The joys of cookbooks

Technology has brought us useful tools for a whole range of aspects in our lives. From personal fitness to education, our phones, laptops, and devices can make life a lot easier. Our activities in the kitchen are no different. Blogs, channels, apps, and podcasts abound – all with helpful tips to follow and interesting meals to make. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that there is no replacing the humble cookbook. There are so many reasons why a collection of physical cookbooks can make a wonderful impact on your cooking practice and why we can’t allow for these types of publications to become obsolete.
Cookbooks are lovely physical objects that give readers a unique tactile experience. They’re great to use while you’re in the kitchen, making food. There are many occasions that I’ve ended up with of of my $2.00 secondhand cookbooks smeared with food, rather than a bolognaise-covered laptop. They’re objects designed to be with you during the cooking process.
It’s difficult to ignore the role that aesthetics play. A kitchen with one or two beautifully rendered editions lying around can improve the atmosphere and the look of where you prepare your meals. A cookery book can do as much to inspire you to make meals as it can to instruct you on how to make them. I have editions which, though stained with this and that, contain such evocative imagery that they propel me to spend the extra hour making a meal after a long day, rather than heading around the corner for a greasy take-away.
The recipes in cookbooks develop a cohesion – standing together as a collection – which makes cooking from a physical book especially rewarding. As opposed to a constantly evolving blog or food app, a finished volume has an overall tone and a unified attitude to food and to cooking that comes across in important ways, like the elements that unify individual songs on an album. Each recipe compliments the others, adding to your culinary repertoire and giving you a sense of how this author approaches the kitchen.
I love to try new things about cooking – even gimmicky things – so when a culinary app makes its way onto my horizon I tend to give it a go. But, besides from my mum, cookbooks have taught me the most and have endured as my primary source for education and stimulus. My own cookbook collection is made up of hand-me-downs, gifts, op-shop purchases, and (of course) book fair finds. The look, feel, and cohesion of a recipe collection curated by one person is fascinating to me. I have my Nigellas and my Jamies but also more obscure texts like Giorgio Mistretta’s The Italian Gourmet. These books taught me more than ratios and baking times; they taught me fundamentals about ingredients, the histories of cuisines, and how great food is constructed. Even when I’m not directly using these texts, their lessons inform my own improvisations. It’s because of books like this that I can survey the leftovers in the fridge and know there is a Sunday meal to be made or invented there. The font of knowledge in cookbooks shouldn’t be overlook and, even though the internet has made accessing recipes more convenient, we shouldn’t forget what a worthwhile thing a cookbook is.
Needless to say, we’ve got a whole bunch of them up for grabs for very low prices – a whole section!
I’ll certainly be stocking up on cookbooks next weekend; hope you will be too.

Tom Campbell