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The Skinny on Cookbooks

Confessions of a Cookbook Addict

By Marissa A. Cheng

Staff Writer

I have too many cookbooks. Normally, I wouldn’t admit this freely, but my confession won’t stop me from continuing to add to my collection, either. Other people have chocolate, color-coding their notes, and freshly-baked bread; I have cookbooks.

The first cookbook I ever bought was How to be a Domestic Goddess, by Nigella Lawson. The book itself was beautiful, the pages thick and matted,with lovely pictures and fanciful recipes.

Then I discovered the Doubleday Book Club or Columbia CD Club for cookbooks. It was like Christmas! Join and get four cookbooks (from a list) for $1 each, plus $12 for shipping and handling. The catch: you had to buy two books at Club price within a year. My fate was sealed.

Ten cookbooks later, I sit here at my computer, writing this column. In addition to those cookbooks, I have food-writing books, which also have recipes in them, and the five or six that I gave to my sister to justify getting another cookbook. Ok, so it should be “twenty cookbooks later...” You get the idea.

At this point in my cookbook-buying life, I consider myself somewhat a connoisseur of cookbooks. The best cookbooks not only have good recipes, but can also be read like a novel. The good ones also have the beauty of a coffee-table book, with the substance of a real book. Some people might dispute my argument, but they just haven’t discovered the joy of reading recipes for all sorts of exotic foods that you must go and cook right then and there. If you’re one of these people, well, I can only hope that you see the light sooner rather than later.

Back to what I was saying: a cookbook isn’t just a bunch of recipes. They’re equally as well-crafted as a novel, with appropriately amusing and interesting anecdotes accompanying the recipes. You can actually sit down and read a cookbook like any other book. Cookbooks also satisfy your inner child in a way, with all of the pictures in them; I generally don’t buy any cookbooks without pictures. A book for adults that has pictures in it -- this is frowned upon in most genres of books, except for cookbooks, biographies, and coffee-table books. Who wants to be looking at pictures of some random guy throughout childhood, when they could be looking at what they’re going to make for dinner tomorrow?

And I don’t even have that many cookbooks. In fact, I only have twelve on my bookshelf. There are so many different kinds of food to know how to cook: cookies, cakes, pies (I have a sweet tooth, yes), soups, stews, side dishes, entrees -- you get the point. Then, combine this with the multitudes of different cultural foods, and you get a very large number of cookbooks -- Indian food, American food, Italian food, British food, healthy food, vegetarian food, organic food. My collection only covers the sweet stuff and the all-purpose. So you see, there are no addictions here.

The fate of my first cookbook? Given to my sister, after I discovered I, uh, didn’t have enough space in my bookshelf for it. Now, I’ve learned to put the cookbooks in the bookshelf first, and fit everything else around them.