Print Cookbooks 4ever

You might be aware that I like to cook. You might also be aware that I’m a bit of a techie and in school for all the things techie-nological. Knowing this, you might well think that I prefer online recipes.


Well, not entirely wrong. I’ll often trawl vegan cooking blogs for seitan recipes. (Hail seitan!) But there are a few things that make paper cookbooks better in my humble techie opinion. Allow me to share these with you.

Structural Resilience

Any cookbook I own rapidly acquires its own unique set of stains. Most of these come from sloshings with liquid, an experience that sends my computer into an instant whirling dysphoria. My iPhone fares little better around water.

The fact that I can slosh a bunch of ranch dressing onto a book without having to worry about killing it is a relief and a pleasure. If necessary, I can also tear out pages and re-set them in a form more to my liking, for example, in a scrapbook of personal favorite recipes. They stand up on their own, too, and never fade to black at just the wrong time.


Nobody will ever take down the recipes from The Oh She Glows Cookbook. Even if those recipes prove questionable (and the tempeh recipe in that book is Very Freaking Questionable) they will never disappear or change. This is magical, especially since the vast majority of the recipes in there are amazing, particularly the saucey dressing recipes that know what to do with nutritional yeast. They should never be changed.

Nutritional yeast - Wikipedia

This stuff! From Wikipedia


Recipes that work for food scientists don’t always work for me. For one thing, I do not mill my own carob. (Press? Harvest? However people make carob, I don’t do it.) So I often find that I need to get creative. This can be a matter of taste, too. I love This Can’t Be Tofu¬†because hello, it’s a cookbook full of everything you can do with tofu, but there’s ooonnnneeee recipe where I sub in cumin and cayenne for curry powder.¬†Guess where the note for that is.


Wasn’t kidding about the stains. Also, yes, I did substitute soy sauce for coconut milk. I like soy sauce, OK?

There’s probably an app out there where I can index my notes and search them and stuff like that, but that removes a lot of the extemporaneous fun from the cooking adventure. What’s life without a few surprises from your past self?

Long Stories = Easy Skips

Every dish does have a story. That does not at all mean that I’m interested.

I like that cookbooks have talky sections. In many cases, I will read them for fun. However, I also like that they’re not gatekeepers of a recipe that should require maybe fifteen or twenty lines. I get why bloggers do this. Total respect. Seriously. But when I’ve got six hours to make 100 sugar cookies with my one bitty little pan, I can’t waste time scrolling frantically through your life story in search of the part where you talk about lemons vs. lemon extract.

Cookbooks get right to the point. I might read the author’s thoughtful words of wisdom when I don’t need to crank out cookies like my life depends upon it, but in the moment, brevity.

Similar Recipe Discovery

I like to eat some odd foods. Bugs, for example. Wheat gluten products. things made from pea protein. I will pizza just about anything. When I find a cookbook that caters to my unusual tastes, I snag it just because it’ll expand my horizons. Consider The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook. When I first got ground grasshoppers from my amazing¬†grasshopper supplier, Bug Bit Farms, my only idea was to mix them into brownies. David Gordon gave me all kinds of new ideas, even though I don’t think he directly deals with ground crickets as an ingredient. I now try them in some soups, cautiously.

Is Eating Insects the Answer to Reducing our Food ...

Image from Treehugger. People all over the world enjoy bugs as food.

Regional and Temporal Authenticity

In my travels, I’ve found that the best recipes are often self-published by roadside diners and super-local places that won’t bother to market outside of their area. Bloggers will replicate the recipes after tasting them, but the real deal is to be found in books like Fisherman’s Wharf Cookbook. Incidentally, that’s a classic. You won’t find it in a library because it’s too old. (I wouldn’t find it in a library anyway because I mess up every cookbook I touch. I’m careful about this one, though.)

I got that book in a used bookstore in San Francisco itself, and the recipes are both simple and delicious. If you want’ genuine, get a cookbook from the area you want to cook about. Bonus: awesome memories every time you cook!

So you can pry my cookbook collection away from me when I finally eat myself to death. Until then, I’m going to keep building, raiding used bookstores and hoarding every good cookbook I find.

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