Don’t Touch My Cookbooks

Technology today has eliminated our need for certain things. We have thousands of photos on our phones, but rarely do we print them anymore. I toss phone books into the recycling. I don’t own a dictionary. I threw away CD’s last month when cleaning out closets. Our love letters are sent through texts with heart emojis. I read the news on my iPad. There are no more working phone booths. I shop online, and navigate the roads through my phone’s GPS.

I have pinned hundreds of recipes on my Pinterest board, but yet, I will not part with my cookbooks. Some of them contain maybe one or two of my favorite recipes; others are in constant use. They are my personal history in a collection of mismatched texts. These books tell my story through tablespoons and guided directions.

The Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book my mother gave me when I graduated from college is battered and torn. Some of the pages are stuck together from dried drips of cookie batter and bacon grease. A few years ago I asked for the new version for Christmas, but I never really liked it. It seemed sterile and cold, and the photos were just a little too bright. I stuck with my old 1982 edition and gave away the new one. This red and white checkered binder introduced me to cooking and baking. I attempted to concoct all types of food in my tiny kitchen, from bagels to fried chicken. The recipes were basic, simple, and time-tested. I still pull it out when I want to bake a crumble pie or an occasional cake (Cakes are not usually not in my repertoire; the box mixes work perfectly fine for me).

After I had children, I went on a cooking hiatus. Simple meals of mac and cheese and hotdogs were on the menu for these boys. We often went out for pizza or hamburgers, and I didn’t seem to have the energy to experiment with recipes. After my father became ill and I needed comfort, I was again lured to the kitchen, but this time my siren was Rachael Ray. I know many consider her a hack, but her first cookbook (and her television show on Food Network) 30 Minute Meals reignited my food journey. I carefully followed her simple recipes. I learned how to correctly use a knife. I was introduced to olive oil or EVOO, as she called it. I discovered new ingredients. I found myself in the kitchen again thanks to this tiny elf of a woman. Over the years I bought some of her other cookbooks, but I am always drawn back to her first endeavor.

Another cookbook I have used again and again is Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Pasta. I love that she is Italian and a trained chef. I have made many of the recipes in this book, including Champagne risotto and meatballs with bacon and sun-dried tomatoes,  but her basic marinara is one of my favorites. It doesn’t hurt that she is easy on the eyes and one of my hubby’s celebrity crushes. I get it. I just love the way she knows her way around a pot of boiling pasta. Yea, baby.

Last year when I was out in Napa with my friend Peg, we wandered into the store at the Culinary Institute of America. I swear I heard angels singing. Anyway, I ended up buying Pies and Tarts, a book written by Kristina Petersen Migoya, a baking and pastry instructor at the institute. I took the cookbook back home and went on a summer long pie baking journey. I learned how to properly make meringue, prepare a blind baked crust, and bake a caramel apple pie. My family and friends were bombarded with my concoctions of fruit and cream. Along with my husband, kids, and grandchildren, pies are one of my true loves.

I have many other cookbooks I can’t part with. One called Sam Stern’s Cooking Up a Storm was purchased at an English convention years ago. It was written by a young man who began cooking for his family. I occasionally go back to his recipes for roasted chicken or bolagnese, but I also just love to read about his joy of food and his passion for cooking. My pizza crust recipe is in a Guy Fieri cookbook, and my Thanksgiving gravy is in Cooking Light Complete Cookbook. I also keep recipes I have found over the years in two binders. Some of them are handwritten, but most are printed copies from the internet. I have recipes in these I use over and over again. They are my bibles.

The other day I was following a recipe I found on Pinterest and dripped a sticky, yellow liquid all over my iPad. I tried to wipe it off, but some of it stained my red cover. I realized with a sigh that it is just not the same as spilling flour over the well-worn pages of my old Better Homes and Garden cookbook. My iPad won’t be able to tell my stories. It won’t be a keepsake for future generations, so the cookbooks remain and perhaps someday will be a gift to a grandchild who shows a desire to bake an apple pie for someone special.