October went by quickly (on cookbooks)

 Approximately 1 percent of the cookbooks in my apartment.

Approximately 1 percent of the cookbooks in my apartment.

Oh heeeey there Internet. [Insert standard statement/apology about being busy/occupied/distracted/etc and not writing anything for a month. LIFE! IT CONTINUES TO HAPPEN!]

Yesterday I had a phone meeting with one of my old editors who is now working as a literary agent. She's focusing on cookbooks and other food-related items, of course, so she wanted to gauge my interest in branching out from my Internet hole into the world of REAL PHYSICAL THINGS. I've thought about moving in that direction, but the idea has never really picked up steam. 

Part of the problem is that I find so many of the cookbooks published today to be total, unnecessary nonsense. The world absolutely does not need twelve cookbooks from every Food Network television personality. The world also does not need a cookbook from the kitchen of every restaurant in New York, San Francisco, and Portland. And as much as I admire her ability to write recipes containing more butter and salt than what seems scientifically possible, Ina Garten does not need to publish any more books.

For two years, I wrote weekly cookbook reviews, which meant I at least skimmed through hundreds of these things a year. Most of them showed up at my front door, unannounced. Most of them were crap.

Yes, I found favorites amongst the stacks. I've held on to several dozen, some of which have become prized possessions. (Vegetable Literacy, Afro Vegan, Flavor Flours, I salute you.) But far too many to mention were sold, donated, or given to unsuspecting friends. 

Most of the books that I ended up reviewing were fine. I never deliberately cooked from books that looked immediately terrible. (Side note: It is surprisingly easy to recognize poor recipe writing.) But most of the food I prepared blurred together — far too much kale, pork fat, stupidly fancy and hard to source vegetables, obscure spices, coconut, roast chicken with sumac/za'atar/smoked paprika. Even now I look at many of the books on my shelf and I can't remember what the recipes were like or even what it was that I ate.

It is, in other words, hard to be unique, and even harder to be relevant.

Cookbooks that I like have distinct personalities, but not obnoxious ones. They have something to teach, but they're still accessible. They open doors to creativity, but don't require $200 in Amazon Prime purchases to begin a basic recipe. They have a narrative, but don't try to force the reader to buy in to the author's "lifestyle." They are not written by mommy bloggers. They contain recipes that work.

Where does that put me? IDK. Would I write a book if someone paid me to do it? Probably. Would I worry about it wasting space on kitchen bookshelves everywhere? Definitely.