During my next serious relationship cooking and experimentation were encouraged, and I started to try the occasional new thing. I was working in a gift shop that sold a lot of books, and it was there that I fell in love with The Moosewood Cookbook.
That's the original dairy-loving full-fat version. If you get a chance, try the Whole-Wheat Macaroni Russian Style. I don't think I've ever made it with actual whole wheat macaroni, but that recipe alone was worth the price of the cookbook. The revised version of the recipe (Mollie Katzen decided that she'd better make a lower-fat version of her book, and the revised one is, I believe, the only one available right now) isn't bad either. I never thought I'd love a vegetarian cookbook the way I love this book.
I also picked this up at the gift shop:
It's not bad, but I'm not sure why we were carrying the cookbook for a California restaurant in our gift shop in Minnesota. Surely there were other Scandinavian-American cookbooks?
At this point, I have a fair number of cookbooks. Enough for anybody, right? But....
It wasn't until that relationship began winding down that I discovered the two books that really doomed me to a lack of shelf space forever. I was feeling bad one day, and wandered into a used book store to see if I could find something to cheer me up. (Confession here -- buying books cheers me up. I was already a bibliophile, I just had less focus.) I found a cheap copy of MFK Fisher's With Bold Knife and Fork, and for the first time I discovered the world of food writing.
For those of you who aren't familiar with her -- no, I can't do her justice. Go here and devour, and then come back. I can wait.
For me, her writing is comfort food just as much as what she is writing about. It can be warm and soothing, filling, or light and cool. I devour it, and it goes down easily. Previously I had just enjoyed looking at cookbooks for what I could do with the food. MFK Fisher made me realize that the food in itself was something to be considered. And as the cover says "With Over 140 Delectable Recipes", but I can't bring myself to call it a cookbook. It is a book about food.
The other book is a little bit different. I'd gone back to school to work on a history degree, and by chance I found a remaindered copy of Dorothy Hartley's Food in England in the bookstore there one day.
It was full of history, and focused so much on the relationship of the food to the lives of the people cooking it that I fell in love with it immediately. In fact, I was so in love with it that I latched onto the first person that I spotted that I even somewhat knew (a friend of a friend who I had played cards with on occasion) and babbled excitedly about it to him. He looked rather confused at the time, but I must not have put him off too badly as eventually we changed partners (in the "grand dance of life"...*gag*) and now, decades later, he still tolerates my enthusiasm for cookbooks and is probably wondering what we're having for dinner, as I have been typing rather longer than I intended.
So that was it. MFK Fisher and Dorothy Hartley showed me the joy of connecting people and their food and I fell for the food book, still my favorite kind of cookbook. Give me a cookbook you can read, and I am happy.