The Cookbook Conundrum

_MG_4675_2Right now, I am staring at the huge collection of cookbooks lining my living room shelves….
and there is a battle for space between those cookbooks and the many vintage telephones that I’ve restored over the years—but that’s for another article!

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but many of my cookbooks end up unused. I keep thinking that I’ll open them up, get absorbed in the often-great writing within, and find some recipe that I’ll happily spend all afternoon preparing. 

The truth is that most of the time, I already know what I’m going to cook. Like most of us during the busy workweek, I keep coming back to a stable of standard recipes from a limited number of classic cookbooks. And yes, I cook most of the time, from mid-week to weekends, even if it’s something simple, like adding a freshly-made side dish to some leftovers.

As for the weekends, even a really complicated dish like cassoulet (a sublime dish that really needs a few days to be prepared correctly) rarely shows up in my kitchen. If it does, it’s usually because I’m entertaining and want to pull off some kind of show-stopper for my guests. 

So am I wasting tons of space with all these colorful cookbooks? Definitely not. Cookbooks are maps, pointing me in the direction of tasty inspiration. It’s like when I’m on the road—I can take the Interstate to get from Point A to Point B, but the side roads always offer something new, even if I don’t plan to travel them for long. Just as I need to find those side roads, every home cook and chef needs to head off the beaten path now and then._MG_4679 And that means that all my cookbooks—even the ones I’ve picked up on a whim at a yard sale (like a 1954 copy of the Anniversary Slovak-American Cookbook), prove helpful. 

Down the road, I’m hoping to put together The Food Biker Cookbook, a compilation of everything from my favorite weeknight standby recipes to dishes from chefs that I’ll be interviewing. And while I certainly don’t expect it to be a reference book (Food Biker tries to focus on techniques, not just recipes), I do hope it’ll be a guide for both helpful techniques and recipes that inspire.

So while I’m still staring at all my cookbooks, I’ve realized they’re not just quietly staring right back at me. They’re telling me that it’s time to head off the beaten path and head down a new and tasty road.