As I write this I am terrified of what I am about to do.
I’ve just looked over, and re-looked over the plans of an apartment we might be looking to buy and move in to, and I can see one opportunity within the place for a bookcase.
I worked for six years at Megalong Books, my familial home was and still is filled with books, my ideal home has a library with a secret annex, and I also – pragmatically – know how hard and expensive it is to find and obtain some books, and what low resale value most have today.
The fiction is slightly easier to deal with than my non-fiction books; I’ve given away many of my favourite paperbacks in a natural cycle, with the full heart of someone who knows that this is going to enrich someone else’s life, too. The rare, first edition blah blah, of course, that doesn’t go. The ‘what I haven’t read’ section is a trickier thing: but really – hard hat time – it is closer to the chop.
It’s at my cookbooks and reference books that I’ve now fallen in a heap (I’m the heap – there is no other heap, unless you count the ‘nooooooo, not that one’ heap).
I’ve culled over the years – you cannot rent, move, live overseas etc repeat, and not. And I’ve bought three cookbooks in the three years that we’ve been back in Sydney. So it’s not like my shelves are brimming with Yotem Marie Claire Ottolenghi or even Recipes To Give Up Sugar And Be Smug.
What I’m having to wrestle with – in an era of internet-easy recipe discovery and reference – is: ‘what makes a recipe book worthwhile’, now?
I suspect my husband thinks that I have more cookery and food reference books than I do because I built such a clever two-way milk-crate (I’m watching you over-priced Scandiwegian designers for my idea now), bookcase, that on one side he can’t see all his biographies of incredibly exciting runners (as in, when they’re running, but boring subjects), and he thinks it’s a Babylon of medieval Catalan egg-emulsions (you hear that everyone? Emulsions are in the oldest cookbooks).
Unfortunately, I cannot dig a hole like a pirate (or, that fabulously English bloke who built a castle under a tarp – the local council was not pleased), and bury my treasure. And my parents have suffered enough. So, I have to work out what I should ditch (and let’s face it – sentimentality is as naff as adult colouring-in), and what I will miss, genuinely, in five, or ten years.
But more importantly, why KEEP, a cookbook, today? Of course there are reasons – I’m just in the midst of battling that question in a life-or-death situation. I am not a photographer – but Robert Carrier has obviously made a Great Dishes of Pain recipe book? Whereas despite the cheap production, Carnival comes up looking like the weekend you wish you were about to have):