Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cookbook Musings

I love the printed word. Learning to read when I was four probably helped my interest develop into an obsession, but I come from a very literary family. I inherited my love of glossy printed media from my mom, who has built a nest of clippings, magazines and books around her comfy chair in the living room. I don’t know what fascinates me most about them. Whether it is the pages of carefully styled photos showing beautiful people, food, and products, or the well-edited articles lauding influential people, new places and experiences I just have to try, I’m not sure. Most likely, it is the ability of magazines to transport me to a different place; allowing me to try on different lifestyles where I own this beautiful house perched on a cliff over the water, or wear that dress while I peruse that cute little shop-lined street in London.

It is this same transportive power that I have discovered in cookbooks. I have forever been down on my mom when she lingers in the cookbook section of every bookstore, rolling my eyes when she purchases yet ANOTHER cookbook which will join the rows of untouched books lining the bookshelves in our house. She replies to my ribbing by simply saying she doesn’t drink, smoke or gamble, but owning cookbooks is her one vice in life. But recently, I have discovered my own obsession with these beautiful books. I have started reading cookbooks as if they were novels. Each page is a new story, filled with an easy to follow plot, a cast of unique characters, and little mishaps along the way (or at least when I am following them). I can imagine cooking each dish, creating an event in my head that would call for Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake Pots with Shortbread Spoons (Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey by Jill O’Connor) or Spaghetti con la Sarde (Molto Gusto by recent James Beard Award Winner Mario Batali). Most of these dishes will exist for me only on these cookbook pages and in my imagination (which may be a good thing when you look at the caloric value of them), but I have begun to adventure into the world of complex cooking. From baking my own bread, to having a Mexican fiesta for two, I have come to realize the fun in following a recipe (or at least looking at it for inspiration) to cook an actual meal as opposed to throwing some food in a pan for sustenance. I love having someone else to cook for, its much more enjoyable when you know your food will be enjoyed by another set of taste buds.

Here are a few of the cookbooks I am poring over at the moment. While I will not actually be purchasing any of these fine tomes of cookery (we have a strict no-more-stuff policy while we are on the road), I have visited them many a time at the bookstore. Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver introduces simple, affordable, healthy recipes that look absolutely delicious. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out his show on Hulu. He is trying to revolutionize the way America eats by introducing healthy, fresh meals starting with the Public School lunch system. As I mentioned before, I am really into Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. The pictures look so delectable you almost want to eat the page, and the recipes are accompanied by witty prose that makes you feel as if the Author Jill O’Connor is a friend you meet for coffee and cupcakes. In fact, I think I may just have to add it to my collection…Shhhh, don’t tell Andrew!

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