Best-loved cookbooks, the ones with food stains all over the pages and split bindings are very far philosophically from coffee-table cookbooks with beautiful photographs and exotic ingredients. They’ve become popular ideas these days for contests. The Old Grist Mill at Keremeos featured a “dirtiest cookbook” contest in the spring with the following caveat:
“All entries considered inappropriate or offensive by the Grist Mill and Gardens will be disqualified. (Yes, we know that by asking for the “dirtiest pages”, some of you might take certain liberties… that’s not what we’re looking for, and you know it.)”
(I guess that eliminates the famous, or infamous “Sex in a pan” dessert that was popular in the 70s and probably splattered a few pages).
Edmonton’s K-Days sponsored a Makers’ Exhibition this year, and entry 5401 asks people to submit their “Most Loved Cookbook”. This competition asks entrants to include a 100 to 200 word story about what the cookbook means to them and their families.
I have my doubts about whether splattered pages really means a frequently used recipe – in my collection of cookbooks, the two messiest pages are from two very messy recipes: devil’s cake and date-nut cupcakes. The story behind these two recipes is more interesting than the splatters. They date back to the days when my mother used to come visit me in Quesnel. She read cookbooks; and then she baked from them. These were her two go-to recipes in my house. Not that she created the mess; no, that would be me, later on, doing the recipes myself with the help of two young kids.
In a recent Globe and Mail article, Julie van Rosendaal labels cookbooks “aspirational anthologies, connecting us to our past and helping us imagine how we might comfort, nurture and socialize with one another in the future”.
When I look at the splattered pages, I remember those days of “cooking up a storm”. Perhaps that is the underlying purpose of the cookbook contests, to give us a glimpse into the past as well as curiosity about how the next generations will view day-to-day life.