Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cookbook exploitation month

Daniel from Casual Kitchen is holding a "cookbook exploitation" month, where you dig out your most underused and forgotten cookbooks and use them.

"Remember, the 80/20 rule tells us that 80% of your meals likely come from just 20% of your recipes," Daniel writes. "It also tells us that you only really use 20% of your cookbooks - the other 80% of them just sit on your shelf, collecting dust. What does this mean? It means that there's a gold mine of recipes waiting for you in your very own kitchen, in cookbooks you already own. Therefore, the purpose of Cookbook Exploitation Month is to break out one or two of your underused, unloved cookbooks, flip through them and then systematically exploit them for all they're worth."

I think this is a wonderful idea! I have so many cookbooks, all of which I love and have marked up with plenty of "must-try" notes, but many of which I've yet to make. I don't even want to mention the filing cabinet and box full of magazine clippings. (At my mum's suggestion, I even tried to set up a "things I want to make soon" folder, into which I'd put the recipes that I most wanted to try in the next few weeks, but gave up after this folder started bulging apart at the seams. It doesn't work if you cram everything in there!)

So what cookbook shall I exploit this month? I'm ashamed at how many new cookbooks I've acquired recently and that I'm yet to cook from. I could travel - to Spain with Movida by Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish, to France with My French Vue by Shannon Bennett, or to Morocco, India and Syria with Feast Bazaar by Barry Vera. But I think I prefer a more general cookbook, as I might get sick of the one cuisine for the whole month.

Maggie's Kitchen by Maggie Beer or Gordon Ramsay's Cooking For Friends cover a wide range of cuisines and meals. But some of their recipes can be a little tricky, or require special ingredients, and I want to keep things simple this month.

Perhaps I could dig out some old favourites. It's been a long time since I opened The Naked Chef or The Return of the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver, or New Food or Old Food by Jill Dupleix. The Margaret Fulton Cookbook (metricated edition) was my bible when I moved out of home, but I haven't consulted it in years.

It's going to be a tough choice. I hope I can make a decision and get exploiting before the month is up!


Dianne said...

Ooohhh I LOVE this idea! Just this morning I was sitting in a chair in our library putting on my shoes and staring at my overflow cookbook shelves (the rest are in the kitchen). Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" jumped out at me. I thought, Wow, I've never used that cookbook. What a shame!

I am definitely going to try to break through the 80/20 rule this month; in fact, yesterday I started drafting a new post along similar lines, about how I tend to eat the same three meals over and over.

Also, I saw Shannon Bennett on Martha Stewart's TV show last year and was smitten. I need to order one of his books!

Cherry Blossom Cupcakes said...

Hey Melinda, I've just discovered your blog and this has really got me thinking about my cookbook collection (very extensive!) It's funny that those you are going to revisit are the ones I use all the time! I think I'll have to dig out some oldies... maybe Antonio Carluccio's Complete Italian Food?

Ali-K said...

The curse of the clippings! I've gotten to the stage where I congratulate myself if I decide I don't want to keep a recipe. Going back to an old faithful cookbook would probably be a good thing for me as I rarely cook a recipe, no matter how good, twice.

Daniel said...

Hi Melinda! How is your cookbook exploitation going so far this month? I hope you have some great success with it!

I'm really glad you picked up on this idea and are helping to spread the word.

Casual Kitchen

Melinda said...

Hi Dan - I'm having a lovely time with cookbook exploitation month! I chose "The Food I Love" by Neil Perry and have made some wonderful dishes. I can't believe I let this book languish on my bookshelf for so long. Cookbook exploitation month is such a great idea, I think I'll have to pick another one for next month!

Melinda said...

Hi Dianne - I would definitely recommend getting one of Shannon Bennett's cookbooks if you can. He is a wonderful cook and his books are quite accessible.

Hi Cherry Blossom Cupcakes - did you end up participating? Antonio Carluccio's book sounds inspiring - he has some great recipes.

Hi Ali-K - you sound like a woman after my own heart! I also feel very pleased with myself if I manage to not clip a recipe! I have a few recipes that are in my repeat repertoire but I'm also constantly trying new things as well - it has to be a pretty good recipe to get made again!