We're pleased to present another installment of the
"Me and my cookbooks" series. Many EYB members have told us they
enjoy meeting members and special guests through this feature. We'd
love to introduce more people, so if you'd like to be featured,
just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dianne Ross has a cookbook collection that many EYB members
will envy: nearly 1,000 cookbooks gathered over 50 years, 744 of
which are on her EYB Bookshelf. Most of the cookbooks are kept in
her home in southern Ontario, but some of the collection has
migrated to her vacation cottage. In her home kitchen, an entire
wall covered with bookshelves from floor to ceiling houses the most
frequently used cookbooks. Dianne and her husband were both English
teachers, so it comes as no surprise that their home and cottage
contain a multitude of bookshelves, with cookbooks comprising only
part of their extensive library.
Dianne recalls her first cookbook, a Canadian tome titled
Fare Exchange, published in the 1960s. Fare
Exchange was based on the Canadian melting pot, featuring
recipes from Canadian cooks that highlighted recipes from their
family's heritage, including Ukrainian, Polish, and Italian
cuisines among others.
That book, like most cookbooks of the era, didn't have any
photographs. Dianne credits Martha Stewart for popularizing photographs in
cookbooks, especially her early book on entertaining that featured
rich, stunning photos. While describing her early days of cooking,
Dianne recalls that in those days "one did not walk into a grocery
store and buy fresh herbs." She relied on her ever-growing cookbook
collection to learn about herbs and spices and grew the herbs that
she couldn't get from the store.
When Dianne really started getting serious about cooking, she
turned first to Julia Child's cookbooks for instruction. She
learned about different cuisines from authors like Fuchsia
Dunlop, Nina Simonds, Madhur
Jaffrey, Paula Wolfert, Lee Bailey, Julie Sahni,
and Nathalie Dupree. Dianne recalls with wry
amusement that her husband often complained that he never got the
same dish twice.
Dianne has read her most of her cookbooks cover to cover,
highlighting the recipe in the index when she made a dish that she
and her family liked, and penciling in any changes she made to a
recipe. Like most EYB Members, Dianne utilizes the EYB search
engine to find recipes for specific ingredients or types of cuisine
from her large collection.
Unlike most Members, however, Dianne uses a audio screen reader
to allow her to perform searches and retrieve the results. That's
because seven years ago, a medical condition caused her to
completely lose her sight overnight. Although it was a tremendous
obstacle, being blind hasn't dampened Dianne's enthusiasm for
cooking or collecting cookbooks, although it has changed how the
cooking is done in her household.
During most of her 54-year marriage, Dianne did all of the
cooking, but when she lost her sight, the cooking duties fell to
her husband Alan. Like most experienced cooks, Dianne had developed
her own sense of taste and had learned many tricks and shortcuts
through years of experience, all of which she relayed to her
husband when he began cooking. Alan would read the recipe to her,
and she would tell him how it needed to be tweaked, or why he
should use a different technique than the one described in the
recipe. Under Dianne's tutelage, Alan has learned "to taste a
recipe in his head," and has transformed from appreciative diner to
competent cook. While he may do the cooking, Dianne retains the
title of "Executive Chef," planning all of the meals.
Dianne still collects cookbooks even though she can no longer
see the sumptuous photographs. She relies on Alan to describe the
photos, and she forms a mental image through his description.
Recent cookbooks that Dianne has enjoyed include Heritage by Sean Brock and Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi. When she
gets a new cookbook, Dianne uses Eat Your Books to scan through it
without having to rely on someone reading it to her. The screen
reader she uses, called JAWS (Job Access With Speech), provides
speech output for popular computer applications. Dianne uses the
arrow keys to navigate through the page. Dianne loves that she can
use Eat Your Books to plan meals and get ingredient lists to
compile a shopping list for her husband.
Although she's still using her cookbooks on a daily basis,
Dianne has long-term plans for her collection. She is currently
teaching her grandson (age 20) and granddaughter (age 25) how to
cook, and she hopes that one day they will cherish the cookbooks as
much as she does. In the meantime, Dianne and Alan continue to
expand the collection, learning new recipes and updating older ones
with the skills acquired over 50 years of cooking.