I’m not a cook myself, but I’m interested in the five senses, and I often choose library books very impulsively, so I recently picked up a little book by Julian Barnes, The Pedant in the Kitchen.
In it, he writes a funny list about how to avoid making mistakes when buying cookbooks. Even though I myself don’t have an issue with being tempted to buy cookbooks, I thought this was an amusing and helpful reminder of how we make mistakes in our purchases.
- Never buy a cookbook because of its pictures. Nothing will look as good when you cook it.
- Never buy cookbooks with tricky layouts.
- Avoid cookbooks that are too general or too narrow. For instance, skip books like Great Dishes of the World or Waffle Wonderment.
- Never buy a cookbook written by the chef of a restaurant where you’ve just eaten. Barnes notes, “Remember, that’s why you went to the restaurant in the first place—to eat their cooking, not your own feebler version of it.”
- Never buy a cookbook focused on using a piece of equipment if you don’t own that equipment.
- Resist anthologies of regional recipes bought as a souvenir.
- Resist books of famous historical recipes, especially in facsimile editions. (Gretchen: Always avoid facsimile editions! I’ve learned that the hard way.)
- Never replace a beloved old favorite with the new, updated, edition; you’ll always use your original.
- Never buy a cookbook for a charity fundraiser. Give the cover price directly to the charity; they’ll get more money, and you won’t have to cull out the cookbook later.
- Remember that many cookbook writers have only one good cookbook in them.