There is a magical little shop I know. A tiny place where you can go and lose an hour or two without trouble and oft times come away with a belly full of tea and sweets. The place is Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks and I seldom leave without at least one new cookbook tucked under my arm. Needless to say, I have a fairly extensive collection; many I have bought myself, many were gifts and many more I inherited from my grandmother. It’s my own private Library of Alexandria.
We live in an incredible age. An age where the internet makes every single one of the recipes in every one of my many cookbooks entirely redundant. It’s both a great thing and a source of depression that pretty much any recipe you can conceive of has been done, written down and posted on the internet. I fully came to realize this a number of years ago when I had a plan to make a grapefruit meringue pie. I happened to do a quick google search and promptly found that my idea was not so unique. Of course, I ended up just ignoring the recipe and making it up on my own anyway. I have a game that I play on occasion where I come up with a “new” dish and google it just to see if it has been done. This works for fennel sorbet to duck wellington and everything in between. It’s rare that I can’t discover a recipe for these creations. So, with every recipe imaginable just an internet search away, why would I want to clutter up my house with so many cook books? Especially given that I can’t ever imagining having a cookbook where every single page contains a recipe I’m interested in.
Probably the first and best reason for having cookbooks is that there’s something special about an actual physical book in your hands. A screen at times simply feels wrong. Cooking is a tactile experience and it makes sense to start right from the recipe. Plus I find inspiration easier when staring at my shelf as opposed to wandering aimlessly on the internet. It seems a lot of cooks feel the same and often have scores of books even if, as with myself, they seldom follow any recipe exactly. Ask any bibliophile and they will tell you that books have a magic that can’t be replicated electronically.
Another great thing about books is that there is a level of consistency that the internet can be lacking in. Many cookbooks have upwards of a hundred recipes all vetted by the same person, usually a chef of some sort. Find someone you like and you’re well on your way. Additionally, due to the publishing process, there is something of a guarantee of quality that means every recipe has a better chance of working the first time you try it.
So I’ll keep my collection and no doubt add to it. There is, after all, so much to be found in those pages.