No, it's not just the title of a cookbook. It's an essential party of life's quest. The search for the perfect recipe is endless. Why? Because cooks are perpetually dissatisfied. The making of the masterpiece is more gratifying than the eating of it. You make lemon bars from a recipe by the Barefoot Contessa. They are picture perfect, taste out of this world and yet...you ponder...is there an even better recipe out there....? Next thing you know, you have a cupboard full of cookbooks. Each promising to end your search for the best recipes ever, "the only one you'll ever need."
When a person gets right down to it, how many new recipes does a person actually endeavor? I know I certainly don't cook a new and different, exciting, never tried by my family before, recipe every night. Nope. My kitchen is pretty much a spin wheel with spaghetti, meatloaf, hamburgers, fried chicken or soup of one variety or another. Whatever my tired of figuring out what to make brain lands on. Yet, I love cookbooks. I even have cookbooks featuring Halloween theme foods, not to mention all the beautiful Christmas goodies that are pictured in the Holiday cookbooks sitting in my cupboard. So just what is the magic of cookbooks, that keeps people like me picking them up?
Perhaps it's that you can learn so much from reading them. Not only will you discover how to make that perfect glaze, but you'll find food fashion. Yes, food fashion! Where once there lashings of cream, there now is only creme fraiche. The social change of food will happen right before your very eyes. Who remembers snapping green beans, washing them and cooking them in boiling water on the stove that very night for supper? Well....not me, but my grandma did and my mom found it quite convenient to open a metal can of green beans and heat them up on the stove. Today, I still open that same brand of green beans and pop them in the microwave. I don't have to read that in a cookbook, but I want to make green bean casserole I still have to read a recipe. I have discovered that not all green bean casseroles are equal, so I have written down my favorite one in my favorite cookbook because that's where the cookbook failed me. My favorite recipe was printed on the french onion package. In the Joy of Cooking, which is my favorite cookbook, I learned from Irma Rombauer and Marion Becker wrapping a turkey in foil produced a steamed bird instead of a roasted bird and that if I didn't have time to "babysit a roasting bird," by all means, wrap it in foil and go play that tennis game.
Community cookbooks are some of my favorite as the recipes have stories to go with them. Like the bride's first meatloaf where she used leftover veggies from a stew and it fell apart into mush and tasted like stew. Then she learned how to make a mouthwatering meatloaf that her family stands around the oven waiting until it's done and every single crumb gets snarfed up (her words not mine).
From the down to earth home cooking cookbooks to the extravagant delicacies cookbooks, one thing is for certain, they are not a dying breed, a long forgotten once common household item, like the rug beater. Cookbooks will always have a place on the shelf. The vintage ones bring amazement at how people actually cooked on wood stoves (or heaven forbid actually ate that stuff - like tuna molded in jello - GAG!)