This month I'm finding the simple joys in cooking, even if it's just for myself.
Cooking with Cookbooks
Credit: Getty/Gary John Norman

For me, 2019 was the year of cookbooks. I received copies of old classics and buzzy new favorites for my birthday, at Christmastime, and after my wedding. I arranged them according to color in shelves all around my apartment, and probably didn’t cook out of them as much as a should have.

When I did tackle a project from Priya Krishna’s Indian-ish I left the book on my kitchen table, far away from where the actual work was being done. I was terrified of getting splatters on the pristine pages. This helped me rack up more than a few steps while I worked in the kitchen, but it was far from an efficient way to cook.

In an effort to force myself to mark up the pages, I started writing down the date that I made each recipe. Once the books looked a little less perfect, I had no problem highlighting them with a stain or two. This was also an easy way to ensure that I took advantage of every recipe in the collection, and focused on new diner projects rather than repeats.

As the country shut down amid the COVID-19 outbreak this March, cooking became not only a necessity, but a creative outlet. I’ve had time to linger over complicated recipes as I tackled homemade bread, from-scratch cookies, and shrimp and grits. Soon, my scribbles on the page became longer and longer. I added notes to the recipes, I shared what dishes I used to set the table for dinner that night, and I eventually started explaining how cooking had helped me escape the news that day.

When I look back in my cookbooks years from now, I hope that I will be reminded of the simple joy that can be found in trying a project in the kitchen. The goal isn’t to impress company or meal prep for the week ahead, but to simply create something new.

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I’ve never been great at keeping a gratitude journal, but these cookbooks seem like the closest thing to it. What fun it will be to make a recipe for the second or third time and recall the food memories of years past.