Cookbooks tell stories. Not just the stories of their authors, but the stories of those whose homes they come to inhabit. The cookbooks that line my kitchen reveal something about who I am and who I have been. Over the years my collection has migrated from the confines of a single kitchen self into my living room and onto my coffee and dining tables. Some of these books have not been opened for quite some time.
Researchers keen to explore cooking and eating practices often ask people how many cookbooks they own and then how many of those books they actually cook from. But that’s only part of the story. In many ways, the cookbooks I keep but do not use reveal more about me than those I thumb through regularly. The pages of these books contain more than simply recipes. They contain memories.
A quick glance at my collection might suggest to some that I eat meat and regularly bake with gluten. Books like Quickies Chicken, Company’s Coming Casseroles and no less than three books devoted to gluten filled cookies continue to have a place in my kitchen despite my vegetarian leanings and gluten sensitivity. What these books lack in practical value they make up for in remembrance.
At home in my mother’s apron
(picture taken by my father)
I still have the first cookbook I was given – a cookie book given to me by my aunt one Christmas when I was in junior high school. Each time I open it I am reminded of my first solo forays in the kitchen and the comforts of my childhood home. I still use it to make classics like snickerdoodles and oatmeal cookies for those who are not compelled to eat gluten free.
Chicken recipes and casseroles were mainstays in my first apartment kitchen. Baked chicken with salsa and chicken rice casserole were some of the best dishes I cooked in my small student kitchen. Although chicken is no longer part of my regular meal rotation, some of my fondest memories of cooking and eating during my early university years centre around perfectly baked chicken and creamy casseroles.
Cookbooks recently added to my collection differ from those that first made their way into my hands and onto my countertop but basic elements of my early cooking continue to influence my taste preferences and kitchen habits. I still favour cooking and baking with whole foods over convenience foods and consider the table to be the focal point of my home.
More important than the evolution of my cooking and eating are the memories that accompany my culinary journey. My oldest cookbooks serve as a constant reminder of those I love and those I no longer know – roommates and friends with whom I have fallen out of touch – and culinary selves past and present.
Cooking next from:
Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson
– granola with currents, walnuts & orange zest
Hoping to acquire:
Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights by Sophie Dahl