Cookbooks and Memories, Sitting on the Shelf

Back in the early years of the 2000s (Why does that sound so odd?), I fell in love with The Food Network and all the chefs and recipes it delivered to my television every day. Those were the glory years of the channel, when you could sit and watch the multitude of shows all day long. There were the early days of Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray’s “30 Minute Meals” (before Rachael became a “brand”), Emeril, Everyday Italian (before she was just Giada), Paula Deen (pre-scandal), Sara Moulton, Tyler Florence, Sandra Lee, and so many more.

My weekend ritual was relaxing on the couch, armed with notepads and pens so I could prepare my list of recipes to make and ingredients to buy. I have such fond memories of these years. I was newly married, living in our first home with my first “big” kitchen that was all mine. I always enjoyed cooking, but watching Food Network shows was when I really learned to cook and loved doing it.

If memory serves me correct, finding recipes the chefs prepared on television was not easy “back in the day.” The Food Network’s website was still in its infancy. Very few of the personalities even had websites, and this was long before the days of Facebook and Twitter (I’m aging myself!). So the only way to collect all the great recipes was to buy the personalities’ cookbooks. And that’s exactly what I did. I started with my favorite, Barefoot Contessa, and over the years, added more books to my collection.

Today we can find almost every recipe online. Now food bloggers and Pinterest provide so much cooking inspiration. And while I haven’t watched Food Network in many years (after giving up cable), the little I have watched seems so much more commercialized and “reality television” focused.

But some things haven’t changed for me. I don’t have the weekend ritual of watching Food Network all weekend. But I do still relax on the couch with my iPad and read all 200+ of the past week’s blog posts I follow, including many food bloggers.

It’s funny how as time goes by, many things change, and also stay the same. I still have a notepad and pen next to me to jot down ingredients and recipes I want to add to my meal plan. And instead of printing out instructors, I pin the recipes to my Pinterest page.

Earlier this summer as I packed up my house and prepared to move, I decided to weed through my cookbook collection and donate many of the books I no longer use. It was fun going through my volumes and flipping through the pages of the beautiful books. I started to long for the old Food Network weekends and the early years of my life. I kept my favorites books and those with sentimental value. My personal cooking notebook that contains my favorite recipes not in cookbooks (many of which are on this blog) now sits on my cookbook shelf in my new house.

Here’s a look what cookbooks remain with me:


Bryan gave me the CookWise book during my early years of discovering how to cook. I still love Ina Garten dearly, and will always purchase her Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. I’ve enjoyed many recipes in the three Pioneer Woman cookbooks I have, and find her storytelling and personal photography in the books entertaining.

I discovered Apples for Jam through this wonderful blog, and it’s beautiful book with awesome recipes. If you’re not reading The Smitten Kitchen blog (and cookbook), you should be! And Seriously Delish is brought to you by one of my favorite bloggers, Jessica Merchant of How Sweet Eats.


This cookbook shelf is a bit of a miss-mash of favorites. The Better Homes and Garden’s New Cook Book is a must-have for all cooks. While I’m not a huge Martha Stewart fan, I do enjoy her Baking Handbook. Bistro: Casual Cuisines of the World was a gift from my best friend after she made me the most fabulous lemon tart, of which the recipe is in the book.

There’s also The Gourmet Jewish Cook, a gift from my now-departed great aunt after our trip to the Skirball Cultural Center. The Silver Palate Cookbook is another staple. And I kept my favorite Rachael Ray cookbooks because they still provide so many easy and tasty recipes. And Sprinkle Bakes is just gorgeous.

I love that my collection is down to the books that really matter to me. It brings me joy and a smile to my face as I walk into the dining area and see them displayed brightly. And truly, that’s what food, books and memories should do. Bon Appétit!

Did you obsessively watch Food Network or favorite cooking shows? Do you have a favorite cookbook in your collection?

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