I know what you're thinking: Why would one person need so many cookbooks? I probably shouldn't admit that in addition to a cabinet crammed full of cookbooks, I have two metal tins stuffed with recipe cards and my husband has a whole separate pile of bread-baking books in his office. So yeah, I have a lot of recipes.
And what does it mean to need a cookbook? These days I cook most things of the top of my head, but I learned what flavors work well together over many years of faithfully following recipes. Many of my cookbooks stick around only so I can consult that one beloved recipe for a dish I can't create from memory.
You can tell which recipes I use most by seeing where the cookbooks fall open naturally. The Joy of Cooking opens to my favorite angel-food cake recipe, and that one little church-lady cookbook opens to an easy and delicious recipe for brownies. The fancy-pants high-society Junior League cookbook comes out of the cabinet
only when I need to make that marvelous raspberry cream cheese coffee cake, and if I have to keep a snobby and expensive book around just for that one recipe, it's worth it.
Some cookbooks carry sentimental value. The great big fat book full of recipes representing many nations was a gift from an old friend who said, "You're the only person I know who would try these things," and he was right--I do. (Ask me about my kim-chee.) And I would never buy a book called "Quick Dishes for the Woman in a Hurry," but who do you suppose would give such a book as a wedding gift? (If you guessed "mother-in-law," you're pretty close.)
The cookbook I use most frequently is Greene on Greens by the late Bert Greene, each chatty chapter offering up a cornucopia of recipes focusing on a single vegetable. Pumpkin rolls! Cabbage pancakes! Tater 'n' tomater pie! A borscht recipe bursting with winter root vegetables and bright red beets! He's my go-to guy when the garden's producing its goodies.
And I still hold tight to The More With Less Cookbook, a wedding gift from a friend who knew that we'd be cooking on a tight budget. Published in 1978 by the Mennonite Central Committee, More With Less had a very clear mission printed on the front cover: "Suggestions by Mennonites on how to eat better and consume less of the world's food resources."