Wednesday, April 08, 2009


The public library near me has a food corner where they show off the latest seasonal cookbooks or inspired recipes. When I feel the urge, I always take a look at the books there. The non-fiction section around 641.5 also has shelves of books on food. Some of them focus on a specific cuisine (Italian, Japanese, Southwestern), some on a special dietary need (diabetes, atkins, vegan), some on a special ingredient (eggs! yes, I saw a book on eggs alone, it was cool), and of course some on how to eat on the go, eat healthy, cook for parties, and so on.

When it comes to cookbooks, pictures are everything! Although some old cooking reference books are great for howto lessons, there's nothing more enjoyable than flipping through pages filled with gorgeous food pictures. I remember Borders had a series of cookbooks where the author visited various region (China, Italy, France) and came back with recipes and photos of dishes and sites. Those were somewhat unwieldy but who wouldn't want to get that for their coffee table? 

My parents always rattled off the three categories to judge a good dish when I was younger. I'm sure they work for all dishes, not just Chinese food.
1. Appearance (pleasing to the eye, presentation) 
2. Fragrance (pleasing to the nose, well...maybe stinky cheese and stinky tofu are exceptions)
3. Taste (pleasing to the tongue, including flavors, combination of ingredients, textures)

For those reasons, I think cookbooks with vibrant colors and presentations really attract the most attention. Fragrance and taste cannot be condensed into book form for consumption and what we have left is really appearance. Which reminds me of another thing, why is FoodNetwork so addictive? Besides the dishes they cook up, the chefs are friendly and smiling, with a cozy kitchen set in the background (even the fridges and cabinets are well stocked). They also make a point to smell and taste the finished product, letting you know that they really enjoyed the dishes. HD FoodNetwork makes the food look even better, no wonder people (including me) watch that channel obsessively. 

Although a lot of recipes can be found online nowadays, I still like to browse through cookbooks. This is probably similiar to the shopping experience. While we can find clothes for sale online, we enjoy going window-shopping, or walk through stores or the mall. Before I figure out what to cook or make, I like to explore the cookbooks for ideas. 

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