Everybody loves to eat, so cookbooks, and the recipes within, hold universal allure.
As an Italian chef once told me, food is love.
It begins with considering what to make — will your guests like it and can you can successfully make it?
Next comes shopping, carefully selecting the freshest, finest ingredients to make something delectable. The final steps are prepping and cooking, dishing it out and hoping the end result matches the care poured into creating it.
For people wishing to try something different, cookbooks are like home-reno guides, outlining the tools needed to build your project.
It doesn’t always work — one Valentine’s Day, I overcooked ahi tuna into the texture of a tough, grey, fishy roast beef.
Then there was the Martha Stewart recipe for a squash pie that took about six hours. Once I baked and scraped the gourd, cooked the filling, made the pastry, tried to find something that could serve as pie weights (had never heard of them), baked the shell, then the whole pie . . . it wasn’t much better than a bought pumpkin pie.
I tried to pare down our collection of cookbooks as we have about 40 and use only six, but my husband figures they’re not taking up that much space, so why not hold onto them?
Without one old standby, The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, I don’t know how we’d make pancakes or remember what temperature chicken is done at. We’re on our second copy after the 20-year-old one began to drop its pages, thick with flour and other spills.
Sure, we could turn to the Internet but that would require booting up, finding the right page, etc., while the cookbook is right there.
We’re not the only family to covet fave cookbooks; the current exhibit at the Kamloops Museum is made up of more than 60 cookbooks on loan from Kamloops families.
Tried, Tested and Proved: Cookbooks, Family and Traditions tells the stories of our time just as effectively as a display of tools, clothing or other historical artifacts.
The oldest book — on loan from the late Enid Damer who wrote Food for Thought in the Senior Connector — dates from 1750 and includes recipes like how to preserve walnuts and make white elder wine.
Another, the B.C. Women Institute’s Centennial Cook Book explains how to cook squirrel, porcupine and moose heart, and Feeding the Family, from 1916, shows a suggested lunch of broiled sardines on toast, tomato and chive salad, brown bread and butter, and fresh fruit.
Others, such as A Taste of Canada, reflect contemporary tastes like green curry chicken and butter tarts.
From older recipes heavy with fried foods, white sugar and salt, and salads made with Jello to gluten-free meals and the 100 Mile Diet, cookbooks represent an era of life.
In a letter to the editor years ago, a man asked why we continued to publish recipes because his wife already had a stack of 1,000.
“Oh, make that 1,001, she just cut out another from today’s paper,” he wrote.
Just as favourite recipes prevail through the generations, so will cookbooks, with the love their dog-eared pages provides.