In these days of Pinterest, countless food blogs, and sites like allrecipes.com, I’ve drifted from using traditional cookbooks. Online, I can find anything to suit my tastes or my family’s tastes. I can search for recipes that use specific ingredients. I can ogle over the pictures on Pinterest and click on whatever looks good. I can type “kid-friendly dinners” into the search engine in an attempt to appease my picky 6-year-old. It’s easy to find a plethora of recipes that look delicious.
Traditional cookbooks, with recipes printed on paper pages, can be hit and miss. Depending on the cookbook, I may or may not find many recipes that appeal to my family. Plus, cookbooks take up physical space in my kitchen, which is always at a premium, and a physical cookbook may not be worth it if I only like a handful of its recipes. I’m also one of those people who likes to frequently experiment with new recipes. I’ve got some go-to meals I make frequently for my family — tacos, hamburgers, lasagna, chili — but I get bored if I’m not trying new things in the kitchen, which is why the world of online recipes and food blogs is so appealing.
But recently, I’ve been frustrated with the slow load times for many food blogs piled with ads. I also get irritated by all the rambling accompanied by what are usually non-essential photos (“Look at my pretty, colorful chopped bell peppers.” “I adore butter. Look at this gorgeous stick of butter that’s going into my recipe.”) that many food bloggers tend to do before they get to the business of actually sharing their recipes, forcing me to scroll endlessly before I get to the actual recipe. As a result, I have come to appreciate humble cookbooks with paper pages again.
I’ve especially come to appreciate the broad selection of cookbooks at my local public library.
Who knew the library could be such a great resource for cooking, right? There among the shelves of literary classics, reference books, and children’s picture books is an entire section in the nonfiction area devoted to cookbooks. These are not your grandma’s cookbooks with dated covers filled with recipes calling for Crisco and canned soups. Many of my library’s cookbooks are published within the last one to 10 years, and they are colorful, trendy, healthy, and quite appealing.
There are classic cookbooks, vegetarian cookbooks, vegan cookbooks, paleo cookbooks, low-calorie cookbooks, low-carb cookbooks, dessert cookbooks with cupcakes and cheesecakes, pasta cookbooks, and afternoon tea-themed cookbooks with scones and finger sandwiches. There’s Betty Crocker, Taste of Home, Better Homes and Gardens, and (my new favorite) Six Sisters’ Stuff.
Honestly, you almost can never go wrong with any Six Sisters’ Stuff recipes from any of their cookbooks. I check out their cookbooks obsessively from the library and often renew them until the library website tells me I can’t renew them anymore because I’ve already renewed them four times. Then a few weeks or months later, I’ll check them out again.
You can get even more specific at the library, finding books dedicated to home canning and food preservation, healthy and creative lunchbox meals, making your own jerky, making tea or kombucha, yogurt, and more.
The nonfiction area of the children’s section has its own selection of kid-friendly cookbooks, so don’t forget to look there as well.
Library cookbooks have all the variety that makes the internet great, without some of the irritations of the internet. It’s fun to browse through a real cookbook and enjoy the photos … kind of like Pinterest. Looking at a recipe on a screen doesn’t compare to that pleasurable, relaxing, tactile experience of looking at and turning real pages in a book. Looking through a good cookbook is an immersive experience, similar to reading a magazine. Cookbooks from the library cost nothing other than my tax dollars that support the library, which I willingly pay because how can you not like libraries? Plus, when I’m done with library cookbooks, I return them, so they aren’t perpetually taking up space in my kitchen.
If I find a recipe I really like and don’t want to part with in a library cookbook, I make a copy with my home printer and tuck it into a plastic sleeve in a three-ring binder I keep specifically for collecting my favorite recipes. My binder contains a mixture of paper recipes gathered from cookbooks, magazines, and websites.
So, stop waiting for that food blog with all the ads to load. Get thee to the library, and find some cookbooks. Whether your library is large or small, I bet you’ll find some treasures.