While the bulk of most cookbooks is recipes and pictures, many also include introductory pages or sections along with individual recipe introductions. These pages are full of lovely stories about family, history, culture, and experiences. It's these pages that truly bring cookbooks to life. The authors will share tales from their life about how their grandmother taught them how to pickle or their grandfather showed them how to make sauce or how their mother used to pack a peanut butter sandwich for them every morning. Even the technique sections of cookbooks will often relate back to a personal experience in the author's life. These tales are full of such life and love that it whets the appetite for the recipes to come later.
The stories also perfectly showcase how food came to play such a central role in our culture. Food brings us together as families, friends, and societies. We find common ground with food, and we share experiences with food. We pass along old family recipes and we share what we make with others. Food brings us all to the table, and cookbooks are what helps us bring that comforting ritual into our own lives.
I love reading cookbooks because the stories go beyond the ingredients to make dumplings. Cookbooks are the portraits of the best of our culture.