Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cooking With Alan

I collect cookbooks.

Hundreds fill up seven large bookcase shelves. Mostly, they’re alla-jumble, but every so often I get ambitious and think about organizing them.

Then the question becomes, “How?”

I could sort by ethnicity, country, or culture. I’ve got books specializing in Chinese (Yan Can Cook), Japanese, French (Julia Child, natch), Mexican, Spanish, Hawaii, Caribbean, German, Jewish, and soul food cuisines.

Or how about food type? Entire books on single foodstuffs—chicken breast, chocolate, garlic, salsa, burgers, pasta, omelets, and grains. The Totally Crab Cookbook. The Soy of Cooking. Chili Madness. A Passion for Potatoes.

Maybe divide into the four food groups: cake (Let Them Eat Cake), chocolate, desserts, garlic.

I’ve got books devoted to specific cooking equipment—grill, slow cooker, microwave, bread machine, dehydrator. Even one called The 9x13 Pan Cookbook.

I could have a whole section on healthy cooking. Or vegetarian meals. Or something called Tassajara Cooking (admittedly, that would be a small section).

I’ve got illustrated books and classic books (Joy of Cooking) and omnibus books and diet books and famous chef books (Jacques Pepin, Paul Prudhomme), and even humble, small books (The World’s 100 Best Recipes).

I do have a few favorites, books I keep going back to: Southern Living’s Our Best Recipes, Nikki & David Goldbeck’s American Wholefoods Cuisine, and The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook (the only freebie I felt “worthwhile enough” to carry back home from BEA last year).

I have a lot of cookbooks, but here’s the kicker: I rarely even use recipes! Mostly, I just leaf through them when I’m hungry, or when I “somehow” end up with a large amount of an unusual food (you know, if I score a 20-pound bag of rutabagas at Costco. Come on, you’ve all been there!)

All this sorting by cookbook “genres” got me thinking about fiction genres.

Obviously, in my cookbook conundrum, there’s a lot of overlap between groups. A cookbook full of chicken recipes could go in the food type group, or the main dish group, or the low-fat group. But it’s got to go somewhere, just like a novel in the bookstore.

Too bad there just can’t be a genre/group called “Good book.”

Anyone else collect cookbooks? Anyone have a good recipe for rutabagas?

Thanks so much to all the Cozy Chicks for inviting me here today! Always a pleasure! Hope to see some of you at Malice!

The first book in Alan Orloff’s Last Laff Mystery series, KILLER ROUTINE, is now available, at your favorite booksellers and on-line. His debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, came out last April and was nominated for the Best First Novel Agatha Award. For more information about Alan and his books, please visit

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