Cookbooks and our fascination with collecting them.


In LA, I lived a couple of blocks away from a public library. I quickly discovered their last Saturday of the month book sale. Paperbacks were $.25, hard covers were $1. Till this day, it was the best source for cookbooks. The problem with collecting them is needing the space for them. I knew it was becoming a problem when I bought the book “Crock Cookery”. I had not used my crock pot in years, mostly because everything that you cook in a crock pot tends to taste the same. I tried a recipe and sure enough, it tasted like everything else I made.

I did score an amazing book called “Flavors from the Heartland” which to me was code word for trailer trash dining. And to that it didn’t disappoint. It clocks in at a whopping 751 pages (paperback so it cost me $.25). I’m going to randomly select 3 pages to prove to you my point. Page 228; Baked Pork Chops (1 can mushroom soup, catsup, Worcestershire sauce), Baked Pork Chops (brown sugar, ketchup-why is it spelled this way and not catsup), Baked Pork Chops (Onion, Celery, Sage – oh, an exotic ingredient, bread crumbs and 1 can mushroom soup-didn’t disappoint), Glorified Pork Chops (WTF? – condensed cream & tomato soup). Get my point! Page 407; Rich Duncan Hines Bars (yellow cake mix, egg, butter, powdered sugar & cream cheese), French Pastry Bars (Oooh la la! Flour, brown sugar, oleo – I kid you not, eggs, coconut, vanilla, flour brown sugar, chopped nuts. Frosted Creams (brown sugar, oleo – yes, again, eggs, coffee, baking soda, raisins, flour vanilla & cinnamon), I don’t get what the frosted creams name means because the recipe reads like it’s some kind of cake bar. Page 590; Champagne Salad (cream cheese, sugar, crushed pineapple, frozen strawberries, bananas, cool whip – no champagne in sight), Cherry Dump Salad (canned peaches, fruit cocktail, cool whip, cherry pie filling – my stomach is turning right now), Cherry Salad (cherry pie filling, crushed pineapple, whipped topping, nuts & Eagle Brand milk – what is that?). Other tasty treats include; Never Fail Fudge, Can Can Chicken, Do Dads, Bishop’s Pie in a Pan. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Hawaii that I’m not familiar with this stuff. Who knows, maybe Do Dads are quite popular…probably in the Heartland.

I must admit that I’ve taken a liking to a recipe in here and it has proved to be a success. I made it mostly before going to culinary school as they would frown on using boxed cake mix. Chocolate Covered Cherries Cake (chocolate cake mix, almond extract, eggs & cherry pie filling, all topped with melted chocolate chips. It’s da bomb!

Now we have odd books like the 99Cent only Stores Cookbook. One of the few things that I miss about not living on the mainland is the 99Cent Store (I also miss Trader Joe’s, Fresh & Easy and especially Ikea). You can do all of your shopping there. It’s a close out store so some of the fresh produce is sketchy. You can pick up Christmas ornaments, Fresh as Spring Douche and dog food all in one stop! I digress, I must admit that I do not remember how this one came into my life. I haven’t made anything from it and I scanned it for the first time today. This cookbook mentions all ingredients with the manufacturers name, hence the 99Cent Only Store Cookbook….items only from the store. Swamp Cabbage Salad with Spicy Dressing (California Girl hearts of palm, Banquet mayonnaise, Citrovita apple cider, Spice Supreme salt, Encore dried cherries Louisiana Select hot sauce). Will it not turn out if I use Best Foods mayonnaise instead of Banquet? And what exactly is swamp cabbage?

I also have a “Smart Cooking the Costco Way” and again I don’t recall how this cookbook came into my life. I don’t recall ever looking through this book either but I’m old and my memory fades at times. In reviewing the recipes, they seem to be pretty good. Not too simple but not too difficult. My issue is that the recipes are all over the place and not focused. I’m getting a headache readingĀ  it. Lots of pics which is good and as usual, they are pushing the Costo products.

If you are a local, you must have a few of these local cookbooks. They are usually a compilation of employees of organizations or a selection of local favorites compiled. There are a few treasures and some real local favorites like Kalbi Ribs, Potato Mac Salad and my favorite….Ambrosia. There are so many versions of banana bread, it’s always difficult which one to choose from.

One of my favorites is a 2 volume set that I acquired (stole) from my mother many years ago. Meta Givens Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. I remember these from when I was a young kid trying to make candy without a thermometer. We all know that didn’t turn out! I checked the publish date, which turns out to be my birth year…1959. Volume 1 takes you from Appetizers to Fish, volume 2, Foreign Foods to Vegetables. If you want to know what “Foreign Food” is, think Muskrat Fricasee or Mrs. Dukes Baked Possum & Sweets. (I kid you not). I’ve only used this book for a Chicken Curry recipe that I adore!

I must say that my selection of cookbooks have improved ever since attending Culinary School. I can’t wait to delve into the world of Sauces; Classical & Contemporary by James Peterson. If my memory proves me correct (maybe a stretch), this book in its original publishing won a James Beard award in the 80’s. 600 pages of sauces means I better get started. Who needs the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Book (of which I have) when you can get The Ultimate Ice Cream Book. I checked this book out from our public library here and didn’t have time to make any of the recipes so I decided to purchase it. The thing about ice cream is that I don’t make it often and with a book that offers 500 recipes, it’ll take a while to get through them all. Finally, Cocolat; Extraordinary Chocolate Desserts. I bought the book because of the photographs and some unusual chocolate recipes. I did make the Tricolor Mousse, which turned out to be pretty good. The book also has some instructional information on chocolate decor.

The problem is that I keep ordering cookbooks and I don’t have time to make anything from them. Gotta stop! I’d bet that I’m not the only person guilty of that.

Speaking of cookbooks, I still have the original (circa 1973) cookbook to this Presto 6 quart pressure cooker. I like living on the edge so I’ve decided to keep this model that has been know to explode. The newer ones are for beginners. I equate this to driving a stick shift versus an automatic. Have you ever pressure cooked? It’s wonderful. Unlike a crock pot, a pressure cooker is quick and be a secret weapon in the kitchen. I’ve made baby back ribs, pot roast and some amazing black beans. It can be intimidating to use at first.

What kind of cookbooks are you hiding on your shelves? Please share!

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About tinfoilduck

I had this wacky idea to go to culinary school, while maintaining another full time career. I will be blogging about the program and how it affects me as I try to manage my daily life and how I try to keep everything together.
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2 Responses to Cookbooks and our fascination with collecting them.

  1. Marnelli says:

    got some crazy cookbooks in there! haha. I tend to hoard books when the library book sale comes up too but I rarely see cookbooks in our book sale so not hoarding those at the moment.

  2. Sara T says:

    I’m a cookbook addict! They are like food-porn to me. I will only buy ones that have a lot of pictures. Haha! I keep a running list of all of mine on my blog: http://icookbythebook.wordpress.com/my-cookbookshelf/

    The funny thing though is that 80% of the time, I use recipes that I find on the internet versus ones in a book. But that doesn’t stop me from always buying more!

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