Recipe for a Good Cookbook

Flipping through a new cookbook, just glancing at the pictures can make your mouth start to water. But before you pay for the cookbook based on salivary appeal alone, take a second look, and see if you can actually make the recipes included. Is it so gourmet that it calls for ingredients that aren’t in your cupboard, let alone in your food budget? Or is it so modernized that it calls for boxes and cans and packages, instead of from-scratch ingredients?

Here’s a recipe for a good old-fashioned cookbook; the kind you’ll reference for the rest of your life…

Recipe for a Good Cookbook

Turn to the index, and find a recipe for spaghetti. If it calls for a 16-ounce jar of spaghetti sauce, don’t even give it a second look. If it tells you how to simmer your own spaghetti sauce, the cookbook may have some promise.

Next, look up minestrone soup. If it calls for a 15-ounce can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed, forget it. If it tells you the proper dried measurements for soaking, rinsing, and cooking your own kidney beans and chickpeas, you’re onto something.

Finally, sniff your way through the pages to pumpkin pie. If it calls for a can of pumpkin, it still fails the test. If it tells you how many cups of pureed pumpkin to use, it’s a good cookbook. If it mentions substituting winter squash as well, you’ve really got a winner.

Anyone can open a can of beans in the interest of speed, or follow the recipe off the can of store bought pumpkin. But only a good cook can substitute the perfect from-scratch with-plenty-of-garlic spaghetti sauce when the recipe just calls for a 16-ounce jar. And every gardener knows that squash pie is better than pumpkin any day.

A Good Cookbook

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11 Comments

  1. I know what you mean about the recipes that call for a can of beans. I was looking for a recipe for baked beans on a cooking web site, and most of the recipes I found called for “1 15-ounce can baked beans.” If I wanted canned baked beans, I would just open a can of them! =)

  2. I agree totally! I bought a pasta cookbook from a girl in my church. She was selling them for a fund-raiser for her school. When I got it, it was one of those books that says to open a can of soup and add it to a few other ingredients. I was quite disappointed.

    Thanks for the tips! I’ll have to keep an eye out for GOOD cookbooks!

  3. Ah! I’ll be looking forward to your favorite cookbooks! One thing though, we home-can beans just for those recipes that call for them 馃檪 It can really save time when you are running late. By the way, does anyone have any tips for home-canning beans (with a pressure canner)? We usually have about half of the jars come unsealed, and we are not sure why.
    Janna

  4. Thanks for the tips! I am sure I’ll find them handy.

    Just for the fun of it, I checked those recipes in one of my favorite most used cook book and it passed the tests. 馃檪

    *No wonder I use it the most*

  5. Thanks so much for the tips! Cooking from scratch is really one of my greatest joys. Everything tastes so alive. I can’t wait to see your favorite cookbooks! Our house is full of old ones that are falling apart, and I can’t ever find anything with really organic recipes, so I’d greatly appreciate your recommendations!

  6. I even saw a cooking show (low budget, I must say) where the cook explained that you open the box and do such and such because that’s what it says on the box. Wow!

    It’s really hard to find good cookbooks like you describe.

    To God be all glory,
    Lisa of Longbourn

  7. Nice that you have the time for that, but making everything from scratch is not my idea of a good cookbook. Maybe someday (although I doubt it…)

  8. Mmmm…I would love to cook completely from scratch. Someday, maybe. When I have my own home. And if I have the time. 馃檪
    I’m sure the health benefits are enormous, not to mention the yummmier taste!

  9. Oh, Gretchen, this is so true!! One of my personal pet peeves is seeing “cookbooks” (why do they even call them that?) with “recipes” that tell you to open a can of this and a can of that, mix them both together, and then top them with biscuits made from Bisquix… not that doing that is bad, but I could’ve thought that up myself without the help of a book. When I get a cookbook, I want to actually be learning something new! And mmmmm, squash pie sounds mouthwatering right now! *smile*

    ~Nicole