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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Cookbook Meme

Nic nominated me for this a few weeks back. Sorry it's taken so long!

1: The rationale behind what we're seeing
These are a set of shelves in our walk-in pantry, just off the kitchen. What you must understand is that my mum has a war aginst clutter. Our house is very minimalist and modern, always looking ready for a photo shoot (for which it has been used on occasion), so the need for a walk-in pantry to store groceries and clutter is imperative for the kitchen to look like nobody uses it (sorry mum!). That said, it's a fabulous kitchen in which to cook, and I find myself embattled in the same war against clutter when on holiday in rental houses! Must be genetic, because I'm really messy everywhere else.

We don't have very many cookbooks, partly because mum had a cleanout a few years back and only kept the worthy and historically valued ones. Since then I've been buiding up my own small, but growing collection, but I also get a lot of inspiration from the internet and other food bloggers.
My books are mostly on the bottom shelf, within easy reach. I have my Nigellas, Jill Dupleixs, Stephanie Alexanders etc. and 3 very special books of personal notes and torn-out recipes; 2 by me and 1 treasured one by my great-grandmother, which is nearly falling to pieces, but full of the most useful pre-war baking recipes and little descriptive comments. You also see my baking ingredients, kept within easy reach. :-)
The middle shelf contains my books which are too tall for the bottom shelf, and our large collection of Australian Women's Weekly cookbooks, which are so useful to Aussie cooks. Everything ranging from 'Chocolate' to 'Potatoes' to 'Indian' to 'Beginners' (for my brother when he was living in Canada). And the Enclyclopaedia of European Cooking; a masterpiece of dubious semi-research from the 1960s, but good for German cake recipes. You can also see my funky red Italian scales A. bought me last year.
The top shelf is full of things that we can't get to unless we *really* need to refer to useless books like the 1970s Carribean Islands Cookery Encyclopaedia (!), my 1987 Brownie Guide cookbook or the 1966 Kingsbury High School Parents' Association cookbook (great biscuit recipes in that).
2: Most recommended
Easy. Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion : the complete book of ingredients and recipes for the Australian kitchen, (Amazon link) found in 1 in every 3 Australian kitchens. This weighty encyclopaedic book is known many Aussies as "The Orange Bible". It weighs a ton, and doesn't have any photos, but has been the most popular cookbook in Australia. It's divided into chapters according to ingredients. Have bananas but don't know what to do with them? Go to her chapter on bananas and she'll tell you about the different varieties, how to store them, what flavours they complement and a list of excellent recipes. A wonderful resource, and the first such book aimed exclusively toward Australian seasons and ingredients. Interesting enough to read in bed as entertainment, but too heavy to do so without sore arms.
3: Cookbook that made you what you are?
Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess. That's when I became truly interested in baking and cooking (not that I wasn't before. My family will attest to that!).
4: Porniest Cookbook?
Errr. Can't say I get terribly hot under the collar about them, but possibly Jill Dupleix's books. Really excellent photography, that she takes herself. Damn multitalented Australian expats.
5: Sophie's Choice Cookbook?
My Stephanie Alexander Orange Bible. Given to me by my a good friend for my 21st birthday. I've heard stories of people moving to Europe and leaving behind all sorts of basic essentials so they can take Stephanie with them.
6: If you were a cookbook, which cookbook would you be?
I'd like to say something worthy and erudite like Joel Robuchon or Thomas Keller's books, but the secret reality is more like 'Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies'. More butter and streaky bacon, please!! :-)
7: If your cookbooks were extremely valuable, so valuable you might hide it with other valuables, where would you hide it?
Quite possibly inside my friend Vaughan's oven. He hasn't switched it on since he moved in 6 years ago.
Passing this on:
I'd like to nominate another Australian/Kiwi blogger from my list on the right. Any takers? I'd love to see books I know on other peoples' shelves.
Also, I'm nominating my own boyfriend A. He's taken an interest in this post, and sent a few emails about his own cookbooks, so he shall be interviewed fairly soon for what's in his collection. Special Guest Artist and all that... :-)

And now, I'm off to Woodend and Bendigo, for the Queen's Birthday long weekend, to perform in a festival and attend competitions. It should be pretty cold up there. I'll be back in a few days.


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