I have been blogging about activity in our kitchen since 2009, most recently about our Italian kitchen in Bologna. When we returned from Europe in March, I was surprised and a little disconcerted to discover how many cooking books I have at home. Does anyone care to hazard a guess? Do I really need that many books? It seemed like a good idea to revisit these books and evaluate how they serve my current cooking and eating style.
Cooking from books is interesting. Sometimes I open the book and cook the recipe as prescribed on the page. But more often I open the book, think, “that’s a good idea”, and proceed to cook something that turns out to be quite a different dish. But the inspiration came from the book and I still think of my dish as that original recipe.
Many years ago, when we were living in Liverpool (England) for twelve months, I discovered a recipe that became a family favourite. It was a salad with roasted potato wedges. I made it nearly every week, from memory. When we returned to New Zealand, my parents came to stay, and I thought I would serve this salad. I decided to use the original recipe and do it “right”. I was very surprised to learn that the dish I had been serving up weekly for more than a year bore very little resemblance to the recipe in the book.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t engage in some form of cooking, probably starting with making pikelets with my mother. When I was eleven, I was allowed to prepare a weekly meal for my family, based on what I had learned in school cooking classes that week. I have always loved to cook and eat but over the years my tastes and style have changed. We eat less meat, we enjoy some different vegetables, I have gravitated towards middle-eastern style meals. Right now, I am cooking from an Italian perspective. It might be time for some of these books to go to a new home.
As I cook my way through the books on my shelves, I may not stick to the letter of the recipe, but I will most definitely stick with the principle behind the recipes. To put a delicious plate of food on the table, to feed my family and friends.