I got my first insulting comment message yesteday. How perfectly thrilling, a baptism of fire! Now I really feel I can call myself a blogger.
A reader took exception to my saying that Spanish cookbooks are almost never worth buying, being written with the literary flair of an Ikea manual.
Please believe me, I didn´t mean to insult Ikea manuals.
Aside from the fact that I did use the word almost, let me explain. I just mean that I, personally, me, myself, don´t think we can thump our collective chests in pride at the state of cookbook publishing in this country.
Here cookbooks have always been seen as reference books. Something to have in the kitchen, under the sewing basket and an empty jam jar containing a button, some twine, a couple of nails and a buy1get1free coupon from the supermarket.
A book you turn to when you want to cook bacalao al pil-pil, or be reminded of the quantities for making pound cake.
They never have a little text above the recipe explaining what it is and what it´s good with. So if you know what pil-pil is, good for you. And if you don´t, you´ll have to read the recipe through and try to imagine what it is. This sounds like a lot of hard work.
Also, and this really does drive me up the wall, the indexes are pathetic. If you´re looking for something, you have to remember the exact name, or you´ll never find it. Not for us the kind of comprehensive cross-indexing, all the chocolate recipes being listed under chocolate, as well as under their given names.
As for the look, well, it´s utilitarian, for the most part. When there are photographs, they´re not very good, or even, as in José Andrés´s latest book, taken directly from a TV program. Nice look, don´t you think, each picture with a 625 line fuzz?
Not all books are like that, of course not, but many are. In my opinion (all mine), the best are those El País Aguilar makes. Yes, I´ve illustrated a couple, but don´t let that fool you, I illustrate a lot of stuff I wouldn´t touch with a ten foot pole.
Rosa Tovar´s Las claves de la cocina, for example, is excellent, and has a lot of additional information to each recipe. But it´s contained in blurbs, which is annoying. And the book is organized according to the pots or pans in which dishes are made. You can imagine that without a proper index, it can be a little trying.
Also, these are paperbacks, tall, narrow and very heavy. They can´t be made to lie flat on a counter while you´re cooking. Cutting boards and pickle jars have to be balanced on top to keep them open, which results in a cluttered working space.
Furthermore, they´re prized at 21€ and over. So that I can understand why someone might choose a glossy edition of Donna Hay in translation over them. Cuts of meat are different, you probably won´t find many ingredients, and not everyone has measuring cups, but at least you´re assured of a book that´s beautiful to look at and is user-friendly.
For my money (mine, all mine, hard-earned by yours truly) the best cookbooks are made in England and the USA. Some people say that´s because people there can´t cook, and need all the instruction they can get.
If they´re happy with that, well, let them, who cares? As long as I can complement my trusty, boring, dependable 1080 recetas de cocina with the Moro cookbooks, I´m very happy too.