Cookbooks and I have somewhat of a complex relationship. They are both loved and hated simultaneously. In my tiny room, amid limited desk space, the top shelf is lined with everything from Cooking with Les Dames d’Escoffier to The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. I’ve spent hours curled up in front of the TV with cookbooks, enamored as much with the photos as the recipes themselves. In these books I find inspiration for new recipes, but I have a confession……very rarely do I actually swallow my pride and make a recipe from one of these books, a recipe that is (gasp!) not my own.
It’s silly, really, that I have developed this love/hate relationship with cookbooks, because through them I became the cook I am today. My mom, a talented cook herself, was always willing to lend a mouth to taste my newest creation. Her greatest gift to my cooking, however, was to introduce me to cookbooks that would shape and teach me more than any other person, television personality, or book ever had – the Southern Living cookbooks.
She sang the praises of the Southern Living Test Kitchens and the fact that every recipe ever made from one of these books turned out the way they said it would. It wasn’t long before my confidence in cooking had surpassed my talent, probably due to the flawless recipes crafted in these books.
I remember one Saturday night in particular. I was in fourth grade and had discovered the power of cooking for boys in my Sunday school class. I picked out the “Cinderella Fantasy Cake” and enlisted my mom to help with production. The cake itself was simple enough that I had no trouble producing it. But it was my mom who stayed up until the wee hours of the morning making each one of the pastel colored meringues that were stacked on top. A mother’s commitment to fostering their child’s talent is not always easy work.
This, I guess, is a long-winded way of saying that if I were ever to recommend just one cookbook to someone, it would be the Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook. Simple recipes paired with exquisite presentation, I fall in love all over again every time I open my copy, now stained throughout with batter and butter.