I will admit it freely and openly to anyone who comes into my home. My name is Eric and I am an addict. A cookbook addict. I have been for about 15 years now at least and probably will be for the rest of my days. I’ve been hoarding my treasures for years now, through many apartments, an overseas move and now my recent co-habitation status change where I moved in with my partner into his little downtown Toronto condominium.
I think the start came with my discovery at 16 of what was once a favourite haunt in Toronto, Lichtman’s Books on Queen West (now a Roots clothing store, I believe). They specialized in selling off remainders and as a result I could pick up amazing deals on all sorts of books – including hardcover cookbooks that didn’t sell that well on the first go-round. I think the first one I nabbed was the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook and boy did it ever grab my eager young foodie attention.
The description of such things as duck confit and organic vegetables (I didn’t know from either – but the idea of duck cooked in its own fat when I’d tasted neither duck nor its fat – and we’d always grown veggies organically at home; it was called horse poop manure from down the street) captured my imagination like nothing else. No more “Choose Your Own Adventure” books for me – I was going to get me some cookbook religion. The concept of spending a few days preparing a dish that then could be left for a few months before being rescued from its vat of fat and crisped up before being plated with flageolets (huh? what the heck are those I wondered) and some nice pork sauccison was just more than I think my little uninitiated brain could handle. Thus, the addiction was born. I needed my fix and would do anything to get it.
From there I brought home some Moosewood cookbooks, then started asking for cookbooks for birthday and Christmas. Before I knew it, I had Martha Stewart, Julia Child, Joy of Cooking, Becoming a Chef; all sitting so nice and cleanly in their proper places in my bookcase – all hiding my dirty little secret. You see, as much as I’d loved the idea of cooking, I had not really cooked more than one dish out of each book – if even that many.
Fast forward to my year long sojourn to Australia and my 30th birthday. What books did I buy when I was overseas? (besides The DaVinci Code?) Bill Granger, Kylie Kwong, Donna Hay, Jamie Oliver and so many food magazines I simply couldn’t bring them all back with me. What did I ask my parents to bring with them when they came to visit? Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef.
By this time, I’d done some culinary training at a local college and was now planning on making my career in the food industry upon my return to Toronto. Such was not my luck as I ended up back in marketing, but I still continued to purchase with even more vigour all the food essay collections and recipe books and even a large size artist’s sketchbook to create my own “kitchen diary”. I guess, in a way, I’m creating my own cookbook- my own history of great recipes, even greater disasters – and the meals enjoyed along the way.
But as in all things its time, I think, to come full circle; in this time of summer thunderstorms and rainy days as will sometimes hit Toronto, to the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook before my next purchase takes hold of me (Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin). And yes, I’ve now learned that organic means more than horse poop manure for fertilizer and that duck confit is one of the pinnacles of human culinary achievement.