Recipe for Disaster
Recipe books. A work of art, no?
I adore recipe books. I buy more even though I am yet to make half the recipes in half the books I already own. I amble through the pages, fantasizing that my food, my kitchen, my life was as curated as the heavily edited photos I’m comparing my mess to.
I expect a photograph of EVERY recipe and never attempt any which come without an accompanying photo. The end result never looks like the photo, but it’s nice to have a visual reminder of how good dinner could have looked if I was better at life.
Now I face a predicament. What should I do with the old books full of recipes for how to cook dead cows and dead chickens and baby cow growth fluid?
These are books I, just a few years ago, thought were my Healthy Cookbook Collection.
They’ve been languishing on a dusty shelf for two years now. Should I give them to a charity shop, whereby omnivore strangers will buy them, then buy the meat and dairy ingredients required to make the recipes? I’d have blood on my hands!
Or should I throw them all in the bin or sacrificially burn them while sending my apologies to all the animals I ever had an indirect hand in killing? But the trees which were chopped down to make these books would have been chopped down for nothing!
Christ, these conundrums are exhausting. Life was so much easier before I started worrying that the planet was going to implode. Which reminds me, I must build that bunker.
I like to write in my recipe books. It was something my ex-step-mother introduced me to many years ago. She flicked through a recipe book of mine and, with astonishment, asked me where all my notes were. ‘You have to write notes to yourself, Kim!’ she said. ‘I tell myself what I thought of the food, who I ate with, what it might need more of next time.’
Wait a second, there’s an opportunity for marks out of ten and I’ve been missing it? Cue all tried and tested recipes now much-scribbled.
As the years went by, my most loved recipe books became diaries of sorts. I knew not to repeat a 7/10 recipe, I stroked the page fondly when I’d written ‘lunch with Yanny and Sofia,’ or other such names of other such people I love.
It’s a trip down memory lane, but a strange trip down a strange lane. One that reminds me that I, not too long ago, loved prosciutto more than pigs. I loved beef more than cows. Old me added prawns to dhal. Old me gave the beautiful, resplendent tuna fish a 9/10 when sliced into steak form. I don’t recognise this person anymore.
As you can see, I got sucked in by the ‘clean eating’ phase. If the chef was pretty and glowing radiantly, maybe I would too! Maybe I could eat (animal products) beautiful!
For a long while, I swore by Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar and while I do still agree that a healthy lifestyle has no place for abundant sugars, I object to her thoughts on veganism, which are:
She directs the reader to some questionable, old quasi-science about eating meat but farming it properly. Nice idea love, isn’t happening. How can someone who's done that much research into sugar have such a blinkered view of veganism?
This one, a gift from a well-meaning friend, celebrates “pure, raw, stripped bare, nude, clean, detox.” So many dangerous words in one foul sentence! Clean meals such as lamb meatballs - for when “cleansing your body” is achieved by consuming cute little lambs.
Still, parting with the old cookbooks felt hard because I’d be parting with memories. But now, I have two year's worth of recipe books full of plant based recipes and two year's worth of margin scribbles. And these scribbles are in books much more in keeping with new me.
Recently, I gave one of the old cookbooks to my friend Lucy. It was the Deliciously Ella cookbook which is actually plant based, but not to my liking, for I found the recipes frustrating. Lucy took the cookbook home then wrote to tell me how much she was enjoying my annotations. Her favourites were: “Shit!” and “Dad asked ‘is this a meal?’” It makes me smile to think that she might add her own notes too and I might have saved her from bothering to try something I have officially declared to be shit.
Perhaps it’s okay if my meaty, milky cookbooks are released back into the world via charity shops. My notes will be too. Perhaps they’ll help people avoid the shit recipes I wasted my time with. Maybe I'll write a foreword in each book, lecturing the recipient on their lifestyle choices. Yes, that always goes down well, no doubt I’ll turn a few omnivores vegan via a passive aggressive Oxfam donation.