It is a lazy Sunday morning and, as is often the case, I decide that I want to have a few friends over and cook dinner. But I have no clue what I want to make. So, I look to the one place that never fails to get my creative juices and salivary glands moving: The internet.
It’s no secret that the online age is constantly changing the way that we consume information. And it’s no secret that this new vehicle for information has forced industries– everything from music, to shopping, and print journalism – to adapt or perish. Though some of these changes have not necessarily been for the better, I can’t really lament them too much as I sit here listening to illegally downloaded music and writing a blog post.
This is just as true for the food world as with anything else. Our adoption of the internet as the first place to look for ideas on where to eat and drink has made restaurant owners re-think their marketing plans. A Twitter account can now do more for a chef than most magazine articles.
And it has wormed its way into our home kitchens as well. Whereas only a decade ago, most home cooks still relied on hand-me-down recipe collections, cookbooks, and the occasional Tivo’d episode from the Food Network – back when they actually aired shows that taught you how to cook – our times have changed.
As an avid reader, the one area of technology that I haven’t embraced is the e-book. My house has an iPad, but I have yet to flip through the pages of a novel by swiping my finger across a screen. There is something to be said about the book as a tangible thing – the weight of it in your hand, the creasing of the spine, and the feel of the paper against your fingers. However, the convenience of the internet proves irresistible, often relegating my cookbook collection to little more than kitchen décor.
There is certainly still a market for cookbooks, but it has evolved from the tomes of recipes without which many home cooks would be lost. The appeal has become more aesthetic than practical. I’ll never forget the first time I thumbed through my copy of Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook, mouth agape at the stunning photography and exhaustive explanation of the merits of owning a chinois. I read the book cover to cover…and then placed it back onto my bookshelf, where it remained for the better part of ten years. I’ve cooked out of it once.
Granted, given the difficulty level of the recipes and price tags of the ingredients in Keller’s book, that may be an extreme example, but it still illustrates my point. I appreciate cookbooks and still regularly purchase them, but rarely put them to use. Especially when browsing the “In Season” section of Epicurious is so much more efficient than pouring over hundreds of pages hoping for inspiration to strike. That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally cozy up on the couch with a cookbook and look for dishes I’d like to attempt in the future, but that is only when I have the time.
I’m interested to know – do you home cooks out there still dust off the old cookbooks, or have you found yourselves bookmarking more links than dog-earing pages? Am I simply a product of my generation, or is the cookbook as we know it today a dying medium?
- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog