This Foodie Friday, let’s talk about cookbooks. I have…well, a lot. Probably 50 linear feel of cookbooks – maybe more.

cookbook shelf 1

(Photo credit: chotda)

There are hundreds and they’re separated by cuisine (if you call BBQ a cuisine) – Italian here, Cajun there, vegan, baking books – dozens of classifications. On the one hand, I’m never at a loss for inspiration when I come home with a bunch of great ingredients and no clue what I’m going to do with them. On the other hand, it’s really overwhelming.  Why make one meatball recipe when there are 45 variations at your fingertips?

The odd thing is that I don’t generally cook out of these books much any more.  Oh sure, on the rare occasions when I bake something, a good cookbook is a necessity.  After all, that kind of chemistry is not something one does off the top of one’s head.  Even so, I use them to master techniques. While it’s fun to  produce a perfect copy of something tired and true out of a favorite book,most of the time I’m  turning to a familiar volume for inspiration or reassurance.  Which is really the business point as well.

There are business cookbooks.  There are volumes that outline everything from sound fiscal policy to managing employees to developing new products and services.  In  a way, I hope that this screed serves as a daily mini-volume of inspiration.  For some things  – accounting rules, for example – it’s almost like baking.  Follow the rules or you’ll end up in trouble.  In other areas, follow the business recipe any of the great sources lay out and you’ll probably do pretty well especially if you’ve got great people and products with which to work.  Greatness, however, is something that you won’t find in a cookbook.

Many of the cookbooks on the market today are dumbed down (thanks, Food Network).  Follow the recipes they contain and you’ll present relatively good, if uninspired, food.  Using the flavor profiles as the inspiration isn’t a bad idea but just as writers use a dictionary and thesaurus, a cookbook should serve as a reference volume, not as a script.  It’s the same in business.  Books can inspire and serve as an adjunct to creative thinking based on sound fundamentals..  They’re tools, not crutches, and brilliant business pole don’t get their answers in books, because the great recipes are truly one’s own.

I can’t imagine not having not having the resources my cookbooks provide.  You should read as many business books are you have time to absorb.  Then distill them into your own recipes and make something great.

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