I have shelves jammed tight with Sicilian, Thai and Basque cookbooks. I have picture albums of Paris restaurants and pocket-size guides to making muffins, as well as cozy memoirs from long-ago cooks and stern, get-rid-of-the-fat prescriptions from important doctors (with recipes, inevitably, from the doctors' wives). Do I cook? Now and then.
So, if we Americans aren't cooking, why do we buy so many cookbooks?
I asked a bookshop owner that question. "Vicarious travel," he said. "We'd rather read Paula Wolfert than go to Turkey. It's safer, it's cheaper and it takes a lot less time."