The first week of every January, I have an enviable problem–a problem of abundance in every way.  Holiday roundups are over, and after a week of bingeing on festive food I need to get back on my treadmill, which kept getting covered in books throughout December.  It’s time for cookbook cleanup!

Only problem is, somewhere between 200 and 300 books came in over the fall, and I want to keep them ALL.  But my bookshelves are already full.  It’s time for some ruthless winnowing.  Heartbreaking, but there you have it.

This morning I rolled up my sleeves and hit the “Single-Subject” section of my library.  Do I really need 4 books on pasta?  8 books on meat cookery (and even more than that on seafood)?  Agonizing over every one, I part with a book here, a book there.  So long to the matched set of little gift cookbooks on Apples, Squash, and Tomatoes–so pretty, but not actually useful. So long to the fifth book just on soup.  Adieu to the Very Ambitious Salad book and the hardbound edition of the seafood book I use in paperback.  Farewell to the book on flavored butters–I think I can figure those out for myself.  Goodbye, sort-of-disappointing stew book!

All in all, I drop about 40 books into the “gift” pile.  Hurray!  Now I have room for I Love Meatballs! and Salsas of the World and yet another book of salad dressings!

To tell the truth, the single-subject section is actually the easiest to winnow.  Most of the books are not on my cookbook-indexing website, Eat Your Books, (an indexed book is harder to part with! ), and the quality is not as consistent or the depth of knowledge as great.  The main virtue of a single-subject cookbook is that it makes it easy to look up, say, a blueberry recipe when blueberries are in season.  But searchable databases make that so easy anyway…so a single-subject book has to have some other compelling virtue (say, thoroughness, or helpfulness) for me to keep it.

I’ll be moving on next to the Baking section, which–despite being the least used section of the  library–accounts for the most calories I consume over the course of a year.  But’s that’s OK.  At least I can find my treadmill now.