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.