What percentage of your cookbooks have you actually cooked from?
I know there are people that have lots of cookbooks (read eGullet sometime, there are numbers in the 6 figures). But how many of those have you actually cooked from? Do you try to cook your way through a new book you buy, or just flip through it for inspiration?
I have about 10 recipe books myself, plus a Cook's Illustrated magazine collection. My biggest success has been Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but I'm sure I've only made 1% of it by recipe count.
I have sort of a latent fantasy to cook every recipe in every one of my books, but I know it's hopeless. That's the kind of thing people make movies about, apparently.
I like to cook so people give me cookbooks as gifts, but the truth is, I mostly make up my own recipes. I will look through the books to get ideas --ingredient combos, etc., or, if it's a type of cooking I know little about, I will follow a recipe. But I'd say I've probably cooked a recipe from fewer than half of them, and many I've cooked only one or two recipes.
I nurse no fantasy of cooking every recipe in any book! I mean, the whole Julia Child thing -- who can eat food like that every night? And aspic? Plus, if I ate that much butter I'd double my weight in no time.
Interesting question, joel. I'd say I've tried at least one recipe from each of them. As to ones that I've used "heavily" through the years, my go-to cookbooks...a very small number, actually, maybe four or five of them.
I will use recipes for baking, but other than that, after so many years of cooking, mostly I use the books to either seek inspiration re what to make for dinner on a particular night, or to refresh my memory re the qualities of different ingredients from those cookbooks that give good general information on cooking, rather than recipes only.
I limit myself to about 30 or 40 cookbooks in the house, to keep the clutter down. I have a small pie-safe I use to house my cookbook collection and that's what about it accommodates. It's been full for a long time now, so when a new cookbook comes in, one has to leave to make room for it. It's been interesting to realize which ones go and which ones get to stay...by now it's filled pretty much with the "classic" general cookbooks...JC, JB, Elizabeth David, an old Betty Crocker, Fannie Farmer; some of the masters such as Marcella Hazan, Madeleine Kammon, Bugialli, Elizabeth David, and then some New England regional standards. Trendy cookbooks or the latest "rock-star's" latest release don't do much for me.
Joel, I would say I have made at least one recipe from all the many dozen cookbooks. When we re-modeled our kitchen 10 years ago, I had a 6 shelf buil-in bookcase made to hold all my books. BUT, my books are more than just recipes. I often eat alone and like to peruse various books while I am eating or use them to plan an upcoming meal, etc. I would say I "touch" at least one cookbook for every meal I eat alone.
I use my cooking cookbooks for ideas, mostly. But, I use my large collection of baking cookbooks more for the precise proportions. That chemistry thing is tricky! I rely heavily on the books by Marcie Goldman; Jewish Holiday Baking, A Passion for Baking, and Better Baking.com. I also have to confess that Martha Stewart and Ina Garten's recipes are fail safe when in it comes to baking.