The other day I was in a store and picked up a cookbook I had never seen before. It looked intriguiging. I flipped through the pages. I questioned just how many recipes I would make from it. How many recipes would satisfy the crazy preferences of both me and Sir Pickypants? (We all know just how hard it is to please both of us.) I ended up putting it down and walking away.
I've bought a few new cookbooks in the past two or three years. I always buy them with high hopes. I fall for big names and glossy covers and beautiful locations (say the word "Italy" in a cookbook and I'm all over it). I buy the book, start looking at the recipes and whittle down the ones I can actually make. This one has bacon? Nope. This one has cheese? Nope. I can just forget the fish section most of the time. The meat section has to be ignored as well. Then I have to weed out which vegetable-based recipes will please both of us. By the time I've gone through the entire cookbook, I have maybe six recipes I can use if I'm lucky, with another six recipes I can make as compromise meals (where I make meat for myself and fish for Kevin).
Last night, I wanted to make dinner and I still had a lot of tortillas left over from my soup last week. I needed to figure out what to do with them. I didn't go to a cookbook. I went to a blog (in this case my own) and made Chipotle Chicken and Pinto Bean Tacos. I started this blog to archive and share my own recipes. It seems like I'm heading in a direction away from cookbooks.
My most recent purchases (purchased over the course of the last two or three years) have been Jamie's Italy, Giada's Family Dinners, and The Lady and Sons Dessert Cookbook. I was very excited to own Jamie's book, but I've barely touched it. I've coaxed a few recipes out of Giada. I suppose that one was the most useful because she has two recipes I was constantly downloading from the Food Network site that are in that book. I've made a handful of Paula's desserts as well. I just don't think I have any go-to cookbooks.
When I was in college and first learning to cook, I relied heavily on my paperback copies of The Frugal Gourmet and The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine, but unless I really want to remember a specific recipe, those books stay on the shelf.
I'm beginning to wonder if the internet is beginning to make cookbooks obsolete. When I want a recipe for a specific dish, the first place I go is to the Internet, rather than my cookbooks. I google ingredients if I want to figure out what to do with a particular vegetable. I have a pile of blogs I read regularly and pilfer recipes I like from them. I watch the Food Network and if I like a recipe I see, I go to their website. I do advanced searches on Recipezaar and Epicurious. Many times I don't even use recipes. I just look at recipes on TV or on the internet, take what I like from them, and create recipes of my own. I'm not a skilled enough baker to do that with desserts, but I'm slowly figuring that out. One of the Food Network chefs even said that cookbooks are a waste of money (including his) because the recipes are so readily available online (although I suppose, as with my Giada book, that if you're constantly downloading the same recipes, having them in cookbook form is useful). I can't remember the last time I used an actual book with pages for recipe.
I'm wondering if this is a trend. There is part of me that searches for the Holy Grail of cookbooks. Because I have no formal training, I still long for the book that's going to tell me the perfect technique so that I can properly cook the basics and then expand on them with my own style. I am not sure which one to get. I have Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cooking Techniques and Knife Skills Illustrated but I'm wondering if How to Cook Everything or Cooking for Dummies or some other book will suit me better. Sometimes I look at these technique books and think, "Screw it! I'm just going to find a recipe."
Obviously not everyone feels the way I do about cookbooks. There are entire blogs centered around using cookbook recipes. Some people still love their books. I still wonder if I'm not alone in finding I use cookbooks less and less. The Food Network, Internet recipe sites, blogs, and my own head seem to be my biggest recipes source right now. Is this a trend? Am I just lazy?
Even though I don't use them, I still have a hard time resisting cookbooks sometimes. There is no place like Bonnie Slotnick's to help me remember what a great world of cookbooks we have out there.