The Making of a Cookbook CollectorMarch 24, 2017 by Jenny
Hi, I’m Jenny and I was a cookbook lover before cookbooks were cool – doesn’t that remind you of a song? When I first started The Cookbook Junkies over a decade ago – it was slow going. Comments such as “why do we need cookbooks when recipes are online?” “you don’t need them, they just take up space” were tossed around by friends and family (and even some members). Then magically, membership exploded in the group, all the food sites were posting about cookbooks and everything was right in my world – everyone agreed we need cookbooks. We want to hold them in our hands, turn pages and dream of far away places, be inspired by the dishes and stories, and most importantly to feed and nurture our family and friends.
From as early as I can remember – I have had an affinity for books. Books were an escape from parents that didn’t allow me to have friends or be out of the vicinity of their twisted judgment and controlling minds. Gone with the Wind was the one book I owned. I read it over a hundred times – I would lose myself in those worn pages and it is one thing I still own from my early childhood – that tattered copy.
My love of cookbooks bloomed when I was a teenager. I graduated high school at seventeen, moved out of mother’s home and was working full time for an oncologist. To earn extra money, I started babysitting for the Doctor and his wife. On those nights of babysitting the girls and doing my laundry, I remember the great leftovers that could be found in their fridge. I had never eaten anything that tasted like those leftovers – seafood and different vegetables – ingredients that were foreign to me.
My mom wasn’t much of a cook. Never was there anything exotic in her rotation of chicken, meatloaf, spaghetti – and by no means were there any fresh herbs or spices in those dishes. Her ingredients of choice were always Ragu and copious amounts of salt. I do remember she made great homemade fries….fried things were her specialty. It’s hard to mess up french fries. There wasn’t money to go to a restaurant or even order take out, so I was under the impression that food was genuinely bland and flavorless, processed and frozen.
When the doctor’s wife went through her cookbooks to thin them out – she gave me a stack. She was my gateway to becoming a cookbook junkie. I still have one of those books – Miss Hullings’ Cookbook. Miss Hullings’ Restaurant was a famous restaurant in St. Louis, my hometown. One of my first jobs in St. Louis, after the doctor, was for a law firm and my boss was like a father figure and would take me to lunch at Miss Hullings and the French Onion Soup – was incredible. Trips to Charlie Gitto’s on the Hill with other office staff were a treat as well. The first time I had pesce there I was blown away and then toasted ravioli – I thought I hit the big time.
Cooking became a therapy for me – a way to connect with people and something I was really good at with no training save those those cast off cookbooks I held onto. Now when I look at my shelves of cookbooks, I see a world of possibilities. I see travel to other countries, a connectivity to other cultures and people and a true love of the written word. Do these books fill our house? Yes, but I don’t see them as clutter – I see them as opportunities. Surrounded by cookbooks and things I love (I have a little problem with French cookware as well), I feel like I belong to something. It may come from a background of being abused and doing without for so much of my early life – but having these things bring me comfort. There are not stacks of newspapers or magazines lying about or herds of cats roaming the house, just shelves of books and a few stacks as well. Life is fleeting and if we do not surrounded ourselves with things and people we love – what purpose is there? As my bio here at Eat Your Books states, “She spends her time writing, cooking, baking and hoping that she isn’t discovered under a pile of cookbooks. Her tombstone will read “she was always buried in cookbooks.“
A few months ago I wrote about the contributing factors that make a good
cookbook and came across it again which spurred me to
share this re-hash of a post I shared on my blog. I am also sharing
the piece on The Cookbook Junkies from the Parker paper to explain why my little group of
42,000 cookbook lovers means so much to me and now my cookbook
family has grown through Eat Your Books. Facebook statuses remind
me of the connections I’ve made through food and cooking and also
re-affirm that people who love to cook are good people.
What is your cookbook story? How did you begin down this delicious road? How many cookbooks do you have? I am working on a project and would love to collect as many stories as I can. I would so appreciate your comments here. Enjoy your weekend and cook something great for those you love.
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