In cookbooks, food on 01/04/2009 at 5:11 pm

Not only do we love to eat, we also collect cookbooks. See the way we cook is not to have set recipes and always make things according to a formula (that’s reserved for baking, sometimes). We actually just stock up our pantry periodically of stuff we like to eat, and cook meals based on what we have left in the fridge. Reading cookbooks is not only a hobby, but a way to develop a repository of methods and figure out how ingredients go together. This is why we prefer ethnic cooking over European; recipes are usually of certain similar categories that you can mix and match to your needs and resources. Also, they have fewer steps and use fewer utensils/pots. And most importantly, they emphasize big flavor and texture over aesthetics.

Good used cookbooks are hard to find, not so much online, but actually a store that sells stuff that is fun to browse. It’s like food shopping. We don’t do Fresh Direct because we like to touch the product and see what our options are. In New York, we haven’t really found an affordable and continually reliable source. There’s a cookbook-only store on the Upper East Side called Kitchen Arts and Letters, but the Strand’s selection is surprisingly bad and dominated by the Food Network cooks, who are mostly more interested in public relations and not cooking good food. In Madison, there is the Frugal Muse, the best used bookstore we’ve ever encountered. Now, we’ve never been to the massive-ist used bookstore in the U.S., Powell’s in Portland, which may be better, so it’s on the list of places to go. Frugal Muse has a fantastic collection of antique, reasonably-priced international cookbooks, and many in our library are from there. The Barnes n’ Noble in Madison also has a used book section, which we’d never seen before in a big box store. But after we found Frugal Muse, there was no going back.

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