Friday, January 22, 2010

The Great Cookbook Purge of 2010

I love cookbooks! I admit it - I love to thumb through them, salivating over the beautiful pictures, reading the recipes, trying to dream up new and exciting things to feed my family. Over the years, I have acquired quite a few cookbooks, yet unfortunately have very little space to store them. I also love to watch the show "Hoarders." As I watch the show, I think about the things I have amassed over the years, the things that are causing me to feel claustrophobic and I start considering what I can part with to bring order to my life and home. I thought about my cookbooks. Could I part with them? Any of them? No. I love them all. They all hold a special place in my heart - they were OFF LIMITS for purging.
But alas, when the 10th day of the new year arrived, I decided that I had an illness - the hoarding illness and to overcome it, I HAD to part with some cookbooks. So I got them all out of their assigned seat and started to, once again, pour over them.
I know - you're probably thinking "what is she talking about? That's a pathetic collection of cookbooks!" But really - it's a lot of cookbooks for the very small space in which they must reside. And their assigned seat is shared with a host of other lovely collectibles - napkin rings; cloth napkins; serving trays and bowls - all the necessary items to serve a formal plated dinner for 12 - which of course I never do - but I need those items also - just in case. As you can see, the cookbooks are sorted into piles. Sorting is important as you work on the purge. Everyone has their own way of sorting - mine goes like this: the cannot and will not part with; the never even opened or used; the never used but too interesting to make an immediate decision; the WTF is this even doing with the cookbooks; and the WTF was I thinking when I bought this. So there you see it above - the piles.

The next step in purging must be very delicately trod. It's too painful to make the immediate decision to oust a loved one from your home - so always start with the "Cannot and will not part with" - and reason with yourself. These are the ones that I cannot and will not part with:

The one on the left is a staple for everyone who dabbles in the kitchen. This one is the 2005 edition, which frankly, is NOT as good as my 1984 edition was - but it was a paperback and eventually tore in half and I lost some of the most critical pages so it had to be replaced. I use this one when I want to know how to boil an egg. I'm pretty crafty in the kitchen and pride myself on my ability to throw together a feast fit for a king, with enough to feed an army from nothing more than what I have lying around - but that egg boiling thing - is it 5 minutes on boil then rest in hot water for 15 minutes? Or is it boil the shit out of the eggs for 15 minutes? I can never remember - so I must keep Betty Crocker. (did you know she's a fictitious woman created as a marketing scheme by a large corporation? - WTF?) Anyway - the book on the right is my newest to the collection. Given to me by my texting partner and cousin, Lola. It's a beautiful book written by a woman who got her start by blogging. The recipes are neither complicated nor new to me, but the pictures and stories are heart-warming and I admit, it is the only cookbook I've ever sat down and read cover to cover in one sitting. I admire this woman who wrote this book and I admire Lola, so I cannot part with this cookbook even though I will likely never use it. (I already know how to make all that food).

Having made the decision on which ones would definitely remain a part of my household, I went on to the next pile - again - tackling the obvious:

WTF? Moving along....
Ah yes - the aftermath of the compulsive shopping decision while standing in line at the checkout counter - Lured in by the cleverness of the marketing genius who titled these little gems: EASY! FAST! ONE DISH!!! Pick it up! Read it - look at it - IMAGINE yourself being easy, fast and throwing together fabulous ONE DISH meals for your family night after night. You're and efficient woman - BUY IT! Think how IMPROVED your life will be! Sucker.....

I laughed at my gullibility when I lined these all up. They were dog-eared and had writing on many of the recipes so clearly they had been used. But what most of the notes I had added to the recipes said were something along the lines of "SUCKS!" or "NO" and many of the recipes had big X's crossing them out. Good enough. Those can go into the "can go" pile.

Moving on to the antiques in the stash. Look at them - aren't they lovely? They're VINTAGE cookbooks! I caressed their covers, I admired their yellowed pages. I wondered who had used them and if the food was actually good and if the people who ate the food enjoyed themselves while doing so. I wondered where they came from and finally decided they must have come from my dad's house and ergo these were memories of times gone by - they must stay. They're VINTAGE and full of memories and likely one day they will start talking and sharing with me the memories of my childhood.

Besides, I got a fondue pot for Christmas a few years back and how fun would it be to have a fondue dinner party? I imagined myself with bouffant hair, a flashy mini dress and knee-high boots - maybe some awesomely gaudy tights would top off the outfit - Yes. I'm keeping them - and I made a note on my things to do in 2010 - Have a fondue dinner party.

And then there were the baking cookbooks. I don't bake. I hate to bake. I despise it. I like to cook - but cooking doesn't really require a basic knowledge of science and how the ingredients react to one another once combined like baking does. But baking is so homey. It screams "domestic goddess." When I bake, I think about how my children will rave to their children and friends 20 years from now, "I loved it when I was growing up and I would walk in the door and get hit with the smell of cookies baking in the oven." Baking embodies the term "good" mother.

Those are keepers. I mean, after all, if I dispose of them - what kind of mother would I be?

Ah yes! My FIRST cookbook. How cute is it? And wait! There's an inscription on the inside cover - given to me in 1978 by my great aunt and uncle. I doubt he had much to do with the gift, I was always told he was a drunk and I don't even remember what he looked like. But I do remember my great aunt. I loved her - she was bubbly and funny and sweet and always kissed me and hugged me. I loved seeing her - with her white hair and ruby red lips that seemed to be over-drawn. Throwing away this book, would be an admonishment of her and I couldn't possibly do that - it must stay. Look at these gems:

Yes - that IS a Wild Game cookbook you see in the upper left corner. Ya never know when you might need to know how to whip up a buffet consisting of pheasant, quail, opossum or whatever other road kill you have an inkling to cook. Better keep that - you just never know what the cat will drag in. Then the pizza cookbook, there's an inscription in it also - from me, to my ex-husband - hoping he always makes delicious pizzas. Since I don't really give a shit what he makes or how it tastes any longer, that book can go. WTF are those? Children's Parties!! Super EASY Kids Crafts! Why does that gumdrop clown look so happy? I've NEVER looked that happy at a children's party. NEVER. I usually look totally pissed and stressed, except for that fake, plastered on smile. Garbage. Both of them. Then the great little collection of "recipe collection" cookbooks - purchased by or given to me over the years. If you want to know how to make "Mom's Macaroni Salad" or "Grandma's Jell-o Mold" - then these are the books for you. I think I'll part with them. I prefer pasta salad to macaroni salad and I despise anything in a gelatin mold.

Next I spotted the "recipes that come with the appliance" pile. I didn't even know I had these anymore:

Growing weary of the purging process and all the decisions I've had to make thus far, I decide to keep all of these little treasures. They're small. They don't take up much space - and besides - they CAME WITH the appliance so they probably have the BEST recipes for the appliance. I had just seen Alton Brown cook bacon in his waffle iron the night before. I was absolutely intrigued - BACON? in a WAFFLE IRON? GENIUS!! I wondered if I could also do this in my George Foreman grill - but didn't figure the recipe to do so was actually in the George Foreman booklet so I didn't even look. But I kept all of these. Ya never know when you might want to make some jell-o jigglers. Or Dolly Madison ice cream. Or Ron Popeil seared chicken. And yes - I DO have a chocolate fondue fountain. I made a note to use that for dessert at my fondue dinner party I'm going to host.
So at the end of the tedious process of sorting, thinking, taking pictures, reading recipes and laughing, here's where I ended up:

Pile on the top: Part with
Pile on the bottom: Keep
Looks like about 50/50 to me! I was pretty pleased with myself. I was able to successfully, and without shedding a tear, part with HALF of my cookbook collection! I wasn't a hoarder after all !! I had just been too lazy to ever go through my library and take inventory. Feeling totally relieved and like a complete winner, I asked my husband to please box up all the ones in the "Part With" pile and put them in the storage room in the basement. WELL, I might need them one day - I'm just sayin' is all!

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