Monday, November 22, 2010

The Cookbook Debate

My wife and I have a solid collection of cookbooks.  In fact, we have inhereted a number of them from other people who were downsizing or moving.  And despite the number of recipes available on the internet, we actually use our cookbooks.  We like the particular mix of books we have, and there are some recipes we go to again and again.  The use each book gets falls into three broad categories:

1.  Once in a blue moon or less often: these are the cookbooks that we thumb through every now and then when we need to get inspired.

2.  A handful of times each year: these are the cookbooks we use on occassion for reference, or cookbooks that have particular recipes we don't make often but that we like to have available for when we do make them.

3.  At least monthly: We have at least two cookbooks that have really become our staples in the kitchen.  One is a very old Betty Crocker cookbook.  It contains the recipes we use for making bread, pie crusts, many desserts, and more.  It also contains instructions for things like cooking different types of beans and different types of rice.  We use this probably weekly, and sometimes more than once a week.  The other is a three-ring binder of recipes we have collected from various sources such as family members, magazines, and so forth.  We consult this binder at least monthly, sometimes more.

I suggested to my dear wife that we consider doing the following...

For books we use once in a blue moon or less often, and even for books we use a handful of times each year: Go through these books and purge those we can pass on to others.  Pack away those we want to keep and put them in storage (currently my MIL's basement). 

For books we use at least monthly: Scan the books (neither of which are available on Google Books) and keep an electronic file on a thumb drive as well as on our computer.  Pack away these books and put them in storage (currently my MIL's basement).

My dear wife does not like the idea of having her most precious and well-valued cookbooks in electronic form.  It makes sense, as we have been largely computer-free at home now for about a month due to computer malfunctions, and this seems to happen often enough that she is worried she won't be able to get to her recipes when she needs them. 

I reminded her that we will be on or close to my school, where there will be computer labs if needed...and that this would be the whole point of putting the files on a thumb drive.  She said, though, that she also likes to have the books with her in the kitchen without having to worry about spills like she would if she had a laptop in there.  She just likes the security of those books.

Part of me thinks, why not just try the electronic format?  We can always get the books and bring them back to our apartment if we find we can't live without them.  While only two books would be necessary, they are large and will take up space that is so precious.  Besides, we'll likely need to start cooking very differently once in the tiny kitchen, and will thus most likely be searching the internet more regularly for our recipes.  The other part of me thinks, if the security of having hard copies of the books is helpful for our family, why make a big deal about the space that just two cookbooks would take?

Funny the things that get debated when space is limited.  It sort of reminds me of back in the days when I was trying to learn to be a serious backpacker, and people would talk about cutting off the ends of the handles on their toothbrushes because every gram and ounce would count in the ease of carrying their necessities on their backs.  It sounds so silly!


  1. What if you just photocopied the pages that you actually use (and scanned the rest if you really wanted to)? Then you could make a "recipe" file and stick it in the rest of your household files. You would have an easily available hard copy without taking up any extra space.

  2. I'm not even planning to take household files. Everything is going in storage (birth certs and important documents like that will probably come with us for a while, then after the kids are registered at school and we have our drivers licenses will go in a fire safety box at Manina's parents house).

    This is truly a dorm!

  3. Although, come to think of it, we will probably come to collect some papers while we are there. Okay, maybe I should plan for a couple notebooks on the bookshelf for household papers. Hmmm.