JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Monday, January 14, 2008

Would you like me to give you a recipe book?

The other day, in the post-Christmas sales, I bought yet another recipe book. When I got home, I realised there really really wasn't anywhere to put it. Not a bookshelf, not a worktop, not a table. Some weeding of cookery books is required. 101 cookery books? Here, that's only the beginning.

I read somewhere that most cookery books are either not used at all, or only for a couple of recipes. In this house, cookery books are frequently consulted - often several at once for versions of the same recipe - but rarely used chapter and verse. Many are kept for one recipe, perhaps two. But there are a number that haven't been consulted for years, even for the one treasure they (may) contain. And so I am going to weed them out. One by one: it's too difficult - painful even - to make a huge pile in one day.

Each book will be read one last time. I'll post about it, document the recipe/s I actually use from it (maybe even cook it) ... and then give it to one of you ... just email me (joannacary AT ukonline DOT co DOT uk) and let me know why you'd like it, and I'll pick a winner, and post it off. All I'd like you to do in return is write a post about the book, linking back here.

I'm aiming - but not promising - to do this once a week. There's enough to keep us going for at least a couple of years. Some of them are in the picture. Some of them are in a pile on the floor. Some of them are covered in food stains. They need a new home. Yours?

So ... I wrote all that a couple of weeks ago, and have spent much of the intervening time thinking, either that I've gone stark staring mad, or about which book to give away first.

Well, maybe I have gone mad, giving away my books to strangers (although I have many real friends in cyberspace, AND there's something very intimate about food blogging, something which goes right to the heart of how people live their lives & what they consider important). I'm going to start with a favourite, which I'm giving away because it's a duplicate.

Jane Grigson's Fish Book

All of Jane Grigson's books are magisterial yet accessible, scholarly yet fun. This one is no exception: it's full of erudition, AND is written with the confidence of someone who has cooked everything not just once for research, but daily weekly monthly because that's how she lives.

As a sourcebook of coldwater fish, this cannot be beaten. For instance, in the section on flatfish (just one of over 40 chapters on individual groups of fish), she explains the differences between dab, flounder, fluke, lemon sole, megrim, whiff, sail-fluke, west coast sole, Torbay sole, witch (with separate sections for halibut and turbot). Whatever you impulse-buy at the fishmonger, you'll find great advice and inspiration. There are no pictures, just a few lovely line drawings by Yvonne Skargon.

I said I'd cook one last recipe from each book I give away ... and I have, but I'm putting Jane Grigson's Anchovy Garlic and Caper Sauce in a separate post, because it's so delicious I shall want to find it again easily.

Both my copies are a 1993 Penguin reprint (it was first published in 1973), and I'm giving away the pristine, unused one, because I've made notes in the other one, and I find those indispensible when I'm returning to a recipe I don't often use. Would YOU like it? Just email me (joannacary AT ukonline DOT co DOT uk) and let me know why you'd like it, and I'll pick a winner, and post it off. All I'd like you to do in return is write a post about the book, linking back here.


Sophie said...

Very brave Joanna! If you have to cull your collection then this is probably one of the more fun ways to do it.

I received two more cookbooks at the weekend but I think I need to start a "one in, one out" policy from now on if we are ever going to unclutter our house enough to put it on the market and move!

Celia Hart said...

What a lovely generous idea, Joanna. Cliff and I have a moderate collection of cookbooks, but only a few are used regularly and like you we tend to look up the same recipe in various books and on the web and then devise our preferred version.

My art and gardening bookshelves are another story...


Ed Bruske said...

We have stacks of them under our beds, in the corners, on lamptables--everywhere. I haven't even read them all.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Good golly miss molly, I'm having a terrible time finding room for the ones I have and the ones that seem to just walk out of the store stuck to me as it is. And like Sophie, I'm trying to get rid of things in the unlikely event our house would sell.
Jane Grigson is one I keep looking for at Half Price Books.
I can't think of a better, more fun way to give away some "extra"! My hats off to you.

Anonymous said...

Goodness! I thought I had a lot of Cookbooks! What a generous thing to do.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

What fun and very generous of you Joanna. I'm currently on a cookbook diet. Have been for a few months, though I was allowed 3 for Christmas. Though I'm starting to think that I can't be that bad as my collection only covers 5 shelves. Yours however...

Riana Lagarde said...

ohhhh i am the only one who does not have more than a handful?! i love them but when i moved four years ago, i could only take two suitcases of 32 kilos each. i brought 4 cookbooks, my mortal and pestle and 32 little jars of rare spices, almost no clothes (i was moving to paris after all) and a picture frame and velvet curtains!

so yes! i would love one of your books!!! can i browse your bookshelf? lol!!