From Jamie Oliver to Gok Wan, famous faces sell cookbooks like hotcakes. Are you prone to ‘doing a Delia’, or are your celebrity cookbooks gathering dust on a shelf?
Almost half of celebrity cookbooks are never used by home cooks, according to recent research from Saclà. The study found a typical home has ten cookbooks, of which four have never been used.
This certainly rings true for me. I have around 15 cookery books, yet only a handful of these are used with any regularity. They’re far from ‘celebrity’ titles – Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons Cookery Book is a favourite, as is Clare Macdonald’s Seasonal Cooking.
Some cookbooks, while they make great reading in their own right (Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries lived by my bedside for weeks), have almost never been used for cooking. And a copy of Rachel Khoo’s Little Paris Kitchen is in the same pristine condition as it was on the day it was bought.
Add a pinch of chervil and some tatsoi leaves…
Intimidating, overly-complicated recipes and the cost of ingredients are major factors for cookery books gathering dust. Most of us haven’t time to make a special trip to buy obscure ingredients, and in reality few can live up to the standards of a professionally-trained chef who advocates starting preparations two days in advance. Not to mention assembling your own smokery!
If I want to make something special, and if I’m cooking for other people, I might reach for my cookbooks, or if I need guidance on a particular dish or technique. Mainly though, I only open them when I have an ingredient that needs using up. And with millions of recipes available online, the internet is an increasingly popular option. More than half of all home cooks search for recipes online based on ingredients they happen to have in the fridge.
The cookbook compulsion
Yet our appetite for recipe books doesn’t seem to be diminishing. For some, recipe book collecting is almost a compulsion – Nigella Lawson has confessed to a library of more than 4,000. They present a world of beautiful food and culinary talent that’s hard to resist. After all, I may not need any more recipe books, but it won’t stop me wanting to add Yottam Ottolenghi’s latest to my collection.
How many recipe books do you own, and do you have any that you’ve never opened? Do you have a dog-eared, flour-flecked favourite that you always turn to? If you’re looking to add to your collection, what’s on your recipe book wish list?