No more predictions of doom from me…

Unless it is my own death, I am through predicting the death of anything. Recently, I have written here about the forecast demise of poetry and the short story. As a result, I have received some really great commentary from readers who have convinced me that both mediums will probably outlive me. Thanks to all for your comments. I also read an interesting piece about the impending death of classical music, although I can’t seem to find that article right now, but if I do locate it, I will post it later. Since my musical knowledge is practically zilch, however, I don’t feel the least bit qualified to write anything on that subject anyway, so there you go.

Reference books are another matter, because I know something about them, having been a faithful user for many years. I am talking about real hard-core reference books like the dictionary and the thesaurus to name two. At one time I thought I heard the death knell of both, as words are so easily looked up online, but now I think I was being a little hasty. For all I know, the kids of today will have grown tired of electronic gadgetry and will have gone back to writing with quill pens and relying on town criers for news reports – but I doubt it.

A noontime visit to the last remaining bookstore in my area (or at least within lunchtime driving distance), has convinced me that at least one reference book – if not the ultimate reference book, will survive any event short of Armageddon. I am talking about the cookbook. I know, you can get any recipe known to man online, but I have a feeling that cookbooks are still going to survive, if not thrive. Cookbooks appear to be selling well, a fact that has been attributed to families eating at home more often due to the slouching economy, but I don’t think that is the reason at all. Families in financial distress do not often have $34.99 to plunk down for the 2013 edition of The Twenty Minute Mediterranean Gourmet. To the contrary, I would think that families feeling the economic strain would tend to look toward online sources for recipes on the cheap.

Cookbooks tend to have long life spans, often being handed down through families from parent to child. They have tattered pages, with smudges left from long dried smatterings of tomato paste and egg whites. Sometimes the faint scent of garlic wafts off of the pages when they are first opened after being closed for a long while and a careful inspection of the cookbook might reveal a calcified flake or two of ground marjoram in the page crease of the “Cornwallis English Turkey Stuffing” recipe. Most cookbooks have beautiful pictures of the expected resultant dish on the left hand page, and details on how to prepare it on the right –technical writing at its purest form.

There are usually lots of bookmarks in cookbooks. Torn out recipe pages from magazines work well for this, so even if you don’t know exactly where that recipe for “Aunt Madge’s Eggplant Rollatini” is – the one that your mom clipped from the June issue of Better Homes and Gardens back in 1968, you know that it is there somewhere in the cookbook, perhaps flagging the page for “Ben’s Mountain Home Chili”.

Unlike dictionaries and thesauruses that are used in the den, or the office, for stodgy tasks like preparing school papers, compiling work reports, and composing formal correspondence, cookbooks are used in the room that is closest to the human heart, the kitchen. Even if we know that recipe by heart (because we’ve made that dish five hundred times), do we really feel comfortable trusting dinner to chance? Of course not – it’s best to consult with Betty Crocker just to make sure that we don’t over-salt the pickled beets. So you will find yourself digging out the cookbook from wherever it is kept. Likely you will find it atop the fridge, above the spice rack in the pantry or on the back porch shelf flanked by the potted geraniums.

Wherever your cookbooks are stored, they will probably be stacked and not shelved, and everyone knows that books that are stacked have a longer life expectancy than those that are shelved. My Chilton auto repair manuals are a good example, having been stacked on a corner of my workbench for the better part of a decade.

But as I said at the beginning of this, I won’t be forecasting the death of anything from now on. There is too much other stuff to talk about, and it is already May.

4 thoughts on “No more predictions of doom from me…

  1. One November, I asked Mom if I could borrow her ‘cherished’ cookbook for a week or so, as I was hosting Christmas eve, Day and Day after for both my family and the in-laws.

    What she didn’t know was that I had paid attention to her despair over the ragged condition of her best loved cookbook.

    For 10 days or so, I worked on that book in the evenings – gently taking out each page, ironing out the wrinkles and tears, taping where necessary and inserting each beloved page into a plastic page protector in a new, heavy-duty, three-ring binder.

    That was more than 8 years ago – it’s double in size and she has to use both hands to lift it off the shelf and take out the page she wants to lay on the counter while she cooks…

    But she still tells the story about her wonderful Christmas gift and the fact that I ‘ironed the pages.”

    Three years later, she hand-copied all her favorite recipes and presented both my brother and I with a handsome wood recipe boxes full of her labors for Christmas.


    I agree – cookbooks and heirloom recipe boxes will never be replaced by the computer.

    • That is a great story. I am glad that you shared it here. Cookbooks are up there with family Bibles as books most likely to be handed down from generation to generation. Some things I don’t think can ever be duplicated electronically.

  2. Well, finally something I don’t have to comment on (so why am I commenting????) I NEVER have used a cookbook, and NEVER will…Those who know me know that to be true, those who don’t, enough said!!!!!

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