Off the Shelf: Cookbook of the Month

I confess to having a slight cookbook addiction, one I have no intention of giving up. I keep cookbooks by my bed and read them like novels.  My kitchen bookshelves are overflowing, and whenever someone wants to buy me something for my birthday, somehow I just can’t keep from asking for a cookbook.  My cookbooks runneth over.  (The cookbooks pictured above are not mine, as my phtographer is on a temporary hiatus…Thank you Flickr user “megabeth,”–we actually have many of the same books!) I spend time with every one–drooling, reading I (love cookbooks that tell me more about bread, olives, life in Paris…), marking the pages with the most inviting recipes, possessing every intention of trying that fabulous-looking Crostini with Marinated Escarole and Carmelized Shallots. But do I cook from these books?  Well sure, maybe one or two recipes.  I have a couple of books, like Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Eveyone that I use constantly.  But I also have a shameful number of cookbooks from which I have not managed to make a single thing.  Not one.  And it’s not because there aren’t beautiful recipes to try, or because I don’t want or intend to use them, but because I just haven’t gotten it together to do break out of my ruts and give them a whirl.

I’ve decided to try an experiment.  Every month I’m going to make one of the gorgeous, underused books on my cookbook shelf my “go to” cookbook for that month.  It doesn’t mean I’ll cook every single thing all month form that book, but I’ll make good use of it.  Whenever I’m seeking inspiration for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, or cocktail time, I’ll go to that book first and see what I can find.  At the end of the month, I’ll post a review here, and by that time, I hope, at least a few of the recipes in the book will have moved into the regular rotation.  Think of all that unmined treasure!  I really can’t wait to dig in.  I am sure lots of you all are in the same boat.  Who wants to go to their own shelf, pull off a book, and join my experiment?


  1. I’m game. I actually cooked 3 things from an issue of a cooking magazine in the past month instead of just jamming it into the bookshelf after reading it, which is a record. My shelves likewise groan under the weight of cookbooks as I wearily cook the same rotation of meals again and again. I *did* pull out a small, buried gem of a book last week and make a new recipe, a peach coffee cake with a custard topping, that was absolutely to die for, which should teach me to mine a little more deeply when I need a recipe!

    1. lyanda

      –Christina: thanks, that all sounds SO familiar.

      –Laura: I was going to wait until the review to name the first book, but why be secretive? This month it’s the newest addition to my cookbook shelf–“Appetite for Reduction: 125 Fast and Filling Low-Fat Vegan Recipes,” the latest from goddess-author Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who created”Veganomicon.”

  2. Maurie

    Love it! My mother had this same problem and I seem to have inherited it, but not quite to the same degree as her. I could really use to get out of my meal ruts too… you may have just inspired me.

  3. Michelle

    Oooh! I have Appetite for Reduction from the library…it’s got some yummy looking recipes! And yet, it just sits in a pile, I haven’t tried anything yet. I think it’s the effort of making sure I have all the right food on the list when I go to the store. My grocery list is in a rut!

  4. Dana

    I’m in! I’ve tried making a few new things this summer (tonight was arepa night) and I, too, have too many dormant cookbooks. They stay largely ignored while I cull the library shelves for more, more, more! I’d love to discuss what fun new things we tried!

  5. Mary

    What a cool idea. I will give it a try too although my cookbook collection consists of under a dozen cookbooks. A couple of them are ancient – 1960s.

    Am I gathering we should report back as we go along? That would be fun.

  6. Great idea. I’ve chosen Mary Berry’s ‘Complete Cookbook’ which someone recently gave me. I haven’t looked at it yet, so time to remedy that.
    Looking forward to seeing what everyone else gets up to!

  7. kt

    My wonderful MIL & I keep promising to make a spread from the recent Saveur “Mexico” issue–everything looks great and we miss real Mexican food here in WA, so we’re going to set a date. Also, I need to get a copy of the Madison book as my girlie is really trying to go veggie, and I would love to find some yummy ideas to help her–and to tempt her into the kitchen to cook some herself!

  8. lyanda

    Great! We are going to have a wonderful “Off the Shelf” club. I’ll post my first review in a month, and I look forward to hearing about all your experiences, creations, and inspiration.

  9. What a lovely idea! Last year I started blogging about a single unused cookbook after watching Julia-Julie (or something like that, cute movie about a woman who tries every recipe from a Julia Child’s cookbook) I was not as committed as Julie, nor did I have that budget. But I did discover a new favorite pasta sauce and tried some desserts that I would never have discovered otherwise. How fun is this! Before I entered the blogging world I attempted to do this with Voluptuous Vegan. What a happy year that was! Sadly, there are cookbooks on myself that have remained in the category of good read, gotta cook some of that someday. Martha Rose Schulman’s, Province cookbook is one of them. Sigh. I did make the fried green tomatoes from the novel by the same name, soooo

    I love that you have given a hint at the book to try this month….makes it so much more fun even though it makes a commitment you might not want.

  10. Annie

    I’ve been doing this for the last month or 2 with the book, “In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite” by Melissa Clark. I LOVE that book, and almost every recipe has been good.

    I’ve put penciled in check marks by all the recipes I’ve tried (about 10) and leave smiley faces by ones we liked, and “!” by any that we LOVED and were surprised by.

    This book is also a great example of “reading a cookbook like a novel” because she has almost short stories before each recipe that really inspire you to re-create them.

    Thanks for the tip-off on the Vegan cookbook. This will be good for me, as my partner has gone “paleo” (eek! 😉 ) for the time being, and we’re looking for some good veggie dishes.

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