CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC
Music – “You Are What You Eat” from I Aint Scared of You Mothers by The Winstons. Released: 2006
As many of my readers know, the bulk of my cookbook collection comes from local thrift stores: Salvation Army, Goodwill, Savers, etc., and some from estate sales. Over the years, I have purchased very few cookbooks at “full price”, and even new cookbooks I purchase from a terrific remainder bookseller in Connecticut, Edward R. Hamilton Bookseller. If you print out a list of books you want and send them a cheque, you can order as many books as you want for a mere $3.50 shipping! Really! (if you order online with a credit card, the charge is more….check out their website: http://www.hamiltonbook.com/ )
Of late, however, I have been disappointed in the selection on the cookbook shelves in my favourite haunts. The cookbooks “of substance”, whether out of print or more contemporary, seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur. Now, I find only a plethora of diet cookbooks, heart-healthy cookbooks, diabetic cookbooks, gluten-free cookbooks, cookbooks with low-carb or low-cholesterol recipes, etc. In addition, Nutri-System, Weight-Watchers, “paleo”, “fat burning”, “lite”, “low-cal”, “butter busting“, “healthy eating”, “weight loss” and “good for you” cookbooks jam the shelves and seem to be crashing and burning, if thrift store offerings are any indication. According to statistics from 2014, Edouard Cointreau, the founder of the Beijing Cookbook Fair, announced at that time that annual cookbook sales, worldwide, were in excess of four billion dollars! I wonder how many of them are in the “good for you” category.
Or perhaps, it’s a case of well-intentioned people attempting to follow the myriad healthy pitches we are all bombarded with every day that, well, just didn’t make the cut. I liken it to the New Year’s resolutions we often make, that tend to dissolve and evaporate by the end of the second week of January. Good intentions aside, I think all of these “healthy” cookbooks have suffered a similar fate.
Ten years or so ago, I used to come across copies of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, “The Joy of Cooking” or “The American Woman’s Cookbook” not infrequently, but I never see these books in thrift stores any longer. Is it because many of us are still secretly cooking with scads of butter and lard, baking artery-clogging pastries and sautéing chicken breasts in brandy and cream sauce?
Have we eschewed the health “craze” in favour of comfort and familiarity? Are we sick and tired of being assaulted with news from the medical front at every turn, admonishing us for the way we cook, what we cook, how we cook it, when we cook it, that has simply made us tune out to what is (probably), really good for us?
Well, perhaps it’s a function of age. I can recall getting somewhat gung-ho about healthy eating in my younger years, but it didn’t last. Not that I cook willy-nilly with tons of butter (just pounds) and drown everything in alcohol laden cream sauces, but I do admit to throwing caution to the wind in more recent years, with a “you only live once” attitude, which has apparently supplanted my former “eat only healthy” mode. To that end, I will continue to walk by the myriad of “healthy” and “diet” cookbooks at thrift stores. Perhaps some locals will suddenly adopt a “get fit” attitude and ditch the old standby cookbooks of bygone days! If so, I’ll be there to snatch them up.