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Aug 5, 2013 01:35 PM

GOOD-BYE COOKBOOKS: It’s not you…it’s me. The unopened, un-loved, under-used books in my collection and how I plan on getting rid of them!

I had an epiphany this weekend. I have too many cookbooks and I absolutely must cull the herd and, (here’s the thing), I also really must stop buying so many new or new-to-me cookbooks.

For context, I have appox 2000 cookbooks. Seriously!

A perfect storm of three events occurred over this long weekend and while I won’t bore you with the details of what they were; I will share what they’ve caused me conclude:

I only want to keep books that inspire me.

I like cooking more than I like collecting cookbooks. I need to spend more time on the former. Having too many books is overwhelming. There are simply too many choices. I like to search for recipes in EYB then pull various books from the shelf for inspiration and to compare recipes. Sometimes the “research” sucks the day away. Fewer books mean fewer, more targeted choices.

I will stop purchasing used books just because they are ridiculously cheap. I asked myself why I buy cookbooks and this was one of the reasons. Bad idea. This needs to stop!

I will stop buying new books sight unseen.

Here’s how I plan to cull the herd:

1. I will immediately box up and donate any books that I regularly pass up if their recipes come up in an EYB search.

These books are the first to go. They may have suited a certain time in my life, they may have been gifts but the bottom line is that these are books that no longer appeal and they can go.

2. Separate the great books from all the rest.

I’ve purchased sticky dots and I’m going to browse my shelves and immediately identify all the books I know I love. These are keepers. A different colour dot will go on any books I have a really good sense about. Books that have been recommended to me or, that I purchased because they compelled me in some way. These get to stay put for the time being. I need to get a sense of how much of my collection fits into these categories…and how many books do not.

3. Commit to pulling at least one of the non-great (dot-less) books off my shelf every day. If there’s nothing compelling about it, out it will go. I will consider whether a book is indexed in EYB or if it may soon be indexed. I know I’m a lot more likely to use it if it’s indexed and that will weigh heavily in my decision of whether or not to keep the book. If I have any doubts, I’ll post about the book here to get input and see if others have experience with it.

4. I will post updates here to ensure I’m staying on track.

I’m really excited about this undertaking and of course it would be a lot more fun if others joined in and shared their experiences.

So, do you plan to say good-bye to any of your cookbooks?

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  1. I culled my much smaller collection right before I moved. I culled several years before, and now I find I wish I had kept some items from the first discard binge.

    However, if so many books has become a burden, I think you are taking the right tack.

    Why don't you have a cookbook garage sale?

    33 Replies
    1. re: sueatmo

      I love the idea of a cookbook garage sale. My first thought was, I'd love to go to a cookbook garage sale!! Sheesh!! Based on how many cookbooks I've found at local garage sales though I'm just not sure how many folks around here are interested in cooking.

      That said, a local grocery store holds cooking classes so perhaps I could post a list of books for sale in case folks there are interested...

      In addition to the books in my collection, I also have a small bookshelf of duplicate books I picked up by mistake or that were gifted to me, or that I couldn't resist for the price. Most of these are great books by folks like Bayless, Kennedy, Child, Pepin, Wolfert etc.

      1. re: Breadcrumbs

        "I love the idea of a cookbook garage sale. My first thought was, I'd love to go to a cookbook garage sale!!"

        BC, I know I don't need to tell you that this is NOT a good start. ; )

        1. re: LulusMom

          I know, I know LlM...I may need a cookbook coach to counsel me through!!

          1. re: Breadcrumbs

            If you do decide to have a cookbook garage sale, I'm in Toronto, and I would LOVE to go!

        2. re: Breadcrumbs

          BC, I would like to buy your surplus Kennedy - whatever you have since I do not own any of her books - and will be passing through Toronto on the way home from Georgian Bay most likely on Sunday Aug 25.

          1. re: herby

            Breadcrumbs, I'd love to go through your discarded pile! Too bad I'm 1000+ miles away or I'd be the annoying early-bird at your cookbook garage sale.

            1. re: herby

              Hah!! Sorry herby your post must have come up as I was typing a reply before and I missed it!! I believe I only have one Kennedy book on that shelf but I promise it's yours. Have you cooked from Bayless's books? I much prefer his recipes and think you might be happier w his book but that's just MHO!!

              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                That is exactly the reason I want to try Kennedy's books. I have three Bayless' book and Salsas That Cook is the only one that I like and even that not so much. I am trying to develop a taste for Mexican and South American food which I seem to be wanting but find most dishes boring, lacking in spice and interest. I took Mexican cooking class recently and some dishes were OK but again mostly corn, tomatoes, rice, beans and not in exciting flavour/texture combinations. I am hoping that DK will be more to my taste.

                1. re: herby

                  herby, do you have RB's Authentic Mexican? I'm not familiar with all of his books but my impression is it's the -- how do I describe it? -- I guess the most "authentic". It's the closest to Diana Kennedy.

                  As for DK, The Art of Mexican Cooking is outstanding. Get it just for the salsa ranchera recipe. So easy and so delicious. And if you ever feel like stuffing chicken intestines with blood, there's a recipe for that too. It covers a broad range. The Essential Cuisines of Mexico will also never, ever leave my bookshelf.

                  Well, I can't imagine any of her books ever leaving my bookshelf... But those two would be a great start.

                  1. re: Soul Vole

                    I am not at home and can't look up but as I remember I have Salsas That Cook, Party at Rick's and One Plate (something). I've taken DK from the library and was intimidated by the huge tome, pretty sure it was The Art, and didn't cook a thing. I am not fond of blood sausage - chicken intestines will have to wait for my taste to change :)

                    Many thanks for your suggestions!

                    1. re: herby

                      You should also take a look at Mary Sue and Susan's books. They are very true to traditional ingredients but their recipes are anything but boring. A lot of my go to recipes come from their books. If you want more specifics, let me know. You will probably recognize them from Border Grill or Two Hot Tamales....

                      Here's a link to get you started:


                        1. re: dkennedy

                          Thank you for suggestions and the link! Susan wrote a book about street food not too long ago, correct? I do not have it but looked at it on line and wondered. What is your favourite? If I am to buy one of their books, which one do you suggest?

                          I recently bought Pati's Mexican Table but have not cooked from it yet.

                          1. re: herby

                            My favorite by far is Mesa Mexicana. A paperback pictures but really solid recipes. I've taken several of their cooking classes too...and i always come away having learned something, full, drunk, and happy!

                            1. re: dkennedy

                              That's my kind of a cooking class :) They do not have this kind in Canada though... I'll have good look at Mesa Mexicana.

                              1. re: herby

                                When I get home I'll post my favorite recipes out of this book.

                            2. re: herby

                              Pati's Mexican Table is wonderful! Probably my favorite of all of the Mexican cookbooks I own.

                            3. re: dkennedy

                              I have Mesa Mexicana and Too Hot Tamales. I prefer the Mesa Mexicana cookbook.

                              1. re: Njchicaa

                                It's good to know that you like Mesa Mexicana, NJchicaa. I just bought it.

                                1. re: Gio

                                  It's a really solid book. I imagine it is available used for a pretty reasonable price.

                                  1. re: dkennedy

                                    ...and perhaps a good candidate for a COTM! I'd love to get more use out of my copy. No surprise, I own it I guess!! ; )

                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                      I would totally be down with that!

                                    2. re: dkennedy

                                      I bought it used on Amazon for less than $3 and the copy I received was autographed by both Mary Sue and Susan.

                                      1. re: Njchicaa

                                        Oh good job! Some of the resold books I've bought at Amazon have been autographed too. This Mesa Mex. book has a rating of Very Good and cost $0.24 + shipping. So that wasn't too bad.

                                        Happy to read the above dialogue. If it's everything everyone said it is I'd be more than happy to go for a COTM. I used to watch their cooking shows on PBS? or early FN and loved everything about them.

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          Can't go wrong at that price!

                            4. re: Soul Vole

                              I love Kennedy and borrowed her massive Oaxaca book from Montréal public libraries - glad I had it sent to one near me, as it weighs a tonne - but the chicken intestines couldn't help but evoke the rather vulgar expression, "chicken-shit issues".

                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                        Advertise on Craigslist as a cookbook sale. And leave notices on the grocery bulletin boards. Write a witty ad, throw out some titles with sample prices, and I think you sale will be a great success.

                        1. re: sueatmo

                          Thanks Sue! I've settled on donating the books but I love your suggestions!

                        2. re: Breadcrumbs

                          So jealous there is going to be a cookbook garage sale and I won't be able to go! You will have to take pictures of your offerings and post them here so we can drool over what we are missing!!!!!

                          I love your idea of tabbing your books with different colored dots to identify the keepers. I have only about 12% of your collection but I would still like to downsize. One of the things that holds me back is COTM. I am always afraid a book I have shipped off will be selected. I also am a victim of buying too many ridiculously cheap cookbooks.

                          1. re: dkennedy

                            Last week, I received a second hand book I bought on amazon because it is ridiculously cheap and in excellent condition. It is Delia Smith's one is fun. I don't even like Delia Smith and found her recipes overly complicated and fussy.

                            I sat down and looked at it this evening. It is exactly as I have expected a Delia Smith's book from the 80s. Far too many things that takes well over an hour.

                            Now the book has gone back to the bookcase. I'm trying to put this one into a charity bag. Don't know why I bought it and have now had trouble parting with it :(

                            1. re: dkennedy

                              dk, downthread I'd said I'd post some of the titles I'm donating but I like your idea better. It would be much easier and significantly quicker to snap and post photos. Thank-you!! Brilliant.

                              I know what you mean about COTM-worthy books and I do think I'll start to struggle once I've made my way past the initial culling.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            I am too but just lurking...I think.

                            1. re: Gio

                              Oh, goodie. Another get together for cocktails. You still doing the bartender duties, LLM?

                              1. re: JoanN

                                Abso-bloomin-lutely. Anyone up for some of those cucumber-lime gimlets? Seriously refreshing.

                                If you aren't ready to sit a spell yet, but want to try them at home, here is the recipe:
                                I always double the gin. But then you probably figured that out, didn't you?

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  I'll have a Cucumber Gimlet thanx LLM. Leave out the lime jc, leave out the sugar, leave out the cucumber jc,. Gin on the rocks w a dribble of dry vermouth and a couple of slices of cucumber in a double old fashioned will be fine.

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    I can definitely do that. Do it for the mister on a regular basis. He sometimes takes cocktail onions.

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      Thank you! The cocktail onion makes your husband's cocktail an authentic Gibson...

                                      Curiously, at this moment I'm reading an article in Slate, "17 Cocktails for a Better Body."


                                      1. re: Gio

                                        If I could recommend this 12 times I would. I love it! But I am not about to have a kale margarita. Nuh-uh.

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          I thought that made it a Gibson.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            You are So right. And, I'm So shut-off...even before I begin. I edited it BTW.

                                            1. re: Gio

                                              Ah, c'mon - gibson, gimlet ... I get them confused all the time, even before I've had one.

                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                Hah... thanks for the reprieve...

                                                1. re: Gio

                                                  About 45 years ago I unintentionally got my brother totally drunk on gimlets. That's the only way I keep them straight. I also remember dating a man MUCH older than I who drank Gibsons and wanting to be oh so sophisticated I ordered one also. It was all I could do not to spit it across the table :) Had no idea I was drinking all alcohol!

                                              2. re: Gio

                                                So, I guess I was too late to edit and correct the name of the drink. I hate when that happens.

                                            2. re: Gio

                                              Love a good Gibson. I often order a Gibson in a lower-end bar in order to get a cocktail made with gin. Because some places will give you vodka by default if you order a martini, even if you tell them not to. Don't get me started. But for some reason, you order a Gibson and they don't pull that kind of stunt.

                                2. Maybe you could do like experts recommend with clothing. If you use it to actually make something, put it in a special section or put a colored dot on the spine. At the end of the year, the dots are keepers, everything else gets culled or reviewed for special circumstances that make it worth keeping.

                                  I should do that.

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: tcamp

                                    Hi tcamp, thanks for your ideas! I'm using EYB in a similar fashion. I *try* to remember to record notes for each recipe I make and then bookmark them as favourites or "don't repeat". I have written over 800 notes and I love seeing that # grow as it's evidence that I truly do use my books.

                                    Your post has inspired me to look at that "don't repeat" may provide clues to "repeat offender" cookbooks that I could purge.

                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                      I like the idea of a "don't repeat" bookmark. That could indeed be a good way to identify books that don't work for me.

                                      The problem I'm running into as I sort through my books is the ones that aren't on EYB. Either not in their database at all, or just not indexed. I feel like I am not using these books because I am relying on EYB to search for recipes. And yet, many of these books are very good and worth keeping.

                                      1. re: MelMM

                                        I know what you mean about the non-indexed books Mel. I have some of those in my kitchen just so I don't forget about them. I also have a big comfy chair in the room with the bookcase that houses my Italian cookbook collection (the cuisine I cook most frequently since mr bc loves it...though he isn't Italian). I often will plunk myself it that chair and just pull books off the shelf for inspiration just to ensure I'm not missing out some great recipes/books just because the book isn't yet indexed. I wish EYB would allow members to purchase the indexing of a book. I'd be willing to pay to have some of my favourite books indexed.

                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                          Purchase indexing! What a brilliant idea! Have you suggested it to them? What might be even better is if there were a way for a few of us to chip in together on the cost of indexing.

                                          There is, of course, the member indexing. I actually volunteered to index a book once. Let's just say that didn't go very well. It was much more tedious than I could have imagined, and much more time consuming. I simply did not have enough time to complete the task.

                                          1. re: MelMM

                                            The same story here! I actually struggled on and completed the index. Sent it in and received pages of comments all requiring action and then I gave up...

                                            1. re: herby

                                              That is what happened to me, too, herby. I finally got through it - and this was not a large book - then the comments came back... ugh. Here I am, an accomplished professional with degrees in Math and Physics, and I can't even index a cookbook right! Hats off to the people that are actually doing this! And also to EYB for their quality control...

                                              1. re: MelMM

                                                I felt as a failure - also a professional with Masters in engineering, an author of countless reports on complex subjects but can't index a smallish book! Glad that I am paying a fee to use the site :)

                                                1. re: herby

                                                  One can't always be organized and sharp everywhere. It's ok to a have flaws!

                                                  1. re: herby

                                                    Too funny, herby. That makes me feel a little better.

                                                    Definitely worth the money, and I would pay to have a book indexed before I would try indexing one myself again.

                                                  2. re: MelMM

                                                    i suspect that having a Masters in Library Science would be the most useful!!

                                                2. re: MelMM

                                                  I didn't write to Jane & Fiona to suggest it but I have posted the suggestion a couple of times in their forums. That said, the forums there don't tend to get much traffic but I know J&F read them. I would definitely pay for indexing. I have a few Canadian books that I fear will never reach a sufficient level of member ownership to qualify for indexing otherwise.

                                        2. Just a few weeks ago, I reached the point, with only just over 100 cookbooks, at which there's no more space on the shelf. But the main problem is that the house is filled with books of other kinds, a lot of which I'm sure can go. So I'm starting there.

                                          Well, maybe I can start with one particularly useless kind of cookbook: Ten or fifteen of them are small paperbacks that were acquired by my parents in the 1950s-1980s. I've been keeping them for sentimental reasons, but they're disintegrating, difficult to use even if the paper were brand new, and not books likely ever to be indexed in EYB or of real interest to me. So, into the recycling they go. And, hey, that's a foot of shelf space right there!

                                          Thanks very much for this thread, Breadcrumbs.

                                          17 Replies
                                          1. re: ellabee

                                            ellabee that sounds like a great way to start. I sorted through a large pile of "booklet" type recipe leaflets today and ended up putting most into a box for the thrift store.

                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                              Okay, here's what's going to the recycle bin. All are small-format paperbacks (Signet, Bantam).

                                              - The Art of French Cooking, Fernande Garvin (Bantam 1958) "Free with purchase of bars of Dove": enough said.

                                              - The All New Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook , 10th edition, 1959, by Wilma Lord Perkins (Farmer's niece). A very small-scale paperback, among the darkest and crumbliest. An easy decision because already here is a hardback Boston Cooking School Cookbook from 1936 or so, big enough to lie flat when open, in better condition and with bigger type and more white space. Much about this paperback edition suggests that the Fannie Farmer-BCS enterprise was feeling pressure from the Rombauer-Becker Joy of Cooking juggernaut. But to be a kitchen "bible", a book needs to be big enough to use in the kitchen.

                                              - The Good Housekeeping International Cookbook (GH, 1964)

                                              - Everyday French Cooking, Henri-Paul Pellaprat (copyright 1968). This would be of some interest but is the most falling-apart of all these, with unreadably dark paper.

                                              - Specialty Cooking with Wine, Morrison Wood (1967 revised edition, a blending of previous books from 1949 and 1956).

                                              - The Pleasures of Chinese Cooking, Grace Zia Chu (Simon and Schuster, 1962) Foreword by Craig Claiborne.

                                              - Madame Wu's Art of Chinese Cooking, Sylvia Wu (Charles, 1973). Author ran a Hollywood Chinese restaurant, book opens with Robert Redford family's favorite dish.

                                              - The Anytime, Anywhere Barbecue Book, Beth Merriman (Grosset & Dunlap, 1972). "In association with Parade Magazine." I'm sure this coincided with our being given a gas grill by my uncle who worked for a gas company; looks as if it was looked through once and tucked away forever. We got plenty of delicious meals from that grill, but without its help.

                                              Format means a lot to me; a book has to be big enough to be able to lie flat on the worktable, and none of these are.

                                              It's almost as important that a cookbook be modest enough to be reasonably comfortable to take off and put back on the shelf, to flip through, and to read in bed. I detest cookbooks that are way bigger and heavier than they need to be (looking at you, Vegetable Literacy, Ad Hoc at Home, Around My French Table, and The Way to Cook).

                                              Turning to the books whose content more than their format puts them on the bubble: Sundays at Moosewood, A Taste of America (the Sterns, 1980s), and The New York Times Book of Wine, Terry Robards (1976). Will read over the last two before moving them out to extract any worthwhile info.

                                              Don't feel like doing that with Sundays at Moosewood, which unlike the others in this post was acquired by me. Have repeatedly tried to read it but can't get interested -- maybe because the chapters/cuisines were farmed out to different staff, and the book entirely lacks a 'voice'. But I will look through EYB and chow threads to see if there are any recipes that are keepers. Even if so, think this is on its way to the informal 'lending library' at a local-foods store. I'm there at least once a week, and can borrow it back if I run across a reason to consult it.

                                              1. re: ellabee

                                                I put all my Moosewood books (maybe 2 or 3? all gifts from when I was a vegetarian) immediately into the give away pile without a second glance. You're doing the right thing with Sundays. Good job!

                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  I still use my moosewoods a lot.. they were among the first cookbooks that I collected (along with all of the Anne Lindsays.. which only other Canadian will know!). But I only have 3 of them which I use often..

                                                  1. re: rstuart

                                                    Oh, rstuart, don't make me go take those books out of the pile ....

                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                      I only use three though.. and not the dessert recipes, which aren't very food! The key is that YOU don't use them :)

                                                2. re: ellabee

                                                  Oh, no! The Art of French Cooking is one of my most treasured cookbooks, although it's only a little Bantam paperback. The first French food I ever cooked was from this book, and it was excellent. Mine was part of a slipcased set, but I don't know what happened to the other books on other cusines.

                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                    That'll teach me to have knee-jerk reactions, roxlet. No question it evokes a different era; the first thing I opened to was sauce Bearnaise, whose headnotes emphasize the difficulty of preparation and the unavailability of shallots in U.S. groceries. Not to mention fresh tarragon (recipe uses dried). A nice feature is the inclusion of wine recommendations with all the main-dish recipes.

                                                    I noticed a list of other books/cuisines in the series, which I figured were offered as premiums for Dove at different times. I bet the slipcased set was a December item.

                                                    1. re: ellabee

                                                      Actually, it wasn't a Dove promotion. It was an actual set of books that was purchased by someone -- probably me -- in my family. I had just returned from 3 months in Europe (mainly studying in Italy), and the food I had in France made a huge impression on me since it was so different than the Italian food we always had at home. I remember having no clue what salt pork was, nor any idea of where to find it. The Boeuf Bourguinon was actually fantastic -- as good as any I've made since.

                                                  2. re: ellabee

                                                    I still like the original Moosewood and Broccoli Forest but could never get into Sundays. I also have Vegetables I Can't Live Without and do not know what to do about that one.

                                                    1. re: herby

                                                      I'm a Vegetarian Epicure-ite myself; It was the first cookbook I bought when I started living on my own. But through those years I spent plenty of time in the Moosewood/Broccoli Forest kitchens of friends and housemates.

                                                      Cooking was one of the few ways my mother and I could connect peaceably, and we were a household of people interested in food. Veg Ep.appealed to me as a graceful extension of that, adapted a bit for my generation. Moosewood seemed to be more overtly countercultural with respect to the food itself, less to my taste.

                                                      1. re: ellabee

                                                        I still have both volumes of Vegetarian Epicure and the Caesar Salad recipe is my definitely go-to to this day :)

                                                        1. re: ellabee

                                                          I'm on record here on CH as loving the Vegetarian Epicure. Funny but my favorite Moosewood is Sundays - but the point of this thread is well-taken. If YOU don't like it and don't cook out of it, it's not a good book for you.

                                                          1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                            I am nominating you for the Chowhound Peace Prize as that is one of the most understanding and nurturing posts I have read in a long time.

                                                            Awesomely said.

                                                      2. re: ellabee

                                                        I haven't got to my Moosewoods yet. All were second hand purchases in the past couple of years. I don't recall ever cooking from one but I know they have their fans. Someone here recommended a delicious-sounding soup recipe that I made note of when I first purchased one of these books.

                                                        That said, without fail, I always seem to see a Moosewood book on my thrift store rounds so even if I let them go, they could likely be re-acquired inexpensively and without issue.

                                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                          " I don't recall ever cooking from one but I know they have their fans."
                                                          Well, Breadcrumbs, really. If you have never (NEVER!) cooked from one of these books DESPITE actually having them on the shelf, clearly you are not one of their fans! Ditch them and move on!

                                                  3. Sticky dots might ruin the covers of valuable books.

                                                    38 Replies
                                                    1. re: Bunson

                                                      Good point Bunson. That said, I write in my books so I've probably already diminished their anyone other than me that is!!

                                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                        That is a problem I have. Even before cooking from them, I go through my books and put little notes about changes I might make or what sounds especially good, or underlining part of the author's headnote. I have stopped doing this in the past 6 months, realizing that it was going to be a problem now that I know I need to get rid of some of them.

                                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                                          I don't think I could stop writing notes LlM but your post made me think of another challenge...I'll need to keep a list of the cookbooks I've parted company with. Otherwise I'll end up buying them all over again!! Is there an Anti-EYB website anywhere?!!!

                                                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                            !!!! I don't mind writing notes in one I've cooked in at this point, but I really need to not write in the ones I haven't tried yet. I personally enjoy reading the notes I've read in used cookbooks, but not everyone would.

                                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                                              ...and I'd be said if one of my books went to one of those people!! ; )

                                                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                they lack cookbook soul. Totally agree.

                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                  and they have no business with our books LlM. Be free...write away. I think it's a great way to gauge whether or not someone is worthy of your cast-offs!!

                                                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                    BC and LLM,

                                                                    When I want to make notes since I don't like to write in my books. I use post it notes. And leave them right in the book. I did this for Ottolenghi when I did measurement conversions, but the book is too pretty to write in.


                                                                    1. re: JulesLP

                                                                      Post-its tend to lose their oomph after a while, and if I'm going to use and reuse a particular recipe, I sure don't want all my hard earned lessons on what I like best about it to flutter away.

                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                        Notes on made recipes are one of the main uses for my cooking notebook/journal: adjustments of ingredient quantities, substitutions, variations, equipment used; sometimes a whole recap of the directions, with the tasks interwoven a little more efficiently, or just grouped in a way that makes it easier to grasp the process.

                                                                        Even if I were comfortable writing in most of my cookbooks, I'd still want more room than they offer for my notes.

                                                                        1. re: ellabee

                                                                          I'm curious why you're not "comfortable" writing in your books. Once I open them, they're immediately "used" so I won't be selling them as "new." And my faves wind up with some stains invariably.

                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            I've wondered, myself. I was raised to treat books well, so that lingering inhibition might play a role.

                                                                            But my mother wrote in her cookbooks, so I understood early on that cookbooks are different -- and her notes are a definite part of those books' charm for me now. OTOH, I have no children who might someday find my notes endearing or nostalgic.

                                                                            I won't be selling any of my books, so that's nothing to do with it.

                                                                            Don't know.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              I can't write in books either. It's a *thing* I can't explain. I like my books pristine (even though they get stuff on them when I cook, I still cant' write in them. LOL)

                                                                              In college, I could never understand all the people who highlighted their textbooks. That drove me nuts. A highlighter never touched my textbook and I hated buying used books. I had to find one who didn't highlight every word.

                                                                              1. re: Manassas64

                                                                                I highlighted and wrote in all my textbooks but I still can't write in my cookbooks no matter how hard I will it.... I guess bc I like to look at them unlike my old textbooks

                                                                                1. re: Manassas64

                                                                                  I'm the same way. I have no issue with drops of food getting on the pages but I can't write in them. I use sticky notes & one thing I like is that I can update my thoughts on a recipe - maybe the first time I cook it I'll say "next time try x" and then the second time I can pull out that sticky & write a new note with "more x works really well" or some such thing.

                                                                                  1. re: Manassas64

                                                                                    I'm just the opposite. I love buying used books, especially cookbooks, because I enjoy reading the notes, comments, etc. that previous owners have left. Even better, the clippings and recipes I sometimes find.

                                                                                    Tangent: My mom volunteers at Friends of the Library. At some point, she started saving the bookmarks she found in donated books. She makes mobiles from them and they are hanging all over the FOB warehouse.

                                                                                    1. re: tcamp

                                                                                      Finding a little snippet or comment is fun, like peering into something collective. I love old cook books and recipe boxes.

                                                                                    2. re: Manassas64

                                                                                      After the better part of a lifetime thinking it was a sacrilege to write in my cookbooks, I began doing so about seven years ago. And it’s not just a coincidence that that times with the beginning of COTM.

                                                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                                                        Probably the same for me (not the 7 years, but since I started being a COTM regular ... maybe 6 years). Funny.

                                                                                        1. re: JoanN

                                                                                          Funny, the same thing happened to me when I started COTM. I wish I was more consistent in writing in my cookbooks as to whether or not I tried the recipe and whether I liked it or not. I made brownies for book group last month. And, as I was making them, I had the strangest sense of deja vu, as I swirled in the dulce de leche. Later I asked the group if I had brought these before and they said yes. As a group, they aren't a fan of my "no repeat" dessert self imposed rule, so they all stayed quiet until asked.

                                                                                          1. re: beetlebug

                                                                                            There have been more times than I'd like to admit when I've made a recipe from an old COTM and gone to report on it only to find that I'd already reported on it. Glurp. I try now to check and see, at least to find out whether I liked it!

                                                                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                              Two glurps from me on that score LLM. And, sometimes I've even missed the first report so made a duplicate...

                                                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                                                Thank goodness I'm not alone ... Probably too much time on the COTM nominating couch.

                                                                                              2. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                I have done this too. It's really funny when the second time around, I have a different opinion of the dish than I did the first time.

                                                                                                1. re: LulusMom


                                                                                                  For some reason, I forget to mark my books when I am writing a COTM review. I should at least note that there is an online note for me to read.

                                                                                                  1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                    That's why I Usually add the date to the recipe title in the book. Sometimes I don't...

                                                                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                                                                      This is a *really* good idea.

                                                                                                      And glurp is a word, right? I mean ... right??? (nervously chewing fingernails)

                                                                                                2. re: beetlebug

                                                                                                  If nothing else a recipe I make is noted with the date of first making it and a rating. Got this system from my mother. Mostly use it for books, magazine clippings and printouts. Any recipe I don't print used to be rated on the website but now with so many blogs and other formats there have been many neglected notes.

                                                                                                  Here is the rating scale we use. With all the recipes out there, I will only repeat if it has a Very Good or higher.

                                                                                                  Very Good
                                                                                                  Very Poor

                                                                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                                                                    I date and rate recipes in books and clippings too melpy! We use a 10 point scale and I don't repeat anything w a 7 or lower.

                                                                                      2. re: JulesLP

                                                                                        I tend to use stickies if there isn't enough room for notes but I must say, since I joined EYB, I'm writing fewer notes in my books. I always tab a recipe I've made and will write a quick note but then add *see EYB*

                                                                              2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                BC, I advise making a bookmark in EYB for all the ones you cull -- and then having a written list for the ones that aren't in the EYB library, that you keep with a printout of the EYB bookmark.

                                                                                Keep the paper lists in your bag, so they can help you not re-buy them when you're on your magical thrift store rounds, library book sales, and other danger spots.

                                                                                1. re: ellabee

                                                                                  Hi ellabee. I didn't think we could bookmark books that are not on our EYB shelves...can we? I definitely want them off my EYB shelves because I don't want their recipes cluttering my search results and it seems like too much work to always have to exclude a list from a search.

                                                                                  I think dk was onto something up-thread though. If I take photos of the books I'm purging I'll always have access to those photos for quick reference.

                                                                                  I fear I'll need to seriously curtail those thrift store rounds....easier said than done though!! Those stores always seem to beckon me!!!

                                                                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                    You do have to have a book on your Bookshelf to be able to bookmark it in Eat Your Books, but nothing says you have to actually own the book to put it on your Bookshelf!

                                                                                    The books I actually own are bookmarked 'kitchen shelf' and 'sitting room', but there are extensive wishlists and other locations, like 'library' (in the local library, of interest, but not yet checked out), 'library - checked out', bookmarks with the names of good friends who own books of interest that I've borrowed and could borrow again if I wished, and wishlist bookmarks organized by broad topic (preserving, home/seasonal, cuisines, baking...).

                                                                                    So anyone looking at my Bookshelf would think I have many more books than I do. But most of the time when I do recipe searches I just restrict the search to 'kitchen shelf', or to 'sitting room' if that doesn't turn up much.

                                                                                    And, after boxing up the crumbling little pocket paperbacks, now I have a new bookmark: 'culled' ! [Also a second new one: 'cull candidate']

                                                                                    1. re: ellabee

                                                                                      That's a good tip for EYB ellabee.. I use the library frequently, and it has prevented me from buying many books!

                                                                                  2. re: ellabee

                                                                                    If you have a smartphone you can even make a spreadsheet and save it it Google drive so you don't have to fiddle with paper.

                                                                                  3. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                    Why not just create a bookmark in EYB for books you've culled? You can then exclude that bookmark from your searches.