computer. At the same time I affixed a label to the book itself. The Dewey Decimal system is in no danger from me, but it gets the job done.

                      1. I feed my cookbook addiction by reserving books online from my library, and maintaining a 120+ list. When I *really* don't want to return a book, I'll buy it. That way, I have a dozen or two cookbooks at a time rotating through my (overflowing) bookshelves, but the only ones on my permanent DR shelves are those I couldn't bear to part with and purchased.
                        It did enable me to somewhat painlessly weed out those gift cookbooks that are just hogging (much needed) shelf space.

                        1. I have Zuni and Spice and wouldn't part with either. I'm working through Spice and have enjoyed it immensely. I'm on the fence about Zuni having tried a number of the recipes which have been hit-and-miss for me. But I'm going to keep going until I've come to a firmer conclusion about this one.

                          The topic of how to manage a collection of books has come up before. MMRuth made a suggestion which I thought brilliant - make a photocopy of the indices of your cookbooks and keep that in a folder. It makes it much easier to scan when you're looking for a recipe. I got a scanner/copier (Costco $70) and I'm planning to make a hard copy of the indices but also keep an electronic file. That way I will have a complete master list of all the recipes in my books. I find scanning and searching electronic versions much faster and more convenient than dealing with paper files.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: cheryl_h

                            The best solutions are often so simple -- thank you!! I have a photo copier/scanner and it's going to get some use tonight.

                          2. I'm glad I'm not alone in my cookbook addiction. I have, over the past couple of years, gotten rid of a couple of decades' worth of Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Food and Wine, now that I can get the recipes on line.

                            1. You're definitely not alone. I have several hundred cookbooks, and have been known to buy 5 or 10 more each time I visit a used bookstore.

                              I say get creative with how and where you store those cookbooks. It's amazing where you can put a new bookshelf if you really try. (I have a few bookshelves on my stairs, I've put single shelves over doors and windows, and I'm thinking of the ceiling next.)

                              But, realistically, you also have to winnow and purge on occasion. Be really honest about which cookbooks you love and use, and which you just have around "because" (gifts, dated, not really your style, etc.). I go through my cookbooks 3 or 4 times a year, and donate or sell the cullings. And I finally admitted that I'll never really use my piles of Gourmet and Food & Wine magazines - so they're gone. I'm so proud of myself!

                              Using the library or having a thorough browse in the bookstore before you buy is also a great idea. Only buy books that you truly, truly love.

                              But only you can define that elusive quality for yourself - others love the books that I've gotten rid of, and my keepers aren't to everyone's taste.

                              Good luck!