I just finished reading the Colorado Collage cookbook, which contains lots of good recipes, based around local cooks and food that uses more fruits/veggies. Okay. Decent cookbook, but not what I’m looking for.

I’m not going to keep the book.  I recently weeded out my cookbooks and got rid of the ones that just provided ideas for recipes; if I’m in the kind of situation where I need a specific recipe, the Internet can amply, quickly, and deliciously provide about a million examples.  (I particularly like the Epicurious site, because most of the recipes come from Bon Appetit/Gourmet, and have been tested.  And often have good pictures.)

The cookbooks (and cooking magazines) that I kept have something in common – they all have a perspective on food that I find interesting.  James Peterson wants to educate you, to gently nudge you toward more sophisticated recipes, gradually enticing you to leave your comfort zone.  Mark Bittman wants you to trust yourself, to stop taking recipes as miniature Bibles, not to be questioned.  The Bon Appetit cookbook is excited about taking dishes we understand and screwing around with them.  Why NOT add chervil?  Just because you’ve never had it before?  Pfft.  Eat What You Love

I love ancient church cookbooks.  Ancient Southern cookbooks.  Cookbooks on how other cultures have translated their recipes into our languages.  Invitations to try new foods, to understand why I love familiar foods.  And Cook What You Love:  Simple, Flavorful Recipes to Make Again and Again.  Doesn’t that say it all?

Recipes.  I know how to cook.  I can find ideas for what to cook.  But the why, why to cook a particular thing on a particular day, for particular people, that’s the fascinating thing.  Why figs in the fall.  Why simple vs. complex dishes.  Why we crave such-and-such a dish.  How memory – how childhood – is stronger than the taste buds.  That’s the breath of life I’m looking for in a cookbook.

And Colorado Collage, despite its pretty pictures, tasty-sounding recipes, and attractive menus, doesn’t have it.