A combination of a balmy day and an impending council cleanup has seen me tuck my skirts into my bloomers and have a bit of a tidy up. I’ve got rid of a bag of clothes, three bags of rubbish, a box of paper recycling and a box of toys. And you still can’t see where I’ve been. But in the process I’ve cleared a shelf that’s close to my cooking space and it’s just perfect for my cookbooks.
I have a lot of cookbooks, almost none of which I’ve bought myself. I’m rather fond of my joke cookbooks, many of which are in this picture:
Some have been given to me, the dog biscuit one belongs to the Muffet, and some came to me from my Nanna. The Flo Bjelke-Petersen one has a lot of recipes she’s clearly lifted from other sources (what Queensland housewife uses dark corn syrup?) and the proportions are often wrong. The Colleen McCullough one is a great read, she devotes a whole page to the evils of dieting and fancy foreign food, but I’m unlikely to be making mutton neck soup or plum duff any time soon. I do read through these cookbooks, and I sometimes get some inspiration from them, but it’s mainly to tell people that there is actually a recipe in print for a pizza topped with tinned mushrooms and tinned spaghetti. Remember tinned spaghetti?
The ones I’ve put on the newly reclaimed shelf are the ones I actually use.
I do actually have a Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion, but even though I’ve read it cover to cover I just don’t get a lot of inspiration from it. I get a lot more from the imposing Cook’s Book that my dear sisters gave some birthdays ago. There’s a tonne of stuff in there I’m not game to try. Yet.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I bake a lot more than I make exciting dinners, so I keep Tish Boyle’s The Good Cookie and the Donna Hay baking book close by. The Women’s Weekly cookbooks I inherited from my Nanna, the purple covered one was published in the year of my birth and I’m particularly fond of the confectionery section. I think Adam Liaw’s book is just terrific, and deals with a cuisine I’m not at all familiar with cooking, so I’ve been browsing through that a lot and gradually accumulating strange smelling ingredients. The Black and White cookbook is a collection of recipes from the parents at my sons’ school and I love looking at what other people cook. Some of these are creeping into the repertoire. The two Pillsbury books are from the early sixties and also from Nanna’s collection. Some recipes are truly hilarious, like the chicken salad nestled in a strawberry jelly moulded in a bowl shape, or the suggestions to elegantly garnish your casserole with slices of salami folded to look like bells. But the Americans know a lot about cakes and cookies and I’ve picked up some terrific ideas in there.
The little battered green one on the end? That’s what I used to use before iPads were invented. Remember when you’d see a recipe in the newspaper, and you’d cut it out and keep it somewhere safe? That’s where mine went. If I made it more than a couple of times, I’d write it out and chuck the clipping.
Pretty retro, huh. Now I have the Paprika app on my iPad and I can type out my recipes and they won’t get covered in butter and they’re backed up. I have no nostalgia for the written book at all, so spare me your hand wringing. I can even Google a recipe and suck it into the app, where a record of the original website is also kept. I can add photos. I can email recipes to admiring friends and acquaintances. I love living in the future.