My problem is that I have a wee bit of a cookbook addiction....
This is only one small part of my vast collection....even though it looks a little unkempt....I guess it's more than a little unkempt...there is sort of a method to my madness. They are filed by subject. The top shelf is canning and food preserving, the middle shelf is crockpot cookbooks, a stack of vintage scouting books, and camp cookery. The bottom shelf is part of my self published/fundraiser cookbooks. I have 6 other similar bookcases filled with cookbooks, so trying to find a recipe can sometimes be a challenge. You'd think someone with my book fanaticism would find a better way.
It all started back in the 5th grade, I was a library aide at Rinke Elementary School in Warren, MI. The future nerdly engineer in me loved the Dewey decimal system and shelving books. There was a place for everything, and every bit of information had a spot. There was the smell of the card catalog - in the days before the internet, we got to page through thousands of cards describing every book in the library. I knew I could wander down the row where the 900s were shelved and find a book on whatever subject I was currently obsessed with...I can distinctly remember finding a book about meteorology and exactly where it was shelved in that library. Even back in 1975, I was obsessed with the weather. I can't remember our librarian's name, but I can remember the spot where that book was located still to this day. I also remember where all the LHOTP books were kept (LHOTP my shorthand lingo for "Little House on the Prairie") and the Beverly Cleary books, and the series of books we called "The Betsy Books" (written by Carolyn Haywood) and the Encyclopedia Brown books.
I wanted to spend my whole life there, but there was class to attend, so I volunteered at my church's religious education library on Wednesday afternoons. The library was much smaller than Rinke's library, and they didn't have all the subjects we had at Rinke, but they did have a vast collection of books about the mysterious sightings of the Virgin Mary, who I also was very devoted to at that age. There were less books to shelve there, so I got bored pretty quick with that library. Later on, when I went away to college and the Dewey Decimal System was no longer used to index the library, I was heartbroken. I never spent that much time at Michigan Tech's Library, because their non engineering holdings were limited, but I loved to spend time at the Houghton Library to get my fix of whatever my latest obsession was. I can distinctly remember the painting of Douglass Houghton that hung over the fireplace in that tiny library, and also checking out all the Dorothy Parker books I could get my hands on via interlibrary loan.
So, for a cookbook junkie like me, I had the opportunity to try out a wonderful website called Eat Your Books, which is a cookbook indexing tool. At first, I wasn't sure why I would need something like this, but I quickly became hooked. How it works is that you search for all the book titles in your collection, and put them on your electronic bookshelf. Then, if you want to look for a specific recipe, you can type in the ingredient and it will find them all in your holdings. For example, I currently have an overabundance of basil in my garden that I want to use in a dinner recipe for tonight. I am weary of eating pesto at this point. I could start paging through all the indexes of all my books, but I'd be here all afternoon, Instead, all I have to do is search for "basil" in the "main dish" category, and it will pull all of the potential recipe ideas from my collection. I could make Ina Garten's Provencal Potato Salad, or Pasta Alla Checca from Lucinda Scala Quinn. A click on the title shows the recipe's ingredients. A user still has to locate the cookbook in her collection to get to the actual recipe, so I guess this means I need to invent some kind of Dewey Decimal System for my cookbooks. Got any ideas?
The good people at Eat Your Books have generously offered a reader of my blog a complimentary lifetime membership (normally $25/year). My first ever contest! I will choose a winner at random from those that comment below about their favorite cookbook, and also you must "like" the Eat Your Books facebook page. The membership is non transferable. The contest closes midnight Sept. 15. I look forward to reading your comments.