Books Etc

"Are you going to get rid of any of those books?", she said.

"Are you going to get rid of any of those shoes?", I replied. 

We're decluttering ahead of a house move. It has only been a few years since the last one, but in today's stuffocating world of over consumption, its easy for one's possessions to build up again since the last cull, even in a relatively short time. Cardboard boxes are taking over the house, like a new family of lodgers in every room. 

We're temporarily downsizing while we find somewhere permanent to live in Bristol, trying to squash the contents of a four bedroom house into a two bedroom flat. Things will be going into storage of course, but it takes careful planning to ensure a vital item isn't sent off into hibernation like a Blue Peter tortoise, only to be desperately needed within a month of arriving in our new temporary home. The law of Mr Sod, whoever he was, says this is very likely to happen.

When it comes to books, tough choices have to be made. I have over 100 cookery books collected over many years, most the result of Amazon's annoyingly efficient direct marketing strategy which on a regular basis tells me that because I bought Sabrina Ghayour's Persiana I might also like Honey & Co's Food From the Middle East, or that I might just like Tom Kerridge's new one because I have both his other two (I am yet to crack on this one but I know it is just a matter of time). 

My cook book collection can be divided into six categories -

1. Those I never read or use and look rubbish on my bookshelf

  Basically anything pre-1995, with fonts that hurt my eyes and food styling the equivalent of an 80s mullet hairdo. Or anything gimmicky like the Friends cookbook. Gunther's Central Perk muffins anyone?

 

Basically anything pre-1995, with fonts that hurt my eyes and food styling the equivalent of an 80s mullet hairdo. Or anything gimmicky like the Friends cookbook. Gunther's Central Perk muffins anyone?

2. Those I never read but look really good on my bookshelf. (see also 3.) 

  Typography to die for, laser-cut book jackets, bound inserts, interesting paper. Basically anything published by PHAIDON.

 

Typography to die for, laser-cut book jackets, bound inserts, interesting paper. Basically anything published by PHAIDON.

3. Three star chef masterpieces (that i sometimes flick through then close again when I see the ingredient lists)

  Noma, El Bulli, The Fat Duck, The French Laundry…now where can i get some sea purslane and spruce shoots? 

 

Noma, El Bulli, The Fat Duck, The French Laundry…now where can i get some sea purslane and spruce shoots? 

4. Fine dining books with more accessible recipes

  Probably the books I refer to the most. I rarely read much of the main text in cook books but Bruce's Cookbook has some of the wittiest recipe writing I have come across, and fabulous recipes too. The Barrafina cookbook and Proper Pub Food by Tom Kerridge are my current faves. 

 

Probably the books I refer to the most. I rarely read much of the main text in cook books but Bruce's Cookbook has some of the wittiest recipe writing I have come across, and fabulous recipes too. The Barrafina cookbook and Proper Pub Food by Tom Kerridge are my current faves. 

5. Bibles of international cuisine

  Thai, Japanese, Middle Eastern to name but a few. Any of Rick Stein's international books are worth a read. His recipes are well researched and achievable.

 

Thai, Japanese, Middle Eastern to name but a few. Any of Rick Stein's international books are worth a read. His recipes are well researched and achievable.

6. Reference books

  The indispensable tools of a cookery teacher. McGee's On Food and Cooking is the ultimate resource for questions about food science and a must read for any serious cook. 

 

The indispensable tools of a cookery teacher. McGee's On Food and Cooking is the ultimate resource for questions about food science and a must read for any serious cook. 

It is a collection that will continue to grow in every category. Books now seen as fashionable will be consigned to the reject pile as new food trends emerge. New superstars of the culinary world will break through, new cuisines will come to the fore, and new restaurants practising signature techniques will be feted as the best in the world.  What is certain though, is that none of my books will be thrown away or given to charity shops. Whether currently used or not, they chart the story of my cookery education and as such, like my music collection,  contribute to the story of my life.

That said, if anyone wants the Friends cookbook, it's yours for a bowl of Joey's meatballs.