I am a fairly adventurous eater. I like trying new dishes, new ingredients, new styles of cooking. Naturally, I have accumulated a number of cookbooks—and lost quite a few too. Adelle Davis’ Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit is gone and Mother’s in the Kitchen, my first La Leche League cookbook. Also a little gem called Easy Gourmet Cooking in 30 minutes.
In fact, that was the book that set me on cooking adventures in the first place. I was a young teacher, living for the first time on my own. Not far into the semester, I realized that many evenings I was having nothing more than toast and coffee while grading papers. Not a good way to keep up one’s energy. But how to work cooking into a schedule that seemed overwhelming—especially good cooking. So a book that promised dinner on the table in 30 minutes—and good food at that—was a godsend. I even learned to like liver, one dish I had always rejected as a child.
The second thing that started me on this quest was a brush with cancer a few years ago. For several months after having a colorectal tumour removed I had no appetite at all. I had to re-introduce myself to food like a baby, trying small portions of one thing at a time. Low energy levels meant I couldn’t produce complicated recipes either. Yogurt and fruit became a standard breakfast; simple one-vegetable soups prepared at home a typical lunch or supper. It was a real achievement to get something as substantial as an egg or a muffin down.
Then one day I realized I was enjoying my food again and I pulled out the cookbooks. My first thought was to start at the beginning of each one and try one or two recipes a week. Soon I realized that was impractical. For one thing,one book starts off with a hundred or more recipes for a sauce, dip, sandwich spread or salad dressing. I could end up with four or five in the fridge and nothing to use them on. Another begins with more than two dozen recipes for bread. I love baking my own bread, but I can’t live on bread alone. No, I would have to roam through the recipes in another way.
By the time I had worked out what I was doing I had already tried a good many recipes. Then I began wondering how many there were to try—altogether—from all the books. So I made myself a grand catalogue of all the recipes, noting which ones I had already tried and which were still to be sampled.
Will I ever get to try them all? Short answer: probably not. Not unless I am still preparing my own meals on my hundredth birthday. Meanwhile, however, I thought it might be interesting to jot down some of my adventures with food.