I fear that cookbooks may be getting too specialized.
This is frankly not something I thought I’d ever need to form an opinion about. Cookbooks got along just swimmingly without my input for what, three or four hundred years? They did their thing, I stayed busy being completely disinterested in cooking or reading about cooking — or being not born yet, for a lot of those years — and everyone was satisfied.
Then cookbooks went and cocked things up — with an apron-clad assist from my wife.
Here’s the thing. The only cookbooks I ever knew were the ones my mother owned when I was growing up, back in olden times. Huge foreboding tomes, these books covered everything a budding chef of the era would ever need to know — how to hunt and gather, which cuts of brontosaurus are best, whether this newfangled ‘fire’ thing would ever catch on in the kitchen. Just for instance.
Fast-forward — a lot — to this weekend, and the new cookbook my wife brought home. It’s called, simply:
This I don’t get. First of all, I don’t see how mac and cheese requires a cookbook in the first place. This is one of the many — read: three — dishes in my personal culinary arsenal, so I feel qualified to relay the sum total of instructions needed to prepare macaroni & cheese:
“Drain pasta, squeeze fake cheese, eat directly from pot in squalid kitchenette while watching Cops reruns and wondering precisely where life went so wrong.”
1. Open cardboard box. Dump macaroni in pot of water.
2. Heat pot until water boils over top, permanently staining the stove.
3. Drain pasta, squeeze fake cheese, eat directly from pot in squalid kitchenette while watching Cops reruns and wondering precisely where life went so wrong.
That’s mac & cheese. In maybe forty words. You’re welcome.
Meanwhile, this cookbook? One hundred and thirty-two pages. On one dish, which the food science robots at Kraft practically make for you. So what the hell’s in this book? I don’t know. Do I look like the kind of person who reads books devoted to stove-top meals?
No. Don’t answer that.
So maybe the book actually has one hundred and thirty-two ways to combine melted cheese with elbow-shaped pasta. Like, I don’t know — in a blender, in a boat, with a goat, in the ballroom with the candlestick on top of Lady Peacock… I’m really not seeing it. Best-case scenario, they’ve got a chapter on the regular stuff, a page on the Deluxe version, and the rest is a pop-up book or haikus or a comic book story about a superhero who was once bitten by a radioactive wedge of aged cheddar and his right-angled doughy Italian sidekick.
Okay, now I almost want to read it. But if it’s actually about macaroni and cheese, somehow, I’d feel pretty stupid. I can’t take that risk.
I thought eleven dozen pages devoted to something I’ve been making approximately as long as I’ve been making solid poops would be the lowest cookbooks could stoop. Obviously, I was wrong. Three minutes of Amazon searching, and I found this, from a couple of years ago:
How to Boil Water — TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SIX FREAKING PAGES
It’s not even a dish. It’s a step. What’s next, cookbooks? The six-volume saga of ‘Turn On the Oven‘? The ‘En-saute-pedia Brittanica‘? A library wing devoted to pulling the can opener out of the drawer? Because Dewey Decimal’s going to be pissed. He’s got a System, you know. Don’t go horking it up, cookbooks.
Meanwhile, my wife made dinner tonight. Some kind of pasta dish, with ham and peas and four kinds of cheese. Don’t know what it was called, but it was pretty darned tasty. I bet she’s been reading some of my mom’s old cookbooks. Those were the days.Permalink | No Comments