I love going to the grocery store. Well, that's not quite true. Who likes hazy florescent lighting and check-out lines? What I really love is planning to go the grocery store--that hour or so when all the cookbooks come off the shelf, my tattered collection of printed recipes falls open, and I imagine meals of warm Indian curry and Peruvian stir-fry accompanied by chilly glasses of golden beer. My cookbook obsession began somewhere between culinary school and the many hours I spent working in the library of America's Test Kitchen (think Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines). Sure, I'd grown up baking French breakfast muffins and Denver Sheet cake from the Junior League's Colorado books, but the constant perusing, the persistent searching for new recipes, the lingering over an unusual ingredient--that didn't happen until I'd been exposed to Jewish cookbooks, Spanish books, and baking tutorials. Only then did I realize how many ways there are to make zucchini bread or butternut-squash ravioli. I'm particularly excited about my next pre-grocery-store hour. I've been out of town quite a bit recently, with no time to cook. But in anticipation of the grocery list, I've already checked out the cookbook picks of Berkeley's Chez Panisse pastry chef David Lebovitz and logged into Gourmet's cookbook club (registration required). And while I'm not sure that the ingredients for Gourmet's butterscotch pie will make it on to my grocery list, if they do, I think I'll have to pencil in chicken tights and green beans, too. That way I could have a whole Southern meal of fried chicken, brown-butter-laced green beans, and sweet caramel-y pie. Or perhaps, I'd add pork chops. Because don't tender maple-orange glazed chops sound like an excellent opener to butterscotch pie? Tough questions. But I'll leave them for later, when I pull The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2008 off the shelf, flip open the newest issue of Sunset magazine, and open my binder of recipe printouts from Chow.com. After all, recipe reading fires the imagination like a good novel. Which leaves me to wonder, what else should I be reading?
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