I’m not one of those brilliant home cooks who can just whip up a creative recipe on a moment’s notice. I like recipes. I tend to adapt them as needed and occasionally I make up something (usually a salad or a pasta dish), but I have a real love for recipes. I have a pretty big collection of cookbooks, which I mostly use for looking at pictures and special occasions. I think of my cookbook collection the way other people think of their coffee table books.
I also subscribe to a couple of cooking magazines. For years I’ve been a loyal Cooking Light fan, but in the past year or so it’s become less interesting to me. They have a new layout and seem to be catering to brand-new cooks, who apparently need pictures of everything in order to make a 5-ingredient recipe (I’m not able to find a visual example, but imagine a recipe with pictures around the edge of salt and lemon. I, for one, do not need a picture of a lemon to know what a lemon is). In past years, I would eagerly sit down with the new issue when it arrived and read it cover to cover, and then go back through and tear out 20 recipes or so. Now, I skim it much more quickly and tend to pull only a couple of recipes.
I think it’s time to end my subscription. I have far more complicated feelings about this than I should. I have been subscribing for nine years. That’s twice as long as my relationship with my husband! (No worries on that front, though; I’m confident I will ultimately have a much longer relationship with my husband than with Cooking Light). I’ve purchased the cookbook collections of nearly every year that I’ve been a subscriber, and will continue to cook their recipes, but only those from 2002-2011.
I also subscribe to Bon Appétit, which makes me feel slightly highfalutin, but I enjoy it. I rarely cook recipes from it, with one notable exception: this butternut squash risotto with shrimp. I make this recipe probably once a month when butternut squash is in season, and even made it for my in-laws with resounding success. But most of the recipes in BA have far too much fat for me to contemplate, except perhaps on special occasions.
I mentioned that I have a number of cookbooks. The only two I cook from with any regularity are Ellie Krieger’s So Easy and The Food You Crave. Krieger is a registered dietician and has concocted recipes of amazing foods that won’t kill you and don’t have any weird ingredients. This is no small feat. She uses normal cheeses and dairy products with some occasional low-fat options, and regular items that you can easily find at a grocery store in the middle of the country. By that I mean that there aren’t things like wheat germ thrown into cookies and the like, or odd grains that are difficult to locate. For my California readers, finding odd items may not be a problem. When I lived in the Inner Richmond in San Francisco, I could track down any conceivable ingredient within about a five-block radius. Here in Denver, I sometimes have to check two different stores for fairly regular items—for example, my regular somewhat healthy grocery store, Sunflower, which is kind of like Trader Joe’s only not at all, does not stock no-boil lasagna noodles. This is an item I need fairly frequently. But I digress. Ellie Krieger is my heroine. For a brief period, I even considered becoming a registered dietician because of her, but I learned that doing so requires taking chemistry classes. So I just bought her second cookbook instead.
I recently checked out Eating Well, a healthy-cooking magazine that has a heavy emphasis on seasonal fruits and vegetables. I like this. It annoys me to no end when I pick up a cooking magazine in January to find recipes calling for fresh tomatoes. Why why why would anyone buy a tomato in January (unless you live in the southern hemisphere)? I know they exist in the store, but there is no point. If you think you can buy a valid tomato in January at your grocery store, I beg you to have a tomato out of someone’s garden (or better yet, grow your own) in late summer. Please. Do yourself a favor. I once had a friend tell me she was not sure if she had ever eaten a truly ripe tomato, and I told her that was the saddest thing I’d ever heard. But I digress, and I soapbox. Anyhow, I may just pick up a subscription to Eating Well when my Cooking Light runs out.
Lastly, I recently got a gift subscription to Cooks Illustrated. They are also a little heavy on fat, but I love how scientific and well, nerdy their magazine is. If you have any remote interest in food science and why things work the way they do with food, you should check it out.
What is your favorite cookbook or magazine? Do you use recipes, or create your own? Do you have favorite things you make year after year? My mother recently started typing some of her recipes into Word documents, and I’ve started to do the same. Very easy to share, and you can print off a new one when one becomes unreadable. This method my kill a little bit of the romanticism of recipe cards, with their years of wear, faded, loving cursive that is so personal, and splotches of ingredients, but it is undoubtedly practical. Do people still have recipe boxes? I have two, but they’re back in California at my mom’s house. I wonder what that says metaphorically—my distance from the recipes I learned to cook from…