Saturday, July 25, 2009

why I don't use recipe books

1. There are too many recipe books in the shop. How do I know which to buy?

2. There are too many recipes in each book. How do I know which one to make?

3. Recipe book recipes use too many ingredients (mostly).

4. A recipe book leaves me on my own. I can't phone the author if I feel insecure.

5. Recipe book recipes don't come with ratings and hints on which ingredients you can leave out. The internet is much better for that.

6. Cooking is best done in community. It's more fun to ask a friend what to make for dinner. If I phone a friend, I get a tried and true favourite meal that will work and a free telephone support service to help me through the prep. (I also have someone to blame if it doesn't work - but the telephone support service means that this doesn't happen often.)

7. A recipe book is a purchase that keeps on costing. My grocery bill would double if I cooked to a recipe each night. All the little bits and pieces... [But maybe this is point 3.]

8. The best foods don't need a recipe. Salmon fried in a pan with steamed veges. Yum.

9. Recipes stifle creativity. Do the best chefs use them? Really? Cooking is more fun when you just make it up.

10. Using a recipe book is like cooking with big brother watching over your shoulder. I want to turn around and punch him. I can't, so instead I mess with his recipe changing beef to chicken, olive oil to canola spray and doing anything else I want. Just to spite him. Who made him the expert anyway?

How about you? Do you use recipe books?


  1. I use mum's blog. Which I see got a mention on Twitter already...

    I tend to steer clear of recipe books. I'm more a go with the flow and invent on the fly type of guy - and that's created masterpieces such as the toasted mars bar sandwich and Ravioli Baked Bean surprise.

  2. I use recipes that come from:
    (a) other people - I ask for these when I like a particular thing they've made;
    (b) excerpts from recipes books - those where we have found we like one or two recipes and copy those;
    (c) recipe books on a particular food stuff that I eat (or would like to eat) a lot I have a smallish recipe book all about potatoes and a coffee table sized book all about chocolate :-)
    (d) recipe books put out by restaurants where we particularly enjoy their meals.

    I have a book that is really useful to have around for special diet ideas - even if it isn't my special diet, I may end up feeding someone else with a different special diet and this is when this particular book can really come in handy - have lent it out to several others too.

    I freely adapt recipes, e.g. no capsicum or mushrooms gets added to our dishes so any recipe that has those gets altered.

    Oddly I find that people keep wanting to give us 'vegetarian' recipe books - we now tell them to keep it so they have an idea of what to cook for us when we visit or, better yet, check out our website for ideas on what to cook for us.

    I'm considering buying a recipe book titled, "How to cook" (so, as you might imagine, it gives advice on how to cook, not just the recipes) for a family member who can't cook. But who knows, I might borrow it to learn to cook some things.

  3. I use recipe books, but have very strict criteria including:
    1. Less than 10 ingredients.
    2. Easy
    3. Fast (takes less than an hour from start to finish).
    4. At least 2 out of 3 children will probably like it.
    5. Not expensive.

    After you run a recipe through these filters, you aren't left with much! So I tend to stick to about 20 tried and true meals.

    When we're in Japan there are even stricter criteria like - can I get all the necessary ingredients easily and fairly cheaply? This one knocks out at least 70% of recipes in Australian recipe books.

    I had a friend once whose husband would only let her cook food out of recipe books which had pictures of the finished product. I found that a bit lacking in imagination! Actually my finished product usually looks nothing like the book - especially the birthday cakes which I persist in making every year.

  4. You are all such independent souls. But this definitely took the cake (excuse the pun):
    "Using a recipe book is like cooking with big brother watching over your shoulder. I want to turn around and punch him."

    Just a little too postmodern for my thinking. After all, didn't I ask his/her advice by buying the book??

    (Or is altering a recipe akin to changing the lyrics of a song? Am I the postmodern consumer?)