14 November 2014
Some of my earliest childhood memories are wrapped up in kitchens, those of my mother, and grandmothers especially. The shiny navy blue cupboards of my mothers' seventies styled kitchen, the belfast sink in one grandmothers kitchen where you could stand and watch the huge array of birds feeding in the tree just outside the window, the light and airy kitchen of my other grandmother it was a big room and always full of people and steam. One thing I don't remember from any of those kitchens, at the time, is the recipe books.
The recipe book market is huge. In 2011 it was worth £87m up from £20m in 2006, a huge percentage increase. It appears to be an industry that has been little effected by the internet and free recipes. Who doesn't love a good cookery book? My grandmothers and mother had recipe books but not in the volumes that I have and my mother has now. They had some for baking and all had a book where they would write their own recipes down, collected from all manner of places. I have no idea what happened to either of my grandmothers books, they would be wonderful to read through...........I have gone for a more modern method (at the time) of recording recipes I collect I have a card index box not quite so interesting to hold in your hand and read through but it works for me. How do you store recipes you collect?
I have written here before about meal planning. I do it in advance partly to prevent the rabbit in the headlights moment when you realise that tea should really be on the table by now and partly because it saves money only buying the ingredients you actually need. It also means that I can whizz round the shops super quick which has to be a bonus too. My meal planning involves a piece of paper, a list of vegetables we are going to receive from our local farm share co-op and sometimes a pile of recipe books. Despite having three shelves of books full to bursting with recipe books (they often fall on the floor) I don't consult them that often. If, as we told, the recipe book industry is thriving why is it that we as nation have so many people who cannot cook. Who have no idea what constitutes a healthy meal, who fill their trolleys week after week with ready meals. Perhaps they have their shelves of recipe books but like me they don't look in them and use them for inspiration. Now don't get me wrong I don't cook every meal I make by making up the recipe, I do use my books on a daily basis but I have a tendency to cook the same, or at least similar meals each week. I have been trying hard lately to consult my wonderful collection of books more often. To introduce at least one new recipe a month sometimes more often especially as my youngest has commented a few times recently, 'not this again!'
Some of my recipe books are like old friends, they are familiar and comforting, you know that you will find what you want on their pages. I do find myself returning to the same books time and time again, they are the ones with the stained pages and damaged covers. Those that don't get used often or at all are usually given away especially when I have my eye on a new one there is no room of any more on my shelves. They are stored on three small shelves in my kitchen. They are actually in part of the house which was originally the hall. When we moved into our house someone had kindly knocked down a few internal walls, it makes the house seem bigger and it is much much lighter. This means that we have no wall at one end of our kitchen it flows into the hall. To the left of these shelves is where the doorway to the dining room is except we don't have a door there anymore just a big hole. Perhaps one day I will take you on a tour of my kitchen!
So my favourites? Well the book I use the most is the Leiths Vegetarian Bible which appears to have been renamed as the Vegetable Bible, a close second is Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, both these books look a little battered now. I also have a very well thumbed and totally falling apart copy of The Cranks Recipe Book this was my very first vegetarian cookbook the date inside informs me that I purchased the book on 07.11.91 around the time I started to stop eating meat. I actually bought a second copy of this book recently (a charity shop find, it is no longer in print) as I am not sure how much longer my original copy will last. I have never been one to write in my books but I was looking at a copy of this book at a friends house recently and many of the recipes had wonderful comments added to them, friends they had shared food with, additions and changes to make next time they made something. I rather wished I had done the same..........
Do you write in your recipe books? What are your favourites books?