Deb Dana’s Recipe Addiction

Ladies and gents, I have a problem. Not a problem on the scale of the Euro crisis or our national debt. Not a problem that warrants hand wringing or tears. It is a first-world problem, but it is a problem nonetheless.

The problem is this: my recipe collection is out of control, and it’s taking over my kitchen.

See? Not exactly “red” on the Homeland Security Advisory System. But allow me to explain the quandary I face.

When I saw this week’s theme at the Ball was “hobbies,” my initial reaction was, “Easy — cooking!” Cooking is, by far, my primary hobby, and when I’m not making a new recipe or thinking about a new recipe, I’m writing about recipes and food, whether it’s for a freelance article or for my books (which — spoiler — focus heavily on food and include recipes at the back).

When I cook, I make things like this:

And this:

And I love tossing together dishes like this.

For me, cooking is both an escape and a release. Cooking centers me. It keeps me sane.

But when I considered what I might tell you about me and cooking, I thought I’d tell you about my favorite cookbooks. And then I glanced up at the cookbook collection in my kitchen and realized I own a zillion.

Some of you are probably looking at that photograph and thinking, “Psh, she doesn’t own that many cookbooks.” But here’s the thing: I have another shelf of cookbooks upstairs. And see that cream colored box? The one between the mixer and the food processor? That box contains hundreds — hundreds! — of recipes I’ve ripped out of magazines and newspapers. Taken together, I have in my possession thousands of recipes, some of which I will probably never make.

And therein lies the problem. I don’t like loose ends — not in my novels, and not in my life. In theory, I want to make every single one of the recipes in that box and on that bookshelf. But cooking my way through all of the recipes I already own would take years, and then I’d miss out on all of the new recipes that came out over that period. See? It’s a problem.

I feel the same way about books. There are many classics I still haven’t read, but I don’t see how I could ever catch up with all of the old stuff and still read all of the new books I want to read as well. That I stress over this at all surely proves that I am a massive headcase, but I really do think about these things.

What about you? Do you every feel like you’re playing “catch up” with your hobby? Or do you think I’m a total nutjob? (Maybe you shouldn’t answer that…)

42 Replies to “Deb Dana’s Recipe Addiction”

  1. Wow – I want to come and hang out at your house. You bake, I’ll eat! I can actually relate to this. When I was young I was into making cakes. We had chickens and cows and therefore milk and eggs in abundance. As a teen I learned to make a 12 egg cake before I learned to boil potatoes. I too have recipes in abundance, mostly crammed into a box, willy nilly. Unlike you, I’ve pretty much abandoned the baking, other than few tried and true regulars that come out for Christmas and special occasions, so I don’t worry about them languishing away. I do stress about the books though. How can I possibly even begin to read them all?

    1. You had chickens and cows?? And fresh milk and eggs?? SO JEALOUS! Also, I am so curious about this 12-egg cake. I may need the recipe ;-).

      1. LOVE your food photos, Dana – and I have to admit, cooking is a hobby of mine too!! I have two shelves of cookbooks, though I have to admit this is one that has suffered from my writing (and seahorse) addiction. Also from having a husband and son whose taste in food differ radically from one another, so I tend to do more “happy-making” than special recipe making for now. Looking at your pictures makes me LONG to get back in the kitchen – and I love that you have recipes in your book. I can’t wait to read it, and I’m definitely going to try them!

        1. Thanks, Susan! I can only imagine the ways in which my cooking will change once we have a family. My mom used to show us photos of elaborate dinners she put together in her 20s (extensive dessert buffets, fancy theme dinners, etc), but she’d follow the descriptions with, “That was before I had kids.” At least my brother, dad and I all liked similar things. I know lots of friends/family members who have such a mix!

  2. Oh, man. This post should have come with a Will Make You Hungry warning. Those food pics are yummy!

    As for keeping up with my hobby…well, I feel much better about that since I changed the name of my hobby to “writing.” Now I just tell myself this writing thing that obsesses me IS my hobby. And my job. (See? I CAN multitask!)

  3. Oh wow Dana, those are killer food pics. This day old cinnamon muffin is no longer cutting it.

    Like you I love cookbooks, but unlike you I don’t use them very much… except as delicious and relaxing bedtime reading. What are your favorites? For Good Luck Girls I had to turn the world of cookbooks inside out looking for the standard bearers of each genre (one of the main characters cooks) and I learned that the books I love to paw over aren’t necessarily the same ones that get stained with red sauce and olive oil from frequent in-the-kitchen use.

    1. I love them all, but I guess if I had to choose the ones I use over and over again, I tend to go with pretty specific books, as opposed to general reference types (if that makes sense). I definitely use Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy a lot, and almost every recipe has come out really well. All of Ina Garten’s cookbooks are solid. I also love one called The 150 Best American Recipes. It catalogs the best recipes from all different sources (cookbooks, magazines, message boards), and I’ve had great luck with it.

      For desserts/baking, I love Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours, Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen, Kate Zuckerman’s The Sweet Life, and Julia Child’s Baking with Julia. Winners, all!

        1. I love the 150 Best Cookbooks. They brought me the peanut butter cookie recipe I trot out whenever I want to look like a genius. Ina too, rocks my world. Have you seen/read Nigella’s cookbooks? As tv foodies go, her books are my favs for actual cooking, though she and I part ways on the number of uses for sardines.

          I have not seen the Lidia book but now it’s on my wish list…

          1. Love that peanut butter cookie recipe!! And I love Nigella, too. The first gift my husband ever bought me while we were dating was How to Be a Domestic Goddess, and I knew he was a keeper.

  4. I am such a cookbook junkie!! Dana, I just got back from SIBA and I didn’t even DARE visit the booths that displayed the upcoming cookbook releases–I’m hopeless!

    But you are so spot on that my TBR pile is endless and I truly wonder if I will ever be able to see the bottom of it. Maybe I should cycle the books, instead of just adding to the top, then that one at the very bottom never gets read–not fair! Kind of like the perishables in the grocery, they pull the freshest to the front?

    1. Hooray, a fellow cookbook addict! Love it! I actually had to put a moratorium on the cookbook purchases for a while; it was getting out of control. But I can only hold out for so long. “Baked” and “Baked Horizons” are calling my name! I wonder if I could have shown your self-restraint at SIBA…

      And I love the grocery analogy. I should give that a try! 🙂

  5. Oh Dana a girl after my own heart. I also have a twelve egg cake and it has grated dark chocolate in it (I need your twelve egg receipe please).

    Good recipes, good eating after making the recipes (and if not good eating away they go)but a good book savours the appetitie for a long time, somehow they are both the same but so different would you not agree?

  6. Dana, I have to know, did you steal those images or does your food really look like THAT? Wow, I’m coming to your house if the latter.

    I could not agree with you more on books. I just cannot keep up!! And lately I feel that I haven’t been keeping up on my hobbies either…..running especially!

    1. Those are my photos! I used to have a food blog, so I got into the food photography thing for a while. Come on over! Right now I have more leftovers in my fridge than I know what to do with ;-).

  7. I have this same problem with both cooking and books. The difference is, cooking isn’t even my hobby. I enjoy it, but I don’t do it all that much. Which is to say, I have thousands of recipes (I love cookbooks and can’t stop myself from gathering them!) and I cook once a week AT BEST. I hope that will change one day and I’ll cook more, and sometimes I do, but why do I have so many recipes when 1) i don’t cook that much to begin with and 2) I so often go to old standbys that I’ve made before? Same with books, choosing between catching up on oldies I should have read and reading the new releases is constant conflict.

    All in all, Dana, I feel you.

    1. I totally hear you! Like, I cook almost every night, but I’d say 50% of the time I throw together an old standby or a recipe I’ve sort of made up (mostly because I’m short on time). And yet the recipe collection grows and grows and grows. I guess it’s because I figure, “Well MAYBE I’ll make this devil’s food cake with caramelized hazelnut crunch…someday…”

  8. OK, I might have forgotten that I clicked in to say “I want the 12-egg cake recipe too!” and put my whole comment there. So I’ll make this one the “I want that recipe too!!” comment, just to make it equally weird on both ends.

  9. I saw this and needed to bake. And I don’t bake. Found a box of Jiffy corn muffin mix though, and they’re in the oven now. Mmm, mmm, good. Oooh. Soup. I can make soup too. I do like to cook, but I don’t like to bake. Except for kamish bread aka mandel bread, macaroons (the coconut kind, not the foo-foo kind). Ok, maybe I do like to bake a little.

    It’s fall and I’m about to fall back in love with pumpkin. So my new hobby will be: baking things with pumpkin.

    You’re killing me here, Deb Dana. In the very best way!!!

    1. I LOVE JIFFY!!! I haven’t had Jiffy corn muffins in ages, but I LOVE them. My mom also used to use the mix in her “corn pudding,” which is totally delicious (I have the recipe somewhere…). I also love mandel bread and macaroons. Now your comment is making *me* want to bake! I need to pick up some Jiffy corn muffin mix…

    1. Love the idea of taking classes with the hubby. Any classes I’ve taken I’ve done on my own, but I feel like it would be a great thing to do together.

  10. Ha! The twelve egg cake recipe came from old, old cookbooks of my mom’s. They are still at her house, I think. I shall see what I can do.

  11. We radically changed our eating a couple of years ago, so I jettisoned most of my cookbooks. I’ve got about five now, which isn’t so egregious, except for the fact that 90% of the time I just print out a recipe from the internet instead. Sigh.

    Your fear of missing out is the same reason I could never start watching a soap opera. “I’ve missed too much to ever catch up!” I’d think. I’m probably the reason soaps are going off the air.

    1. I print out a ton of recipes from the internet, too. In fact, right now, about five different recipes are weighing down my printer tray. And yet, my cookbook collection continues to grow. Old habits die hard, I guess?

  12. Wow. Your cooking comes out looking so pretty! Whenever I cook sometime it couldn’t look further from the pretty pictures in the cook books… but they usually taste all right, so that’s something, right?

    Oh… I totally understand that sometimes overwhelming feeling of playing catch up. I feel that way with reading sometimes. There just are so many amazing books out there and new ones coming out all the time. I look to the books that I’ve bought and have been meaning to actually start to read and then then all my “wish lists” on Barnes & Nobles, Amazons, and a notepad I have on my desktop and I’m left wondering how I could ever read that much and still have a life. But recently I finished a project at work so I have a lot more time, so playing catch-up for me isn’t so overwhelming right now. It’s exciting.

    1. I hear you on the book catch up! I have a bunch of books on my shelf right now that I’ve been meaning to read, and I still haven’t gotten to many of them!

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