Web has all the ingredients to be greatest recipe book
Net results: many of us increasingly turn to the web for cooking ideas
Sales of celebrity cookbooks in Britain rose 250 per cent in 2012, with Jamie Oliver the second biggest selling author ever in any genre in the UK, trailing only JK Rowling, according to research by Ocado.
The last of the considerable strawberries in the garden were shouting to be picked, and the destination of choice for them became the largest pot in the kitchen – for jam.
But how to make it? The process itself isn’t a mystery. I’ve made jam on and off for years; taught on summer holidays by my grandmother, in her little Wisconsin kitchen, how to melt paraffin wax to form a seal before adding the screw top lid to that US canning favourite, the Mason jar.
No one uses paraffin anymore. It’s the cooking equivalent of the floppy disk.
Anyway, there I was with about five litres of strawberries, some rhubarb, and a need for a little creative input.
So I went to the world’s greatest recipe book: the web.
All you need to do is type in your prospective ingredients, and back comes a range of choices from a plethora of sources – cookery sites, online magazines, big name celebrity chefs, adventurous food blogs.
I could do strawberry rhubarb jam with lemon, or orange, or vanilla. I could use honey rather than sugar.
Maybe add some other type of berries (we are swamped with loganberries too). How about poshing things up with a dollop of Grand Marnier?
Meanwhile on the shelves nearby sat my much-loved collection of cookbooks, well thumbed and food-splattered. But they are not my go-to resource for quick recipe ideas any longer.
Yet I love cookbooks; always have. I must have half-learned to read from my mother’s broken-spined, 1950s edition of the Joy of Cooking, the thick volume that has graced generations of American kitchen shelves.
What 10-year-old wouldn’t devour this book? Not only were the peanut butter cookies the best ever (and easy to make), but Joy had explanations on how to prepare and cook terrapin and squirrel, sadly missing from later editions. The bits on opening the terrapin shells or skinning squirrels were satisfyingly horrific.
I still can easily spend an evening lost in a cookbook. But like many of us, increasingly I turn to the web for cooking ideas. When the cupboard is bare and only an unlikely mix of possible ingredients is available for dinner, throw them all in a search engine and there’s always something to make.
The only comparably efficient tool is my chef brother, who can magic up a tasty supper after staring into the refrigerator for a few minutes.
Yet the print cookbook continues to hold its own in publishing. Despite the growth of the tablet market – a seemingly attractive display device for a recipe – cookery remains a weak category in ebooks, according to publishers at an ebook conference I attended last year in Dublin.