Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hello August!

In an unusual turn of events, I'm not at the Cafe this morning but there are several Saturday morning treats including Grand Marnier French Toast Casserole, Spinach Swiss Strata and Maple Oatmeal with Nuts & Fruit. Kasey will probably make a special batch of muffins or coffee cake but you'll just have to stop by to see what she pulls out of the oven!

I own an embarrassing number of cookbooks. Like some people pick up mystery or romance novels, I pick up cookbooks. They run the gamut from the Christ Episcopal Church ECW Cookbook to the CIA's New Professional Chef. Every $4.95 publishers overrun demands at least a cursory glance; and clearly there are those volumns any serious cook couldn't do without. Crockpot cooking, preserving, brewing, every ethnicity you can imagine, fondue, ferminting, animal food/treats, candy, cocktails and wild game barely scratch the surface of subject matter covered. I even buy cookbooks just because I like their formatting! In the broaser catagory of how-to books (which cookbooks are a sub-set) I have a book about how to write a cookbook.

The dirty truth is among the hundreds of cookbooks I own (yes, I admit it) there are five or six that are really indespensible. The 1975 Joy of Cooking (don't get me started on the "new" Joy. If you don't have an old copy, try to get your hands on the 75th anniversary edition); The Silver Palate Cookbook; a little cookbook Michael's mother Kitty gave us called Afternoon Delights (the only cookbook that, without exception, every recipe has turned out perfectly); Rose's Christmas Cookies; and my handwritten cookbook that includes Mom's Bottled Hell, Granny's Angel Biscuits, Grandma's Scarlette O'Hara Salad and my own tried and true recipes come immediately to mind.

There is a new addition to the library, Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & more by Carole Walter, that promises to be one of those go-to cookbooks. It is both academic and user-friendly, an unusual combination in my experience. From the quick muffins, breads and coffee cakes to recipes that require some forethought like brioche or stollen, each recipe features an At A Glance box which outlines what pans are needed as well as prep time, rising time, oven temp, baking time and a difficulty rating. Walter gives meticulous directions that do not make assumptions about the cook. So if you are an aspiring baker this cookbook offers education as well as a fabulous range of recipes for breakfast, brunch, and dessert treats.

More and more, a quick Google search turns up needed information but doesn't replace the time spent flipping pages, looking at beautiful pictures, gleaning inspiration and making plans for when strawberries are back in season or remembering to take advantage of the low turkey prices around Thanksgiving (there is the great smoked, stuffed turkey breast recipe in a William Sonoma grilling cookbook).

Like an armchair adventurer reads sci-fi and mystery novels, like the gardener reads seed catalogs in February, collecting cookbooks speaks to the creative, curious, thrill seeking and nurturing aspects of my personality. It also suggests some tendencies toward OCD.....