Two women, 8000 cookbooks

Cookbooks continue to buck the trend of faltering sales in the publishing industry. Last year, London’s fastest selling nonfiction book since records began was a cookbook. For cookbook lovers, few things bring us as much joy as cracking open a new volume to explore the world within its pages, or thumbing through a well-worn copy of a favorite book. That is how it is with Diana Henry and Cindy Pawlcyn, both of whom are avid cookbook collectors. The BBC’s Emily Thomas recently interviewed both of them about their large cookbook collections.

Cookbooks have been “one of the central joys of my life,” says Diana. She began her love affair with cookbooks as a young girl growing up in Northern Ireland by reading authors like Jane Grigson, who is her favorite food writer. The cookbooks that she loves best are those that are personal, ones that put food in context. Diana has over 4,000 cookbooks, although she admits that she has slowed down the pace of collecting because she is running out of room to put them.

Cindy Pawlcyn described her massive cookbook collection, which as you may remember was destroyed by a wildfire earlier this year. The chef had built a separate structure to house her collection that was waterproof and air conditioned. She said her books were like an addiction, saying “I mean you don’t have that many of anything unless you’re kind of goofy about them, don’t you think?”

Cindy immediately purchased several replacement cookbooks after the fire, including tomes by Richard Olney, Jane Grigson, Fuchsia Dunlop, and Dorie Greenspan. Even though she knows many of the recipes by heart, she is comforted by having the book in hand. The chef is slowly rebuilding her collection, although she does not believe she will ever have as many as she had before.

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  • Tee.Tee  on  January 2, 2021

    What is the name of the bestselling cookbook in London from last year?

  • Indio32  on  January 3, 2021

    I suspect its one of those Pinch of Nom books.

  • averythingcooks  on  January 3, 2021

    Many of my friends look at my very modest 152 book collection and ask why I just don’t use the internet for recipes?? Well, because one of my favourite winter nesting places is on my couch with a blanket and a cup of tea ….with a cookbook perched on my upraised knees. The “current pile” will continue to build on the coffee table until I relent and re-shelve – and then start again. In the summer, I can often be found on my front deck in the sun, knees up on the railing with a cookbook perched in my lap…..same picture minus the cold temperatures & the blanket but with a cold beverage beside me 🙂 It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve gone through a particular book – the appeal of this activity is never lost. Of course I use the internet for information ( ie I’m here alot!) and for some recipes BUT for me, a computer screen will NEVER replace the joy of a book.

  • Gneissspice  on  January 3, 2021

    How would they ever find the cookbooks if they are organized by color? (But this maybe a stock photo!???)

    I can’t imagine my little collection being lost in a fire, but 4000, OMG.

  • ptrefler  on  January 10, 2021

    Well, I am glad to know that there are people with more cookbooks than me. I probably have just under 2,000 at this point. It is a problem as to where to keep them all.

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