Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Trials of a Would-Be Cook

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Trials of a Would-Be Cook

Article excerpt

I'VE often thought I'd love to be a librarian and see the titles people check out. I could learn as much about what people might want to be as about what they are.

Recently our library closed while it moved from one location to another. The librarians offered patrons an extended checkout time and the opportunity to borrow unlimited numbers of books. This did something to me. I scoured the shelves looking for the volumes I'd always wanted to read but felt as though I might be "stealing" from someone who really had need of them.

My children and I had three satchels to fill with books that would be "ours" for two months. My daughter and son checked out more of the kinds of books and magazines they usually do. Hallie borrowed the past issues of Audubon and National Wildlife. Dylan had a towering pillar of science-fiction and computer books.

I passed by my usual selections. I walked confidently beyond the poetry section, the new nonfiction titles, the collections of humor and essays, and found myself in what was for me an unlikely section - the cookbooks.

I had only visited these shelves peripherally when I wanted a book from the adjacent areas. I found it mildly amusing that a subject I found so uninspiring took up more space than several of "my" sections combined. But the freedom the librarians offered me pulled with a force that I could neither define nor understand. I was suddenly overcome by a yearning to read these books.

I told the librarians, faced with my teetering stack of books, that I was going to learn to cook while they were closed. I think it must be a requirement of a library employee never to register shock or disbelief in a way that might make a patron slink away from the counter in embarrassment. I never noticed as much as a raised eyebrow when the librarian stamped the due dates in at least 15 cookbooks ranging from foreign cooking to what to cook "on the trail." Moreover, the women behind the counter appeared to believe me.

I took the books home, and the first night I got lost in Mexican cooking. I still had Italian, Greek, Cajun, Chinese, and a book on the basics (at the bottom of the pile) stacked on one of the kitchen counters.

Our house is a series of book "piles." A person could easily tell the climate and even activity of our family by the books piled by the bed, on the stairs, or on the arms of the old brown sofa. I felt a certain pride in my pile of cookbooks. For the time they were mine, I fully intended to sample a recipe from each one.

I carefully put slips of paper in the Mexican cookbook. In this way, I marked recipes that looked simple enough to follow, but rich enough to taste good. The pictures were wonderful.

I went on to the book on crock-pot cooking. This was the ultimate to me: Just put everything in one pot and turn it on. As much as I wanted to produce the Oriental dishes on the cover of the next cookbook, I knew intuitively that the crock-pot and I were destined for sure success. …

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