I started cooking at a young age, and my family encouraged this. In the early stages of my cooking education, I baked cakes and cooked dinners in the microwave (it was the 80s, okay, give me a break). I remember decorating a cake for my little brother’s first day of school – a school bus cake. I’m sure it looked hideous, but I was proud of it. I got the idea from a set of cookbooks my family had. There was a kid’s cookbook in the set that I relied on for many recipes, but as I got older I branched out.
At some point I became a Meta Givens disciple. Meta was a home economist and began publishing cookbooks in the 1940s. In addition to recipes, the two volume “Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking” talks about nutrition and diet, how to grocery shop, how to store food, how to preserve food as well as other topics. I’m not sure what edition we had in my house, but I do know it belonged to my great grandmother. That set is with my mom, who still uses it. It is falling apart. In the early 2000s, I found a set that belongs to the sixth printing from 1951. My set is not as broken in as my childhood one, and that makes me a bit sad. I miss the handwritten notes.
The cookbook love of my teen years became the Time Life Foods of the World series. As a teenager and young adult with wanderlust, these cookbooks became my way to see the world. They aren’t just a storehouse of recipes, but a tour through the countries and peoples that are featured in them. As a 16-year old, I wasn’t spending my summers in Italy, but the food I read about in the Italy edition was the food I couldn’t wait to try many years later when I did spend time in Italy. If you get a chance, check out this series. I would like to complete my collection one day.
Cookbooks became a way for me to travel without leaving my couch. Except to run to the grocery store for ingredients.
But life is full of changes. While I still like to take an occasional tour through a cookbook, most of my cooking ideas now come from blogs or other food sites, or is something simple that doesn’t require a recipe.
How relevant are cookbooks these days? Do you use one regularly? What is your favorite cookbook? What country is your favorite culinary adventure.
This weekend, I think I’ll plan a culinary adventure. Perhaps Spain. Maybe Vienna. Maybe Japan.