Cookbooks used to take up a lot of space in my bookshelves (in the kitchen, behind doors so as not to get greasy). They are a lot of work to write, although probably not as hard for professional, big-name cooks who have a test kitchen and staff to help them with the scutwork. I have published three cookbooks and I know how much work is involved and how careful you have to be not just in the cooking but also in the writing. I called myself a writer who cooks as opposed to a cook who writes. I like a chatty cookbook with good copy, I mean, I like to read a cookbook.
Edna Staebler (1906-2006) - bless her! - comes to mind. She wrote nice folksy copy. and no one seemed to mind if she forgot an ingredient or a cooking instruction. Her three best-selling "schmecks" cookbooks were proof of that. When she took the third one in to her publisher they asked her if she had been more careful about the directions and she gave them the choice between accuracy and charm.
When I signed the contract for my first cookbook I noticed a clause that hadn't been in my negotiations for nonfiction. I had to guarantee that nothing I recommended in food selection or preparation would harm the reader-cook's health or body. With that in mind I deleted my method of dicing an onion in case some butterfingered cook cut herself and I cut what I thought was a joke that if you put bones that a guest had gnawed (like drumsticks and such) into a stock pot, they would be sterilised in the boiling even if your friend had lockjaw. I didn't know that for sure, I didn't know anything about lockjaw, so I I killed the line. But I thought how strange that i could write other material without guaranteeing that I wouldn't pollute, damage or prejudice a reader's mind. Actually, you can't now. I think that hate-crime legislation curbs some writers' eloquent vitriol.
I digress. I began planning to tell you how many cookbooks I used to own and what led me to the decision to stop buying and to downsize my collection, Some time along the way when I was still a full-time producing cook with a family and a heavy entertainment schedule.I realised that if I started to cook everything in the cookbooks I owned, I would not reach the end of them before I died. So I quit buying. That didn't stop me from trying new recipes (all the time) because, like everyone else with a computer, now I have hundred of recipes at my fingertips online.
My point is this, and I do have one, why don't I apply that reasoning to the other books I buy and buy and buy (and read and read and read.)? Of course, I have unread books in my library, all bought and kept with the best of intentions - to read them, in my lifetime. I have a friend who also buys a lot of books and he offered a comforting thought, that the very fact of owning a book counts toward the reading of it. When someone mentions a title you own, you can nod wisely or knowingly and murmur that you have it. No lie.
I can't quit. I just have to live a little longer.