I Really Like Dirty Books

No…not that kind of dirty book.

I mean books that are physically dirty–spashed with olive oil. Smeared with whole grain dijon mustard. Dappled with red wine.

What I’m talking about are cookbooks. Here are a few of mine:

my cookbooks

I have to admit that there are a couple on the shelves that have barely been opened. They’re mostly on the bottom. Some were well meaning gifts. Some were mistakes of my own. They’re the clean cookbooks. The ones that I imagine saying “pick me, pick me” everytime I cast my eye their way.

Look carefully and you’ll see the trends I fell for.

I went through the blackened phase created by cajun chef Paul Prudhomme. I have a couple of his books. Once glance and it’s easy to see why he weighs a few hundred pounds more than he should–every recipe has AT LEAST 2 sticks of butter in it.

I went through the Silver Palate era in the 80s when formerly unheard of ingredients finally made their way to Little Rock where we were living at the time.

I’m still in the Barefoot Contessa’s orbit…mostly because her recipes are really, really good. But she’s another one with a liberal hand when it comes to butter and cream.

Those trends come and go…but some recipes are constant, like these two for grilled chicken.

 seaside chicken

tomato chicken ii And here’s one I’ve been making for 20 years. It’s from an old Junior League cookbook called Southern Sideboards. Say what you will about the League, but they sure know how to cook. Or at least their kitchen help does.

shish kabob

 If you spill something on your favorite recipe, don’t worry about it. It’s a badge of honor–a sure sign that whatever’s under those splashes and splotches is sure to be good.



Filed under Cookbooks

11 responses to “I Really Like Dirty Books

  1. Julie Fisher

    Butter and cream are our friends, as the insipid say. But really they are. So are salt and sugar and eggs and wine and chocolate. I say let’s eat like the French–a little of all the good stuff and none of the fake stuff.
    Yes, I agree–a “dirty” cookbook says it all.

  2. What I absolutely love about recipe books (we have quite a collection here too) is that you can tell how old they are by looking at the font – you don’t even need to see the front cover.

    I’m a bit prissy about getting books dirty though – I tend to keep them on the other side of the kitchen and dart back and forth between the book and what i’m actually doing.

    I made some rice pudding from an Ina Garten recipe yesterday (which I’d highly recommend), but I was looking at the recipe on my iPhone – very handy for getting things online, but I spent the entire time petrified I’d get something on it!

    I’ve just saved the picture of the “Briar Patch” marinated chicken breasts…I definitely need to try that, it sounds yummy! x

  3. My best books open immediately at the page I’m seeking, which is always splashed with something. Anyone who didn’t know me could tell immediately what my favourite foods are by flicking through my recipe books for the stained pages. I’ve learnt to have the same approach to my kitchen in general: this wine stain is from that evening when…that oil stain is from when X visited, this scratched table, that chipped plate…I’ve even extended it to bodies – every scar tells a tale. Life leaves marks behind.

  4. Older Sister

    First time to visit here and lo and behold I recognized the Briar Patch recipe straight from the Seaside Cookbook. Did I give that to you? Can’t remember but my recipe looks worse than yours.

  5. Southern Sideboards: Jackson’s best! Doesn’t it have an intro by Eudora Welty? I used it this summer for strawberry jam, which came out great. Its banana bread is also good. (Okay, I know. I’m the only person in the world who actually needs a recipe for banana bread…)

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