Sometimes, weeks have a theme. Most of the time the theme turns out to be something like fatigue, stress, or if you’re lucky, home-made marshmallows, but this week, my theme was bookish resources. Don’t worry – it is not nearly as boring as it sounds.
Firstly, the founder of Eat Your Books came into the America’s Test Kitchen library to talk to us about her delightful database. Although databases may conjure up memories of desperate research projects from your college days – this one is all fun. Basically, you input your cookbooks into the site and then -magically – search for recipes across all of your books. This means no more looking through 12 cookbooks for how to roast a chicken again! I ended up making green tea butter cookies this week because I searched for ‘tea’ in an experimental mood and found a lovely recipe on Chocolate and Zucchini (a blog I hadn’t bothered to check out until now).
You may be thinking that you didn’t come to this book blog for the chronicles of my cooking experiments, and you would be justified in your sour mood, but Eat Your Books is also an excellent tool for finding more cookbooks. Not only do you see your own bookshelf, but you can also search through any cookbook that has been indexed. Books can be ranked by popularity in order to discover which cookbooks are owned by other home-cooks. You can also witness the living rivalry between Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Julee Rosso’s The Silver Palate Cookbook. Apparently every user has one or the other of them, and they switch places on the popularity lists daily. My unconscious vote was for Julia – what will yours be?
However, in spite of its user-friendly interface, attractive name, and pleasant greens, every database has a downside. It costs the providers money to index hundreds of thousands of recipes and keep up the technical side of things – so this service isn’t free. However, 25$ isn’t too much to pay for a little more creativity and a little less frustration in your cookbook life. It might also make a good christmas gift for that sister-in-law who has every cookbook and gadget save this one.
Secondly, I discovered the incredible, non-academic power of WorldCat this week in a focus group. If you have ever heard about it before, you’ll be wondering why I keep dredging up dingy memories of college in this post, because most of us have used it only to locate an obscure book in Germany for a thesis or dissertation and not given it a thought since. Well, WorldCat is trying to change this perception of itself and has added a host of new features to make itself more accessible. You’ll have to spend a few minutes on the site looking at the genre lists and Identities Network, but I love it because it makes searching multiple catalogs so easy. If you live in a city and frequent multiple libraries, WorldCat will do wonders for your online efficiency – instead of clunking through multiple old public libraries’ catalogs, just search on WorldCat and save yourself a few minutes. They are also layering on a social networking component, with tags, profiles, and the ability to make public book lists. It is an excellent compliment to LibraryThing or GoodReads, because it allows you to track down copies of any books you might be recommended there.
So here you are – I give you the keys to several hours of online, bookish fun, and a whole host of techniques to improve efficiency and decrease frustration.