Why do we read cookbooks?

Why do we read cookbooks?

When recipes are available on the internet with just a few clicks and we're all rushing about trying to accomplish a never-ending list of tasks, why do so many of us still enjoy sitting down with a cookbook and leafing through its pages? Cynthia D. Bertelsen attempts to answer this question.

EYB Members can probably relate to this quote from the short piece: "If someone says to me, "Oh, I read cookbooks like I read novels," I know what they mean. Since the day I bought Simple French Cookery, I gone places, cooked, and dreamed impossible dreams, thanks to the cookbooks surrounding me as I write this."

Cynthia enjoys the "escape clause of cookbooks." She notes that not only can you learn about the foods of different places, you can also "travel through time to medieval England - think The Forme of Cury (1390), written by the cooks of King Richard II - or Renaissance Italy, through works like Platina's De Honesta Voluptate (1485), the first printed cookbook ever."

What's your motivation for reading cookbooks--escapism, curiosity, health, or something else?

Photo courtesy Cynthia Bertelsen

6 Comments

  • rachelnz  on  5/30/2014 at 8:00 PM

    Everything Cynthia says is correct about why we read cookbooks - I think of them as my friends and have no greater pleasure than to sit among my books and explore the pages whether it is for research or just relaxation.

  • manycookbooks  on  5/31/2014 at 12:50 PM

    I couldn't agree more with Cynthia. I have long realized that I eschew fiction for cookbooks and have also admitted that I have a longstanding addiction to them! There is always a fresh stack by my bed or my favourite chair, my desk, etc. They are a wonderful source of history, cooking technology, trends and fads and lucious photos. The older vintage and antique cookbooks let us look into our past and trace the steps to how we got where we are today, in terms of food and cooking. I've always said you can never have too many cookbooks!

  • KarinaFrancis  on  6/2/2014 at 10:00 PM

    I totally agree. As I read my books, I hear Nigella's soothing encouragement, Delia's stern but guiding hand, Jamie's exuberance and in Marchella, my grandmother's wisdom. I cant get that from the internet.

  • lsgourmet  on  6/3/2014 at 7:17 PM

    History,culture,economics, all come through when reading a cookbook. I did a paper in college about the change in society as a result of WWI and used cookbooks as a primary source. Got an A.

  • ccav  on  6/4/2014 at 10:12 PM

    Totally agree with all. Cookbooks have a more focused, linear quality that seems to bring the author's work more focus. Finding recipes on the web somehow feels more haphazard, temporal, and scattered. I have hundreds of cookbooks and especially love ones that have charming drawings or illustrations, or well-composed photographs.

  • pwsnook  on  6/12/2014 at 6:09 PM

    Reading a cookbook is like getting a promise of something good yet to come.

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