Compulsive Cookbook Collector

October 21, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 8 Comments

Food porn, that’s what I call my cookbook collection.  I’ll admit that I’m a bit compulsive about it, and no matter how many glossy photos I have on hand, I never fail to get excited whenever new ones come out.  Now and then it dawns on me that things are getting a little excessive, and I swear I’ll cut back, but when the moment of resolution comes, I snap.  The worst part is that the pages tend to get a bit stained…

At my house there are two bookcases.  One is for the general collection.  The other, about 1/3 the size, is just for cookbooks.  In the last two weeks I’ve bought three and ordered two more, and I’m officially out of room.  That means it’s time to go through and let a couple go.  While it’s a cinch for me to weed any other books and never look back, going through the cookbooks is real agony.

Let’s do some math.  I have roughly 90 cookbooks (probably more, but let’s just say 90).  If I spent a month on each one, assuming I never bought another one, it would take me nearly 8 years to go through them all!  If they average 200 recipes each, that’s 18,000 recipes, or, at three per day, over 16 years’ worth.  The problem there is that one of my new books has a thousand recipes…

If you’re a recipe hoarder like me, you’re probably wiggling in your seat right now.  But what are you saying?  Do you mean we’ll never be able to try them all?  I refuse to believe that!  There must be a way!

Granted, there is a lot of overlap between books – different versions of the same meal, all of which tempt us to try them out so we can finally choose the ultimate favorite.  There are also those recipes we truly never will try.  For instance, I hate macaroni and cheese and my husband hates anything with banana or pumpkin.  Rule those out.  What about the rest?

These are the different ways I’m considering evaluating my hoard:

  • Get rid of any book I haven’t used in the last three years
  • Three strikes, you’re out – give up on anything with three failed recipes
  • Get rid of anything with an inconvenient format – small typeface, binding that won’t stay open, won’t fit in acrylic book holder
  • Too fancy – any cookbook that relies on complicated kitchen appliances you’d rather not dig out.  For that matter, junk the appliances, too.
  • Changed tastes – food fads or diets come and gone.  I.e. I’m a vegan, so I could get rid of any cookbooks that still have dairy recipes.

What works for you?  How do you manage your recipe collection?



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  1. I have four cookbooks that I reference pretty regularly, but other than that I just stick to the internet. I essentially use cookbooks and the like to get ideas for meals, but I rarely follow a recipe as is. That’s why it’s so essential for any cookbook I actually own to have pictures – so that something can jump out at me!

    • I’m helpless without a cookbook. I didn’t really learn to cook until I hit 30, and my “experiments” tend to be more suitable for the compost bucket.

  2. Like you, I have many cookbooks. I had much more, until I realized that if I was looking for something (i.e. a soup recipe using bell peppers), I was just going to the internet.

    I love the idea of trying new recipes and drooling over them in the cookbooks –which is why I was buying them in the first place– but in reality (busy family life with kids) most of them never got used.

    So, in the past year, I’ve gradually reduced my collection by roughly half; and have not missed any that I had released. I probably could continue to cut back more.

  3. I have very few cookbooks. Which isn’t to say that I wouldn’t like to have more (I really want the new Steamy Kitchen cookbook and the Top Chef cookbook), but I pull a lot of my recipes from online. I read about half as many food blogs as I read book blogs. So between and my subcategorized recipes bookmarks, I have hundreds of recipes–many of which I’ve even tried.

    Today, I made this: and it was yummy.

  4. I don’t really have an issue with cookbooks. I have a couple that I use regularly and then for my beloved recipes, I have a book that I write them down in and keep them there. If I find that I haven’t used a recipe book in a year, I get rid of it. No sense keeping around stuff that I don’t use.

  5. Hi, I found you via someone else I follow on Twitter, and one thing led to another, and here I am commenting on your blog! 🙂

    I only recently started purchasing and using cook books because I joined two supper clubs where we cook around theme ingredients. I have Mark Bittman’s How to Cook everything that I reference the most, and my friend highly recommends Deborah Madison, too. Bittman’s has no pictures, but I like many of his recipes. I also like looking at food blogs.

  6. I thought I was alone in this obsessive compulsive cookbook thing. I just get such pleasure in new cookbooks….if I live to be 500….will never be able to cook all the recipes. I have sold a lot in yard sales…and am right now trying to clean out my inventory for sale….but most I have I cannot bear to part with….all of my Rachael Ray..Giada, Emeril..Paula Deen, Bobby Flay…Barefoot Contessa, Martha Stewart, Stanley Tucci (love him), Buddy Valastro, Curtis Stone, Tyler Florence, sooo many more including the magazine books…ex..Cooking Light….etc….Everytime I see a guest on a show & they have cookbook…I find it….(ex:Katie Lee). Lord help me! How do I get cured?.. Lol

    • There is no cure!!! I have started trying to cook my way through one book at a time, skipping the recipes I’m not interested in. I try 2-3 new recipes a week. At that rate, I might “finish” one or two cookbooks a year…

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