The Kitchn Cure Day 18: Organize cookbooks, magazines, and art.
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It's a self-evident truth that despite a universal purpose and functionality, not all kitchens look the same. In some cases, not even remotely the same. Depending on your style, your kitchen might resemble a sleek laboratory or an IKEA catalog. Or maybe it's closer to art gallery or a preschool classroom or a vintage jumble shop. No matter. If you can't let your freak flag (or your not-freak flag) fly in your own kitchen, then by gosh this is no longer the United States of America!
Today's Cure is all about taking care of the little extras we add to our kitchen to help make it our own. Oh and while we're at it, let's look at our cookbooks and recipe organization.
Art and Other Embellishments
I'm a big fan of having art in my kitchen, even if it's just a beautiful handmade calendar or some postcards propped up on a shelf. If you have art or any other collection of things (cookie jars, vintage crockery, bowls, tea cups, etc.) take this time to give everything a nice wipe-down, especially if it is stored on open shelves. In the case of art, which should be framed if you want to preserve it, be sure to wipe the top of the frame, as this is a classic place for that nasty combo of kitchen grease and dust to settle. Clean the glass, too.
While you're at it, consider a little rearrangement: Move some things around, swap out items, maybe even take a few things away permanently, if that feels right. I'm always quite surprised how much a small shift like this can really bring a stale collection back to life. Freshen it up!
Cookbooks, Cooking Magazines, and Online Recipe Organization
Do you keep cookbooks in your kitchen? I used to until my collection grew (and grew and grew) and it became impractical. Now they live on a series of shelves around the corner in the hallway. Still, no matter where we keep them, our cookbooks are as much a part of our kitchens as our pots and pans and stovetops. This includes cooking magazines or online recipe storage as well. Our goal today is to understand just what kind of cookbook/recipe owner we are and to keep our collections organized, easy-to-access, and relevant so they can inspire and inform us at any time.
My cookbook collection grew to epic proportions and then was severely culled when I took off to live in the mountains for several years and then started to grow again once I returned to the land of grocery stores and farmers markets. I now have more cookbooks than ever and have decided not to worry about it. Cookbooks are my thing, like some people collect records or succulents or shoes. I am unabashed.
1. Make a decision: First, decide what kind of cookbook user you are or want to be. This can range from the practical (I use my cookbooks to ... well, to cook) to the more abstract (cookbooks are for cooking ... and collecting, and reading in bed, and idly paging through while pretending to watch TV!) This will determine how diligent you will be in step number 2.
Possible cookbook owner categories: practical (just for cooking), aspirational (cooking and learning), inspirational (cooking, learning, and for inspiration/browsing), collector (may own several cookbooks that you never open but still must have on your shelves).
A word of advice here, this step is really important and I offer it based on my personal experience: Know what kind of cookbook owner you are! I once pruned my cookbook collection very, very hard under the rule that if I hadn't used a book in the past year, then it was out. I'm still recovering from that mistake. I hadn't realized it at the time, but I definitely fall into the collector category and collectors should not apply the have I used this book in the past year? test. How bad was it? I got rid of cookbooks signed by Julia Child. I got rid of the first cookbook I ever owned. I got rid of way too much. To this day, I keep an eye on eBay to replace some of my lost treasures. Culler beware!
2. To cull ... or not: Knowing deeply who you are, wade into your collection to see if you might want to cull a few — or many — volumes. And of course, you may want to leave things just as they are. Understanding what kind of cookbook user/collector you are is half the matter, though — you will also have to factor in how much room you have and where you are going to put your precious volumes.
3. Consider location: You can store all of your cookbooks in your kitchen, or you can pick out a few really lively, super-inspiring volumes to have close at hand and keep the rest out, or you can store none in your kitchen at all. It all depends on how much room you have, the kind of aesthetic you are going for, and how often you actually are using them. It seems obvious to me now, but I was shocked when I first realized you can store cookbooks outside of the kitchen!
4. To arrange ... or not: The most popular way to arrange your cookbooks is by size and subject but, as we know, people also like to arrange them by color, too. I arrange mine by frequency of use. My most popular volumes are at eye level, and just above or below. More obscure volumes are up super high or down at my feet.
I long ago gave up cooking magazines, but there are a few classic issues here and there that I still keep around. I find that those file boxes made for magazines work well enough for my small collection. Are you a food magazine collector? How do you deal with storage and organization?
Online Recipe Organization
There's no doubt about it: Online recipe organization is the way to go. And I say this as someone who doesn't do much of it (one day, one day!) Not only can online methods make it possible to have thousands of recipes at your fingertips, but you can also search by ingredient or type of cuisine or any other number of keywords. And in some cases, you can scale recipes up or down right there in the app, make notes and adjustments, or create shopping lists.
The initial time investment it takes to corral all of your favorite recipes online might seem intimidating at first, but once you get them there, they will be available to you as long as the Internet and electricity run freely.
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