One-recipe cookbooks

When you bought the cookbook, you were sure it was forever.  You browsed through it on the first day, turning down pages or maybe sticking post-its on the pages.  Within a week you had tried a couple of the recipes and while they weren't all great, one of them knocked your socks off.  I'll have to remember that, you said to yourself.

And you did.  You remembered that the citrus pork roast was in the big book with the blue cover (maybe, if you're better about these things than I am, you even remembered the name of the book and the author), and you made it many, many times over the years--though not quite enough times to be able to pull it off without at least glancing at the recipe. After a while, the blue book began opening to the page all by itself.  You could even see the crease in the spine corresponding with the location of the much-loved recipe.

And one day, you looked up from preparing the roast to realize that you hadn't cooked anything else from that book since the day you bought it, and that you had essentially paid $25 or $35 for a single recipe.  On the other hand, you consoled yourself, what a recipe!

We all have books like these--cookbooks full of promise when purchased, yet which gradually became equated with a single iconic recipe in our repertoires. I have dozens of them.  To name just a few: the Everyday 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread from Artisan Breads Every Day,  the lamb burgers with dried fig and mint relish from the New York Times Country Weekend Cookbook, the Butter Roasted Pecans from the Savannah Cookbook, the Corn Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese from The Young Man and the Sea, the Chicken and Dumplings from Refined American Cuisine, the Classic Cole Slaw from Bon Appetit Y'All.

A few years ago, to save wear and tear on my one-recipe books, I started xeroxing their single contributions and keeping them in a binder, along with handwritten recipes and recipes from friends and family.  I pull that black binder out almost every week for one old favorite recipe or another, even though I spend most of my stove time testing new recipes from unfamiliar cookbooks.

I always feel a twinge of guilt, though, for all the unexplored recipes in those books.  Thanks to Eat Your Books, I have hope that redemption lies in store for my one-recipe cookbooks.  Sometime I'll be searching for the perfect non-boring green bean recipe--which I do practically every week, so far in vain--and there it will be! in a book I know has got one great recipe…and just maybe, so much more.

What are your favorite one-recipe cookbooks? And has Eat Your Books changed the book's yield, since you started using it?

10 Comments

  • Priscilla  on  3/5/2012 at 1:21 PM

    Oh this is SO TRUE. I have come to believe that any book need only provide ONE great recipe—anything more is pure gravy. Sort of like a comedian only needs one great joke.

  • Christine K.  on  3/5/2012 at 1:52 PM

    Prior to EYB I had many more one recipe cookbooks - mostly my big compendium type cookbooks. These are the type of cookbooks I would say to myself at the bookstore (or at my laptop, browsing on Amazon) that "this book is so comprehensive, it will have tons of handy recipes I can use," but then, I would inevitably find myself overwhelmed and could never commit to making much of anything due to a confusing index and how difficult it was to find recipes based on ingredients I had on hand. I am not a fan of last minute trips to the grocery store, so flipping back and forth to find a recipe that used a particular ingredient, but did not use certain other ingredients would usually end with me throwing my hands up in surrender and just going back to a tried-and-true, made-it-a-million-times-before recipe. For a very long time, I had only made a single recipe out of the Orange "Bon Appetit Cookbook" I received as a wedding shower gift. Now that I can find recipes so much more easily, it is one of my favorites.

  • Linda  on  3/5/2012 at 2:16 PM

    Oh, I would be thrilled if I had a favorite recipe from each of my cookbooks! I tend to buy an armful at a time, with great intentions, then get busy with life and head for things I know I can make quick and easy! I think I will make it a goal to at least cook one recipe out of each book. I enjoy reading the books even more than cooking!

  • Fran  on  3/5/2012 at 5:51 PM

    I once read somewhere that the average buyer of cook books cooks a maximum of three recipes from each cookbook. As an avid accumulator of cookbooks I have set myself the task of cooking at least 4 items from every cookbook I own. This will take years but be a lot of fun.

  • ellabee  on  3/6/2012 at 1:54 PM

    What an excellent project, Fran. I'm starting today (though some books already have four recipes cooked; guess I should set a goal of at least one or two more from those).

  • ellabee  on  3/6/2012 at 2:01 PM

    As appealing and instructive as I found Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, I really only ever made two recipes from it, most often the winter squash - sage - roasted garlic soup. Since joining EYB, I've cooked five or six more dishes from VCFE. As a fairly big book, it turns up often in my ingredient-based searches.

  • ellabee  on  3/6/2012 at 2:05 PM

    The same thing is true of the Silver Palate women's New Basics Cookbook, for the same reason. And, as with VCFE, when I try one of the recipes in it turned up through EYB, it's often another keeper.

  • Leslie  on  3/8/2012 at 1:08 PM

    Fran and Ellabe, I too have embarked on a mission to really get to know all my cookbooks. I'm keeping track over on cookbooker.com. My personal challenge is to prepare enough recipes from each cookbook to allow me to prepare an informed review. At first I thought this would only require 3 recipes, but each time I fall in love with the cookbook and have trouble moving on! The good thing about cookbooker is that its easy to keep track of those favorite recipes. Consider joining me - the combination of cookbooker and EYB is amazing and has changed my cooking forever.

  • PatriciaScarpin  on  3/23/2012 at 1:07 PM

    I used to do that, too, but after EYB I've cooked a lot from my cookbooks - I have made more than 10 recipes out of some of them.

  • Vanessa  on  4/3/2012 at 5:46 AM

    Absolutely, EYB has made the recipes in the cookbooks that I already own more accessible. But it has also spurred me to go out and acquire MORE cookbooks. I think I'm losing ground here!

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