A Cookbook Quest

I love cookbooks. To me, they're more than just recipes, they're a culinary adventure. When someone suggests curling up with a good book, I think of a cookbook. I meet new ingredients, explore distant cuisines, get to know chefs, and of course, learn to make wonderful food. I often just thumb through cookbooks looking for some inspiration on how to add a new twist to an old stand-by recipe. 

I'm constantly looking to add to my collection. There was a time when I used to buy them or put them on my Christmas and birthday wish list, but I rarely do that anymore. Instead, I've become much more frugal in my quest. 

It's as simple as one, two, three. And, you can do it too. 

First, visit a public library and browse the shelves for Dewey Decimal Code 641. The old familiar faces like Julia Child and Jacques P
épin have always been there waiting for you to take them home. Now with the Food TV craze, even the smallest hometown libraries are filling their shelves with cookbooks by hot celebrity chefs: Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, Ming Tsai, Emeril Lagasse, and more. They're all there looking to meet another library card holder. 

Borrowing cookbooks from the library is a great way to decide which ones you may want to buy. There are some that you'll naturally be more comfortable with and you may as well find that out for free. 

My second tip also involves the library. Find out when your local library holds its annual, or semi-annual, used book sale. Someone else's discard may be your treasure. The "Friends of the Library" association in my town also has a small store that's open all year round. I stop in regularly. 

The bookshelves in my home are filled with many cookbooks that I've purchased at the library. Here's a few that I've picked up: Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Child, Bertholle & Beck, The New Basics Cookbook by Rosso & Lukins, The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, by Rosso & Lukins, and The New York Times Cookbook by Claiborne. I paid the princely sum of three dollars for all four books. Each was in mint condition when I adopted them. 

Finally, take a look at the sale table in book stores and visit remainder stores. There will be lots of books that you don't want, but every once in a while a real deal comes along. I purchased Escoffier's Guide to Modern Cooking and the Culinary Institute of America's The New Professional Chef at my local Borders for about five dollars apiece. 

Not long after its release, I spotted the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook at a local Borders outlet for less than ten dollars (suggested retail is $35). The store had several copies available, some of which had incurred some minor damage in shipping. After examining them all, I found one in perfect condition. Although the price was a little bit more than I normally pay, I bought it anyway. Martha Stewart writes great cookbooks and I've never been disappointed by one --- or for that matter, by any of her recipes. It was still a great bargain at ten dollars, and Martha would probably even envy my thriftiness. 

So, now that you know my little secret, put your shoes on, find your library card and get started. You, too, can be a cookbook connoisseur with enough money left over to buy a nice bottle of wine for the next time you curl up with a thick book.