One of the loveliest presents I've ever gotten is a place to put my cookbooks. This may have been, in part, a measure of self-preservation by my husband (he's neat and I'm decidedly not), but I could not have been more touched by the effort to which he went building shelves to accommodate my frankly ridiculous collection.
It's since overflowed the bounds of the four levels, spilling out in messy stacks from the hobnailed shelves. During the week they remain largely untouched. Douglas and I get home late and generally ravenous and on the nights we don't opt for a quick call to Red Hot Szechuan or a taco jaunt, we go with the tried and true. Either one of us could roast a chicken, grill a fish, saute vegetables to toss with pasta or compose an elaborate salad with our eyes closed. It's not terribly ambitious, but it is mostly from scratch and certainly doesn't necessitate a consultation of the manual.
Others, like 'Staff Meals from Chanterelle,' Marco Canora's 'Salt to Taste,' Ellie Krieger's 'The Food You Crave,' The Hearty Boys' 'Talk with Your Mouth Full,' and countless spiral-bound community cookbooks like 'Charleston Receipts', "Talk About Good' and 'Be Milwaukee's Guest' are oil-spattered, sauce stained, flour-dusted and lovingly adhered to. I'll also select an ingredient and pop over to where I've indexed my collection on Eat Your Books and see if there's a relevant recipe.
As much as I love to riff from what the market presents me - a fiddlehead here and a lamb liver there - I deeply appreciate the inherent community of a cookbook. I'm not alone in the kitchen; these recipes are time-tested, much loved and are borne from the faith that someone's culinary vision is worth preserving.
I welcome those extra sets of hands in my home - at least until Monday rolls around.