My posts during April form part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I will be writing to a theme: book genres, largely taken from the comprehensive Goodreads list.
The first cookbook I purchased was from Readers Digest: "The Cookery Year". Now out of print, it was a great big colourful hardback, providing not just a year of recipes for those items available seasonally, but also a massive reference section at the back, filled with details of how to bone joints and fillet fish, how to make basic sauces and a variety of other cookery staples. I've since purchased many a cookbook - and recently had to cull considerably more than I could bear to - but The Cookery Year still appears on my shelf.
I have hand-written recipes passed on from family and friends, items cut out from magazines and newspapers, but I do love to sit and read a cookbook. Yes, read them. Even when they are just recipes, it gives me pleasure. But those who write a tale around their recipes, those writers have me in the palm of their hands.
My first example of this is a book I, sadly, no longer have. I loaned it to someone, as I am wont to do; now I cannot remember to whom or even what the book is called. I remember buying it from Daunt Books, Marylebone - a wonderful treasure trove of books. It is the tale of a couple who move to Italy to live in a very small community and tells the story of their experiences and integration into local life. Scattered throughout the books are recipes which have been shared with the author by her new Italian friends. After reading it, I ended up scrabbling about in the mud, in a pick-your-own field to get courgette flowers, simply so I could try one of the recipes. I think I may have to re-visit the shop, even if I don't find the book, it would be an excuse to browse its beautifully laden shelves.
Also on my shelves is Nigella Lawson's first Christmas book - no longer in print, although a new edition has been released. The old one does contain recipes I use, but mostly I enjoy it as part of the build-up to Christmas. It's filled with pictures of her enormous collection of Christmas crockery, of festive table-settings and decorations. It transports you into a world where the smell of cinnamon and orange wafts, of rich hot chocolate and getting ready for putting up the tree. Heaven!
With the availability of recipes online, the need for cookbooks has largely disappeared. The only way I can justify adding to my very sparse collection is for the books to be more than just recipes. They must tell a tale around which are scattered recipes. To this end, I asked my sister to get Giorgio Locatelli's "Made in Sicily" for me at Christmas. She had spent a couple of years posted there whilst her husband was in the navy and so there's a 'connection'. It is a big white hardback, with glorious photographs. There are recipes aplenty, but they are intersperced with essays about Italy, about Sicily, about ingredients, about history. I've yet to read it all ... but what I've read already promises much satisfaction.
I've already earmarked the potential candidates for my next purchase: "Jerusalem", or another of Ottolenghi's back catalogue, or possibly something else from the Middle East like "Persiana", to celebrate my Parsee heritage. But books like these need to be touched and poured over, so I shall take an afternoon and peruse the joys to be found in a good bookshop before making my choice. After all, who's to say, it won't be both - or neither - of these candidates!
What are your favourite cookbooks? Do you like scrappy and hand-written, or big and glossy? Or just plain useful?