Collection or Obsession?

I have a cooking magazine habit. It's bad. I have stacks and stacks of them. But as I leaf through them, I realize that I only ever cook one or two recipes out of each one.

It started in college, when I was working part-time at a shoe store. I know, a cooking magazine habit at a shoe store. A little odd. But we had loads of free time when the store was slow, and as long as we had done all our chores, we were free to do as we pleased. So I would often clock out and wander over to the bookstore, grab a cooking magazine, and while away the rest of the day at work dreaming about the wonderful things I might cook for dinner.  Later on, it just became a habit to buy a magazine when the cover caught my eye, even though I knew I would never cook Over 250 Fast and Easy Recipes! or 30 Ways to Fix Dessert from One Recipe! Sure, I learned a lot from these magazines and developed my own cooking style, but more often than not, I found I was disappointed by the empty promises on the covers.

I tried to counter the clutter years ago by tearing out the recipes I thought I might try and pasting them into a notebook. The number of recipes I thought I would actually try was sobering - only two to twelve per issue. And after a year or two, I realized that all the issues started to look exactly the same. Recipes got shamelessly recycled year to year. I cancelled the two subscriptions I had as quality spiraled downwards. (From those two magazines, I had maybe 30-40 magazines total, cooked about 25 recipes, made about eight recipes more than once, and found three regular dishes that I continue to make to this day.)

Even with all the cutting and pasting and discarding of fluff, I still have tones of food magazines. This one promises that if you buy it, you'll have a gourmet dinner on the table in thirty minutes or less and lose weight and your family will worship you. Number of recipes actually cooked from five magazines: 16. Number of recipes I make on a regular basis: 0 (unless you count roasted garlic, which is more of a technique I happened to learn from this magazine). This magazine's biggest downfalls: cheap paper, not enough pictures.

Next up - seasonal, local, gourmet magazines. These have pictures for almost every recipe, at least, and do a better job at laying out techniques. And much better photography. Number of recipes cooked from six magazines: eleven. Number of recipes I make on a regular basis: four. This magazine's biggest downfall is it's price, and I don't cook as many recipes from it as I thought.

Next up - allergy-friendly magazines. Live a full and happy life with [insert allergy/food intolerance here]. Delicious food without the allergens. Number of recipes cooked from eight magazines: one. Zero regulars. Caveat: these magazines have more information than recipes, and I've learned a lot from them,  and found tons of resources and gluten-free products. But their biggest detractor is that reading them makes me cry. Can't tell you why, but they do.

Last category: these magazines promise that if you follow the directions, your food will come out perfectly. They explain why each recipe works. They have pictures for every single recipe. They recommend certain brand based on focus group studies. Number of recipes cooked from eight magazines: fifteen. Number of recipes I cook on a regular basis: three. This is by far my favorite magazine, and I think the only one I will continue buying (but only as a very special occasion treat).

So why do I have so many magazines? They're cheap and quick and easy to pick up at the grocery store or airport, that's for sure. There's no commitment with a magazine, and I don't feel much guilt if it turns out to be awful and I throw it away.

But in the end, I think I much prefer cookbooks - the kind with lots of pictures and a good story to tell. I don't think I've ever seen a magazine that really told a cohesive story. That story is what brings me back, time and again, to the recipes. That story is what leads me to cook a recipe in the first place.

So now the only question remains - what to do with the pile of magazines?

No comments:

Post a Comment