In Defense of the Cookbook

Between food blogs, mega-recipe sites like Epicurious, and the Home Cooking board on our sister site, Chowhound, there are a plethora of recipes on the Web for just about anything you’d ever want to cook. The Internet, it seems, can sate many appetities. But will food-related Web content kill the cookbook? Salon ponders a Joyless world in an article titled “Ciao, Cookbooks.”

As writer Jonathan Beecher Field notes,

If, as of Sunday, Feb. 25, Epicurious.com serves up nine recipes for ‘Yorkshire pudding,’ and Allrecipes.com has 43 for “black bean soup,” and Googling ‘vichyssoise’ generates 265,000 results, who needs an all-purpose cookbook like ‘Joy’ with only one or two recipes for each of these dishes?

But just as the reader is about to gather her skirts and go all Luddite on Field’s ass, the writer reveals it’s all been kind of a tease. You see, he believes in the power of the printed word, revels in the ability of the cookbook to connect a cook to powerful traditions or even cherished family members. Field even goes a bit overboard critiquing the Web-based recipe hunter in the service of elevating the cookbook:

The materiality of cooking and the immateriality of the Internet make for an uneasy pair. In the ether, Web sites can be devoted to things like selling portraits of yourself with Stevie Nicks, or to people who look kind of like Kenny Rogers, and the only thing it costs you is a moment of your (boss’s) time. But when these concerns translate into real ingredients, and actual temperatures or techniques, your time, your money and, most of all, your meals are at stake.

The reality is that in our delightful world, we don’t have to choose between the Internet and cookbooks. For a recent gathering, I made a fruit crisp straight from the pages of Joy of Cooking. As it was cooking, I consulted the Web for ideas to spice up a bland hummus and paged through the newspaper food section for drink ideas. The savvy cook uses all available resources.