Mealtime is a strange affair around here. I have four children who are picky, to choose a gentle word to describe it. Any meal I prepare will generally meet with a fifty percent approval rating (if that), accompanied by any amount of complaining, whining, and general grumpiness. Being a firm mother, I don’t succumb to the threats of impending starvation or poisoning by meatloaf, but being a nice mother, I do try to find recipes my children will find less repugnant than others.
I love cookbooks. I like flipping through them, looking for new recipes, even though no one in my family will eat them. I collect cookbooks (it’s a little bit of a compulsion for me, although I’m working on it) and then I noticed I was tripping over them. As much as I loved to line them all up in neat rows on my shelf, I knew I had to do something. Thus the Tristi Pinkston System of Cookbook Organization was born!
I started with one book and went through it, jotting down the page numbers of all the recipes that a) sounded good to me b) didn’t contain more than two of my children’s less-favorite ingredients and c) didn’t call for me to travel to the ends of the earth to find the perfect kind of mushroom. Then, over the course of the next few months, I incorporated those recipes into our menu. As I tried each recipe, I stuck a Post-It note on that page and wrote down what we thought of the results and what I would do differently next time. When I got to the end of the book, I went through and copied down all the recipes that had enough merit to hang onto, and then I gave the book away. Interestingly enough, the recipes that sounded good to me weren’t always the ones that sounded good to my sisters or neighbors, so no matter who I gave the book to, we all gained some use out of it.
I got some of my cookbooks from the thrift store, for around a dollar each, and I have to say, I really like getting them second-hand. For starters, I can make my notes right on the margins. For books that are spiral-bound, I’ll sometimes rip out pages that don’t hold any use for me, or I’ll trim out the recipe to add to my own collection.
Once I’ve decided to keep a recipe, I’ll either trim it out, as I mentioned above, and glue it onto a sheet of cardstock, or I’ll type it up from the book. I always make note of any substitutions I made and little things I learned during the process that will make the recreation of that recipe a little easier. Then I take that sheet, insert it in a page protector, and put it in a three-ring binder along with my other favorite recipes. In this way, I’m winnowing down twelve thousand recipes into a select few hundred that I know my family will eat (or at least tolerate with less whining and gagging noises than the other recipes.)
I’ve been doing this with every cookbook on my shelf, and now I’m down to about eight (the end is in sight!) I’m creating more shelf space in my kitchen, I’m finding recipes that will actually work for my family, and I’m keeping myself entertained in the kitchen—I can’t stand making the same thing night after night, so this works out perfectly for me.
One cookbook I’m particularly excited to try revolves around food storage and ways to take our wheat and other stored items and actually create real food with it. I admit, I’ve faced this whole “cooking with food storage” idea with a bit of trepidation, but with a guide, I just might survive it.
So what will I do when I’ve worked through those last eight cookbooks? Why, go to the thrift store and get more, of course! (Did I mention this was a compulsion for me?) And what will I look for? Cookbooks that have been compiled by wards or neighborhoods. I’ve found that those simple, homemade cookbooks are often the ones that contain the best recipes. The ingredients are down to earth, the preparation and cooking times are realistic, and they actually taste good.
Cookbooks are fun to collect, but what good are they if they just sit on our shelves? Take them down, dust them off, and give them a whirl. Then pass them along. You never know what treasures you might be sharing with someone else.
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