Monday, May 20, 2013

Culling the Books

This morning, I finished reading a magazine from last year on food. The magazine was Creative Nonfiction Issue 41. Of course, it is from 2011. It was one of the first mags that I had bought to review for this blog but I never got around to it.

I read a few of the essays and only wish that some of my posts will read like these personal nonfiction essays. The best of the bunch was one that I posted in my twitter feed, How to Fix Everything. It was about the connection of food with memory and love. I don't really want to review this magazine but rather use it as a way to talk about letting go.

This past year was not a good year for me healthwise. Nothing major but the pains of getting old. My ankles seem to have some malady that makes it hard to walk for more than 2km or stand for a couple of hours in the kitchen without causing great grief the next day. Halfway through the farmer's market season last year, I walked the 1km home with too much stuff and brought out a lurking condition that is similar to Carpal Tunnel.  Sometimes it is hard to hold a knife or spend too much time with preparing a meal. My hands will go numb and turn into pins and needles that don't go away.

All this time away from the kitchen has made me look at my bookshelves differently. They groan with promise of cooking projects yet to be tried but now would be more trying. So, the cull begins. Firstly, I swept through the years of LCBO Food & Drink which I was able to do fairly quickly. The recipes are now on line and I usually only used the magazines for inspiration. It is always easier to find a number of different recipes for a named recipe but hard to find something that works with a half thought out menu. Other magazines also felt the scalpel. All that remains is fresh growth. Magazines either have to be used regularly or within the past year or so.

The problem lies with the books. Some recipe books sit on my shelf as companions to other books. Even though Russo and Lukins split from each other, their solo cookbooks still kept them together. I hardly used the books that came after the split. It was liking choosing sides in after a relationship has gone south. There was something as a couple that didn't exist afterwards and neither seemed particularly interesting. Now, these books will make their way to a cookbook swap, second hand store or thrift shop.

Other books were given as gifts. Some have made their way into rotation but others don't quite do it for me. The intention of the gift givers were good and they were definitely in the ballpark but as the days go on and the friendships dwindle or rage on, the book is secondary. It is not as if my friends will think less of me nor will they necessarily recognize or remember the book they gave. I have repaid them in food where food is my stand-in for love. I can some of these go.

The next set that are leaving are the ones that are currently the hardest to let go. My hands and feet are getting better but I am facing a slowdown in the kitchen. While I am only in my forties, I have to decide whether I want to be able to play with my kids in the park, go for a walk with my wife or continue to try and show my love in the kitchen. Maybe I'll return to the books filled with fascinating techniques when everything is better but there are some things that I must realize that I am probably not going to do. I am now becoming smarter with the culinary challenges that I take on. I need to judge how much wear this technique will cause or how much tear it will be to throw this type of party. I have started to let go of some of these things. It will make me a better person and a better cook. The simple, tasty dishes I make now are made more with love and dedication than any others I have made in the past.

1 comment:

  1. I'm truly sorry to hear about your health issues but am impressed with your way of prioritizing the important things in your life.

    I have recently started culling my cookbook collection too--some are easy to let go of, and others, I'm not ready yet. It's a work in progress.