We've been reviewing a lot of cookbooks on The Kitchn lately, which has led me to thinking about how and why I still use my print cookbook collection. I know that the internet is in many ways a more efficient method for procuring recipes and researching variations. Why, then, are cookbooks still a big part of my life in the kitchen? Here are four reasons why I will never give them up.
1. Inspiration and entertainment. I'm on my computer all day and at the end of the day, I really need a break from the pixelated page. While it's true that I can browse the internet for recipes, it's a very different feeling for me to browse a print cookbook. The accompanying photos, the layout, the act of turning pages are all a much needed reprieve from clicks and search bars. I relax a little more in front of a book; I'm less on task and more open to inspiration. I like how a cookbook can surprise me with something I'm not necessarily looking for, and how on the way to looking up one recipe, I can stumble on something entirely different.
2. The particular voice of a cook. Sometimes when I'm stuck with a bin full of eggplant and a bunch of cilantro, I think, "What would Deborah Madison do?" and pull down my copy of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Consulting a cookbook allows me to have a conversation with its author. It makes me feel like they are right there with me in the kitchen.
3. It is sometimes simpler. While the internet is an endless, bottomless wonderland, a cookbook is a finite object. It has a beginning and an end, and that can sometimes be its strength. When I want to cut through all the noise, when I want to put myself in the hands of an authority, then a cookbook is a more manageable way for me to do that.
4. Not everything is online. It's hard to believe, I know, but there are a lot of really good cooks, and really good cookbooks, that aren't represented online, or at least not very well. The work of deceased food writer Richard Olney comes to mind, as well as the British cook Jane Grigson, also deceased. I treasure my copy of Olney's Simple French Food and take some comfort that I can find his particular voice sitting just right there on my bookshelf.
Do you still use print cookbooks? Why or why not? What makes a print cookbook different for you?
(Image: Dana Velden)