Thoughts on cookbook collections

Just looking up Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons Cookery Book – a friend loaned it to me the other night and I was wondering how much it would cost to get my own copy! – and I came across this article by pedant in the kitchen, Julian Barnes. I thoroughly enjoyed his debate about and efforts to cull his collection. His “certain words of advice, all of it paid for in money” are worth taking a look at, especially number 5 – “Never buy a juice book if you haven’t a juicer” – apropos of the book that caused the whole conundrum, Nigel Slater‘s Juice. Juice is the one Slater book that I haven’t purchased but, by coincidence, I got it out of the library yesterday. And no, I don’t have a juicer either.

As regards the Four Seasons Cookery Book, it’s not as if I really NEED another cookbook but Margaret Costa has a lot to recommend her, despite Barnes’ dismissal of all but one of her recipes. I’ve developed a love of seasonal cookery books recently (Amanda Hesser‘s The Cook and The Gardener, At its Best: Cooking with Fresh Seasonal Produce by Margaret Brooker, Xanthe Clay’s marvelous collections of Daily Telegraph readers’ recipes – In Season and It’s Raining Plums) and this seems like the original and, dare I say it, perhaps the best? Well, I’m certainly not going to buy it while I’m in New Zealand – it’s not even 12 months since I arrived and I already have a more than respectable and difficult to transport collection here – but maybe when I go home…along with Nigel’s The Kitchen Diaries and Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food. This, of course, despite the fact that there is a whole library of cookbooks waiting for me in Ireland. I’m starting to feel like Heidi over on 101 Cookbooks!

Caroline

Caroline

Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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12 Responses

  1. Barbara says:

    That’s it then – I’m going to cull my collection this week! Did you read JB’s book A Pedant in the Kitchen? Interesting when he discusses a book of Nigels and how the pork chops and whitloof didn’t compute with the size of the pan pictured. I checked my book and they didn’t.

  2. Caroline says:

    No, actually, I’ve only read excerpts of A Pedant in the Kitchen – that’s funny about the pan! Nigel going for style over substance? Now, there’s a turn-up for the books! I (finally) started delving into Gay Bilson’s Plenty this weekend and I’m really enjoying her descriptions of an Australian childhood.

  3. plum says:

    Yes the cull does sound like a good idea but I hardly hardly can ever bring myself to, just in case perhaps I need a recipe from a book I’ve owned for over 10 years and have never cooked from. Logical, isn’t it?Coincidentally, I came across Thirst and was considering it, EVEN THOUGH I (a) don’t have a juicer and (b) wouldn’t use a juicer book even if I did. But I thought “I don’t own any Nigel Slater cookbooks and maybe this would be a good start”. Thank goodness I slapped myself and moved on. If I really concentrate, then I can think of how if I spent less on books I don’t really need simply because they are on sale, then I could buy the ones I adore without wincing. But somehow that never seems to happen.

  4. Caroline says:

    That’s funny, Plum, if only because I’ve had the same argument with myself on several occasions about the self-same book. I don’t have any juicer either nor any yearning for one. I’m hoping that getting it out of the library will cure me of that momentary madness but, at the moment it is sitting amidst the pile by my bed and, every time I go to the library (being allowed to take 20 books out at a time is just pure cruelty!) seems to be moving down rather than towards the top. Maybe I’ll have to move it out to the cookbook corner of the living room and make it more obvious instead of just forgetting about it until it has to be returned!

  5. Barbara says:

    I started the recipe book cull last night. Made great progress. Moved onto philosophy books and considered throwing out all my Julian Barnes but just couldn’t do it. I love my juicer and use it every morning,(it’s a pain to wash), but you don’t need a recipe book for combinations.

  6. Caroline says:

    Nigel Slater writes very entertainingly about the pain and mess of washing up a juicer in Thirst which, after talking about it here, I started last night. My lack of juicer and/or food processor will prevent me from trying any of the combinations but I’m still enjoying his descriptive prose. He does make the point that he is just giving the reader ideas, rather than recipes. It seems more like a juicer book for dummies rather than something that someone would go out and buy. In fairness, I still can’t believe that I’m reading a juicer book – only for the fact that Nigel wrote it, I would never even have looked at it!

  7. plum says:

    Okay, that’s it. I will be strong and resolve NOT to buy the Slater juicer book, no matter how much it’s reduced to. Unless it’s $5. Maybe.

  8. Caroline says:

    Plum, I’m half-way through Thirst and still haven’t found a recipe that’s any use to someone who doesn’t have a juicer – resist, resist!

  9. Neva says:

    Ah i sympathise. My book collection has grown from 3 when i moved to the uk 1 1/2 years ago to tripple stacking shelves and hidding recent purchases from my boyfriend! MY Cookery book collection hasnt grown quite as rapidly tho as a find borrowing books from my local library great – i keep a copy book to write down recipies but i too have a resolution. I will not write down EVERY recipie i like the look of (there was getting to be far too many) only the tried and tested sucesses. Really i promise ..

  10. Caroline says:

    Do you find the charity shops in London good for cookbooks, Neva? I’ve gotten a few fabulous books from the Christchurch ones including a kids cookbook called Junior Cook by Mary Pat Fergus with lovely simple line drawings illustrating the step-by-step instructions for things like Tomato Meatballs and Spicy Cupcakes. I love it!

    I’ve also picked up a fondue book (we’ve the Boyfriend’s mother’s fondue set on loan at the moment) and a great American cookie book. And I’m not even mentioning the piles of recipes that I’ve copied from all those library books. Today I’m starting condensing them as I only have limited room (20kgs worth) in my bags for heading back to Ireland – and half a kitchen to pack too…

  11. Neva says:

    Not great really – they have loads of 60’s microwave cookbooks – i dont own a microwave and whenever i approach one i just stab haphazardly at buttons and hope for the best. I did pick up a ‘Lads’ cookbook for himself – full of recipies for steaks, curries and sunday roasts in the hopes of having my dinner ready when i get home (oh the optimism!).I must go back to Books for Cooks in portobello tho – that really is a mecca.

  12. Caroline says:

    I can’t imagine your boy with the lads cookbook – it’s not very him, is it? He’s a great cook for special events although I think most boys lack motivation for everyday dinner cooking. The Boyfriend here has been getting used to having dinner ready when he comes home but that will all change once we get back to Ireland!

    You’re right about Books for Cooks. I just love everything about it – piles of amazing books to browse through, a big couch for more serious reading, gorgeous lunches from the test kitchen in the back and yummy wine courtesy of their own vineyard. It’s a Caroline dream package…

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