For the Love of Cookbooks by Shannon Burgess April 5, 2022 by Jenny Chang Leave a Comment A customer asked me recently, “how many people actually buy cookbooks these days?” They were curious why someone would spend money, and use up valuable counter and cabinet space, when an overwhelming number of recipes can now be accessed online for free. This got me thinking about why I continue to use cookbooks for most of the meals I prepare and why I continue to buy new cookbooks (despite having a rather large collection of them already). First and foremost, I am a lover of books, and cookbooks are no exception. I enjoy the sensory experience of holding a good cookbook in my hands and leafing through pages with beautifully printed photos and illustrations (yes, I am one of those people who “ooh and aah” over gorgeous cookbooks, as those who witnessed me looking through Mandy’s Gourmet Salads for the first time can attest). A good cookbook is more than just a collection of recipes – the combination of food, words and images tell a story about the authors who write them, and they provide a glimpse of the time and place they were written. Some provide a window into the culture and cuisine of a region, while others help you learn to become a better cook through tricks, techniques and notes about why things are done a certain way or in a certain order. Well-loved cookbooks are more than just recipes though – those that we use over time are rooted in nostalgia, and family memories and traditions are built from their pages. Every Christmas, I bring out the Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book that was my moms. It is essentially loose pages held together within the cover with a rubber band, but its mere presence on my counter brings back memories of making holiday sugar cutout cookies with her on snowy December Saturdays. In a similar way, the history of the everyday and favorite “special” meals and desserts I made as my own kids were growing up can be found in the cookbooks that line our kitchen counter. The most used and loved are well-worn, grease stained and tabbed with sticky notes to help me find the recipes quickly. The family meals made from them, again and again, have forged memories and traditions that continue to this day. After our kids went away to college and then moved out on their own, these are the recipes they yearn for and request when they come home to visit. For our family, these tastes of home mostly originated from my collection of Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. The meals we share from their pages rekindle memories and continue to make new ones, long past when bellies are full and dishes are done. Not every cookbook inspires this amount of nostalgia, of course. There are some cookbooks I keep and continue to use because they can be relied on for quick, easy recipes for weekday dinners. These contain the tried and true recipes that have become part of the regular rotation – meals made so many times that I only need to glance at the recipes to check details like cooking temperature. There are times though, when I fall into a cooking slump – tired of cooking the same things all the time and lacking the energy required to plan, shop for and prepare meals at home. And this brings me to why I still sometimes buy new cookbooks – I have found that nothing snaps me out of a cooking funk like a fantastic new cookbook. This week, I have found renewed inspiration to cook fresh and healthy meals at home in Tieghan Gerard’s new cookbook, Half Baked Harvest Every Day: Recipes for Balanced, Flexible, Feel-Good Meals. Last night I made the Lemon Harissa Chicken – it is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious and I’m looking forward to cooking my way through what is sure to be a new favorite. Wherever you are in your cooking journey, if you’re looking to try something new or breathe new life into your regular meal rotation, the windows and shelves at Marcel’s are full of new titles and staff favorites to energize and inspire your cooking.