Friday, 22 February 2008

Cookbooks: Do you actually use them...or just drool?

Some of my collection of cookbooks.

Are cookbooks officially becoming the new fiction? I must confess that looking at my collection of them, you'd think I used them often. I do. But not to cook. I frequently get trapped buying them because they offer an entree into a seemingly perfect world - the beautifully photographed domestic order of the celebrity chef.

Take Bill Grainger. I love looking through his books, including his most recent, Holiday. The photography is stunning in all its faded pastel, beachy Sydney glory. The recipes look delightful yet I have't tried to make any of them. Instead I enjoy a peak inside the interiors of his domestic life. It's so different to my kitchen and living room. And when you watch him on tv baking with the kids, it is a stark contrast to baking with my two-year-old, who breaks down in world-title style tantrums when he realises he can't eat ALL the unbaked cake mix. Another Melburnian I know reckons the issue with Bill's recipes for a Melbourne audience is because they are very beachside, waterside, BBQing Sydney - and don't translate as well to our southern climate.

Nigella's another of my untried but tested kitchen companions. Love the pictures in the books. Love the tv series and I have stored in my memory all those wonderful domestic bliss tips of hers. I'm planning to use them someday. Probably the same day my kitchen resembles Bill Grainger's!

When I look at the recipe books I do actually use, I can break it down to three that I go back to. And I top these up from recipes garnered from the Web - often from other blogs. My tried and tested cookbooks are:

The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander: We got an edition of this for our wedding and it has been a great reference ever since. Not only does it have great recipes but also vital information about choosing certain foods, how to store them and how to cook them.

Cookery the Australian Way by Shirley Cameron and Suzanne Russell: This book, in one form or another has been with me since childhood. Earlier editions were the textbook we used in Home Economics at school and it is a fabulous base for building up food knowledge.

Fresh by Allan Campion and Michele Curtis: Campion and Curtis, as many will know, are actually local Bayside food stars and this book is a great way to approach cooking. It's premise is to cook what is actually in season and structures the recipe list around this.

Oh and when I do entertain the first thing I do is drag the Jamie Oliver books out - especially Jamie's kitchen - as I reckon he makes great salads.

And while we're on food, here are a couple of food inspired blogs I've been enjoying lately: - by local writer Ed Charles. A fantastic resource on food generally and specifically on the Melbourne food scene. - this one is in the US but good writing and a great recipe index.

Do you have an all-time favourite cookbook?


Anonymous said...

I too enjoy Stephanie Alexander and can relate entirely to your idea of cookbooks as fiction!
- Sam

Anonymous said...

What about the whole range of Women's Weekly cookbooks - true Australian classics which had very practical and easy to follow recipes.
- Sue

Anonymous said...

I still use the "Cub and Scout Cookbook", its approximately 30 years old and all the recipes were provided by the parents.