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Q&A

Q: So what exactly are you doing?
A: I’m cooking from each of the cookbooks in my collection by June 30, 2010. There are 107 cookbooks that qualify as cookbooks; I also own some pamphlets and innumerable clippings, and subscribe to several cooking magazines, but they’re not part of the project.

Q: Why not?
A: Because there just isn’t time. I do need to keep my day job. This is a start; maybe I can tackle the ephemera and magazines starting July 1, 2010.

Q: What made you decide to do this?
A: I realized that I have a ridiculous number of cookbooks that I’ve never used. I have cookbooks I’ve owned for years and never used. I always intended to use them, just never found the time. So this is a way to make the time.

Q: Are you cooking everything from the books in the collection?
A: Oh, god, no. The 107 books contain more than 33,000 recipes all told. It’s just not possible. Certainly not by June 30, 2010; possibly not in my lifetime.

Q: Isn’t this a lot like the Julie & Julia Project?
A: There are similarities but there are definitely differences. Julie Powell spent a year cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The 107 Cookbooks project is not a comprehensive study of any one cookbook but an organized sampling of a too-large and possibly too eclectic collection. Julie had to try every recipe in the book, regardless of whether she expected to like the results; I will have the freedom to steer away from the less appealing recipes in most of the books. Julie also had to cook over 300 recipes; my bare minimum is only 107 (I expect to hit closer to 150 in practice). On the other hand, Julie never had to do anything with Twinkies, whereas I will be forced to make something with them. And I’m embarrassed to admit, Mastering the Art of French Cooking is not one of the books in the collection.

Q: Are you a trained cook?
A: No. My mother taught me to cook when I was growing up, and I took the bare minimum of required home ec classes in junior high school. I’ve also taken one evening class in making Asian fusion appetizers (they were good). Beyond that, I’m really just self-taught from cookbooks, magazines, cooking shows, online advice, and a lot of practice. One of my goals is to demonstrate that you don’t have to have special training to cook at home.

Q: In the Bookshelf, what does the comment “Recipes of the Damned” mean?
A: It means that I originally got the book as source material for the blog Recipes of the Damned. But not every recipe in a cookbook with that designation is bad or scary or inadvisable; at least one is, maybe more, but often not the majority.

Q: Does this mean you cannot buy (or accept, if given) another cookbook until next June?

A: I’ve thought about that a bit. I think it means I shouldn’t buy another cookbook until next June, but even if I do I should refrain from using it until then. (I would say, “unless there’s a recipe in it I don’t have elsewhere,” but 35,000 recipes–what are the odds?) Of course I can always accept a cookbook given to me, though again, probably I would wait until next July to use it.

Q: I have more questions. How can I contact you?

A: I’ll do my best to answer any questions that come through in comments. You can also contact me through this form.