I am inordinately excited about cookbooks. I love them. I buy them, I borrow them, I get them from the library. I read them like novels, front to back. I use them.

I bought my first cookbook,The Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer, as a freshman in college. Sadly, I discovered too late that it was bound without pages 117-148. I contacted the publishers, and they curtly informed me that I would just have to buy another. Anyway, Ms. Rombauer undertook the task of collecting recipes for everything she could think of as a remedy for the depression she experienced when her husband died. It is full of age-old recipes, new, modernized recipes, quick recipes using convenience foods, and witty commentary, including old-wives tales, folk remedies, quotation, and verse. My favorite: On beaten biscuits, page 634:

To win unending gratitude, serve to any homesick southerner this classic accompaniment to Virginia ham. The following lines by Miss Howard Weeden in Bandanna Ballads sum up in a nutshell the art of making biscuits:

“Of course I’ll gladly give de rule
I meks beat biscuit by,
Dough I ain’t sure dat you will mek
Dat bread de same as I

“Case cookin’s like religion is–
Some’s ‘lected an’ some ain’t,
An’ rules don’t no more mek a cook
Den sermons mek a saint.”

Our boxes from the storage unit were delivered on Saturday night, and with glee, I began opening them to see what treasures had been secreted away these many months, even years. Since we had been living in a basement apartment with little shelving, we kept most of our books in boxes, but now, I’m going to let them free. Or course, I still don’t have any shelves, but those will come.

Here’s a list of all the cookbooks I’ve unearthed so far, in absolutely no order of preference.

The Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer.
The Cake Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum
Vegan with a Vengeance, Isa Chandra Moskowitz
To the King’s Taste, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Early American Cookery, Margaret Huntington Hooker
The Splendid Grain, Rebecca Wood
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison
Jaques Pepin’s Table, Jaques Pepin
Potager, Georgeanne Brennan
finger food, Elsa Petersen-Schepelern
Greens Glorious Greens, Johnna Albi and Catherine Walthers
New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, The Moosewood Collective
Classic Indian Cooking, Julie Sahni
World Vegetarian, Madhur Jaffrey
Moosewood Restaurant New Classics, The Moosewood Collective
Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, The Moosewood Collective
Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special, The Moosewood Collective
Bones, Jennifer McLagan
Cookbook of Breads, Sunset
Moosewood Cookbook, Mollie Katzen
Mexican Cookbook, Sunset
The Bread Bible, Peter Reinhart
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Peter Reinhart
Easy Beans, Trish Ross
Vegetarian Sushi Made Easy, Hiroko Fukuhara and Yasuko Takahata
The Silver Palate Cookbook, Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins
Secrets of Jewish Baker, George Greenstein
Great Cookies, Carole Walter
The Pie and Pastry Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum
Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, Recipes from the Hunan Province, Fuchsia Dulop
Arabesque, A Taste Or Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon, Claudia Roden
Chez Jacques, Jacques Pepin
Flavors of India, Madhur Jaffrey
First Meals, Annabel Karmel
Sundays at Moosewood, The Moosewood Collective
Moosewood Restaurant Celebrated, The Moosewood Collective
Breakfast, James McNair
From Julia Child’s Kitchen, Julia Child
The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines – China, Greece, Rome, Jeff Smith
The Frugal Gourmet On Our Immigrant Ancestors, Jeff Smith
A French Chef Cooks at Home, Jacques Pepin
Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, James Beard
Quick and Easy Thai, Nancie McDermott
Corn Cookbook, James McNair
Rice Cookbook, James McNair
Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook
Pretend Soup, Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson
International Vegetarian Cookbook, Sunset
Tofu Cookery, Louise Hagler
Light Desserts, Sunset
Hors D’Oeuvres, Sunset
Picnics and Tailgate Parties, Sunset
Pasta Cookbook, Sunset
Amish Cooking, Crescent Books
The Provence Cookbook, Patricia Wells,
American Pie, Peter Reinhart
1000 Best Recipe, Cook’s Illustrated
Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking, Julie Sahni
Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, 1969 edition

That’s the list so far, but I think there’s at least one more box to find. As you can see, my collection is a mishmash of high and low cooking, vegetarian and non, ethnic, fake ethnic, baking, and general recipes. Just looking at them all makes me excited to go experiment in the kitchen. What should I make for dinner?

I got my own, personal interview from one of my new favorite bloggers, Azúcar. I found her doing a random google search, and it turns out she lives just a few blocks away from me, and we share some common interests. Yay! So she read up on my quirkiness, and sent me these questions. If you would like an interview from me, I would love to do it. Just ask me in the comments.

1. How did you start running or figure out that you love to run?

I come from a family of runners. My Grandpa was a Utah record holder for the mile, about 70 years ago. While I was growing up, my parents started running, and gradually joined the group of semi-psychotic masochists called “ultra-runners.” These are people for whom a marathon is just not enough. Both my parents have run the Wasatch 100 mile Endurance run, which, for the record, is one of the more strenuous of the 100-milers. I grew up with an expectation that I would run it someday too.

I ran on the track and cross-country teams in high school. I once got a school record for the 800 meter, which was snatched away the very next week. I was also on a team that got a record for the medley relay, where I ran the anchor leg, also 800 meters. I ran on and off through college, never going more than 6 miles. After Calvin was born, running was so painful that I thought I would never be able to do it again. Then, after Zeeb was born, I gained about 20 pounds in a very short time, and I decided I needed to try again.

I started with 2 minutes at a time and got up to 45 minutes in about 3 or 4 months. My cousin asked me to team with her for the Blue Mountain to Canyonlands Triathlon, so I had incentive to get up to 6 miles again. After that, I would hear about a race and just enter it. So that summer, I ended up running 2 half marathons, the Provo River and the Hobble Creek. I don’t recommend doing those both in the same year, since they’re 2 weeks apart. But I loved them both. I loved finding out I could run 13.1 miles in 1 hour and 47 minutes. Even if it was all downhill.

2. Where did you go to high school and what did your prom dress look like?

I went to high school in Salt Lake City, Utah, at West High. I graduated in 1993 with no special honors, because I was too lazy to do homework. I almost didn’t graduate because of my F in AP English, but my teacher let me make up the work 2 days before graduation.

My prom dress? Well, my mom made it. I’m gonna see if I can figure out how to scan a photo, and I’ll post it when I get it done. It was a long flowy cream colored skirt with a shiny cream brocade jacket that I loved. Looking back, I kinda wish the shoulder pad thing had never come into fashion. The surprise is that I actually did go to prom. We didn’t have a senior prom, just a junior prom. But it was still the thing. I had a date because a friend of mine felt bad that I had to go to homecoming with someone I didn’t want to go with (I was in the royalty, so I had to go), and this friend promised me he would take me to prom whether or not he had a girlfriend by then (7 months later), which he did. He was even kind enough to double with the guy that I really had a crush on. Well, he later married that girlfriend, and the other guy married his prom date. I’m not sad.

3. What was your major in college, did you ever change it, and did you graduate?

When I started college, I thought I would major in English. As it turns out, I never took a single English class, even for GE. For a while, I was a music major, then I changed to microbiology, then I went back to music. I thought about Linguistics for a while, but I decided I should just graduate. Which took me 8 years. I have an obsession with languages, and since BYU offers millions, I had a good time taking at least one language class per semester, for a total of about 40 hours of languages (that I didn’t need, since I majored in music). I took Italian, Spanish, German, French, and Russian.

I majored in organ performance, but discovered I really didn’t like giving recitals when I nearly died of nervousness during a recital at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, in Salt Lake. I still play once every two months in church. And yes, I have played the organ in the Tabernacle. And no, I have never wanted to play at a baseball game.

I was also accepted as a trombone performance major, which I thought was funny, since I hadn’t applied. I think they just really wanted a few more females in the major. They offered me a scholarship. Also funny since I only learned how to play the trombone because I had some friends who played, and I thought it would be funny. Yes it was. I played in the Cougar Marching Band for two years.

4. We already know you love The Hero & the Crown, name three other fiction books that you would force us to read.

This is like asking me to name my favorite child. I have now spent several days trying to think of my three favorite books. Well, here’s a try:

Seventh Son, by Orson Scott Card. I think the storytelling in this one is beautiful, and the story is interesting. It’s definitely from the fantasy phase, but definitely not the unicorns and fairies part of that phase. I left that behind when I was 12, right before I went into the sci-fi phase. Also from the fantasy side (OK, OK, I didn’t really leave it behind) is Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale. It falls in there with Hero, as a book about an empowered young female, and is lovely.

I really liked Smilla’s Sense of Snow, by Peter Hoeg. It’s a mystery, and the writing is brilliant, especially in the first half. The ending sucks rocks, though. But I love mysteries, probably more than any other genre. Agatha Christie saved me in Vienna when I was locked in the apartment all day and didn’t feel like learning Chinese. That’s another story for another day.

I also read a lot of the Newberry winners and honor books. One of my favorites was The Giver, by Lois Lowry. I like dystopia novels, they help me with my parenting skills. Another dystopia one I liked was Feed, by M. T. Anderson.

5. If you could move anywhere, where would you live and why?

To a farm where I could pretend to be useful, but really watch the paid farmhands do all the work. It would be a farm with big mountains nearby and a mild climate. I would have chickens for eggs, a few sheep for wool, bees, a milk cow, a gigantic herb garden that I would harvest and sell at the local farmer’s market, a gigantic flower garden, ditto, and lots and lots of vegetables. And a horse for my daughter. And I would like it a lot if it were in the south of France.

6. Bonus question: What is your favorite Austrian treat or food (and if you say hazelnut Manner Schnitten, I’ll know we’re separated at birth.)

Hazelnuts and chocolate are a combination worthy of the Nobel Prize. But honestly, if it has sugar in it? I love it.  I went to the Hotel Sacher once and had Sachertorte and Hot Chocolate mit Schlag after the Opera. I love a good Apfel Strudel. And at the Markt in Salzburg, I got the best Lebkuchen ever. I liked the Mozart Kugeln, but for some reason I liked the fake ones better than the real ones. I’m a marzipan snob, and my mom makes the best marzipan ever. Spell-check does not like this paragraph.

Now you know everything that is important about me. I run, read, play the organ, speak several languages, like to garden, like sweet stuff, and above all else, I’m really lazy and don’t do any of that stuff.

For some people, breadmaking is a form of meditation. It is calming, and earthy. For me, I just really like fresh, home-made bread. I also like doing things that will in some way show my commitment to sustainability. By using my own steam, I am saving a microscopic amount of energy, keeping myself warm so I can feel better about having the thermostat low, and teaching my family that not everything has to come from a store. I like to make bread, but it is time consuming.

So, I like to listen to good music and get in a little dancing in the morning while I make my bread. My current favorite music for kneading is Close to the Bone, by Old Blind Dogs. They are a Scottish folk band with some modern influence. They are highly danceable. I especially like the ballad The Cruel Sister, and the instrumentals The Honeymoon reel/ Kings/ The Clayslaps reel, and The Universal Hall/ The Nuptial Knot/ The Barlinnie Highlander. The pipe tunes are so sweet, I can’t keep my feet still, and the rhythms are perfect for kneading, or for dancing with your baby. My kids also love this stuff. Calvin always sings along with the fa-la-las on The Cruel Sister. I’m sort of glad he can’t understand the words, though.

I also love Spanish Guitar Music, a collection by John Williams. He is so smooth, not at all distracting with crazy loose interpretation. Just the right kind of rhythmic. I hate listening to music where I can’t find the beat, or keep track of it. I listened to some Pablo Cassals the other day, and it nearly drove me crazy. He might be a master, but I like my Bach with a discernible beat. Not metronomic, just not so free that you can’t follow it. That’s how dear Pablo was. I couldn’t hang on to the melodies, I felt like I was in a small boat on the big ocean. Wave after wave was tossing me up and down. I might try that again someday, but definitely not for breadmaking.

Another good one is the soundtrack to Footloose. But that’s only if you’re really feeling hyper, and you have a jungle-gym to swing on in your kitchen.

I love The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart. This book has changed the way I think of bread, from the making all the way to the cutting and eating. I love bread, and I always will. Apprentice gives general instructions for all breads, and specific formulas for individual, and fantastic breads. The scientific section is so readable that I sat down and read it all the day I got the book. I have been accused of reading cookbooks, but this one was like a novel. I loved learning about yeast, the properties of flours, different kinds of heat, ovens, crazy places in Paris that I’ll probably never get to go to, and what to expect from a perfect loaf of bread. Also, it has a formula for the most intense and fantastical corn bread I’ve ever had. I made it the day after Thanksgiving for a big group, and it was a smash hit. Bacon. Yes, bacon.

Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible is similar to Apprentice, but has many more formulas. She seems to really like sweet things, breads with chocolate in them, etc. She is not a meditator. I found her introduction slightly off-putting, just because she so vehemently denied any spirituality in breadmaking. I just can’t think how one woman can tell anyone else that they can’t feel spiritual about any one thing. And I had already read Apprentice, which, to me, is much more welcoming and personal. It’s more about love. The Bread Bible has pretty pictures, and is very comprehensive. It has the same scientific info as Apprentice, so it really has what you need, and it has formulas for all those rich things like brioche and biscuits and chocolate bread. I just don’t like the tone as much. I feel like she thinks she knows everything, and is merely blessing us with her literary offerings. Granted, she does know a heck of a lot.

Another favorite is The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking, by Rick Curry. If you want something spiritual, here it is. He give recipes for seasonal breads, feast breads, and everyday breads. He also throws in some prayers, thoughts on meditation, beautiful stories of his breadmaking journey, and the joy he gets from sharing his bread. He makes bread every day, always some to give away. I love that. And the guy only has one arm. He makes his bread by hand, with one arm. I haven’t tried any of the recipes, because I only borrowed the book and had to give it back. But I think I’m going to buy it.

Before I had The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and The Bread Bible, I started with Secrets of a Jewish Baker, by George Greenstein. This is a good starter book. It does not go into detail about the science of bread, and the recipes sometimes have to be adjusted for your location (recipes are given in English measurements, not metric. I live in a very dry place, so flour is dryer and needs more moisture per cup to hydrate it fully. It is easier to weigh the flour and the water, rather than using a cup measure), and I also found more success with lower oven temperatures than the ones recommended. But the recipes are good, and uncomplicated. He give instructions for sponge and straight-dough methods, with hand mixing, food-processor mixing, and stand-mixer mixing. I think that’s helpful, especially for a beginning breadmaker.

But if you’re only going to get one book about bread, get The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.