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I wish it wasn't true, but I must get rid of some cookbooks....

We are starting to downsize so that we can move to a smaller home. I simply will not have room for all the cookbooks I have. Over the next few months, I'd like to ask your advice as I consider which books to jettison.....

Decisions for today:

Do I need to keep both Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet and Marcia Cone/Thelma Snyder's Mastering Microwave Cooking? I really don't cook from microwave books, but I'd like at least one as a reference book ---I might look for info on, for example, melting chocolate or making risotto.

Any thoughts on keeping or giving away these books?
Jennifer Bushman: Kitchen Coach Weeknight Cooking
Cooking from the Heart
Ann Clark: Quick Cuisine
MIchael McLaughlin: Cooking for the Weekend
Rozanne Gold: Little Meals

Thanks, guys. I'm not sure why this seems so hard to me.

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  1. I think I got rid of Kafka's Microwave Cooking in a purge about a year ago (I can't find it anymore anyway) and now regret it. :(

    Cooking from the Heart, the Hmong cookbook? It really is the only book of its kind. I wouldn't part with it.


    2 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      Hi Ms. Dairy Queen,

      Why do you regret giving away Kafka?

      Cooking from the Heart is a compilation of recipes from 100 chefs which was a fundraiser for Share Our Strength. I tend to like single author cookbooks 100% more than compilations, but Cooking from the Heart does have some good recipes.... like Nancy Silverton's coconut cupcakes....and Mary Sue Milliken's Chicken Meatball Soup.....

      Thanks very much.

      1. re: soccermom13

        Oh! Different book, then.

        I regret getting rid of Kafka's Microwave book because it has a lot of helpful basics and it still is the authority on the subject. I think I was thinking at the time I apparently got rid of it that I wanted to use less butter than her recipes called for, but probably should have just tweaked the recipes rather than dumping the book. I wish she'd update it, but I have a lot of people are trending away from microwave cooking right now, even though it is earth-friendly in terms of energy usage...


    2. Here's a link to a recent discussion on Kafka's book in case it triggers any interest for you: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8945...

      Have you tried the larb recipe in "Cooking from the Heart"? Super easy, super delicious. At least copy that recipe out before you get rid of the book.

      P.S. if you honestly think you'll never cook from a book, donate it, sell it, give it away. Don't hang onto them just out of sentimentality, regardless of what I think about a book. Parting with cookbooks is hard for me, too, so I can relate.


      1 Reply
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Very helpful link, DQ. Kafka is going back on the shelf.

      2. I know this won't be an easy task soccermom, wishing you the very best of luck w it.

        We had a garage sale 2 years ago and one easy choice I made was to part with my microwave cookbooks. Like you, I had been holding on to them for reference but, I couldn't ever recall referring to them. I figured if I ever needed to know how to melt chocolate or white chocolate etc, I could just Google some info. I can assure you I've had no regrets about that decision. I was also really happy because a man purchased a couple of them for his son who was going to college and would only have a microwave in his dorm room.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Breadcrumbs

          And I do not even have a MV! The first and the last one came by the way of DH. The man is long gone from my life and so is the MV, neither one to be replaced ever :)

        2. Me suggesting this is a joke because I am the most computer illiterate person you could imagine and maybe what I am suggesting is impractical, but: couldn't you scan these books into your computer? (Or have some computer guru organization like Kinko's do it onto a disk or thumb drive?) My point is that it sounds like a lot of these books you really don't want to get rid of.

          Also, it sounds to me like a lot of these books are 1950s cookbooks which are out of print and, once gone, will be gone for good.

          A computer person once told me this and I think that it is true: Computers only do three things well: (1) save massive amounts of material in a small space; (2) organize the material; and (3) retrieve the material. (They are also pretty good at causing heartbreak for those of us in our 60s.)

          Maybe there are copyright problems with doing this. If so, Kinko's or whomever, won't be shy to tell you and decline to copy it onto a disk or whatever, but I would give it a shot.

          And I would not do it myself. Just like regular copying, I would hand the books to the Kinko's person and ask her/him to scan this material and put it on a disk/thumb drive/head of a pin (or whatever is the latest computer fashion)--it keeps changing, seemingly by the hour.

          Obviously, negotiate a price per page or a flat fee first. before the project is started.

          It isn't as good as having a physical book in your hands, but it beats the heck out of losing a cookbook altogether.

          Good luck!

          4 Replies
          1. re: gfr1111

            I was also going to suggest either copying or scanning, if there's books where you only have a few recipes you want to keep.... for example, Mary Sue Milliken's soup you mentioned above. If you copy them, you can keep them in a binder.

            You can also google the recipe and the author and see if it's available online somewhere so you can bookmark it or print it that way.

            1. re: juliejulez

              i find that taking iphone pictures of cookbook pages works extremely well.

              1. re: eLizard

                +1. I then email them to myself, I can put 5 pics in each email and list the recipe in the subject for easy searching.

            2. re: gfr1111

              Not sure if that's a copyright violation, but I'm sure that Kinko's and other similar services would be able to tell you if it was.

            3. i down-sized a few years and donated over 800 books to charity -- including many many cookbooks.

              if you haven't opened it in years, you don't need it. i'm sorry, but really? a book to help you melt chocolate in the micro? there is this thing called the internet... :)

              much like clothing, if you can't remember the last time you used it, get rid of it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: hotoynoodle

                I did what you did with 1,000+ books over a decade ago, HTN, but I cut too deeply in cookbooks and ended up buying back at least a dozen of them.

                It doesn't have anything to do with how many times I used them, though, or will use them in the future. It's that some of them were such an integral part of my cooking past (Bugialli, Pepin, Alice Waters, et al), I really didn't want not to have them.

                My rule is that rules don't always work.

              2. I cannot comment on the books, except for Microwave Gourmet that I keep for reference.

                I just wanted to tell you what I did with 100 cookbooks over a year ago. Anticipating a move (we both just retired) I thought it was time to start purging. Books weigh a lot and are expensive to move, I started going through mine and culled 100 and donated them to the culinary program at the local tech school. Their library was lacking and they were quite glad to get them. They even came and picked them up. They got books and I got a tax deduction. I will probably do this again soon.

                My rule of thumb was that if I had opened a book in 2-3 years then it went into the donate pile.

                1. Everyone---

                  These are terrific suggestions and I really appreciate them.

                  Hotoynoodle---You are right, I don't need a microwave cookbook to melt chocolate :0) It was a lame example. But there are some things for which I'd consult a microwave cookbook---like making a custard or brulee or whatever, and I trust Kafka. Sometimes it's hard to vet recipes from the web.

                  Jay---I have a suspicion that for every 25 books I donate, I'll buy back one or two. Just saying....

                  Candy---what a FABULOUS idea to donate to a local culinary school!!!!

                  I am not sure why choosing which books to move out is so hard, but it is. know I am among kindred spirits on this board and I appreciate your support very much.

                  For some reason, getting rid of old cooking mags is fairly painless for me---probably because it's so easy to save those recipes on line.

                  Thanks again!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: soccermom13

                    it was difficult to cull the collection, but paring belongings is always very liberating for me.

                    eta: i googled kafka custard microwave and got 177,000 matches. :)

                  2. We've been downsizing the cookbook collection for months, particularly realising that we had many books from which we had never cooked, or only rarely.

                    The strategy has been to look at each one (one or two a week) and cook whatever dish most interested us. For quite a few, there was actually nothing that interested, so they were easy discards. For others, we cooked the dish and actually didnt find it too interesting, so have discarded them.

                    As for the OP's questions about specific books, I'm afraid I've not heard of any of them so have no instinctive idea whether they might be keepable or not.

                    1. This was my strategy when I was purging cookbooks recently. I looked through the cookbooks I really didn't use and put a sticky when I came to a recipe I wanted to hang on to. I sat down at the PC and googled and found almost every single recipe (or something close), which I copied and pasted into a Word document (cheap and simple, but it works). Now, when I search for an dish, ingredient or an author using the windows search feature, those recipes are found. Made it much easier to part with the old books.

                      1. General question: Do you want them for cooking or for reading? I love to read cooking/food books, but seldom want to re-read them. For cooking, I seldom cook from recipes, except maybe the first time. But, for example, Jasper White's Lobster at Home has cooking time chart which I *always* consult. I really need only a few core books, Joy, Marcella for Italian, etc.

                        1. I got rid of many cook books, bought more....and purged again. It seems to be on ongoing process for me! But I found that I like the gently rotating process of cookbooks in my home. I don't need to keep every cookbook that strikes my fancy. Here is my process:

                          I honestly think google is the best for cooking references. Quick and more detailed. I don't keep cookbooks specifically for reference anymore.

                          I have some books I keep for emotional reasons. 'Nuf said.

                          I have some books that are obscure and will likely never be available on the net. I keep those until I am sure that I won't use them. I become sure i wont use them by dragging them from the shelf and leaving them in the kitchen for a few weeks. If nothing inspires me and I don't use them, out they go.

                          I physically cut out or copy specific recipes into my own physical "cookbooks". One is for tried and true favorites, one book is for things I want to try. I can pass family favorites to my kids this way.

                          Pinterest is my new BFF. There are so many new and facinating recipes and food blogs that are of interest, it makes the 10 year old books and magazines easier to give up. It also inspires me to buy new books ;(

                          Good luck finding your own cookbook balance!

                          1. You may find it helpful to do a "trial run" of ones that will fit in your available new space / shipping weight. Leave only those on your shelf and box the rest. In six months you'll have a better sense of what you found missing, what you were glad to have on your shelf, and what's still excess.

                            Also, can you look at the library catalog online (or visit the place) near your new home? You may be less uneasy about donating a book if you know you can check it out from the library when you want.

                            When I downsized my cookbook shelving, II gave away about 1/3 of my cookbooks and tossed pounds of magazines. I've not missed any of the cookbooks. And continue to work through the earmarked magazine stack I kept to either find the recipe online or type it into a document.

                            1. I find two online resources to be very helpful:
                              1. EatYourBooks helps me to evaluate usefulness of my cookbooks. For example, I noticed that when I search for a recipe, I always pass by "How to Cook Everything", Silver Palate books, etc. I know it is time to part with these ones and pay attention to other ones that I am ignoring.
                              2. Pepperplate is very helpful recipe storage. I can search recipes, make changes as I cook, record my notes and delete the ones that are not all that special. It is very easy to import recipes into and all are automatically the same.

                              I need to purge too...

                              1. Thanks very much for these additional excellent ideas; I am going to implement several.

                                I do both read and cook from cookbooks, so I may keep some even though I don't cook from them much because I believe I can become a better cook just by reading with the author has to say. I'm trying to think of an example---I think Laurie Colwin's books would fall into this category. I don't cook from her books much, but I love her "voice" in her books.

                                I think a step I can take next week is to get all my books into the same room. Right now, they are in two different rooms and I think seeing all of them together may help me purge some.

                                Thanks again. YOU GUYS RULE!

                                1. If you have any obscure cookbooks that you are definitely wanting to purge, get an xacto knife, sit down & go throughout the whole cookbook, cutting out any recipes you wish to keep. Have several manila folders labeled however you wish & place your recipe in the appropriate folder. Also, have a mini stapler to staple the recipe if it continues on another page. Also, a pen to put a "check" by the recipe you are wanting, so later you don't get confused as to which side of the page you wanted to keep.

                                  If you only cut out a couple of recipes, then put that one on the stack that will be donated to the thrift store. If you pretty much mutilated the book, then place that one in the trash.

                                  After doing this for a couple of months, I looked in my "Chicken" folder & found 8 recipes for Lemon Chicken. It was easy for me to compare them, make notes on the best one to save & then trash the other recipes. This step has helped me to see exactly what flavors & tastes I am wanting from a recipe.

                                  Yes, I know that some of you will scream at the thought of cutting up the cookbooks, but it is a good lesson just to see that perhaps you ended up liking only one or two recipes in the whole book. Why keep that book on the shelf year end & year out when it is serving such a small purpose for those one or two recipes?

                                  I guess some folks would suggest scanning the recipe you wish to save, & I actually tried that but found it was too time consuming & got me out of the mood to finish the task of purging.

                                  You could also pass along the purged book to a cooking friend & let them finish purging what they would like.

                                  I am coming across a lot of "one recipe" books & it is certainly exhilarating to let these old books go. What you are left with is a collection of really good cookbooks that have a great many recipes.

                                  Bottom line is, why keep a cookbook if it only has one or two appealing recipes? If it is a pricey cookbook, just take the time to copy the recipe & file it without cutting out the page.

                                  Yes, it is hard to do this at first, but you will begin to see that at some point, we all must do a purge of cookbooks.

                                  We clean out pantries, cabinets & freezers & sometimes it becomes necessary to do this to our cookbooks.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: cstout

                                    "We clean out pantries, cabinets & freezers & sometimes it becomes necessary to do this to our cookbooks." SO TRUE!

                                    Thanks for the suggestions and reinforcement. I am trying to read and reread this thread and to avoid reading that evil "What cookbooks are you lusting after?" thread...... ;0)

                                    1. re: cstout

                                      Wow- I don't recommend cutting out the recipes you want to save, Better you should get a cheap flatbed scanner and copy them that way, so you can send the book off to whoever without any important pages missing.

                                      1. re: EWSflash

                                        I have to agree with EWSflash about not cutting recipes out of books. Copy them, look on line if you can find the recipe and save it or scan it from the book. I have purchased used books that are missing pages and it is very disappointing because those are usually the best recipes in the book!

                                        We recently moved and I have purged probably 300 cookbooks(out of 1600+) and I used much of the criteria found here. I am currently in a rental and will be moving again in 6 months so most of my cookbooks are in the garage in boxes. We are in CA so the humidity is low in there. I am paying attention to which books I go to the trouble and dig through boxes to find and keep out on the limited shelving we are currently using. I have purged a few more books in the process and will continue to do so before we move into our new house.

                                        That said, I can relate to this dilemma and have a very hard time letting cookbooks go. Being able to get them at the library eases the loss of some and honestly, I have really not missed any of the books I have let go. If I have to replace one because of regret, I will, but generally, it frees me up to purchase newer and more desirable books. I cannot always apply the one year rule to cookbooks, because I keep books for all sorts of reasons, not just strictly recipes(like the author, the stories, the historical reference, nostalgia, etc) although, they are, obviously, important.

                                        Good luck!

                                    2. My general rule is if I haven't used it in a year, then I don't need it. There a couple of books that I think I discarded too hastily (after just a couple of months) which I may buy again at some point. But most of the time I happily send them on their way.

                                      Microwave cookbooks would be a no-brainer for me. Buh-bye.

                                      14 Replies
                                      1. re: Njchicaa

                                        i don't own a micro.

                                        "microwave cooking" seems like an oxymoron to me, lol.

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          hoto - A bit late to the 21st century? You are missing an important tool for your kitchen. Microwave cooking is as valid a method of heating as oven, stovetop, grill or crockpot and has similar unique qualities & techniques. Like all those other methods, it can also be used to reheat food.

                                          1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                            It's also among the most energy-efficient appliances in your kitchen.


                                            1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                              I didn't get a microwave until 1999, MWTT. It was a gift, and I ended up giving it away. The only thing I used it for was reheating pizza, which I think tastes better when I do it in the oven.

                                              It wasn't an important tool for my kitchen.

                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                But, maybe if you knew how to use it (ie., which cooking applications it was well-suited for), you would have found it to be a more important tool? That's the reason I wish I'd held onto my Kafka book. The microwave isn't great for everything, but it's great for some things (notably, steaming) and it is incredibly energy efficient. Also, it's great in summer when you don't want to heat up the house... THere are some genuine advantages.

                                                There's a great couple of Mark Bittman NYT Minimalist columns out there on this same topic.

                                                This is why I wish Kafka would update her book. Focus on the things the microwave is best suited for rather than (my impression of her book) "How to cook everything: icrowave edition"


                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  I already know how to cook without a microwave, and it takes up too much space.

                                                  As far as steaming goes, I put some water in a saucepan, the vegetable in the steamer insert, cover the insert, wait 5-12 minutes, voila.

                                                  I used to try to cook fish in the microwave. Every time I did, the house stank of fish, something that didn't happen when I either baked it or pan-fried it.

                                                  And I didn't eat Indian food for over a year after a friend came over and stunk up my apartment and my microwave with it. I spent as much time cleaning that thing as I would have twenty or thirty saucepans or frying pans.

                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                    I had an email exchange with her several years ago, asking her what setting and length of time I should use for that wonderful chocolate pudding/cake recipe in MWG, as my new micro is much more powerful than the ones she used to test recipes back in the day. Sadly, she has no plans to update this wonderful book.

                                                    (It saved the day when we were living in Australia with no A/C. Just about every meal was cooked in the Micro using Kafka's recipes. The Aussies also had great micro accessories, such as quiche pans and a tray for browning.)

                                                    I always get a tad upset when people bash this appliance.

                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                      Microwave cooking is very out of fashion right now, partly because when they first came out people tried to cook everything in the microwave with sometimes disastrous results.

                                                      The microwave isn't good for every application, but it's great for a few applications. And, yes, there are some things (eg steaming) one can do just as easily on one's stove top, but not with the same level of energy efficiency as in the microwave.

                                                      I'm not worried. I don't think the microwave is going anywhere because enough people use it to reheat stuff and to cook popcorn.

                                                      Maybe it will experience a renaissance some day. And maybe then Kafka would consider updating her book?


                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        I think that if she updated her book, it would cause a renaissance.

                                                      2. re: pikawicca

                                                        am not bashing, and if my space were different i might have one. even so, it's obviously not a necessity.

                                                        however, unless one has the same micro as when one purchased those books, then the books are out-of-date and recipes are incorrect? what's the point of keeping the books?

                                                  2. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                    i had one for years and gave it away, just like all those books, when i down-sized. there is nothing a micro can do that i can't do on a stove-top.

                                                    my b/f has one so i sometimes will use his, but don't regret not owning one at my own home.

                                                    never use a crock-pot either.

                                                    good pans and knives are "important tools". most other stuff are just gadgets.

                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      I've never used a crock pot, either.

                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                        I never used a crock pot and thought I was the only one :)

                                                        1. re: herby

                                                          more times than i can count, i've just put stuff in the oven @ 200, like in a dutch oven or for spoon lamb, and gone to bed.

                                                          my b/f thinks i am nuts, but have never burned down the house and the results blow away anything that ever comes out of crockpot.

                                                2. I will never pat with Kafka's book.

                                                  1. Kafka's book is a keeper over the other. She was so fierce and controversial at the time, I'd love to see a copy. The others, I don't know. I feel your pain, I have a bunch of mediocre cookbooks to get rid of, too. In the '80s and early '90s I bought them indiscriminately, and some are just stupid, but really hard to get rid of.

                                                    1. Hot tip: get rid of anything with "Rustic" in its title.

                                                      1. Keep my old NYT and NYT International cookbooks or donate? I have not used these books in years, so I am not sure why I am hanging onto them..... Any reason to keep hanging on to them?

                                                        I also have the NYT Heritage cookbook which I will never part with. Some of the recipes remind me of the foods of my childhood :0)

                                                        1. I'm back with another question, guys.....

                                                          If I wanted to keep only one of these cookbooks, which should I keep:
                                                          Susanna Foo CHINESE CUISINE
                                                          Ken Hom CHINESE COOKING
                                                          Barbara Tropp CHINA MOON

                                                          I have STIR FRYING TO THE SKY'S EDGE and I will not part with it.

                                                          At one time I thought I'd be doing more Chinese cooking, but I now think I will cook Chinese food only very occasionally. So, because I have to reduce the number of books I have overall, the books listed above are on my "possibly donate" list.

                                                          I know some of you have extensive collections of Asian/Chinese cookbooks and I am hoping this might be a "no brainer" question for you. Thanks!