Monday, October 03, 2011

A recipe for disaster

You learn a lot of things when you move house.

Like how there are more cords hanging out the back of the TV than there are actual appliances, and what actually happened to that sausage that "disappeared" from the frying pan the night you drank seven vodka cocktails and decided to cook an early breakfast (hint: it didn't "beam itself back to planet kransky", like you thought at the time).

You also learn how difficult it is to find boxes, friends with trailers and an unlocked skip, and how doorways always shrink when you're trying to get a fridge through them.

I learned that I have 49 cookbooks.

I also learned that when placed into a single cardboard box, 49 cookbooks weigh about the same as a small child with a gland problem.

To my knowledge, I have never bought myself a cookbook, not even when drunk. (Not that I find myself drunkenly stumbling about bookshops very often, but you never know these things.)

I reckon I've received about five through various PR companies in connection with my job, and a fairly generous estimate puts the amount received as gifts from friends at about 10. So where the hell have the other 34 come from?

Unless I have been breaking into other people's houses and raiding their kitchens while I'm asleep (a not so unlikely possibility given my history of sleep activity – once my sister woke up to find me swinging off the end of our shared bunk bed like a monkey, chirping on about bees), my only explanation is that I am a cookbook magnet - some kind of medical marvel that magically and unconsciously attracts recipebooks wherever she goes. No doubt when I am dead, publishing houses will fight over the rights to my body, knowing that the biological marvels within it could be turned into a moisturising cream that could permanently propel Matt Preston to the top of the bestseller list.

I've got Creative Steam Cuisine, The Big Book of Wok and Stir Fry, The Food of India and, inexplicably, two copies of Salvatore Pepe and Amanda Ward's “Cibo” (so if I do happen to actually use one and accidentally set fire to it, I'll have a backup).

I've got the full range of celebrity releases from Maggie Beer, Donna Hay, Bill Granger, Gary Mehigan and Jamie Oliver, not to mention The Sopranos Family Cookbook which not only shows you how to make lasagne but also illustrates how to clean up after murdering your cousin. Very handy.

I've also got the Australian Women's Weekly Cookbook For All Seasons, a very aptly named book, particularly if your chosen season is summer 1977. “Ragout of Octopus”, anyone?

I admit I got quite excited when I found one called "Recipes to the Rescue", imagining some musclebound cookbook in tights and a cape lifting a toppled bus off some school children with one hand – but then I read the subtitle: "recipes for those with allergies and food intolerances". What a let down. Why do I have this book? The only intolerance I have to food is when there isn't any around.

But perhaps stranger than my cookbooks' mysterious provenance is the fact that 46 of my collection of 49 have uncreased covers and pristine, unsoiled pages, because they have never actually been opened.

Before you look down on me for being some sort of pretender – showing off all my cookbooks without knowing the difference between a whisk and a moderate oven - it's not that I don't cook. It's just these days I'm just more likely to use Google to find a recipe than a book. Which explains why almost every one I have is in as-new condition while my laptop is flecked with tomato puree, cream and flakes of cheese. (Add some fresh basil and you've got a delicious after work snack!)

Given that is one of Australia's most popular websites, I'm clearly not the only one. And yet cookbook sales are still through the roof. So who is buying them all, and why?

Oh, yeah. I forgot. So they can keep giving them to me as gifts.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's Sunday liftout on July 25, 2010.


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