Friday, March 05, 2004

How Many Cookbooks?

How many cookbooks do you own? At last count I had 75. My sister really started me off with "The Joy of Cooking" circa 1984 for which I will be forever grateful. In terms of classics I also have the Escoffier, Fannie Farmer, and several cookbooks by both Jacques Pepin and Julia Child. I have an appetizer cookbook, dessert cookbooks, magazine compendiums, regional cookbooks and even two pressure cooker cookbooks. No favorites really. I love all my babies.

I started scouring the shelves of thrift shops for cookbooks when I was still in my teens. It was amusing to see the fads of yesteryear in the titles--the blender cookbooks, cooking with wine, microwave cookbooks, and endless diet cookbooks to be sure. But finding a really good one was like finding hidden treasure. Those rare cookbooks inspired me, encouraged me and motivated me to become a better cook. And at less than a dollar a piece they were a bargain.

On a sinister note, in Iowa a compulsive "cookbook crook" who fixated on stealing cookbooks from public libraries was placed on probation this week after pleading guilty to stealing 117 volumes, though she was originally charged with stealing nearly 450 volumes. She might have spent five years in prison and received a fine of up to $7,500 had she been convicted of the felony theft charges. According to Assistant County Attorney Jerald Feuerbach, who prosecuted the case, taking and keeping the cookbooks was the thief's "major form of recreation." That I can relate to. "She didn't have very many other outlets," Feuerbach said. "This was something that became her total outlet." That's putting it mildly. She could have opened an outlet store the way she was going.

Being interested in cookbooks to the verge of obsessed is not as uncommon as you might think. Heidi Swanson started a terrific blog 101 Cookbooks based on the fact that her cookbook collection had passed 100 volumes. In her words "When you own over 100 cookbooks, it is time to stop buying, and start cooking....I decided to make a resolution to stop buying cookbooks and start trying new recipes." I can't say for sure if Heidi has stopped buying cookbooks, but she is trying new recipes from them all the time as her site chronicles through beautiful photography and wonderful though all too infrequent posts.