“Wealth is now defined, at least in part, by the ability to be offline whenever you want” Fernando Gros.
0 items in your cart
$0
Blog // Thoughts
August 18, 2014

My Cookbook Confessions

I have 127 cookbooks. I was tempted to count them today, when two new cookbooks arrived from Amazon (The Banh Mi Handbook and Asian Pickles). For those who don’t cook this might sound like a crazy number of books to have on the same topic. But, fans of cooking will probably not be surprised to […]

I have 127 cookbooks. I was tempted to count them today, when two new cookbooks arrived from Amazon (The Banh Mi Handbook and Asian Pickles).

For those who don’t cook this might sound like a crazy number of books to have on the same topic. But, fans of cooking will probably not be surprised to see so many cookbooks on my shelf. Quite a few folk I know have a lot more than I do and even a quick visit to many bookstores today will show that cookbooks are one of the largest sectors in the modern book publishing business.

I like to say all those cookbooks, which I’ve collected over about 20 years, represent a research library of sorts. That all these books allow me to study, in depth the recipes and techniques for any of the dishes I make, or might want to make.

This is party true. It is also partly bullshit.

The far more honest I could, but seldom do give, is that all these books are a manifestation of the insecurities I have about cooking. Despite all the compliments I get, either in person, or from the relentless parade of pictures I post on social media, I’m not very sure of myself in the kitchen.

It’s not a childhood thing. My mother often jokes that she never set out to teach me to cook. Yet, I learnt so much from her. She was always patient with me in the kitchen as a kid, always answered my questions and shared stories. My childhood memories of trying to cook are all good ones.

But, once I started to cook for myself, I had many spectacular failures. I also encountered more than a few people who loved to parade their knowledge, limited as it now seems to me, in bossy and bully-ish ways. Funnily enough, none of those experiences, or the people who drove them, represent the life I have in the kitchen today.

I found solace, as I often have, in books. Carefully following recipes and studiously understanding the origins of recipes became a way to navigate what I often felt was a lack of natural ability in the kitchen.

Yet, what is natural ability anyway? These days I cook a lot of fairly difficult, or at least difficult-looking dishes from memory. I know it often looks natural, easy even, but it didn’t come easy.

And, I keep buying cookbooks, even though I don’t need them. The honest truth is I lost all my cookbooks, I would probably only need 4-5 of them to get back to cooking every dish I regularly make in a year.

Cookbooks are not bad, of course, but like so much else, they can be something we bring into our lives to make up for a limitation we feel, or to cover over a bad experience we had. There’s always an element of emotional need in the way we shop and we owe it to ourselves to honest about that – deeply and truly honest.

Tagged
2
Responses
Naomi Hattaway 6 years ago

I often wonder about my cookbook collection as well (nowhere near your 127!) … although here lately, mine is turning into an electronic collection only as I start to purge my hardcovers out. It’s a bit sad to give them up, but I needed the space.

    Fernando Gros 6 years ago

    Naomi – I really struggle with the digitising my books. I think it’s great for references we know we want, like favourite recipes we cook again and again, but there’s so little serendipity in digital books. It’s never the same as paper, where one flicks through books (or magazines) and stumbles upon a new recipe or idea.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Enter your and your to join the mailing list.