I collect recipes like some women collect shoes.
There are cookbooks everywhere in our home: standing in rows on the shelves, piled on side tables, wedged wherever there is room. Mostly they are mine, but there are always a few on loan from the library. There are binders and folders of recipes printed from blogs, newspapers, magazines. Clips of them stuck to the fridge. Notebooks where I work out recipes that I’m fiddling with. Notebooks where I write about who we had over for dinner, their allergies and food likes/dislikes, and what we ate. Notebooks where I copy out recipes from books. A history of food obsessions past.
For me, there are only a few things more enjoyable than a heavy cookbook filled with pages of inspiration and the promise of well-cooked meals. Oftentimes I’ll lug one out to read in bed before sleeping – it doesn’t make me hungry to read about food, it gives me great comfort. Dreams of pizza rustica on a terrace, under a soft summer evening…
The thing that a cookbook lover wants more of is, of course, cookbooks. However, like the women with the shoes, you can only wear one pair at a time, and with cookbooks, you can only cook one meal at a time. And so more often than not, the cookbooks stay on the shelf when it comes time to cook. With little reference to the words in my holiest of kitchen tomes, I find myself repeatedly writing the same phrase in my cooking. In the pang of hunger and regrettable poor planning I retreat into autopilot, churning out meals that are variations on a theme. While familiarity is its own sort of comfort, I feel a twinge of loss – another meal past, another opportunity lost to try that new chicken recipe, all because there wasn’t any ground mustard in the pantry.
So next year, instead of letting those cookbooks remain right-angled and grease-free, I intend to plunge into them with gusto, letting their words come alive in the kitchen. Why have shoes if you don’t strut? Why hoard recipes like a mousy weirdo maniac if you don’t use them? Dreams become haunting ghosts when there is no actualization. I could stand to live my life with greater assertion, if that means that finally one day I make cardamom coconut rice pudding, or a ham cooked in Coca Cola. Instead of dreaming of their existence, I will realize them.