My dear friend, Ruth, and I were perusing our local bookstore a few days ago (truthfully, we were there for a bit of diversion from the frightful weather) and wandered into our favorite aisle — the one that showcases cookbooks.
Ruth said she’d heard that cookbooks were becoming obsolete. That cookbooks are no longer desired or needed any more, what with the ease and convenience of plucking a recipe for just about any dish off the World Wide Web in a matter of minutes.
Looking at the vast variety of cookbooks available in the bookstore, it didn’t appear to me that cookbooks were on the verge of being extinct. In fact, the bookstore’s collection of cookbooks made me think that cookbooks of all kinds are flourishing and are more popular than ever.
Following are a few reasons why, in my opinion, cookbooks will not become obsolete any time soon:
Are cookbooks obsolete? According to Publisher’s Weekly, there are approximately 24,000 cookbooks published each year. If cookbooks are no longer needed (or demanded), it is unlikely that publishers would spend the millions of dollars in printing and promotional expenses to create them.
Are cookbooks obsolete? The Food Network and other television food shows not only help viewers learn how to make new and different foods, they inspire them to learn more. Cookbooks based on many star-making television shows represent half of the top 25 cookbooks sold at the leading bookstores.
Are cookbooks obsolete? There are so many old, out-of-print and classic cookbooks that will never make it online. For example, when Gourmet magazine closed last year, the cookbooks generated during its reign are now being viewed as collector’s items (perhaps a sentimental way to hold onto the glorious foodie past and keep that brand alive). Then of course, there is the increasing value of rare and vintage volumes. The Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary & Vincent Price might fetch up to $125 these days (depending upon which book collector’s website you visit).
4. Broader Tastes
Are cookbooks obsolete? More interest in international cultures and cuisines is driving a greater variety of cookbooks onto the shelves of bookstores. Cookbook readers today want to know how to properly prepare more exotic dishes, and are willing to read about the techniques and gain inspiration from new tastes and food experiences (often reliving great meals from their travels).
Are cookbooks obsolete? There is something grounding about a cookbook. Especially family cookbooks that are much more personal. Family members can thumb through family cookbooks at leisure and remember great meals and great times from photographs and stories. (You can never get that with a commercially-produced cookbook.) At one time, recipes were inherited through oral traditions, or handwritten on scraps of paper or recipe cards. Today, making a family cookbook through technology (like Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software), is a popular new way to save those traditions.
Do I think cookbooks are on their way out? No, I don’t. People still love to curl up with a good cookbook. Like a fuzzy blanket, or a favorite sweater, a cookbook is real, it is solid.