It’s true that most of us turn to the internet these days to find recipes. So then, who needs a cookbook anymore? And why is the competition for old cookbooks so fierce? My simple answer is this: Good food books are, and always will be, one of life’s great pleasures. Food is fundamental. We are always thinking about our next meal. And even if we don’t automatically turn to a cookbook to find a recipe for dinner, there is something inspirational, comforting and immensely practical about a good cookbook collection.
My favourite cookbooks are old, splattered, annotated with cryptic notes in the margins, and often have clippings and other assorted bits of paper stuck between the pages. In my mother’s incredibly weathered All New Purity Cookbook, she made check marks by the recipes she used, crossed out ingredients that she clearly didn’t think belonged there, and scrawled notes such as “Guild Pot Luck” beside the Salmon Delight recipe, and by the Batter for Deep Frying she wrote: “Use half this batter for fish frying.” I only wish she had written more. The notes are such a poignant connection to the past — a way for me to remember my mother.