I’m not sure why it is that I can’t stop myself buying cookbooks. Optimism maybe? A misplaced sense of ability? Whatever it is, it’s costing me a fortune and the only thing I seem to be using these colourful publications for is propping open doors.
It’s all just so glossily deceptive. You flick through the pages of delicious, artfully prepared foods and all rational thought goes out the window. I mean, I know I only have the basic skills for cooking a meal. I can boil water. I only set the smoke alarm off every second day and nobody’s been poisoned in my kitchen (which I tell you surprises me more than I should admit). But, give me a cookbook and I suddenly think I can push that bar of realistic achievement WAAAAAY, WAAAY up with a Fricasee of chicken a la mode Morroco with a side salad of garden fresh greens in a mustard vinaigrette. All of which ends up looking nothing like the photo in the book - even if I step 10 feet away, take off my glasses and squint.
Of course the inevitable question pops up when I attempt to follow yet another gourmet cookbook, ‘Why am I doing this?’. This is closely followed by ‘What was I thinking?’; ‘What the hell is glangalgal or whatever that’s supposed to be?’ and ‘Is that supposed to smell like someone died?’
There is also the major issue of measurements - exactly how much is in a ‘splash’ or a ‘dash’? What do I do if I’ve added self raising flour instead of plain to pan drippings - will I suddenly have invented gravy cake? What the hell sort of temperature is ‘tepid’?
But of course all this pales into insignificance when I then force my family to eat my creations. Clearly they love me, I mean, if they didn’t they would have staged a cookbook intervention by now. Maybe they are already in the process of burning the said cookbooks as I sit here typing away - really it would be a step in the right direction for the future of the culinary arts. Even I can admit that.
It would also save me a fortune, especially now that my affliction is now spreading to the purchase of kitchen utensils I’ll never use. I recently bought myself a deceptively heavy pestle and mortar to fresh herbs into, I don’t know, fresh herb paste. So far I’ve used it to crush pepper corns and, um, well I kind of also randomly use it now as a weight for arm exercises because I’m too chicken to run the gauntlet of actually purchasing a set of kettle bells. I also own a blender - which I don’t use - a push down vege cutter and a ‘sauté pan’ which is only big enough to fry an egg in.
I randomly purchase bottles of spices without much planning in a bid to jazz up the usual dishes I can actually create relatively successfully. I now have six bottles of Chinese Five Spice to use up before the end of 2013. If anyone has any idea what I’m supposed to add Chinese Five Spice to please forward your suggestions to the Leitrim Observer. Conversely, anyone who spots me in a supermarket buying yet another jar of Chinese Five Spice, please stop me, stop me IMMEDIATELY.
I’ve now barred myself from watching cooking programmes on TV because they’ll inevitably be followed by a cookbook which I’ll then feel an irrational urge to buy. I shut my eyes and stick my fingers in my ears when those infomercials come on for handy kitchen gadgets and I now publicly promise not to add chillies to any more stir-fries - especially not with the seeds in. That was one lesson painfully learned.
Now all I have to do is get my colleagues here at work to hide all the cookbooks that come in the with book sellers every couple of weeks and I’ll be home free. Really, someone should set up a support group. If not for my sake, for the sake of my family.