This year for my birthday my in-laws gave me a Barnes and Noble gift certificate. I spent the next several weeks fantasizing about what I would read. When I finally took that trip to the bookstore, I found myself wandering up and down the aisles, considering my options. Mysteries (I have a weakness), almost forgotten Bronte works, modern (not yet classic) classics . . . . Despite all these choices, I somehow found myself in the cookbook aisle holding a treasure trove of recipes, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila (Eating from the Ground Up). Since then, I’ve been tied to the book. I even took it on vacation.
Two of the most attractive features of this cookbook are the organization and charm. First, there’s the organization. You don’t have to search old cookbooks or the internet for poorly organized, confusing bread, cheese, or yogurt recipes. Alana has them carefully organized and explained in one tome. To add whimsy to the order, each section has a grocery store aisle label: dairy, cereals and snacks, canned goods, condiments, soups, baking needs, frozen foods, pasta and sauce, breads and crackers, drinks, candy and sweet treats.
Alana’s book is not only organized, it’s also always everything charming. Although I frequently read cookbooks like some would devour a novel, I found myself particularly engrossed by this one. Her anecdotes before each recipe made me smile and sigh (seriously). I ran to my husband, laughing, when she described her health food childhood. Yes, I, too, remember eating fruit leathers and sneaking vitamin C tablets instead of candy.
So do I regret buying a cookbook instead of a novel? Well, that’s a bit of a moot question since I found I still couldn’t resist a novel (The Elegance of the Hedgehog) even though it was out of my budget. However, even if I hadn’t splurged on both books, I wouldn’t regret this treasure. It’s literature and recipes in one. The aspiring writer and hobby cook in me both find satisfaction in this book. I don’t think I could ever lend it out. I know I would need it for a recipe the second after I let it go.