Sunday Stills: International Food (and Far Too Many Cookbooks )

Do you collect cookbooks? Do you ever refer to them or rush to the internet when the need for a recipe arises? This is the modern dilemma: too much information, not so much inspiration. I must admit, I have a foot in both camps. I have far too many cookbooks, and will probably acquire some more soon, especially if they turn up cheaply in my favourite second-hand store. I also find recipes on the internet and print them, thinking that I will make them soon. ( I rarely do). Most of my cooking is driven by the ingredients on hand, meaning those in my pantry, fridge or garden. My best meals are spontaneous and intuitive and rarely come from the printed word.  So what are all those cookbooks doing on my shelves and why do I find the need to acquire more?

I love books and the texture of them, their smell, and the care taken in producing them.  I like to hold them, turn the pages, and bookmark them, take them to bed. I find them comforting in the world of transitory information –  instagram,  tweeting and other forms of one second grabs of hollow information.


Here is my question for cookbook collectors.  How do you organise your collection? By cuisine? Height? Colour? Nationality?

This little post is in response to Ed’s theme this week on Sunday Stills: International Foods. 

Rather than choose another foodie shot, I went to my bookshelves,( but wait, there are more ! ), source of international inspiration.

23 thoughts on “Sunday Stills: International Food (and Far Too Many Cookbooks )”

  1. Wonderful 🙂 You could have written this post for me. My cook book collection is modest but growing… I love finding classic pre-loved cookbooks in second hand book shops or markets, and I also have a considerable wish list on Book Depository – they sometimes offer further discounts for wish list items. (Your post reminded me I had 2 more to add) And yes, I save interesting recipes from magazines, the internet etc. Then, like you I cook what I feel like eating, or what’s to hand, sometimes referring to a cookbook, more likely the internet if I need tips. How do I organise my single shelf collection? By height 🙂


  2. Awesome collection! we’ll have to get you to nominate some of your favourites/the ones you’ve always wanted to explore more for the Cookbook Guru! 🙂


  3. A good question, I put my bread books, dessert books and restaurant books together and then everything else is just stuffed into the bookshelf. Why? I have no idea. I rarely cook from a book but I love flicking through for inspiration


  4. Hmmm… As a former librarian and archivist, I should probably say that I list them by their dewey decimal number, but alas, I don’t. I have so many that they won’t fit into the wide, tall bookshelf in the kitchen and have to be disbursed throughout the house. There is, however, some rationale to the organisation: culinary history, food chemistry and books on wine in our informal living room; older cookbooks (mostly inherited from relatives) in the spare bedroom (along with detective fiction and my husband’s old classics books). The ones I use most are obviously in the kitchen, organised according to region and author. I usually avoid celebrity chefs, but those that I do have tend to be British, so are classed with that region. An entire shelf is taken up with ring notebooks filled with clipped recipes from a variety of sources. I also collect very old cookbooks from the 16th to the 19th century in digital form and store them on my iPad. However, I would never purchase a new cookbook in digital form – hardback is first choice. I am also deeply suspicious of people who do not have books in their house!

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    1. I also find the tall ones upsetting my system, and causing anxiety to aspects of anal ordering. I sort usually by cuisine or country. Australian chefs go in a section on their own, unless they happen to be writing about Italian food for example, then they go in to Italian cuisine. I but those celebrity chefs who are good, Ottolenghi comes to mind. Sometimes in my foraging in second hand stores, I find some excellent ( old) gems, which also get their own shelf.


  5. Hi Francesca, I have hundreds and hundreds of cookbooks… I have them grouped in cuisine, or subject and then just bits and pieces. Hard to keep track of them sometimes!


  6. Loved reading this and seeing your shelves. Mine are kind of grouped by genre and also by favorites, but mucked up a bit by height and then there are the display books with big dog clips at the back where all the handwritten and printed out gems are…including one of yours from years ago, the silver beet and white bean soup! I love the stories, memories, sensory experiences attached with so many recipes. Love receiving your blog 🙂


    1. Thanks Rach. I am pleased that you still have a copy of that favourite soup. Now that the silver beet is returning to the garden after such a mean summer, might have to blog that one. I never know how to store the cut outs and print outs. Must get more display books. Good teachers do this! XX


  7. Wait, I know…you could start up a cookbook Sunday stall outside your home, for sale of your cookbooks, or maybe an exchange, whereby your buyers give you another cookbook in return, one you don’t already have. You could put up a sign telling them what books you want. Sound good?! 😉
    Your shelves certainly look like a bookstore or library’s. Or, if you want some inspiration, perhaps you can gather a few of your fellow Italo-philes for a round-table discussion in your kitchen of some Italian recipes, to get the juices going, literally and metaphorically? Sound good too? Perhaps you can even prepare a dish or two to taste during that discussion! Start a club!


Now over to you.

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