I used to love the nostalgic idea of collecting cookbooks. I would tab my favorite pages and let sauces stain the paper as I cooked. I dreamt of having a library of multicolored cookbooks nestled in a perfect corner of my imaginary kitchen. Ever since I was little, my family and I have flipped through the falling-off pages of the Birkeland Family Cookbook to reference recipes from grandparents, great aunts and cousins. Last year, I purchased Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything to inspire the “graduated-independent-20-something” chapter of my life. I wanted to use it essentially as my kitchen bible. A go-to for learning classic techniques and high quality recipes.
Maybe I had more of a romantic dream of collecting cookbooks because now my biggest collection of recipes is a collection of bookmarks on my iPhone screen. As I experiment more with recipes and delve further into classic techniques, I find myself relying on the internet as my number one resource. I type in a recipe idea or a technique I want to learn, and let the world-wide web direct me to what I am looking for. I can search and search until I find the answer, simply with the click of a mouse or a rapid keystroke.
The very honest reviews of recipes by the readers provide valuable feedback online. I take them with a grain of salt, but always scan them to get an idea of the quality of the recipe. However, unless the recipe is from a particular author online that I respect and trust, I do miss the “seal of approval” cookbooks seem to have. You can feel the intention behind the recipes and the voice of the author behind the text. There’s thoughtfulness and credibility that quickly published recipes from the web seem to lack, even if the recipes online were professionally tested, copy-edited and formatted uniformly like cookbooks.
There’s no right answer for whether home cooks and chefs should rely on the internet or cookbooks. Personally, I have settled on a happy medium of curating recipes. I will continue to pursue a collection of cookbooks for both practical and aesthetic reasons. Good old-fashioned paper cookbooks will always be nostalgic and function like artwork in a kitchen, like Adam Roberts wrote on his blog. To the contrary, I will embrace virtual recipes and cookbooks as technology evolves. L.V. Andersen from Slate said there is a good chance they will not last forever. “Cookbooks may indeed outlast other print books, but they will eventually go extinct. And that’s OK,” she wrote. It all boils down to the fact that cookbooks and digital recipes can coexist for different reasons, Dana Velden wrote. We don’t have to take sides as long as we can appreciate a good recipe when we see one.
Love food. Love self. Love life.