A few years ago, when I got booted out of my job (along with about 80% of the editorial staff; nothing personal, eh?), I began looking for economic tricks that would allow me roughly as happy a life as I'd lived when I was actually making money.
I sold a huge amount of used books that I was never going to reread (many of them cookbooks). I stopped buying work clothes, because I didn't have to work anymore (duh). I restricted my movie-going to bargain matinees. I took advantage of free-admission days at museums.
And I jumped head-first into the library.
I put my name on waiting lists for popular, just-published books. I prowled the stacks for oldies but goodies I hadn't yet read. And I got into the habit of browsing the shelves of new acquisitions.
This is such a great resource for cookbooks. You actually get to bring the book home, try it out for a few weeks, and then decide whether you hate it, didn't feel particularly one way or the other about it, or just have to own it.
I thumbed through Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World and was not stirred to stir anything up. It may be a good resource, but I'm suspicious of a huge grab-bag of international recipes gathered up by one (lazy) guy, and then run through the Americanifying filter.
I thought John Ash's Cooking One on One was interesting, especially the section on oven-drying fruits and vegetables. But I didn't think I'd use it much.
I seldom bake, so it was only with passing curiosity that I brought home Damon Lee Fowler's New Southern Baking. I'd never even heard of him. What captivated me, though, were chapters on quickbreads and stove-top baking. I could manage that!
I picked out a recipe that sounded yummy, but apparently I didn't manage it soon enough, because last night Cranky baked the Herbed Skillet Rice Bread all by himself.
It was a solid hit. The recipe worked perfectly. We did a post-mortem this morning and decided we might change a few flavorings next time, but see, we're already talking about next time.
I also have my eye on some griddlecakes, sweet-potato waffles, creamy chicken potpies with golden cheddar biscuit crust... and maybe some day I'll actually bake a loaf of "real" bread. I'm buying this book.
I can't afford not to.