Saturday, March 24, 2012

In search of.....the handwritten family recipe book

One of the great marketing slights of hand of recent years has to be convincing all of us to re-buy our music catalogue from records and tapes, then Cd’s and now over to digital. I never amassed a stockpile of vinyl in my youth but I did manage to collect zillions of tapes, most of which are languishing in our shed exposed to the elements, nesting Starlings and our dogs’ inquisitive snuffling’s.
It’s been possible to convert ones entire cookbook library to digital for some time now. I’m still confused whether this means you have to purchase your entire collection over again or you simply download an app to do it at a price?
The benefits I’m told are that you can access a specific recipe instantly without the need to flick through pages and pages of books. Whilst this seems attractive, especially if you’re in a hurry, it marks a distinct fork in the road for me as a devoted lover of cookbooks. Whilst I freely admit that I do not peruse them as much as I should, I like the fact that they are there, on my shelves, just in case. When a moment of ignorance strikes, an unusual ingredient or technique rears its head or the need to simply cross reference a recipe, nothing in my opinion beats the weighty confidence that holding a cookbook can administer.
We are in the midst of a groundswell of seeking authenticity in our lives on many levels and food is one of them. Cookbooks as I have said before are a snapshot of the times and it’s my opinion that as we progress into the digital age we’ll start to discard those butter smudged and stained pages like we did so with many of our venerable buildings to embrace some questionable architecture to replace them in our cities, just because they were new. In other words we’ll regret doing so. I hope as an antithesis of this prediction that the hand-made and revered family recipe book will make a welcome return.
Committing pen to paper has definiteness about it. Yes you can use a rubber or liquid paper and write over but once it’s done, it’s done. Anything digital can be altered on a whim, polished, pruned and airbrushed. Somewhere in the technology, the snapshot has become fluid and I’m not so sure that altogether a good thing.


Hazel said...

We have a few apps for recipes on the iPad. But it feels wrong in the kitchen, I still prefer a book. I think because food is so textural and organic the sleek digital age will never feel right to me.

Tanya said...

We were debating this topic just last week. I used to treat my recipe books with total reverence and kept them well away from splashes (still do) but I write information now in the margins. Not just for me but for those who inherit them after me. Things like different tin size experiments and ingredient substitutions. I can't do that on downloads. There is something belonging and ancestral about owning cookbooks through generations. One of my grandmothers notated how many eggs and butter qty at the top of each recipe in her book because she went through a time of austerity during and after WWII which I still find helpful when I am looking for something to whip up out of nothing. It is also as poignant as "Lest We Forget". All the fads will come and go but after the smears and stacks have given way to creme and paste, "Salmon Frybabies" will still remain inked in place until another generation comes to claim it again.

Rita said...

How does digitally remastering your cookbook work when, as in my case, you have to actually physically hold the book in your hand, and try to read the recipe or method hidden beneath the well worn patina of assorted food droplets, oil smudges and who-knows-what on most of the well-used pages of my two family cookbooks?
Much as it would be SO handy to be able to simply go to my computer to get my old recipes, I have to be of sound mind a lot of the time, in order to remember/guess exactly what any particular unreadable item or instruction might have been in my tried and tested personal recipe books!
Long live the hard copy book, I say!

Reemski said...

I still prefer my books, but digitising the index is very useful when trying to find something to do with ingredients, or rying to purchase ingredients with a recipe in mind...

steve said...

Hi Hazel-I'm with you on the textural thingy

G'day Tanya-totally agree, writing in the margins is ones way of adding a bit to the recipe. BTW I'm curious about Salmon Fryables?!

Hi Rita-Yes I think the more splattered the book, the more we revere it!

HelloReemski-I'm sure there are benefits to the digital. I just like the feel of a book.