This is my favourite cookbook, the one I go to when I'm looking for inspiration, the one that has been with me from the beginning of my cooking adventures, the one that never lets me down. And I will admit that, much like me, it's starting to show it's age.
I know that the signs have been there for quite awhile, but I didn't really notice, not really, until yesterday. I wanted to make peanut butter cookies. And not just any peanut butter cookies but the real deal, old school, O.G. , peanut butter cookies and for those I needed to get back to, if not my childhood then my own kids childhoods. And for that I needed to haul out old faithful. "The Joy of Cooking".
I've told the story before of how I had no idea how to cook when I first got married WAY back in 1975. Did not have a clue. And suddenly I was expected to produce three meals a day plus snacks and desserts and holy cow, I was a person who could burn Jell-O. That's some crazy kind of expectation. It wasn't as if, magically, once the ceremony was over I would be mystically imbued with the spirit of Julia Child after all.
Fortunately, someone (and for the life of me I do not remember who but I owe them big time) gave us, or rather me, a copy of "The Joy of Cooking" as a wedding present. Maybe not everyone would appreciate that but it saved me. And I mean that seriously.
One of the things I love about the book is that it's not just recipes. The copy that I own has just about every question a person might ever ask about anything remotely related to cooking, answered. Not just definitions of cooking terms, not just recipes, but also some menu ideas, tips about entertaining, some basic wine education, nutritional information and more. I began reading it on page one and continued to the end as if it were a novel.
Naturally the first meals I attempted to make were a disaster. I threw out more meals than I served. But gradually, I got better and my confidence grew and eventually, as it turned out, I quite liked cooking and baking. I discovered that piddling around in the kitchen was absolutely my cuppa tea! And it was all thanks to this book. Which, as you can clearly see, looks kind of shabby.
But then it's 45 years old! And has been used and abused for all of those years. It makes perfect sense that there would be a few stains: (I am a good cook, but a messy one)
A few torn bits: (I don't even know how it happened, I swear!)
And of course all of those frayed and ragged edges. (like a well loved teddy bear)
My favourite peanut butter cookie recipe has a tear exactly through the part that lists how much flour the recipe requires. Dang. I could no longer determine precisely what it said. And one thing that is an absolute in baking is that it requires precision. I sighed. Perhaps it's time to replace the book?
I'm quite ambivalent about that. The book has been in circulation since 1931 and I know that Amazon still carries it. But I also know every time it is re-released, it is a different version. I know this version. I love this one. I have my own little notes jotted in the margins here and there. I know the book so well that I can nearly turn to the exact page I need at any time. And then there are the conotations and associations of so many meals. It's not just a book of recipes, it's a book of memories!
On the other hand, I had to look up the peanut butter cookie recipe on line to be sure how much flour to use yesterday. Which meant searching through dozens of recipes to find the one closest to the old fashioned cookies that I wanted to make. Kind of a pain in the butt y'know. And honestly, as the book slowly deteriorates, there will be more and more occasions when I have to go elsewhere for the recipe I need.
It's all very sad. I feel disloyal. Like I'm walking out on an old friend or abandoning a dog just because it's old and grey and walks with a limp. (something I would never, ever do)
The practical side of me says, it's just a book and an old one at that. Toss it and buy and bright shiny useful new one.
The romantic, softer, emotional side of me says, keep it for always. It has always been there for you, it's time to return the favour.
I suppose I will figure it out at some point.
And in the meantime, the cookies turned out great
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.