The Cookbook Sagas, part 1

I’m Cathryn Olson and I’m a Recipe-aholic. (Is that a real word? It should be.)

They say admitting you have a problem is the first step toward solving it. However, in my experience, with this particular issue, it just means you find more shelving to load up. I have way too many cookbooks and recipes. WAY. TOO. MANY.

This is just one small handful that I grabbed for a picture.

To be fair, I LOVE to cook. Not everyone does, but I like discovering new ways to put flavors together and trying foods from different cultures. And sometimes I like telling myself I will try the most difficult cuisines on the planets if I could just find the right cookbook to make them easier for me. (We’ll re-visit this vicious cycle later.)

To also give credit where credit is due, my husband (Mr. CARO) now loves to cook, too. I did not find him this way when we started dating. He did cook for himself, which was refreshing to find in a guy, but it was mainly salads and what I call the classic “Bachelor Boil”. Boil pasta, boil sauce, boil soup, boil eggs… (Ladies, can I get a witness?) However, the man was game to try new any recipe and what more can you ask for in a recipe enabler partner? Mr. CARO is an excellent cook.

Mr. CARO’s apron of choice

So, when we got married I started collecting recipes in a much more purposeful way. I scanned magazines, I searched online, I actually read many of the older cookbooks my mom had offloaded onto me in an effort to diminish her own recipe stockpiling tendencies. (See, nature and nurture. This really isn’t my fault.) As I collected , clipped and printed recipes that sounded good, I decided to paste them all onto card stock and put them in sheet protectors, in three-ring binders. Sounds logical and organized, right? I was very efficient at this. In five years, I had 8 full 2-inch binders. EIGHT.

Soooo much time spent gluing.

These binders were so full I had to dig every time I wanted to find a recipe that A) we had already tried and B) that we liked. This was my recipe for a What’s-for-dinner nightmare. So I stopped gluing, because clearly the binders weren’t working so well and I didn’t want to spend more money on more of them when I didn’t have the shelf space for them either.

Go ahead, judge these books by their covers.

Did I mention that I had three more shelves of regular cookbooks? Yeah. There has to be a support group for this somewhere. A support group that never serves snacks so nobody can ask for a recipe. I asked my own support group Facebook friends what they did to keep their recipes organized. They made me feel really normal. Especially my childhood friend who admitted to laminating ALL of her recipes. (You know who you are and I love you for that answer!)

So that’s where the idea for this post series came from…paper hoarding in my kitchen. Is this problem solved? Noooooooo. But I’m working on it and have found some real solutions. I thought I would document my progress since I realized that this is a more common problem than I had originally thought. I also thought that by documenting my progress on the blog I could publicly shame myself into staying on task. (Bonus!) I’ll be blogging this project in real-time, so I can keep my solutions honest.

Note to self: These tools are not my friends in the kitchen.

The one thing that I can tell you I have done so far is donate a whole bunch of the really old cookbooks that my mom and I never used to my local library. I’m still not sure if this was a good deal for the library, but they took the books anyway. If you happen to find yourself in the Main branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, there are several shelves in the cookbook section that warrant some sort of “donated by” plaque with my name on it. And if you are seeking complicated ways to display 1960’s tuna casseroles or 1920’s ingredients you would never bring in your house let alone eat, it may be your lucky day!

An old cookbook from my great grandmother. And yes, that says “Opossum”.

There is much more to this saga and I’ll share more with you on my progress next week. In the meantime, how do you store recipes in your kitchen? Do you keep old cookbooks that you may never use? Have you ever lost a favorite recipe? Don’t leave me hanging out here, friends! Share your stories!

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Posted on May 7, 2012, in Food, Organization, Other. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. You’re preaching to the choir. I have piles of clippings, too, but I love finding and making new recipes…when they taste good. There’s so much guilt that comes with handed-down recipe books. I never thought to donate them to the library. I don’t necessarily want them, but I don’t have the heart to throw them away.

  2. I use a big old recipe card box, but I don’t have cards, I just have folded up clippings inside. I also have cook books, but the card box is what I keep all the loose recipes in. Looking forward to see what you come up with.

  3. I have a binder with pockets in it. One pocket for each type of recipe. It’s very full with lots of recipes jammed in there, so I have to be careful when I take them out. It doesn’t really work so well.

    Love this post!

  4. Oh dear. How did I miss this post the first time around? I have sworn off cookbooks and donated or sold all of them except my trusty Betty Crocker (which I am, in fact, considering kicking to the curb as well). I now use a collection of bookmarks, pins, and favorites from friends and family that I have written down….er, somewhere. So while I might have a smaller problem, it’s way more disorganized than you ever were. I suppose that makes it about equal. I do so hope you inspire me to work it all out.

    • I tried a bookmark system for a while, too, Tara. Several of my cookbooks came with ribbon bookmarks attached so I thought I’d expand on that idea with other books. My result: Death by Post-It. So many of them I couldn’t remember what the colors meant or why I had marked them or for what occasion. I’m so impressed that you are down to just one cookbook! I hope I can get there someday!

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