So, I'll admit that my cookbook collection is on the excessive side. But whenever I try to cull, I can't stand to part with practically any of them. Does anyone else feel guilty about this obessesion? How do you justify it? I used to say, well at least I use them. But there is no way any one person needs as many cookbooks as I have. And yet, not only can't I stop collecting them, I don't really want to.
I used to feel guilty about acquiring more cookbooks but, then I thought about it and decided that collecting anything that brings a person joy is harmless as long as the collecting does not cause unreasonable negative consequences. I purchase many of my cookbooks secondhand and even though I have well over 100 cookbooks, I haven't really spent a lot of money. In addition, I have 3 spare bedrooms that I do not even use...why not use one of them to house my little cookbook collection? I plan on buying bookshelves and lining one whole wall with them so that I have even more room for my harmless collection!
I think I'm a bit weird for this crowd (hey we're all weird in one way or another, the trick is finding your tribe, the people who love what you love) because I don't actually use cookbooks. For some reason, I have a very difficult time cooking any recipe from a cookbook. So what I do is hand copy interesting recipes and stick them in a binder. This lets me hand write notes without feeling like I'm defacing a book (nearly spazed in high school when my English professor exhorted us to take notes in the margins while we read). Also, I can combine recipes or note 'variations' easier on loose-leaf paper. I do keep the cookbook, because otherwise how could I 'prove' where the recipe came from! So my fiancee is stuck with a bookshelf of cookbooks that neither of us ever touch despite how much we both cook (he doesn't use recipes - they're all in his head). I do have a general rule of thumb that any cookbook which, on first pass through, doesn't yeild 3 recipes that look interesting or different enough to try, doesn't come home with me. Or goes right back out the door.
It's the rest of my book collection I feel vaguely guilty about. Well, only when I have to move and lug the boxes again.
My secret: I can taste recipes I read. I suspect many of you can also. The reading of a cookbook gets me more than half way to the experience of eating it. I believe conductors can hear music they read and dancers can slightly feel the moves as they view choreography in dance notation. So why should I restrain myself from buying cookbooks when my taste memory will dance with my imagination as I read the newbys? Life is too short to have bored tastebuds. Taste your cookbooks but keep your secret too!
I have a friend who, whenever she buys something new ~ whatever it is ~ something goes out. So keep on collecting the cookbooks, and just get rid of something else. In our house it's all the stuff in the third draw down. You know the one? So yesterday I orderd 5 new books, and I took down a bag of clothes and shoes to the Op (Thrift) shop. Problem solved in my view. And really, one should never, ever feel guilty about buying a book of any kind.
I have a lot of cookbooks - over 700 at last count - and I have mostly culled, except for maybe a handful, all the books I was willing to part with. Do I have guilt? A little. But as so many others here already said, I get so much pleasure out of them, I learn so much and I cook so much great food for my family, that it seems like a worthwhile passion. I think my guilt is mostly related to the fact that we live in a small home, and the piles of books are kind of taking over. (And I don't just collect cookbooks. I have a very respectable pop up book collection, a lot of books on nature, science etc. and a whole bunch of art and craft related books.) We are in the process of building two built in bookcases on other side of the fireplace, which should take care of the problem. For now. But once those cases are filled, I am just going to have to suck it up and strictly abide by the rule of "one comes in, one goes out." Well, at least until my son is grown and on his own - than I can turn his playroom into a library! :)
I see no reason for guilt - all collecting is a little bit obsessive - books, CD's, model trains....in the case of books, not just cookery ones, I see us collectors as guardians of knowledge - beacons in an increasingly Philistine world. When a massive radiation blast from the sun fries all your Kindles, back to paper! Besides, a well printed book on good paper, with good typeface and binding, is a pleasure to hold and read.
My problem is what happens at death - I don't want mine ending in a skip, so when the kids have picked over what they want, the rest are to be recycled, via Amazon or specialist dealers, to live on after me.
Ray -- I wish I were your next-door neighbor so we could hang out together over coffee or tea and talk about books and their value in an increasingly electronic world! But I suspect that can't happen as you used the word "skip", not dumpster, so it appears you live in the UK while I, alas, am across the pond. At least we (cook)book collectors have places like EYB where we can cyber-congregate over our shared mania for the printed word.
I'm with Ray and Deborah...I enjoy books too much to feel guilty. I have many, many cookbooks, but also loads and loads of mysteries, and other books that I don't want to part with. That said, I still go to the library frequently, and almost always have library books on loan. There's just something about books in general, but I have to admit that I love my cookbooks. I don't feel guilty about buying a bottle of wine, and drinking it...with nothing left to show for my purchase except the pleasure I had, so why would I feel guilty about having books where I get pleasure every time I open them?
Deborah - sorry there is water between us! (What do Americans call skips?) At least we have this international community to share. And I do collect American trains - Rock Island Line for ever!
I totally agree with you Betty, Deborah and Ray. I am seen as old fashioned but I tjust don't see how a screen can offer the same joy as turning the precious pages of a book, Deobrah you are right- it is a mania for the printed word. Books are treasures not to be tossed out in an effort to get rid of what others term 'clutter'. I just hope the printed cookbook continues as i know i will always find more bookshelves.
Ray: :: What do Americans call skips? ::
Good question! I've always wondered about the scope and scale of skips.
In American English, a 'trash can' can be anything from the smallish containers around the house where waste is tossed, to the larger outdoor container in which bags of trash are stored before pickup/disposal. But since UKers seem to use the term 'rubbish bin' or 'dustbin' for those items, I've gotten the sense that 'skip' is a bit bigger -- but am unclear on how much bigger.
The next step up in American trash terms is 'dumpster': open-at-the-top containers that are about 6 feet square or larger (sometimes much larger), haulable on truck (lorry) beds and emptied by big machines. Dumpsters sit out back behind most businesses, and at sites where waste is recycled or stored before disposal. Finally, the site where the trash ends up is popularly called a 'dump' (also a slang term for a house or location that's in bad shape), more formally called a 'landfill'.
Is a skip closer to our dumpster or to the dump/landfill?
I guess Uk skip = US dumpster!
I have mild waves of cookbook collector guilt at times but like many of you, get too much pleasure out of the books to feel too guilty.
Also, I have this feeling that "now is the time" to be collecting cookbooks. Who knows how much longer the printed book will be so readily available? I am not a kindle fan (especially for cookbooks) and I am sure some day I will use a tablet for certain books. No doubt I will have no choice. But, I will still have my "real" cookbook and art book library to enjoy.
It truly IS nice to have a community of people who understand!
Ccav - you will never get fat just from reading cookbooks - that's my excuse, anyway. Why do we collect them - several reasons, I think - of course for inspiration and new ideas in our own cooking; to learn about other cookery traditions outside our own, and also to look back to older cooking habits - I do wish someone would reissue the original Mrs Beeton - at least the cookery section; household management in this servantless age is fascinating, but a little irrelevant. I have only the 1907 version, which isa bit better than the many later editions in still bearing some resemblance to the spirit of the original. A recipe for Ivory jellycaught my eye - I tried to "procure ground ivory" from our local Sainsbury's - they had no idea - what is the world coming to? Actually, given the slaughter of those lovely animals for their ivory just as well. Again, a cooking tradition outside our own, but in time not geography.
And to cap it all, a well produced book is a pleasure to hold, read and use.
I have a fairly large cookbook collection, and I will admit to a twinge of guilt now and then for indulging myself like this. But I really love my books, I get so much pleasure from them and my family and friends benefit from my addiction as well. As others have said, life is short, books are wonderful, there are much worse things to be addicted to and knowledge is never a waste. I will say that I have really run out of room for new books, and as large as my collection is, there's almost nothing I can bring myself to part with to mske room for more. I've always been selective but now I'm being forced to really limit any new purchases. I have so many books I haven't even cracked yet that it's really not that hard to do so. I have a few books on pre-order at Amazon coming out over the next few months and that's probably the only books I'll be buying this year.