My name is MKlug, and I am a cookbook addict. I have been compulsively buying them forever--each offers this promise of a wholesome, fulfilling new me. But I've only cooked from a few of them. My plan is that I cannot buy any more until I've cooked something from each of them, and then donated the "losers" to the library. Does anyone else suffer from this affliction? How do you address it?

  • Posted by: mklug
  • November 2, 2010


Midge July 13, 2011
Ooh @Droplet I'll have to use that "this house is not stretchy" line on my husband, who's always bringing home "finds." Love the cookbook swap idea!
SKK July 13, 2011
This is not an affliction - this is true love! My cookbooks are full of stories and pictures and recipes and I love them. I am reveling in cookbookchic's permission to revel in and embrace my cookbook collector in me!
Droplet July 13, 2011
Perhaps food 52 could organize a book exchange option of sorts for members.
When I was a kid I used to collect what not, and remember my mother often saying " this house is not stretchy".
susan G. July 13, 2011
So glad this question was revived! When we were engaged, my (now) husband told me I should join Book of the Month Club -- their opening offer was 5 classic cookbooks (Joy, original NYT...). And that was the beginning!. He came to visit my family, and we bought a cookbook; I read Buddenbrooks and made notes of menus. Now, after 45 years, there are over 300 cookbooks, Eat Your Books keeps them productive, bookcases are in at least 6 far flung locations in the house. Used book store, free books at the transfer station, urgent purchases, library -- they're all in play. I even started writing one (stopped). And now it's so wonderful to have like minded people to hear from. (Of course, there are more than cookbooks, but that's another story.)
beyondcelery July 13, 2011
I own under 10 cookbooks and here's how I keep it that way. When I hear of a new book I think I might want, I go to a bookstore, flip through it, and take a picture with my phone of a couple of the most interesting recipes I want to try. If I try them, if I like them, if I absolutely have to go back to the store to look again, I'll buy the book. That doesn't happen very often. (Libraries work great for trying cookbooks out as well.) I also get most of my recipes off the internet at this point. But I'll admit to having one book currently on order at my local bookstore: the Flavor Bible. I gave in. I need it.
mnr_t July 13, 2011
Love this thread! Our family rule is that you must buy a book once you've checked it out of the library three times (all fairness to authors, of course!) But I am also a person who reads cookbooks voraciously, and rigorously force myself donate used ones if there is nothing I really want to cook within. Eat Your Books has given me great pleasure :) Thanks for the suggestions, all!!
luvcookbooks November 5, 2010
Mrs. Larkin, after I get some of the must have cookbooks mentioned in this thread (tho I already own some of them), I will be going into therapy. Hillarybee, if you message me your address I will send you some great cookbooks for newlyweds-- have extra of some cookbooks and sometimes give away excess. I try to be deciduous. Recently lent out my copy of The Cookbook Collector, which is a book we should all read. Allegra Goodman wrote it for us!!
mklug November 4, 2010
Somehow I feel better here, among friends! I too am one of those people who mainly like to "read" cookbooks...indeed, I have one or two with nothing but the recipes and pictures, and those are the first to go--I don't care what the food's like! I have decided to combine all the ideas--get rid of the ones I can't read, integrate the bulk of the collection into my regular books, select a rotating cast for the actual kitchen and use/be inspired by those, and test how candidates from the library. By the way, that Eat Your Books thingie is pretty cool.
mrslarkin November 4, 2010
Holy smokes, luvcookbooks. I think you might need an intervention. :-)
Hilarybee November 3, 2010
Thank you, fry it. How to Cook Everything is one I actually have and use frequently!
fry I. November 3, 2010
Hilarybee, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is a must have. I do what Arrgersi does I pull out several books, look up the same or similar recipies and pick and choose what I like and/or what I have on hand. Bittman almost always wins.
Hilarybee November 3, 2010
MKlug, I have a solution. Send them to me.... I am recently married and I've just started my collection. I think I have less than 10. I'm trying to build it up. My wishlist, is pages long.
gingerroot November 3, 2010
What a great thread. Cheers to food history, beautiful (and useful - however you might use them) cookbooks, and making and eating food. No wonder I find myself here so often!

PS, MKlug, mrslarkin is right, The Flavor Bible is a must have.
jenmmcd November 3, 2010
You know, a friend of mine once read me a quote from a book that she thought described me: "She reads cookbooks the way other people read romance novels." Seems like I'm in good company here.
cookbookchick November 3, 2010
Give cookbooks away?? Heaven forfend!! Embrace your inner cookbook collector, MKlug! A wonderful addiction, indeed, Nora. What other addiction can produce such a delicious -- and legal -- buzz? Keep them all! Buy more! Your family and friends will thank you. I know -- I don't call myself "cookbookchick" for nothing!
Nora November 3, 2010
I'm getting ready to get tough with myself and clear a few out--books that were gifts, mostly, that I wouldn't have bought for myself. I need to clear some space for the new ones I want for Christmas, plus the little gems I find in the used book stores. It's a wonderful addiction.
luvcookbooks November 3, 2010
I am closing in on a thousand ckbooks. Just purchased Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubb's new cookbook (should the apostrophe go after the s because the subjects are plural?). It was an emergency situation, but I was depressed because my husband got laid off and accidentally purchased a Sicilian cookbook, a Jewish Holiday cookbook and a Vietnamese cookbook along with three food magazines while I was at the Barnes and Noble on 66th and Broadway (will close at end of year, want to memorialize it while I can). Had nice conversation with the cashier about cooking. Whole experience .... priceless!!
Have found food52 helps curb my cookbook habit because I get so many recipes here. Have been able to taper habit and save money.
gigiaxline November 2, 2010
I am also in the camp of betteirene and healthierkitchen...I preview from the library, and try to cook something from the book. If I end up finding lots of recipes I want to try, and had success with the ones I actually make, then I'll get the book. I did end up donating about 1/2 my cookbooks to the library a couple of years ago, and wish that I kept some of the books. Oh well...
betteirene November 2, 2010
Hi, my name is betteirene and not only do I have a problem with cookbooks, I have a problem with hors d'oeuvres. You know how a recipe will say, like, 10 servings? With me, it's like maybe 2, especially the ones that start with a tube of Pillsbury crescent roll dough. I intentionally stayed away from Martha's hors d'oeuvres, but I guess now I'll have to check it out. I swear, I won't buy it. Really, I won't. Maybe. Unless she's got a killer recipe for cheese straws. Or gourmet meatballs (or the Costco frozen kind) with homemade chili sauce (or Heinz) and mulberry preserves (or Smucker's grape jelly) in a crockpot.
TiggyBee November 2, 2010
I have a problem with books in general. I love them. I just came home with two new ones today and my copy of Amanda's new book is on the way. We should start a support group! ; )
mrslarkin November 2, 2010
Betteirene's right - check them out from the library first, then you can decide if you really want it. Sadly, my pile of library cookbooks is another problem altogether.

And nutcakes, I agree, the Martha hors d'oeuvres book is jam packed with ideas. I think I had it checked out for like 3 straight months.

MKlug, I, too, don't mean to be your enabler, BUT if you don't own The Flavor Bible, you should get it.
nutcakes November 2, 2010
For betteirene (not to enable Mklug) Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook
is a best in class, imo. I have taken it from the library many times, which means it is on the wish list.
betteirene November 2, 2010
Too, too funny, mrslarkin. I, too, can stop whenever I want to. NOT! I was up to over 400 cookbooks, half of which were gifts over the past 50 years, some of which are more cherished than others, like the Better Homes and Gardens red plaid cookbook I received at my wedding shower in 1970.

I tend to not buy books that are collections of recipes. I lean toward writers of solid recipes who teach and tell stories about why their opinions are so strong, writers who explain their techniques, writers whose books I will buy even without recipes. I own every book with Julia Child's name on it. Others are by Dorie Greenspan, Maida Heatter, Alton Brown, Jeff Smith, Christopher Kimball, Rick Bayless, Bittman, Batali, Berenbaum, Garten.

With anyone else, I'll test drive the book by either making a recipe from their website or by borrowing their book from the library. If the recipe works the way I envisioned, I'll buy the book. Martha Stewart, for instance. I'm a subscriber, and she's a great resource for ideas for the home and kitchen, but while the photos are beautiful, none of her recipes have sent me to the moon, except for maybe her macaroni and cheese. I own only her book on wedding cakes, not for recipes (Dorie Greenspan's are tastier and virtually foolproof) but for ideas.

I've had it for a week but I'm only on page 371 of The Essential NYT Cook Book. Even though I'm not a Craig Claiborne fan, I'm confident I can handle him through Amanda's filter. Not only am I savoring every word of the book, I'm taking notes and marking pages and writing grocery lists as I go along. When a cookbook sets you to making actual, immediate plans, it's a keeper.

If it's not, there's always and the church rummage sale, and my sons--if they gave it to me, they get it back. It's in my will that way.
Bevi November 2, 2010
I have started to pass some of my cookbooks to my children and god daughters. But I am a cookbook freak and therefore have no advice to give regarding curbing that tendency to buy buy buy.
pierino November 2, 2010
Interesting reading here. I don't buy cookbooks for "recipes" as such. My interest is really food history. How did we get to here from there? Rarely do I ever follow a recipe to the letter (unless maybe it's pastry dough, which is kind of neuroscience). But I do hit used bookstores, and in a number of cases I have several copies of the same book, but different editions. But some books in my own collection are irreplaceable so they are not leaving anytime soon.
nutcakes November 2, 2010
My mother is a professional organizer and deals with people who get emotional fufillment from hoarding. But I know tons of peole who compulsively buy cookbooks (and others knitting books, gardening books and supplies.) It is good to make a rulebook for yourself and a plan like you have.

I pretty much only buy ones that are tried and true. Either I have repeatedly checked them out from the library or have a high reccomendation from my trusted food discussion board. It has to come with seal of approval.

Even then I have some I have never cooked from. The Campanile cookbook for one. The only recipe I want to make is the meatball tomatillo soup staff meal for some reason. But I have taken Sunday Suppers at Luques out at least 3 times from the Library and cooked recipes from Suzanne Goin I've found online, so I'm going to get that one.
foodfighter November 2, 2010
Generally, there is at least one really good recipe in a book. If you don't use it much beyond that, think of friends that might have different tastes and would appreciate the book. You could point out the recipe you really like, and thought the book was up their alley.
allie November 2, 2010
Me too, but I love to read cookbooks & have become a vastly better and more creative cook because of reading cookbooks/food writing. But I don't view cookbooks = recipe books. There are lots of recipes online. The question before buying for me is whether I will enjoy the book, regardless of whether I'll cook endless recipes. In terms of actual cooking inspiration, it does help to have cookbooks stored in/near the kitchen....
Mr_Vittles November 2, 2010
While I do not have a mass of cookbooks, I can a test to hoarding or addictive behaviors. I have a chef's knife collection that seems to grow regardless of how hard I try and stop it. I have have the best way to stop buying new knives is to ruminate and look at them without actually buying them. I will try and look for reasons why that knife is not good or this knife will need too much care. I think this way of thinking could also be applied to your thinking. Try thinking if you will really cook anything out of the book or will just become another dust gathering device.
aargersi November 2, 2010
Hmm - looking at my stack and thinking I am no help at all ... but thanks for the Eat Your Books tip! I did Goodwill a few underappreciated cookbooks a few months ago ... then promptly bought 4 more. Sometimes I just spread a bunch out and leaf through them - also if I have an idea for a dish sometimes I'll get a stack out and look for similar recipes in several cookbooks and cull what I consider to be the best of each into a single dish ...

Voted the Best Reply!

drbabs November 2, 2010
I just signed up for Eat Your Books. You enter your cookbooks and then use their site as a search engine of your books to find recipes. the hopes that I will actually use my cookbooks instead of letting them languish. I have also given away many cookbooks...and lived to regret it! (i guess I'm not much help.)
healthierkitchen November 2, 2010
MKlug - I am with you. I probably have 150 cookbooks. I can't seem to stop myself from buying more, but I'm now trying to limit the purchases to only the really great ones. Sometimes I can find books in our local public library so that I can preview for free and see if it's a must own or if a quick read is enough. I just last week organized a book swap with some friends and tried to give away some that I never cooked from AND never even look at. I think I only ended up giving away five or six, though. To be a keeper, the book has to do one of three or four things for me: transport me to another land (i.e. Beyond the Great Wall), teach me something, remind me (favorably) of an earlier stage in my life/cooking or just be beautiful to look at. I definitely own books I might never cook from, but I do read them. Have to admit that one more is on it's way to me right now and I have two others I still have not read yet. So, last weekend I gave in and bought another bookcase. I tried a free month at the web organizer eatyourbooks, which could work for you if you're committed to cooking from your books. Once you enter the name of each book, you will then have a searchable index of all the recipes contained in the books. Might at least make it easier to find recipes that you want to try!
pierino November 2, 2010
I just continue to amass them, but then I do have my favorites, some of which are quite old. I intend to add THE ESSENTIAL NEW YORK TIMES once I have time to drive down the coast to a real bookstore (and I don't mean Barnes & Nobel).
mrslarkin November 2, 2010
Hi, my name is Mrs. Larkin, and I don't have a problem; I can stop whenever I want to! Seriously, between my cookbook addiction and my husband's sci fi habit, we may need to build an extension onto the house. MKlug, if possible, just get more bookshelves. And yes, the library is a great place to unload the rejects. Our elementary school also has book sales - check with yours to see if they take donations. Come to think of it, I've got a boxful in the back of my car of the full Bon Appetit cookbook series from the '90s. Free, if anyone's interested. Pick up only.
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