I’m not a cook myself, but I’m interested in the five senses, and I often choose library books very impulsively, so I recently picked up a little book by Julian Barnes, The Pedant in the Kitchen.
In it, he writes a funny list about how to avoid making mistakes when buying cookbooks. Even though I myself don’t have an issue with being tempted to buy cookbooks, I thought this was an amusing and helpful reminder of how we make mistakes in our purchases.
- Never buy a cookbook because of its pictures. Nothing will look as good when you cook it.
- Never buy cookbooks with tricky layouts.
- Avoid cookbooks that are too general or too narrow. For instance, skip books like Great Dishes of the World or Waffle Wonderment.
- Never buy a cookbook written by the chef of a restaurant where you’ve just eaten. Barnes notes, “Remember, that’s why you went to the restaurant in the first place—to eat their cooking, not your own feebler version of it.”
- Never buy a cookbook focused on using a piece of equipment if you don’t own that equipment.
- Resist anthologies of regional recipes bought as a souvenir.
- Resist books of famous historical recipes, especially in facsimile editions. (Gretchen: Always avoid facsimile editions! I’ve learned that the hard way.)
- Never replace a beloved old favorite with the new, updated, edition; you’ll always use your original.
- Never buy a cookbook for a charity fundraiser. Give the cover price directly to the charity; they’ll get more money, and you won’t have to cull out the cookbook later.
- Remember that many cookbook writers have only one good cookbook in them.
I’m working on my book Outer Order, Inner Calm, and one thing is clear—the best way to fight clutter is never to create it. If you’re not going to make good use of a cookbook, it’s easier to decide not to buy it than to figure out what to do with it once it’s in your house!
Do you love to buy cookbooks? My husband sure does. And they take up a lot of room.
What further precautions would you add to this list?
Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than Before. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Daria Shevtsova.