The Recipe Collection Meme

March 23rd, 2006

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Rob from the endlessly fascinating Hungry in Hogtown tagged me for this meme. It’s really interesting to think of how differently we all cook and treat our sources of inspiration: How many of us cook after a wonderful meal at a restaurant, or watching a food show, or passing by a tempting bakery? How many of us spend evenings leafing through our magazines or cookbooks, searching for the recipe to inspire us? Do we scribble them down on pieces of paper, dog-ear the page, put a sticky on it?

And, of course, there is the combination of giddy relish at the sheer promise held within the glossy photos and enticing text, along with prickling guilt that you’ve acquired yet another batch of recipes to vie for your attention with the all the other ones you haven’t gotten to yet.

As I see the quality of cookbooks moving more and more into the coffee-table book realm, I am reminded of an article I read where the author questioned how many people actually cooked the recipes from cookbooks, and how many just kept them as pretty decorations and daydream material. I’m very pleased at the profusion of food blogs out there putting all these cookbooks to good use, and proving all those dazzling photographs are entirely possible to replicate at home!

Where do you obtain the recipes you prepare?

In my poorer student days I used to clip my recipes from the newspaper and from magazines like Bon Appetit.  My mom had a copy of the Better Homes and Garden cookbook that I stole when I went to college; the snickerdoodle recipe is fab! Nowadays, like many food bloggers I have Cookbook Acquisition Syndrome.  I try to tell myself that rather than it being a quantity vs. quality issue, I am getting quantities of quality books.  I do appreciate well-written, beautifully photographed, stylishly assembled cookbooks as works of art in their own right.

I also have about 2 D-ring binders full of recipes from pastry school that I refer to – the most valuable item I took away from class.  While they are on printer paper and have no sexy photos, they are excellent base recipes and cover pretty much the entire range of French p√Ętisserie.

How often do you cook a new recipe?

About once a week, usually on weekends.  Or else it’s a project spread out over a couple of weeknights. With pastry, and especially with new recipes, I prefer to take my time and enjoy all the details – the whirr of the KitchenAid as the ingredients reach just the right point of combination, the rolling of the dough to the perfect thickness, the peeling and careful sectioning of the fruit, the frosting of the cake to level-smoothness – yes, I treat baking like a Zen exercise!

Sometimes I will get home and just feel like whipping up a batch of cookies – fortunately I have about 100 on the to-try list!

Where do you store your favorite recipes?

The luckier cookbooks are on my bookshelves.  The unlucky ones are on the floor around the bookshelves where they stare at me in silent accusation of my inadequate storage facilities.  All my loose recipes and food magazines I have managed to corral into boxes. I tell my recipe collection that when I have moved into the kitchen of my dreams they will surely be organized and displayed in a manner that befits their importance!

How large is your recipe pile?  Is it organized?  How?

I do have a file on my computer where I list all the recipes I want to try in all the loose clippings and magazines I have – as you can imagine, the dessert category grew rather large before I started breaking it down into subcategories:)  I have a separate list of recipes I want to make from my cookbook collection – I tend to go mostly to my cookbook collection these days, so that one gets updated more often.

What is the oldest recipe in your to try pile?

I will make a guess and say it is a recipe for a coffee cake from a famous department store that I clipped out of the newspaper about 9 years ago.  I think I have recipes older than that; this is the first one that came to mind that I might still try.

Are you really ever going to make all those recipes in your to try pile?

Um, no:)  Haven’t we all realized that?

Do you follow a recipe exactly or modify as you go?

I will usually follow the recipe exactly the first time around, and modify it in the future to suit my tastes.

What is one new recipe that you’re scared to try?

This is an interesting question for me.  When I went to pastry school I made all sorts of things I would have never attempted at home, and under the chef’s supervision they usually turned out much better than I would have believed. (I think I did ruin the layers of the opera cake the first time I did it). 

But every time I try a new recipe, I still have that little frisson of uncertainty; that maybe the tart crust won’t come out as flaky as I want; that the cake layers might rise unevenly; that the mousse might not set right.  I look at recipes now and I can recognize the components and techniques I’ve learned before; I guess it’s not a fear that it will come out a flaming disaster (well, yes, maybe a little; don’t we all have that in the back of our minds?) but that it won’t come out as well as I am picturing it in my mind.

I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying I’m a perfectionist.

Tag at least one new food blogger for this meme ("new" as in only blogging a few months):

I’m tagging Tea of Tea and Cookies; if you haven’t read her hilarious and dead-on post on the addiction of food blogging you should!

Tag at least one food blogger you visit regularly but never interacted with:

I’m with Rob here; you mean I go to their page and don’t say anything?  That’s not me.

Tag at least one food blogger you constantly visit and leave comments:

I’ll say J at Kuidadore. Her blog is pretty much ne plus ultra for me: gorgeously stylish, well-written and literate, and I am so in envy of her cookbook collection!

Tag anyone else you want:

How about Brett at in praise of sardines, because anyone who’s ready to open a restaurant has got to have a lot of interesting recipes at home!

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • rachel #1

    Great post. I’m very happy to see you have Regan Daley and much Pierre Herme in your cookbook collection.

    I also sympathize with your kitchen woes — we currently have a miniscule apartment kitchen, which leaves me constantly pining for the day when we finally have a large, usable space.

    By the way, the “How many times have you looked at a cookbook in a store and wished you could give it a test run before deciding to buy it?” question, was actually just a rhetorical question I added in my post, it’s not an original part of the meme.

  • J #2

    hi anita, terrific post to a great meme; you’ve just about succinctly summed up the collective cookbook crisis condition of the average book-obsessed blogger! (as if baking/ cooking itself isn’t enough to drive one into financial ruin ;))

  • Anita #3

    Rachel,
    Oops – I’ve gone and edited the post. I have my eyes on Pierre Herme’s PH 10 next!

    J,
    Yes, it’s a delicate balance every month between new cookbooks/new ingredients/new tools/new places to try out! Somehow I still have squeeze in rent as well!:)

  • Kat #4

    very nice meme answers…my two cookbook purchases from Amazon.com, along other books and DVD’s will have to be delivered when my mom and dad come for a visit in July, since the weight limit on all airlines is now 50lbs for international…it used to be 75! sigh…

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