Monday, April 25, 2005

Recipe Clippings and Food Magazines

Assorted Cookbooks
I'm realizing I am either in need of a 12-step "clippers" recovery program or am just a major "foodie". For the past ten years, since my marriage more or less, I've been a consumate recipe clipper. Because I contribute articles to a variety of "shelter" magazines, I tend to subscribe to too many to count. Many, of course, have a recipe section. I even had to stop my subscription to GOURMET because it was overwhelming--now I've discovered that many recipe archives for magazines are on-line. But there is nothing so tangible as a recipe file in or near your kitchen. [I do find, however, when looking for an occasional recipe, that the internet is the quickest route--but then you have to sift through ten or more versions.]

Unfortunately, as with 10+ years of photographs, I have yet to get around to actually clipping and filing these recipes! Lately I've been taking a pile of torn magazine pages from a box (this box is 2.5 feet deep) and going through them. Many I've thrown away and others, like the garden & house clippings (of gardens and rooms that I like) have gone into their own box for a possible scrap book. About a year ago, before I even clipped, I asked myself the following questions. I find it has greatly thwarted my past habits of impulsively ripping and tearing and piling.

My criteria for clipping a recipe is as follows:

~ Is it something vastly different than a recipe that appears in any one of my several hundred cookbooks? (eg. How many recipes for cranberry scones or corn pudding does one need?)
~ Is it something my children might eat?
~ Is it something my husband might eat, and eat again? (Ditto that for the kids.)
~ If no one will eat it in my family, is there another reason for keeping it? (eg. Special tea party or dinner party idea?)

When finally using a recipe clipping to prepare a new addition to a meal, I make the decision whether or not it's a keeper based on its reception at the table. [It might be beneficial to add at this point that I've made no more than 50 recipes from the thousand or more clippings I have been stockpiling in the past ten years.] If I don't hear at least three out of five sincere "Mom, this is GOOD!"s, then out it goes in the trash (the recipe and sometimes the food itself). I don't normally look for it, but genuine praise goes a long way in the kitchen if only to make things easier in menu planning.

Cooking for my family each evening has become a chore after ten years (breakfasts and lunches are usually quick and cafe style, fortunately, and as I joke with my husband, "I married you for life, NOT for lunch!"). Perhaps this is why I've recently torn apart my kitchen to resettle myself in the cooking arena: change is good. Perhaps it is also why I'm revisiting my recipe stash. I hope to be inspired--if not from the divine muse of cuisine, then from any other cook who has been there.

My favorite, most used, cookbooks in my home are the following:

~ All three books by Ann Hodgman (BEAT THIS!, BEAT THAT!, and another one designed for children's palates). As far as I am concerned she could be the long-lost older sister I never had.
~ THE BUTTR'Y SHELF COOKBOOK by Mary Mason Campbell and delightfully illustrated by Tasha Tudor. My very first cookbook from 1973 and its description of a New England buttr'y is one of the inspirations for my book, IN THE PANTRY. Here you will find lots of traditional New England style family recipes--the pair also collaborated on several other books, all collectible now and out-of-print, but well worth the price.
~ Several of the MOOSEWOOD cookbooks (before they got fat conscious!)
~ THE JOY of COOKING--need I say more?
~ THE BETTY CROCKER COOKY COOKBOOK is used often at Christmas and always brings me right back to our first kitchen in Akron, Ohio--with its pink 1950s/early 60s appliances and decor--and memories of my mother whipping up chocolate chip cookies and my sneaking the dough when she went to put a load in the laundry. Of course, I'm sure she never noticed that I'd rearranged her neat arrays on the cookie sheets. [NOTE: This is now back in print, exactly as it first appeared in the 1950s.]
~ CLASSIC HOME DESSERTS by Richard Sax (recently reprinted). You can't go wrong with any recipe in this cookbook and there are many (awesome Boston Cream Pie and Banana Cream Pie, for starters).
~ FARMHOUSE COOKING by Susan Herrmann Loomis who also did several "Farmhouse Cooking" books in France and Italy.
~ ENDANGERED RECIPES-TOO GOOD TO BE FORGOTTEN by Lari Robling, a new favorite!

Otherwise, I cook from my head or my recipe file and pour through other cookbooks for inspiration and the occasional "must try".

The only magazines I actually save are the following:

~ THE BAKING SHEET a quarterly publication of baking recipes by King Arthur Flour Company in Vermont (now with photos)...and if you don't already use their fine flours, you should. See:
~ KITCHEN GARDEN by Taunton Press. While this magazine didn't last more than a few years, I've saved every issue--full of great gardening tips and fabulous recipes focusing on seasonal fruits and vegetables.
And, a new find:
~ COOK'S COUNTRY by the folks who publish Cook's Illustrated (run out and buy the first issue of this sure-fire hit!) or check out

I have also been collecting old issues of AMERICAN COOKERY (originally The Boston Cooking School Magazine) from c. 1890-1946. I enjoy them not so much for their recipes (and we're talking liver molds and "dainty dishes" like Plover's Egg Mayonaisse with Beeswax Aspic...I exaggerate but there are some obscure dishes for the odd post-Victorian palate) but for their articles on domestic economy and features like "New England Hallways", "A Child's Nursery" and pantries, of course.

It would be so easy to just have one or a few cookbooks, wouldn't it? But certainly a boring prospect. I actually enjoy reading cookbooks at the end of the day when I can really get into them--both visually and for their text and numerous ideas. Among the many books piled on my bedside table, there are always a few cookbooks or food-related books, most marked with colored Post-its for future culinary possibilities in my own kitchen. In the meantime, I'm secure in knowing that I am surrounded by cookbooks--it is almost like eating comfort food.


Z*lda said...

Have you ever read "Taste of Home" magazine? It has great photos. The recipes are contributed by readers and actually do work.

Catherine said...

I'm a fan of COOK's COUNTRY that just came out this year--I'm a terrible clipper and trying to curb my habit...too many cookbooks, too little time.