The Struggle to Find the Right Cookbook

I received some gift checks for books recently (thank you Katz and AdMU HS!) and since the TBA pile of books, both digital and print, just keeps growing, I was thinking of getting something I could use, in particular a cookbook, instead of fiction or business stuff, which I usually get. And really, I don’t have any cookbooks, I just look stuff up on the net when I cook.

First choice was to check out David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook. I don’t know about you guys, but just hearing Chang’s dishes described makes me go crazy. Check out the No Reservations clip where Chang and Anthony Bourdain down the Momofuku specials like the Pork Belly in Mantau or the Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder in lettuce leaves with Oyster and Kimchi garnish (crazy, awesome!) and see if your mouth doesn’t start watering.

Problem was that I couldn’t find the book at the store that I’ve got GCs for. And there’s another, bigger problem, that of ingredients.

One of the things that has stopped me from buying cookbooks is that, the majority of them being Western, and written for people in the West, is the list of ingredients. I suppose it would be easy for people in the West to acquire a lot of ingredients that I’ve never heard of, but good luck to me figuring out where to get those. Oh yeah, and there’s also the problem of being able to afford those ingredients.

Looking at local cookbooks though, I’ve encountered two problems. And please don’t kill me local publishers, but these are my complaints. First is that a lot of the books are kind of ugly. Newsprint, bad cover designs, I mean looking at the books make me lose my appetite. Then there are the ones that are beautifully designed, nice pictures and well-written, but then these cost a very pretty penny. That and another problem, not sure if it’s just me, but when I see the high end local books a lot of them feature local dishes, but then amped up in such a way that the ingredients are more expensive, or there’s a twist or something to them.

Now I get it. I get that these books are for Foodies, gourmands, people who have a general sense of how to cook. And so you don’t have to give very detailed instructions. And I get that people are looking for recipes with flair.

But I’m looking for something nice and basic. Just teach me how to cook, dude! I wish I could go take a culinary class, but I can’t afford that. I do however, want to be able to prepare my own meals (okay I can manage that) with some variety (I need new dishes) and I also want to be able to cook local and international standards.

Basically what I’m asking for is like, if I were to ask you to introduce me to 90s Pinoy rock, you’d take me to a Jerks gig, a Wolfgang-Razorback concert, and then hand me albums by Eraserheads, Yano, and Rivermaya. What’s the equivalent of that in cooking? I’m honest about this question. I want to know. Where do I start? How do I learn?

I’m gonna hit the bookstores again later. Let’s see if I can find something that fits. It’s got to have a good range of recipes that a cooking noob like me can pull off, and the recipes have to be made up of ingredients that I can get at my local supermarket. (I’m also thinking if I can do a variation of being a loca-vore, but then I live in the heart of the city, so that’s a tough demand. Anyways, something to think about.) Right so, off to buy a cookbook.

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