Today I want to talk about why cookbooks have a special place in my bookshelf. The reason I buy them, and what what I look for when deciding to buy one.
I know I know! I am a blogger who shares her recipes online, so why would I suggest buying a cookbook. That’s what I used to think too till I invested in my first cookbook, and from then I got addicted, and my wallet started complaining (a LOT).
A good cookbook talks about the basics - kitchen essentials, grocery shopping, ingredients and substitutions, techniques and basic recipes before moving onto a comprehensive guide about the cuisine, methodology etc. This is something I am unable to get from an online recipe. As delicious as the online recipe is, it is a stand-alone recipe, and I would need to spend a couple of hours of reading to understand the author’s style of cuisine.
As much as I love cookbooks, I am finicky about the kind of cookbooks I buy, and I flip through the contents to see if it has enough information and unique recipes to justify buying it.
In fact, I spent about 6 months researching before I finally decided to purchase my first cookbook and that was Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I wanted a book to explain the ins & outs of baking, and this book did exactly that. In fact, the cinnamon squares with the gorgeous swirl of cinnamon, chocolate & espresso are from that book only.
The cookbooks that I gravitate towards are ones focused on technique or ingredients. Examples include the Cook's Illustrated series or how to cook everything series by Mark Bittman. They have separate books on cookery, baking, holiday cooking and others. These are the books that have taught me about food without having to attend a cooking class. Not to say that they take the place of culinary school, but they are a good way to teach the theory, which an amateur cook needs. Basic things like how beans need to be soaked before cooking them, how to wash, clean and cut vegetables. How one shouldn’t roll puff pastry or whip cream in a cold kitchen. Explained step by step, these techniques are explained in detail in cookbooks, and the reader can start from simple recipes and move on to more complicated recipes.
Another favorite of mine are regional cookbooks because they are specific to a particular city, region or country. I make sure I do a lot of research before buying them. I make sure the author is a local or an expert in the cuisine, so that when I read his/her recipes it makes me start from the basics. For e.g. I have the book 'Taste of Persia' by Noami Dugaid , and though I doubt I will try all the recipes, it gives me such a detailed perspective on Persian cuisine that I just enjoyed it as a travelogue, one that made me want to enter the kitchen.
My love for cookbooks doesn’t mean that I don’t read recipes and blogs online. Of course I do, and I bookmark and save recipes from my favorite blogs (EverNote is the best for this!) all the time. But I have a special place in my heart, my house and my wallet for cookbooks. I use them for inspiration, to understand cooking processes, ingredients and sometimes just to admire the photography.
What do you think about cookbooks? What are some of your favorites? Let me know in the comments below.