6 Ways to Manage Your Cookbook Addiction

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Hello. My name is Dana and I am addicted to cookbooks. I'm only half joking here. The truth is that I have a huge cookbook collection, and try as I might, it doesn't look like I'm going to stop adding to it any time soon. What I have managed to do is learn to control it some. Read on for a few helpful hints for managing a cookbook obsession.

How do you know you have a problem? 
Perhaps it's because while you have more cookbooks then you will ever be able to cook recipes from, you cannot stop yourself from adding to your collection. Or maybe there are teetering piles of cookbooks all over your house, surrounding the bed, on a little stool near the bathtub, stacked up next to the couch. It is almost impossible for you to not buy the latest release by a favorite author, even if there's not much new going on there and you can never, never walk past the cookbook section in the bookstore without stopping and losing half a day in the stacks. These are all signs that you may have a situation on your hands.

What can you do about it?
I'll confess that I may be the wrong person to answer this question because I believe that ultimately, having a cookbook addiction is not really a problem, at least one that should be approached in a cold turkey kind of way. No, instead I believe a cookbook addiction can be managed and here's how I do it.

6 Ways to Manage Your Cookbook Addiction

  1. OWN IT! Do you have 100 cookbooks, 300 cookbooks, 500 cookbooks? So what? There are far, far worst things happening in the world today, so don't get too worked up about adding a few extra titles on your already stuffed shelves. That said, there are a few things you can do if you're starting to feel out of control:

  2. Use the library. Do you see a cookbook you think you have to have? Before you buy it, check it out of the library or borrow it from a friend. If after two weeks you find that you're still interested or maybe you've even cooked a few recipes and found them to be delicious, then you may want to purchase it for yourself. But remember, actually cooking from a cookbook is not necessarily a criteria for its usefulness. Cookbooks are more than vehicles for conveying a recipe. They can instruct and inspire, even if you never cook a specific recipe from it.

  3. Avoid Amazon. An online shopping site like Amazon makes it too easy to purchase on a whim, so if you want to curb some of your cookbook procurement, make it a little harder to get your hands on the goods. Avoiding bookstores is also helpful, but also kind of sad so only do this if absolutely necessary.

  4. Start a cookbook club with your friends. If you still want to play around with new cookbooks but are wary of adding to your collection, start a sharing club with your fellow cookbook fiends (we tend to find each other). Do a one-for-one trade to keep your collection fresh, either on a temporary loan or permanent swap.

  5. Explore your archives. If you're trying to cut down on adding to your collection, distract yourself with the books you already have. Take a few titles you haven't browsed in a few years and place them by your bed or wherever you read your cookbooks. It's always fun to rediscover an old favorite!

  6. Groom your selection. Tastes change and sometimes that cookbook that made your mouth water in 1994 is not up to the same task in 2013. So periodically go through your collection and weed out some of the duds. This will also function as a cautionary exercise in adding new books.

Helpful hints for choosing wisely

If you want to keep buying cookbooks but need to be more discretionary, here are a few tips.  
  • Again, try to spend some time with a book, either by borrowing it from the library or a friend, to help you determine how useful it will be.  
  • Consider how many books you already have on the subject: do you really need another nut-free, vegan biscotti book? 
  • Check out the author or subject online to see if there isn't already enough information available.
  • To avoid purchasing duds, know what works for you. Do you prefer pictures?  Detailed recipes? Straightforward recipes without a lot of chatter? What do the cookbooks you love and find yourself returning to again and again have going on that makes them so perfect for you?  
  • If an author's style works for you, stick with them. That said, don't be afraid to try someone new now and then.
  • Nuts and bolts: Is there a good index? Are unusual ingredients and basic methods explained? Does the book feel sturdy and up to repeated use? Does the layout make sense and is the type easy to read?
  • Rule of thumb: If you casually pick up a cookbook to browse but find you're still reading it 10 minutes later, then you may just want to bring this one home with you.

This post was requested by emw1 for Reader Request Week 2013.

(Image: Dana Velden)

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