Tell-tale evidence of a good cookbook …

You can gauge the personal worth of a cookbook by its condition.

If its pages are crisp, the cover clean, that’s a collection of recipes untapped and untried. Something else stationary ultimately to dust. Pretty pictures for pretty weird dishes calling for ingredients or spices I don’t have and don’t want.

The messier cookbooks?

Now those are the ones with some real kitchen character, with some value to them. Staples for what a stove and oven can muster.

They have Xs or stars or circles around the recipe name, dog-eared pages, food stains, coffee spills, flour dust and even cryptic phone messages when there apparently weren’t any notepads close at hand.

Some of my older cookbooks have scribbles and stick figures and attempts by my then-kids to practice the alphabet. Hopefully, their penmanship and my cooking have seen some improvement since then.

I have cookbooks that fall in both categories — quite neglected and very abused.

I consulted the latter grouping with Thanksgiving coming this week instead of the ones that really belong in the “like-new” yard sale pile.

I confess I probably enjoy looking at cookbooks more for pleasure reading than food production, but even I break down and make dishes from scratch now and then, especially during the stretch of holidays.

For starters, I was looking for the baked corn recipe I usually use, because for a holiday meal, baked corn has to be one of the side dishes.

It’s funny how dishes get that holiday-meal celebrity status. Certain side dishes. Certain noodles. Certain desserts.

Eliminate them and you’re living dangerously, girl.

It amazes me how there can be so many recipe variations for such a simple dish as baked corn but there are, including some differences in the number of eggs used, what kind of corn, some call for sugar or no sugar at all.

My cousin’s wife makes the best version of baked corn, hands down, the reason a simple one aside from the fact that she made it and not me. It’s the corn, Sherlock. Not Green Giant or Del Monte or the Great Value canned variety.

It’s Hout corn, grown locally, which isn’t mentioned in any recipe, but that’s the secret, by golly.

Looking for one recipe leads me to other recipes in other cookbooks. Like potato chips, it’s addicting. You can’t do just one.

I have my favorites, one of them being “Treasured Recipes from Warrior Country” that the Wintersville Football Mothers put out in 1989.

It has a great whipped cream icing recipe that has elevated me from someone who can make a dessert to someone who “must make” that cake with “that icing.”

It’s got a pepperoni roll recipe that’s become a family favorite, too.

It’s hard to go wrong with church cookbooks, and I’ve got quite a few of those, including ones done by my own church through the years by the now-defunct Gold Key Circle group of Richmond United Methodist Church.

A church cookbook or church potluck are tough to find fault with.

Not gonna’ happen.

History and food are a great recipe for a great cookbook, and “A Taste of Toronto … Ohio, that is” is evidence of that. It was a project of the Toronto High School Alumni Association.

At more than 300 pages, this is a cookbook to savor, and that’s even before you’ve tried one recipe, the baked corn one included.

Cookbooks are a great read.

Whatever ones you’re using this week, whatever dishes you’re making for your get-together, here’s hoping it hits the spot.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.


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