Cookbook Roulette – An Introduction

When I was in my teens and early twenties, my parents allowed me to throw them a series of formal dinner parties. I mashed together my love of cooking, tidbits I had picked up from various out-of-date etiquette books, and my delight in the drama of a set stage piece to create several elaborate coursed dinners. This might be where I first developed a habit of pulling a stack of cookbooks off the wall and reading through them with a notebook beside me to mark recipes of interest.

rolling pin, frying pan, cookbooks
I have always traveled with a decent stash of cookbooks. This was my Wyoming bookshelf.

I managed to keep this habit up through my travels, visiting local libraries on my days off and sitting back in the quiet non-fiction section with a freshly harvested selection of cookbooks, filling whichever notebook page happened to be nearest with lists of page numbers, or themes and ideas from recipes that were interesting, but not quite what I was looking for.

Variety of cookbooks
Old, new, Chinese, English, and Winnie-the-Pooh-ish

Even though I have a wide ranging variety of cookbooks within my personal library (approximately 50 volumes, spanning three languages and 87 years of publication), somewhere along the line it started to be easier to visit a few of my favorite cooking blogs or browse a handful of generic internet search results. And my healthy stack of cookbooks has become more and more of an art installation as I treat it less like the splendid resource that I know it to be.

stack of orange books
Apparently, orange is a popular color for cookbooks

Not only is this a sad neglect of some beautifully put together and well researched books, it also fails to push me out of typical ingredient and recipe ruts that are easy to fall into when weeknight dinners have been procrastinated for an hour or two too long. On the other hand, I have tried pushing myself to be constantly exotic and adventurous in habits in more than one arena in life and for me, it never results in stable progress toward a goal.

So my plan is this, every two weeks, just before the bi-monthly grocery shopping trip, I will randomly select two cookbooks from my collection. One book per week, one recipe chosen from the book for creation that week. I have overcome my initial impulse to also choose the recipe at random, uncharacteristically recognizing that perhaps choosing to make food that we will eat is more important than holding to a full roulette system. 

Tune in next week to see the first results of the newly established cookbook game and updates regarding its evolution.