I’m not sure if anyone still buys CDs anymore, but it wasn’t too long ago that to get the one or two songs you really wanted on an album you had to buy the whole dang thing. Now of course you can go to iTunes and cherry pick whatever songs you want without fear of biting into any bad pieces in the box of musical chocolates. This technological development is helping speed the demise of the music publishing industry but, thankfully, a parallel dynamic hasn’t taken hold of another publishing modality near and dear to me; the cookbook.
I like to cook and have assembled, mostly through gifts, a decent-sized cookbook collection.
If you’re looking for a recipe for a rue-scented onion glaze, I’ve got you covered. Should you want to make a child’s birthday cake in the shape of a steam engine, no problem. But while I love books and love having them around, (Wendy and I kicked around the idea of having our dining room full of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves), there is something a little hard to swallow both psychologically and fiscally speaking, about buying a big ‘ol cookbook when you’re really only after one or two recipes.
This is when the pen and paper can be useful. I haven’t done it lately, but after college as I started getting interested in food, I’d think nothing of writing down recipe ideas or cooking techniques from cookbooks without having to purchase the book itself. In fact, a good Friday night back then would involve heading Uptown to grab a coffee at Starbucks (now closed), peruse CDs at Cheapo (now moved), and look at books at Borders (now closed).
I suppose jotting down recipe ideas from the Charlie Trotter Vegetable cookbook could be viewed in an unfavorable light, but at the time I wasn’t going to spend 50 bucks on a cookbook and so I rationalized my jotting by believing (hoping?) the chef would actually be okay with what I was doing. That is, there was good culinary karma being spread as a recipe or technique reached a wider, albeit non-paying, audience. Hey, I was young.
The results of those Friday nights can be found in my kitchen’s recipe drawer. Amidst the pots and pans and gadgets I haven’t used for years is a stack of handwritten notes and recipes that I use to this day.
I bring this all up because when I bring out the notes for a stock or marinade that I wrote down on the back of a paystub from Caribou, I clearly remember the time and place of its recording and it’s an oil-stained passport to the past which wouldn’t exist if I had the entire book.
There are of course those cookbooks that one is required to physically have around, the textual equivalents of “The Joshua Tree”, but for those times when you just want to hear “Perfect Way” by Scritti Politti and nothing else on the album, grab a pencil and a paystub.