My inbox this morning included an email from lovefood about their recipe book competition. I don’t have any of the titles on the list, and it prompted a look at my book shelf. I adore recipe books. They are the equivalent of glossy magazines for those of us who are more interested in food than in fashion. With beautiful pictures, the suggestion of calm, collected cooking, and the promise of perfect domesticity captured within.
That's a Victoria sponge I made recently from Mary's book, and then promptly committed baking blasphemy by filling it with cream. Please note I do not normally consume cream in such copious quantities, however this was when my Grandad was coming for Sunday dinner. My Grandad, aged now 83, has subsisted on pies, pastry, white bread and lashings of cream. He is entirely well, doesn't take any medication, and the bookshelf my recipe books are on was put up by him just after we moved in. What is remarkable is that this was shortly after he built the utility room that the shelf is in, from the foundations to the roof, existing on a diet of builder's tea and bacon sandwiches. It’s obviously working for him and besides, the cake tasted great.
This is the most glamorous book on my shelf. Bought in a sale in a sells-a-bit-of everything homewares shop just after we bought our house, with visions of the wonderful wife I would become, armed with this bible of culinary expertise. In all honestly, I have flicked through it occasionally but never used it any practical sense. Any recipe book that is embossed in metallic lettering and comes with its own box just feels a little intimidating. I often gaze at it longingly as I lift down an old faithful.
We bought this in the same shop, and The Husband likes this one. It is quite masculine-looking I suppose with the flame and the monochrome, and there are manly recipes like steak, and double-cooked chips (which The Husband has made several times with delicious results). It's a good book with a useful section on basic techniques.
This abel and cole book is really handy, with recipes for anything you might get in your box. I've used it a lot in the few months I've had it. The eagle-eyed will notice the tabs, inserted in an uncharacteristic episode of forward planning. I have checked, they are two recipes for artichokes and one for Chinese leaf, from what must have been a particularly daunting delivery.
Day-to-day I use the internet preferring to find a recipe to match the ingredients I have rather than the other way round. There are many books on the shelf that have been used for nothing more than a pleasant half hour of perusal. There are one or two books though, that have those lovely stuck together sections, from well-loved and often-used recipes, like this page:
From a book I brought from my mum’s house when we moved in, that Christmas cake recipe is the one we made every year when I was growing up. This book isn't about the promise of perfect food, but some of my happiest childhood memories, spent singing and laughing and mixing and baking with my mum. Flour everywhere, Christmas songs playing, eating more mix than we put in the tin. I love my glossy books and their arty pictures. But this one means more to me than all of the others put together. This is the book through which I can trace my childhood, and see the roots of my love for cooking. This is my favourite book of them all.