Monday, April 04, 2011

Cookbooks can be false advertising -- Susanna Carr

What is it about cookbooks? I flip through one and all sense of reality vanishes. The glossy pictures show a relaxed and smiling cook as she whips up something delicious for a small army in her state-of-the-art kitchen. I'm rarely relaxed when I cook, and the appliances in my kitchen plot against me, but yet, I think hey, I can make that dish.

I didn't learn how to cook until I was about 20 years old. I had some college roommates who tried to teach me Indian cooking, but they didn't know much more than me. Especially the one who thought if a teaspoon of spice is good, a tablespoon would be better. After sweating and gasping for air through more than one meal, I went and bought an Indian cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey. I eventually learned how to cook through trial and error. I use the cookbook to this day but I know most of the recipes by heart.

Last weekend I decided I was in a breakfast rut and I needed to do make something different. I flip through a beautiful cookbook that promises me a leisurely and healthy breakfast. My day would start out right. My time in the kitchen will be pleasant. No, spiritual. Downright sacred.

I really should have known better. The cook promised that the meal would take no more than 20 minutes but I was still preparing it after the hour mark. The kitchen looked like the cabinets exploded, leaving piles of bowls and utensils.

My stove now needs a thorough cleaning. Have you noticed that those glossy cookbooks never show the pile of dirty dishes in the sink? I have to admit that the breakfast tasted great. If it didn't, I think I would have had a meltdown like Julie in Julie and Julia. But I swear I'm more relaxed scrambling an egg.

Or, even better, pouring milk over cereal. The next time a cookbook promises me a Zen-like experience in the kitchen, I will remember the current state of my kitchen (which I'm still scrubbing down) and decide there is nothing wrong with a bowl of Cheerios. Do you have a favorite cookbook?


marybelle said...

My favorite cookbook is an exercise book that I have pasted tried & true recipes into over the years. It's battered & dog-eared but it works.

Nas Dean said...

I'm ashamed to say that I don't have a single cookbook. I never had the need for it. Learnt cooking and baking from my mum and elder sister. Once I had thought that I might need to buy a book which teaches Indian Sweets but then I got a lovely sister in law, who taught me how to make indian sweets.

I'm thankful to all these lovely people in my life who taught me so much!

Jasmine Haynes said...

My favorite cookbook is my mother's old cookbook she put together herself. Some of the recipes are hand-written, some are cut from newspapers or magazines. They are all the favorite recipes from my childhood. But she still makes them better than I do!

Susanna, I noticed your blog is one long paragraph. Did you have trouble getting the paragraph breaks in. Blogger keeps deleting mine, and I wondered if it was just me having the problem.

desere_steenberg said...

My favorite cookbook is one I got from my Aunt a few years back , I am ashamed to say I very rarely cook but when I do it is from this book , it is filled with all kinds of wonderful Italian recipes , what can I say I adore Italian food !

But really a Zen like experience never heard that one before lol!!


ev said...

I have one that was handed down from my grandmother to mom to me. It's a depression era one and has some things we wouldn't consider using today (lard, anyone) but over the years we have all adapted recopies from it. There are lots of handwritten notations in it.

I think my fave modern ones are the Alton Brown ones. Not so much because they are full of recipes but because of all the great tips and things he has in them. They read more like a novel than a cook book.

I do have a huge collection of cookbooks tho. I tend to collect them even tho everything is right there on the internet!!

I've learned to rinse and throw the dishes in the dishwasher as I cook. I have so little counter space!