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Addictive behaviour - A story of a cookbook junkie

13 March 2012

There is no doubt that the food and cooking industry has exploded in the past 10 years. With the Lifestyle Channel, celebrity chefs, the plethora of television programs and food bloggers, no one can hide from the Food world now.  Cookbooks are released at a staggering rate (and not just in time for Christmas and other special events) and everything from saucepans to t-towels can now be purchased with the moniker of a famous chef. Social media allows us to follow our favourite chefs and magazines on line. It has now become quite acceptable to be a FOODIE defined in the dictionary as “a person keenly interested in food, especially in eating or cooking”.

This was not so 20 or so years ago in my world when I first tasted the excitement of my first Gourmet magazine (yes before it became the Gourmet Traveller). I was in my early 20’s and had always enjoyed cooking but had limited exposure to new recipes relying mostly on home-style food or the Women’s Weekly Cookbook.

My addiction started slowly with a new magazine every other month and food articles in newspapers. I found myself not just reading but attempting just about every recipe. So the experimentation began.

I analyzed menus in restaurants and started to go to cooking classes every spare moment I had. Cooking became so integral to my everyday life. It got to the point where I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The obsession had set in.

Following the birth of my first daughter I found myself using cooking more and more as a means to express my creativity, be inspired and explore different food suppliers. I started to buy more and more cookbooks and by this stage had subscriptions to Vogue Entertaining, Gourmet Traveller, Gourmet, Cuisine and Food Illustrated. (Donna wasn’t in print yet). I couldn’t do without the yearbooks even though they were often an overview of what I had already read and cooked.

My reputation grew. My addiction was getting harder and harder to hide.

On holidays with other families while everyone else lazed about with a good novel, I was reading recipes and secretly planning what to cook next. The weekends and picnics in the park became a platform to try another recipe, something new.  Soon friends stopped inviting me for dinner for fear that they wouldn’t cook like me. “Pizza” I would plead. “Don’t forget me”.

The cookbook collection grew and grew. The renovation of the family home became the lab for my addiction. I designed the library shelves as a gradually tapered structure with a central spine and cantilevered shelves so that I could see all the books and stack them from the smallest more reference style at the top to the large encyclopedia like volumes at the bottom.  But that wasn’t enough. The collection was divided into English, Italian, Asian, American, French, Spanish, Mexican, Australian, Specialty, Desserts, Salads, Appetizers and Baking etc. 

I couldn’t stop there because by now over 12 years of food journals had outgrown the library. One wall of the children’s playroom was sacrificed for yet another shelf unit for this massive collection. But I struggled to find recipes when the magazines were stored chronologically so one afternoon I decided to rearrange them by season so I could reference them forthe appropriate time of the year. This really marked the depth of my behaviour-12 years worth of spring, summer, autumn and winter magazines from the English-speaking world all stacked perfectly. 

So fast forward to today, I am fortunate to be running my own cooking school so my addictive behavior can now be justified as work. I have even been able to incorporate my addiction into “READ COOK EAT”-my cookbook club studying the most influential cookbooks of all time as part of my cooking school.

I am also lucky as I am not alone.

I am also joined by the masses also seduced by the caged covers of Feast, Donna Hay Magazine and Delicious in the Newsagents shop fronts.  Hours spent in the cookery section in any bookshop can be done with plenty of silent company. And no one feels ridiculous to style a restaurant or café table and stand up to take a photo to add to their blog. Watching the Food Channel at any time of the day is now always possible.

Best of all I no longer have to refer to myself as a cookbook junkie. I can walk the streets proudly with my stash of magazines, my cookbooks and my apps.

I’m now just a FOODIE like everyone else.

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5 comments

  • Shelley Lisson

    Shelley Lisson 7 years ago

    Maggie Beer is a true icon and inspiration. I just adore her and all her books. I recently added her latest publication \"Maggie's Verjuice Cookbook\" to my groaning collection and it is a masterpiece. Incredibly beautiful to look at, the photography by Sharyn Cairns is breathtaking. Even if you didn't cook it's visually amazing. The recipes are as expected warm and comforting and even better Maggie introduces each recipe with story of it's origins, inspirations and other planning tips. Oh and there is a more cheffy version of the chook leg recipe-\"Barbequed Quail with Vin Cotto and Verjuice Glaze\". I'd try it with Chook Legs too for a more economical meal-I'm sure Maggie would approve.

  • Rachael McKenzie

    Rachael McKenzie 7 years ago

    Also I love a chef who is not afraid to name a recipe \"Chook Legs\"

  • Rachael McKenzie

    Rachael McKenzie 7 years ago

    We all love Maggie - have you tried her \"Chook Legs in Vin Cotto\"? Delicious!

  • Simone Moody

    Simone Moody 7 years ago

    Judging by the pile of Gourmet Travellers in the corner, and the fact one of my favourite beers is Maggie, it's only right that I should out myself here, too...

  • Rachael McKenzie

    Rachael McKenzie 7 years ago

    I can really relate to this! As we are moving house soon I recently packed up 6 boxes of cookbooks collected from my travels. I also carefully went through all my Gourment Traveller magazines removing the recipies that I many get around to cooking someday. I think I definitely fit into the \"cookbook junkie\" mould!