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Death of a cookbook

The Internet is now my recipe go-to place. A YouTube video is worth a thousand pictures. The books I buy now are more readable tracts, like 'Wild Fermentation', 'Charcuterie' or 'On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen'. Joy of Cooking et al now rest in the basement bookcase alongside 100 Wheatgrass Recipes and The Cuisine of Saskatchewan. The scrapbook has survived.

Has the information age changed your use of cookery books?

Edit: Forgot to mention that a laptop resides permanently on one counter.

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  1. Not really. The internet is so full of bad or wrong "information" and recipes that still I prefer recipes from reputable cookbooks and established authors. Out of any site, I trust epicurious the most, but still don't use it all that much.

    2 Replies
    1. re: babette feasts

      I agree. I occasionally google to get info or a recipe for something specific but I'm very wary of a lot of the 'experts' out there (although just because a recipe is in print doesn't mean it's going to work either). I'm passionate about cookbooks (and books in general) and I don't believe that the internet or even Kindle will ever replace the joy of curling up with a good book. At least I hope not!

      1. re: babette feasts

        I agree- for techniques there is nothing better than those tried and true- Joy of Cooking etc...but for inspiration I can definitely see using the internet etc...

      2. If I am looking for a specific recipe, I will occasionally go to Epicurious. Other than that, I really enjoy cookbooks, not only for the recipes, but just to read. I think you can learn a great deal about an area from a regional cookbook. How and what people eat tells alot about how they live IMHO. I love to curl up in a comfortable chair with a good cookbook. Not so much fun with my laptop. But maybe I am just old-fashioned that way.

        2 Replies
          1. re: Mothership

            I use Epicurious alot for recipes from Gourmet Magazine, but otherwise am pretty wary of recipes I find randomly on the internet, unless I have good reason to trust the source. I'm a cookbook person. I like having the book as a reference, and to read.

          2. Allrecipes is my favorite... lots of recipes and I enjoy reading the reviews and tips from other members.

            1 Reply
            1. re: shnda99

              I enjoy allrecipes too... especially reading the reviews.
              I find it funny how people will give a recipe one star, but admit that they didn't follow the recipe.

              "This recipe is horrible, but I made substitutions and added more xyz. I do not recommend this recipe at all."

              What that really means, "I'm a great cook so my changes to the recipe should have improved the recipe, not ruin the recipe."


            2. I like Google if I'm looking for something like a chocolate cake recipe that includes buttermilk--way faster than dragging ten books down and flipping through the pages. But I still loves my cookbooks!

              1 Reply
              1. re: coney with everything

                I do this a lot too - when I'm looking for a recipe to use up ingredients I have on hand I generally - but not always - turn to the internet.

                But I have close to 500 cookbooks and I love them all. I read them for pleasure, I cook out of them regularly and I use them for research etc. The internet will never ever replace books for me (of any kind.)

              2. Sometimes I wonder if I'm turning into an old fart. I don't have a Facebook account (in spite of my friends trying to change that), I don't twitter, I don't text, I don't have a PDA, I don't have Kindle and I still book appointments with pen and paper. In fact, I was on the hunt for mercury thermometers last weekend! I'm scared that in 20 more years I'll be one of those people bitching about the good ol' days when pizza was 75 cents versus $10 a slice. I do browse the Internet and print out recipes from time to time and stick it into a binder for future use. But there's nothing more precious to me than reading a cookbook. Perhaps it's a tactile thing. I love touching an actual book and flipping through pages. I also hate reading off a computer screen for various reasons. So even though I may use the net a lot, there will always be a special place in my heart for cookbooks.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Miss Needle

                  What she said.

                  That's me almost exactly. Although I use the internet quite a bit, it is no substitute for a book in my hands.

                  I also agree with “babette” above pointing out that the internet is hardly a reputable source for information.

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    Amen. I enjoy reading the actual books. There is no comparison...also, the design, the pictures etc all add to the experience. Not so much on the internet. However, I do use my iphone with wholefoods recipes and epicurious recipes when not cooking at home, But nothing even comes close to the enjoyment I get from my cookbook collection!

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      That's me as well, (apart from I am on Facebook). My boyfriend laughs at me because I regularly read cookbooks in bed!

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        Me too, also in the bath. Tub edge is very good for supporting the ones that are too large and unwieldy to hold up in bed!

                        1. re: buttertart

                          Some of mine are flagged!
                          (For all of you Seinfeld fans)

                      2. re: Miss Needle

                        I agree completely. I do use the Internet to search for recipes--usually when I'm at work or away from home, but also when I know there are several versions of a recipe, too. I have used the library for some cookbooks, but usually I end up buying them in the end. I have cookbooks all over my place as well--by my bed, on the dining room table, in the living room--but I love just pulling up a comfy chair by my cookbook corner and flipping through them, either for a specific recipe or technique or just to investigate which one I want to cook from next.

                        Oh, and I'd never want my laptop on the counter -- too little available space, and too much room for error. :)

                      3. I have to agree with your point. I have many cookbooks, but find the internet (allrecipes, cooksillustrated) to cover most general cooking recipes.

                        I still use my cookbooks when I make ethnic or specialty dishes.

                        1. I love my cookbooks, but I do search the internet when I am looking for a recipe more and more these days. I cannot spend much on cookbooks, so I figure I can at least still try new things I find online. It is a trade-off, since I much prefer poring over books.
                          As for Kindle, my parents each have one - I can't stand it. I read at least 2-3 books a week, and would hate to give up turning pages.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: elfcook

                            Get cookbooks from the library! I don't think I've gotten a new cookbook in the past three or four years. I've been economizing and there are a few I really want to buy when I'm back in the black, but in the interim, the library has been my savior! Some I will check out until they tell me I have to return it :-) I'm in Madison, WI now, and for a smaller city, they have a great selection of cookbooks at the library! Highly recommend it!

                            1. re: DanaB

                              Agreed! I love getting cookbooks from the library. It helps me to determine which ones I want to buy and which I don't need to look through more than once.

                            2. re: elfcook

                              Me too, elfcook. I love browsing through the books, turning the pages, enjoying the illustrations. Sometimes it feels like reading a novel. A lot more personal than the internet. That being said, I am cooking more and more from the internet, since I really do appreciate the benefit of rated recipes.

                            3. Count me as one of Miss Needles long lost sisters.

                              I find maybe 50% success on downloaded recipes. Some are definite keepers; others definitely aren't.
                              I can't imagin gettng the joy from a website that I get from "The Bread Bakers Apprentice" which I'm flouring through at present. I've seen some good videos, but I really like having the big book that will be there when the latest computer gets fried by lightening and when I get so befuddled that I can't remember where (in which file within which file on which memory stick) I've saved a particular recipe.

                              1. No. I like my cookbooks - the good old stand-bys and the ones I've picked up when visiting other countries, in particular. I do use the internet of course - but it tends to be a limited range of websites. And it's normally because I know I've seen "just the recipe" in, say a TV chef's book. It's easier to go to the channel's food section than try to remember which book its likely to be in.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Harters

                                  No no no -- my cookbooks (a library, cataloged by cuisine/culture, of close to 500 books) are not dead. The crappy, incomplete, FAILURE receipes found online are usually horror stories waiting to unfold. I scold you.

                                  I keep a laptop permanently in the sink, incidentally.


                                  1. re: CucumberBoy

                                    Aren't you being a little rough on the old internet there? Both certainly have their place and come on, a recipe isn't a FAILURE horror story just because you found it online, can't you tell from reading the recipe whether it's a bad one or not?

                                    You'll have to pry my cookbook collection from my cold, dead fingers, btw.

                                2. I am biased. Joy of cooking is a classic I could never banish it or any of my books to the basement.

                                  Cookbooks provide more than recipes the tell of story and experiences. Why the dish is important it the people who eat it.

                                  Don't get me wrong I often 'cruise' the internet looking for ideas. But it pales in-comparison to holding a well worn and much loved cookbook in one's hands. Nor can it beat the enjoyment of diving in and discovering a new cookbook.

                                  1. I hate my printouts of differently-formatted, easy to lose or misfile recipes from online, whether they work or not. And I can't even fathom keeping a computer near my food prep areas for a variety of reasons.

                                    I'm one of the most thoroughly plugged-in people you'd ever meet. There's something irreplaceable about commercially-printed reading material of all kinds, and as others have noted, the authority of well-respected cookbooks is worth an immense amount to me.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: dmd_kc

                                      I bought a live sea urchin a few months ago, just because it was there at the store. I had no idea how to get the Uni out of it.
                                      I went on line, and in a few minutes had written instructions and several videos on how to open up the urchin. Another 10-15 minutes of reading and watching videos gave me enough information to take the plunge (so to speak).
                                      I love my cookbooks. But without the web, I would never have taken the chance on the live sea urchin.
                                      BTW, the uni was delicious. I wrapped it in nori and dipped in soy.

                                    2. I rarely use cookbooks. Mine gather dust more than anything else. MOst of my cookbooks have a few "classic" recipes I like to refer to, but in general, I use the internet. My husband and I have very disparate tastes in food. Chicken, turkey, and pasta are some of the few things we can agree on. I can't buy a cookbook knowning that it's filled with recipes that contain red meats (not for him), cheeses(not for him) and seafood (not for me). I'd rather just scan the internet so I have millions of recipes available to me - for free - for foods we both eat.

                                      1. Not much. I have a fairly deep if narrow selection--regional Italian, other Meditterranean country cooking, plus basics like Joy, Child, Hazan, Olney, etc. I'll use the internet--epicurious to start--for ideas and recipes outside the ambit of my bookshelf. Incidentally, I've discovered scads of interesting local recipes on sites representing Italian regions, provinces, towns and cities--it's amazing how many small villages lovingly gather and present "ricette tipiche" or "prodotti tipici" on their sites. Google "Ricette [siciliane, napoletane, milanese, etc] and you'll find many that are unique and little cited elsewhere. In Italian, of course, but usually still accessible. I'm sure you'll find the same delights for other national cuisines. Then there are the Italian, Spanish, etc. food blogs, sometimes run by ex-pats. Bon voyage.

                                        1. I like to read cookbooks that have information or anecdotes in them along with the recipes... I very rarely crack open a 'straight' cookbook - if I want to find a recipe I'll google it, which usually leads me straight to Allrecipes.com You can find almost anything you want on there, and all the user comments are very helpful to find the good ones. Then I print the recipe out and put it into my binder so I can refer back to it again later.

                                          1. I'd say it's a mix, Paul.

                                            I don't think I have many cookbooks, compared to what I think I hear some of you discussing. Maybe 20 or so, and except for a small percentage of those that are regional New England or regional French cookbooks, the rest are mostly standards--JC, David, JB, JOC, Bugialli, Hazan, Kamman. I don't have many specialized cookbooks, except for a couple I've received as gifts. I want comprehensive sources, and I want to know that those sources are authorities. I've lived with these cookbooks for so long now, that I consult them sometimes just to refresh my memory on what they have to say about technique, equipment, ingredients, or just to revel in their individual masterful voices on food and its science and its art. I don't need the recipes often at all for savory dishes, but I don't make desserts or sweets often at all, so I will consult them then.

                                            But because I do know what's in each book so well by now, when I need something *new* to cook, something different, I go to the Internet. Like you do, I keep my notebook here in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, I came to CH tonight specifically to find something new to do with Swiss Chard. ;-) Of course, I've gotten distracted.

                                            I'd be curious to know, though, if we'd find a behavioral difference re your specific question according to generation. Are those of us who achieved adulthood before mass-market computers more likely never to surrender our cookbooks?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Normandie

                                              For many it boils down to trust. It seems the majority of people in this thread have a distrust of wiki-bits when compared to the printed text. I suspect I am different as I evolved in the information age, having been a systems programmer, database administrator and so on. I have more trust in shared information as I built knowledge management systems for large corporations. Wikipedia definition...

                                              "Knowledge Management (KM) comprises a range of practices used in an organisation to identify, create, represent, distribute and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organisational processes or practice."

                                              The final hurdle (I think) is the difficulty of using computers. A book is so convenient. You can carry it around, flick through it, take it to bed or even leave it on the counter knowing it won't reboot overnight. Books don't even need firewalls.

                                              But the generation growing up in the naughties may well have different values. Most of my cookbooks now gather dust, living in anachronistic harmony with my photographs and vinyl albums. But for most people here, cookery books represent something much more alive and vibrant. I'm glad I asked the question, though I feel a little isolated now.

                                              Edit: I like the BBC food network and way you can drill down through information.


                                            2. A proper cookbook is the result of endless testings of all the recipes. I once read an article in which Marcella Hazan said she cooked each dish in her latest cookbook several dozen times to ensure she had the best possible recipe along with the most detailed instruction.

                                              Most of the recipes floating around the internet are not going to have the depth of testing that a cookbook recipe (now, I do admit cookbooks vary, but for here I am going to assume a cookbook to be the caliber of Child, Hazan and the Joy of Cooking). It's no surprise to me that I always get a much more consistent end result cooking from a cookbook than from recipes listed in a newspaper or found on the internet. I have never made anything from the New York Times' food section that satisfied me, and the few occasions I made a Rachel Ray recipe listed on the food network, the dish turned out decent but not as impressive as it appeared on the television program.

                                              That's not to say I haven't found anything good from searching the internet, but the successful recipes from the Food Network's website tended to be from the cook's cookbooks. Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa's recipes, for example, are both in her cookbooks and on the Food TV website.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Roland Parker


                                                To be brutally honest, many Internet dwellers simply don't understand the layers of vetting that traditional print media are built upon.

                                                Do those institutions make mistakes? Of course they do. But they are a lot less rare than the nightmares of proportion, insane instruction and just plain nast you find regularly on Recipezaar.



                                                As of right now, there are about 12,200 hits for "cream of mushroom" on recipezaar.com

                                                My personal belief is that most people have about a six- or seven-year infatuation with the unmoderated Internet. After that, I truly believe they begin to realize how untrustworthy all that "free" info can be. I know I never click on a link to allrecipes or ichef link any longer. I trust Chow and Epicurious because of their commitment to editing.

                                                1. re: dmd_kc

                                                  CH and Epicurious are the two general sites I trust, as well, for specific recipes. Aside from that, the only recipes I'll trust are ones that I get directly off the sites of restaurants or chefs of some renown.

                                                  You can't even trust recipes credited to trustworthy cookbook authors if they don't come from a site that holds the rights to that author's work.

                                                  As an example, I recently went to look up a particular recipe of Ina Garten's. I googled her name and the recipe's and many hits came up. I looked at various of the pages, and there were many differences between the different sites. Some were posted by private individuals who are probably guilty of copyright infringement but were at least honest enough to note that they had changed this or that to suit their families' preferences, etc. However, other sources had some differences from Ina's original recipe, but they never mentioned the differences or any reason for them.

                                              2. On the internet you are getting a lot of recipes from home cooks that think their recipe is great. Or they are not accurately written. If I take any recipes from the internet they are from Epicurious.com or other reputable sites. Or cookbooks from known chefs and recipe writers.

                                                1. Food blogs interest me more than cookbooks now but my tried & true will always remain. Magazines online, sites like CH and food blogs make up a large portion of my recipe file today. Food bloggers rock.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    Speaking of dead cookbooks, does anyone know if The Best of Gourmet is still being published? I realized the other day that I last received one in 2007. I looked around at the Gourmet website and could find no information on a 2008 edition.

                                                  2. No hasn't really changed my reading/consulting habits. Most of the recipes sites are bereft of context so if it's something I'm unfamiliar with, I find it kind of frustrating. Also, it makes it hard to trust the source. Even the sites for tv shows are problematic b/c the host may have explained the provenance of the dish on his/her show but it doesn't make it to the online recipe.

                                                    Here's an example. I've had the Union Sq Cafe cookbook since it came out in the mid-90s and have been making their bar nuts for as long. Noticing that everyone eats the cashews first, I started making it w just cashews, rather than the mixed nuts it calls for. Well it turns out ina Gartner (sp?) does that too. I took them to a party 3-4 yrs ago and a few wks later the hostess, wanting to make them, just googled "rosemary cashews"; voila - Ina G's FN recipe pops up. In her mind (and all of her guests), that's IG's recipe. Even tho' I'm sure she would have explained the source on her show, none of that explanation made it - or ever does - to the online version. I don't know why it bothers it as much as it does. (Btw, Nigella also included them in one of her early shows but explained where they came from; but I'll bet it didn't make online either.)

                                                    It bothers me about author attribution; but also food is more interesting when you have a sense of where it came from. At a party last week someone mentioned again how good the rosemary cashews are and my friend said that really I'd intro'd them . . . and that they came originally from InaG. !!! Despite my having explained it. She's seen it in print so it sticks in her mind as the real source I guess. Sorry for the length of my post; it's a provocative OP in a lot of ways.

                                                    1. I have find it difficult to re- find a recipe on the internet unless i bookmark it, and then I have to wade through my huge "favorites" list. So I print out the recipe I like and save it in my personal recipe cookbook.
                                                      As for videos, again, a challenge to find after the first viewing. Stuff on YouTube come and go, and some are removed. Now, if I could find a way to save a recipe on streaming video, it would truly change my life.

                                                      1. I'm an Internet person. When I first moved to California I pretty much had to shed the bulk of my possessions. So what did I spend my time, energy and money to ship out to the West Coast in 1997? My collection of Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines. A few years later, the collection was rendered useless by Epicurious. Now I make liberal use of online recipes. The trick is to read the comments, where people will post corrections and additions, and which acts as a vetting process of sorts. Plus the Internet is great for unique and unusual items, like uni, and you don't have to go out a buy a bunch of books to learn how to prepare it. I still love my cookbooks, but I've always used them -- as I do the Internet -- as a source for inspiration. Another great aspect of the Internet is that you can compare numerous recipes. When I was honing in on the best chocolate chip recipe, I scoured through all kinds of online resources, Epicurious, allrecipes, Food Network, cooks.com, comparing and taking notes. I was able to get a good basis of comparison to create my own balance of ingredients. It's kind of a waste of time to trash the Internet and digital age. It's an incredible resource for the avid cook who should always be searching for as much information as possible about food IMO. For me the resources online are just to varied and rich to pass up. I believe there's always a place for cookbooks, but now I think they are more works of art, with lush photography and maybe some good writing added.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Fuser

                                                          I recently picked up, from a relocating neighbour's front yard, a milk crate full of old (mostly 1990s) BA & G magazines, among others. I was sure it would provide me with great bus and subway reading. But I found I already knew many of the recipes, at least vaguely, from scanning epicurious so much. And the restaurant reviews and travelogues just don't fit my mortgage & young kids lifestyle these days. So out went the milk crate again and someone else can enjoy the magazines.
                                                          I hardly use my cookbooks... although many times, I have spent an hour on the internet researching say, waffle recipes and ended up back at my good old JOC. As for the many internet recipes I use, I feel I can choose wisely. I have a pretty good sense of when a recipe's flavours will appeal to me and be balanced. With baking, I can tell when a recipe is "off" (too low in fat, no salt, etc). So I love the internet for recipes, especially when searching for something really specific, either to recreate a favourite treat, use up specific ingredients or make an ice cream fantasy flavour come true.
                                                          One thing I don't like about the internet is that I spend way more time researching recipes and reading about other people's food than I do actually cooking/eating new food these days. It's become somewhat of a pointless obsession and time waster.

                                                        2. I love my cookbooks...but I go to the internet first now when I want to be creative. This is a huge shift for me. I really value the food blogs! I get all kinds of inspiring ideas (not just recipes) on plating, drinks to serve, new techniques to try, etc. I don't have a problem choosing which recipes might be good or not. I also really enjoy the ability to learn new techniques from all over the world and you just don't get that from the old "the joy of cooking"...been there, done that. I like new things. Having said that....I will not part with my cookbook collection.

                                                          1. I love my cookbooks and will never part with them... and I seem to be growing my collection at an ever alarming rate.

                                                            However I must take issue with the assertion that printed books have better vetting of the recipes.
                                                            I have interviewed many a cookbook author who has told me to steer clear of certain recipes in their book. Seems that overzealous publishers and editors have pushed sub-standard recipes in because "the pictures look so great". Maybe there was a golden age but it has past us by.
                                                            The new catchphrase should be that everything is suspect even from those you may have trusted in the past. Have a good look at the recipe and decide for yourself.

                                                            I don't exclude recipes that I trip over on the 'net, in fact I've come across some real gems.


                                                            1. As a tie in to another thread about food and sex, I find a sensual connection to my cook books that I don't get from the internet,. I really enjoy climbing into my old wing chair in the corner, with a glass of wine, turning on the stereo and perusing my old cook books looking for the old flames of by gone food affairs and stoking the passion for new positions w/ my "old girl friends".

                                                              1. http://www.insanewiches.com/?p=1035

                                                                Blogbooks are so much faster these days! I love my cookbooks too but I am reminded daily of the food blog explosion and its exciting offerings.