Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cookbooks, and Cookbooks, and Cookbooks, Oh My!

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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14 comments:

Keeley said...

Fabulous idea, Tristi!!! Then you'll have your very own Pinkston Cookbook to hand down for generations to come. =) What an awesome journal for posterity.

Alison Palmer said...

Ah yes, but my compulsion extends to the fact that I generally only think I'm going to cook- it never actually happens. I'll pull out the cookbook, select my 5 recipes for the week then never get around to cooking. Thank goodness for vitamin fortified cold cereal.
The road to whereever is paved with my cooking good intentions. You'd never guess that I actually love cooking!

violetlady said...

Tristi, that sounds like a lot of work, but I really should try it with a few of my cookbooks. Since it is only the two of us, it shouldn't be hard.

Julie Wright said...

You are better than me. I have no desire to cook let alone crack the spine of a cookbook. I'm a lousy excuse for a female. :)

ali said...

I am doing the very same thing!!! I've only just started, but still. I thought I was beyond brilliant to have come up with the idea, and the fact that you've been doing it long enough before me that you've only got eight books left means you are that much more brilliant than me. But, I already knew that. That's why I admire you so much!

I'm glad this new practice is working for you - I'm excited about it too!

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I keep saying I'm going to do something like this, but I never quite get to it. I have managed to control my compulsion to by cookbooks a little though - mostly through necessity since the cupboard is full. It sounds like you have a wonderful system.

Cindy Beck said...

Great idea, to share the cookbooks after we've tried the recipes!

G. Parker said...

I love cookbooks!! You could probably say I collect them...lol. But since the inovation of the internet -- it's a whole different world. Most of the time I look stuff up so I can see a photo of the item. It's been much easier than the cookbooks...though we still have our favorites.

Rachelle said...

I really like this idea. We've been doing something similar, but sounds like I need to step it up a notch. :) I have a "My favorites" cookbook which is blank and we've been filling it with all kinds of favorite recipes so they're all in one place.

Jana said...

I've been collecting cookbooks for years - and they've been collecting dust! It's just my hubby and I now, so I don't use them like I used to. Can I send you some of mine? I need to free up space on my shelves.

Anonymous said...

I'm like the person that said she likes to cook but never really gets around to it. So what works for me is to take one or two days and make 15 meals I can stick in my freezer (but xs 2 or 3each) so that I have something that tastes good and is homemade to stick in my oven five nights a week. (The other two is leftovers and do what you want). I have found the most recipes that I like from "30 Meals in One Day" and that's also the book that tells how to do the freezer and everything in one day thing. ! =)

Candace E. Salima said...

Great idea, Tristi. If you want, I have lots of cookbooks at my place too. You can go through them and return them to me.

And I think what you're doing is an excellent idea. I may have to do that myself!

Jenn said...

I love cookbooks! I love coking and baking for my family. Soups and stews are my favorite with homemade bread (that I have just figured out!) I have just started writing the date in the margins, along with happy or sad faces, depending on my families reaction. I will also add the occasion, ie. dad was visiting, missionaries, Christmas, etc. I'm not ready to give them away, but I am part of a dinner group and I have been thinking it would be fun to have an exchange each month! That would be great. =)

Laura S. said...

I love to hear that others are "collectors" of recipes, knowing full well that we will NEVER in a whole lifetime ever use all of the recipes! We all know that, in reality, we use the same "tried and true" recipes over and over, but I have decided that if it makes me happy to collect, organize, etc., recipes and I am not neglecting my children or home or spiritual welfare to do it, what does it hurt? I have been doing something similar to you for years. I finally gave up on trying every recipe before I decided to keep it and just put the magazine, newspaper, RS cookbook, etc., clippings in a page protector in divided 3-ring binders with alphabetical listings on the spines, and use them when I want to. Somedays when I actually end up with some free time, I organize a section at a time. I was all happy when I got my bread section organized and copied onto different colors of paper (purple for bread, green for muffins, yellow for rolls, etc.)! My hubby just smiled when I proudly showed him what I had accomplished, because it doesn't matter a whit to him, but he knows it makes me happy. :) Aren't we funny creatures? I am glad to know that I am not alone in this "hobby". :)

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