Years ago, when I was studying literature in university, it was more or less my job to be the owner of hundreds of books. Hundreds of them. They lived on my second-hand Ikea bookshelves, and in piles on the floor, and in drawers meant for underwear, and stacked as tall as the lamp on my bedside table — not to mention the books that somehow drifted into the kitchen and the living room, co-mingling with the similarly hyperbolic book collections of my roommates.
I rarely had time to actually read all the books that I was supposed to have read for class (looking at you, Remembrance of Things Past), but that didn’t stop me from near-constantly stopping into the local used book store, you know, Just to browse, and heading home with another handful of books to permanently neglect.
And then school ended and I had to move. My roommates and I had a huge yard sale and I sold off what I (then) considered to be a sizable amount of my collection. But then I moved again. Then I had to put my things into storage for a year.
And then I moved four more times.
Each time, I pared the collection down a little further, until I was left with only the books I truly loved — plus a couple of Latin textbooks I just can’t seem to let go. And in an effort to preserve my future sanity should I ever have to move again, I’ve tried to avoid buying any more books. Now, I borrow them from friends or from the library, and rein in my old habits of dog-earing the pages and underlining passages that resonate with me. And for the most part, this works pretty well.
Except for cookbooks. For some reason, I’ve started collecting cookbooks like it’s going out of style. Perhaps it’s because I can dog-ear them and write all over them and spill tomato sauce on them with impunity — I’ve always had a fondness for marginalia. But to stop this collection from going the way of Robertson Davies’ collected works, I try to make sure that I actually cook from the cookbooks I’ve got hanging around.
One such book was Silvena Rowe’s Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume, a collection of Turkish-inspired recipes, which I’ve had sitting around for years going mostly unused. But the other night, we had a dinner party with a (very loose) Middle Eastern theme, and this salad was one of the dishes I thought would pair perfectly with the meal.
As far as I’m concerned, though, it stole the show. The cucumbers are mild and cold and crunchy, and the yoghurt adds a summery tang, which is all offset by the toastiness of the pistachio and the sweetness of the blackberries, plus the punch of fresh herbs and the unique tartness that pomegranate molasses provides. It’s truly the perfect summer salad, and it works as part of a meze platter or as a standalone dish. It works beautifully with grilled meat skewers, and a light tabouleh.
Any cookbooks you keep around that could use some love?