There's something magical about cookbooks. A new cookbook is like a passport to a different life: new foods, new combinations, new techniques. If you immerse yourself in the process of making mole or mastering yeast breads, you stand to gain patience, knowledge, and, of course, edible proof (bread pun intended) that you, reader, are capable of shaping things with your hands. For anyone who feels immersed in the world of ideas, the tangible pleasures of preparing a meal are uniquely satisfying.
Too often, though, we treat our cookbooks like those instruction manuals that come with IKEA furniture: workaday guides barely worth a glance. By using cookbooks as a series of directions, however, we miss on the chance to learn. That learning is imperative to Barbara Lynch, the self-taught, Boston-born, James Beard-award winning chef and author of the new memoir Out of Line. Filled with hilarious and gut-wrenching anecdotes of growing in South Boston, Lynch's memoir is also a celebration of the books that shaped her: "Every day, on my T commute to and from Michaela's [restaurant], I kept working my way through the book I'd heard was the Bible, The Food of Italy by Waverly Root," she writes.
Whether you're aiming for a career in the kitchen or trying to be a more mindful home chef, here are seven reasons you really need to read your cookbooks.
1. You Want Your Food To Come Out Right
OK this seems obvious, but if you're taking the time to cook, you should do everything you can to insure a yumalicious product.
2. Your Ingredients Tell A Story
Notice how many cookbooks begin with introductions to the staples of their collection of recipes? Those pages aren't just taking up space. Consider those ingredient dossiers the chef's way of making a personal introduction. You, Reader, meet Sorghum.
3. And So Do Your Tools
Ever open your cabinets and wonder what some of those things are doing in there? Your favorite cookbooks will help you KonMari the heck out of your kitchen.
4. And Your Author's Story Is Probably Pretty Good, Too
Don't you love this moment? There are cookbook authors that tell the story of overcoming illnesses, cookbook authors with dozens of restaurants to their name, cookbook authors who you first encountered on the Interwebs.
5. Food Is More Than Food
Mindfulness is important in all of life's rooms — the kitchen included. Reading your cookbooks helps you understand everything from the organization of a menu to the relationships between flavors.
6. You Want To Be More Confident At Restaurants
Ever sit down and encounter a menu filled with unfamiliar words? Paw-paw? Sauce gribiche? Mousseline? Reading your cookbooks builds your culinary vocabulary like nothing else.
7. Who Doesn't Like An Adventurous Eater?
Let's face it: being the picky eater is just overdone (says this pescatarian with a self-imposed set of gluten and dairy guidelines). Cookbooks tempt us with exotic, unexpected, or maybe just temporarily sidelined dishes that can bring us boundless and exciting joy.