Friday, February 24, 2006

When You Don't Have Enough Bread

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.


Lisa B-K said...

I used to work at our local library - I touched dang near every book in that place and had some great cookbook finds that way.

I especially love browsing the new cookbooks as they come in...

Dagny said...

I am a big fan of the public library. I have been so busy hitting the fiction section, though, that I had not even given thought to cookbooks. I think I know what I'll be doing this weekend.

Oh, and the waffles sound intriguing.

kudzu said...

My mama was a librarian, and my niece works as a research librarian in the White House (ironic: a civil service job in a place where she is a rare, rabid Democrat). I love libraries inordinately. Marin libraries have fabulous cookbook collections. (Hint: go to the monthly book sale at the Mill Valley Library where I have picked up absolute jewels!)

Can't wait to check out the baking book, since quick breads are such an incredibly American medium. Thanks for the recommendation. That rice bread lookes really authentic, including the crisp edges ("the goody").

Bradbury's Dandelion Wine is a great collection of short stories.

cookiecrumb said...

Hi Lisa: Been missing you. Libraries are so valuable. Look at all the comments that followed yours, about libraries. Lucky you, getting to touch all the best stuff first. Like working at Salvation Army! :D
Dagny: I'm so glad I could steer you to a different section. Yeah, dem waffles! Ooh.
Kudzu: You're a true Southerner, so I hope my take on this book is at least a little accurate. Let me know if you try the book. Cranky wants you to know that in the picture, the bread has sagged because we were in too much of a hurry to eat it hot; we photoed it cold. The "goody"! :)

Sam said...

blistering retorts now, eh?
I'll have to ponder on that a while before answering

Greg said...

I love the library too.I just got email saying Rick Bayless Everyday Mexican is waiting for me. Salsa awaits

cookiecrumb said...

Oh, come on, Sam. Scorch me. :)
Greg: Ooh, see, I didn't even know about that book. Thanks.

Dagny said...

I need to pay off my fines at the library so that I can start reserving books online once more. *sniffle*

mrs d said...

I am notorious bad about not getting my books back on time. Fortunately, our little library is quite lenient, and doesn't charge fines unless we've actually lost a book for good. Unfortunately, it's a little library, and lacking in many interesting books. (The cookbook section's decent, but I'm more drawn to food microhistory books -- y'know, Spice, Cod, Salt, Coffee, Marmite...)

Kevin said...


I'm in full agreement with you on Bittman, I've got and keep flipping through it but I have better versions of most of those recipes.

But as far as libraries are concerned, I don't like having to give up books once I have them, that's just not fair.

cookiecrumb said...

Dagny: I did not *know* you could reserve books online! How convenient. (And: How much in arrears are you? Jeepers, at a library?)
Mrs D: Well, that's fortunate your teensy library is half decent. But. OY. I cannot read Kurlansky. Let me know when he takes on purslane.
Greg: (If you're still reading) Dig this -- I waltzed into the San Rafael library today and Bayless was just sitting there, waiting for me!
Kevin: Amen, and thanks, on Bittman. Also, I have a pal who just can't "do" libraries, because, like you, she wants to own the book.

vanessa said...

our library has a surprisingly extensive selection of cookbooks. some of them are practical. others are just great for comic value.

btw, i got your package yesterday, thanks! I am loving the apron—my friends have been griping that i look like such a slob b/c i cook (and make huge messes) without an apron. Problem solved. Apron by cookiecrumb. Rock on.

cookiecrumb said...

Message to food bloggers everywhere: Vanessa and I did a totally impromptu gift exchange. She started it; I had to think of something good enough to respond with.
I recommend you all pick a secret pal and play along.
V: Hooray! Glad you like it. The Utah salt is Awesome, BTW.

Jamie said...

Our weeny little rural library has some really strange and wonderful stuff. One thing I found was an out-of-print Madhur Jaffrey cookbook called Madhur Jaffrey's Cookbook: Food for Family and Friends. I took it out twice in a row and (shhhh) copied out a ton of the recipes. So many of them are great, from her special pork chops to her Indian-flavored cornbread (which that skillet bread reminded me of!).

Then recently I saw a copy listed by an Amazon UK shop for a ridiculously low price. You can bet I own that sucker. :-)

KathyF said...

I've always been a big library cookbook user. I discovered Michael Milken's books through the library, and yes, those are my gravy stains on the vegetarian loaf page.

adagio said...

just discovered you today - came via Between Plow and Wood. a lucky find methinks. love the library. not just for books. i order dvd after dvd. good selection. much cheaper than a rental store. and ordered online, which i find great!

looking forward to reading some of your archival stuff.

adagio (nz)

cookiecrumb said...

Thanks for announcing yourself, Adagio. New Zealand -- cool.
I was unaware of Between Plow and Wood, so I'll definitely go take a look. (And I'll hunt you down, too.)
I appreciate the suggestion to get DVDs at the library. I think we have to pay a small fee, but it's *small.*

Sarah said...

I checked out "Baking with Julia" so many times that I finally just had to go buy it - once you've found your own post-it note in the book, you just have to say "Hello, my name is Sarah, and I have a problem. Excuse my while I go buy this book."

cookiecrumb said...

Hi Sara: Hey, what are we doing, swimming around in this time warp? :D
So buy the book already, eh? I've had to renew cookbooks from the library a few times, but if anybody's on the waiting list for it, they don't let me, ::sniff::.