I tend to cook via trial and error—a little of this, a lot of that—oops, oh well. Not quite what I’d originally planned but, nevertheless, still edible for those hungry enough. In cucina di Loretta (my kitchen) the ingredients in any given dish will vary according to what happens to be in my fridge, freezer, and pantry at any given time, an approach that makes perfect sense to me but drives Hubby D to question my every effort, however great or small. In fairness to him, the man does possess an extensive background in the science of baking technology while I practice the art of home cooking in a creative state of reckless abandon. Yes, it’s all about art vs. science, and since D avoids la cucina whenever possible, I take full responsibility for what comes out of the Giacoletto kitchen.
As for messing with the ingredients, it’s not like I don’t have enough cookbooks from which to find the perfect recipe. In fact my current selection totals sixty-one in number, cookbooks I’ve acquired from bookstores, websites, book fairs, church bazaars, charitable fundraisers, estate sales, and as gifts. Others I inherited from family members. Most precious is The Settlement Cookbook: The Way to a Man’s Heart, 17th edition compiled by Mrs. Simon Kander. It’s the only cookbook I recall my mother ever using. Published in 1928 in Milwaukee, the spine has gone missing and most of its pages are barely attached to the binding. Nevertheless, it’s my go-to book for the candy recipes Mother made every year at Christmas and I attempt about every five years. Those recipes I follow to the letter—old-fashioned fudge and what Mother called divinity but Mrs. Kander listed as seafoam.
The majority of my cookbooks carry Italian themes. The rest are French and American. When the mood hits me, I like to peruse the books, especially those with glossy photographs of finished dishes that mine will never come close to resembling. As for the recipes I rely on most, those I get from an obscene binder stuffed with helter-skelter newspaper clippings, single pages printed from the Internet, and scraps of paper hand-written by generous friends or myself.
And when I’m especially lazy and can’t be bothered with the distraction of too many books to choose from, I Google the Internet for new recipes or old-favorites I will probably change to reflect my style of cooking.
So, what about you? Do you collect cookbooks? Do you follow recipes or change them?