Saturday, January 8, 2011

One Woman's Addiction: The Deep Dark Super Sad Secret Story

They say that admitting to a problem is the first step in being able to overcome it. And what better place for such an admission than here, where the people who know and love me nestle cozily among millions of complete strangers to form the secure emotional harbor that is the Internet; here, knowing that I can count on you for support, loyal readers and new friends who happened along out of morbid curiosity piqued by seeing the word “addiction” in a blog subject line; here at last I feel safe in sharing my secret and unburdening my weary soul.

My name is Harlean, and I am addicted to Theme Cookbooks.

You know the ones I mean. The $2.99 evils that lurk at the checkstand in every grocery store in America and throw themselves into your cart the instant you turn your back to reach for a box of Altoids. The ‘30 Minute Meal’ Cookbook. The ‘Fun with Frozen Spinach’ Cookbook. The ‘If You Can’t Wrap It In A Tortilla You Obviously Don’t Need It That Badly Now DO YOU?!’ Cookbook.

Oh yes, I have them all. I am weak, a weak and sorry thing when confronted by the power that is the Theme Cookbook.

I first suspected that I had a problem one evening a few months back when I stopped at the drugstore on my way home from work. I needed a gallon of milk and some cotton balls. This should have been a five minute interruption of my journey, scarcely noticeable and not worthy of mention then or now. Upon reaching my destination, I noticed a display of summer items and, since at the time I was in the market for sun tea jars, I thought a glance at that aisle was in order. They did not have sun tea jars. What they did have was Theme Cookbooks, 3 for $10. Hardcover Theme Cookbooks. When I made my way out of the store forty-five minutes later, after having perused every single available title and overcoming the anguish of limiting myself to only three, I was the proud owner of The Pizza Cookbook, The Comfort Food Cookbook, and The Delicious Snacks Cookbook.

In my defense, I can say only this; delicious snacks. I mean, come on.

And as strongly as I hold to the belief that my life will indeed become a brighter and more precious thing once I have truly mastered the fine art of Cake Mix Cooking, these practical everyday little gems are nothing compared to the draw I feel when confronted by...

The Holiday Theme Cookbook.

Here, I am not just weak. Show me a cookbook with a picture of Santa's Village made entirely of dried cranberries, peanut butter and Nilla Wafers on the cover, and I am not weak; I am done. '50 All-Time Best Holiday Cookies Ever In Whole Wide World'? It doesn’t even occur to me that I have 43 of those recipes in the other All-Time Best Holiday Cookie collections already in my possession; I have slapped my $2.99 down on the counter and am off and running before you can say “cool completely and store in an airtight container.”

Do you know how to make eight magical flying reindeer from a tube of ready-to-bake cinnamon rolls, a box of Corn Flakes, half a cup of chocolate sprinkles and roll of waxed paper? I do. Oh, but wait. The worst is yet to come.

Strong as it is, Christmas is not when the peak of Holiday Theme Cookbook power is reached. Oh no, there is a holiday even stronger, greater and more dangerous in the realm of the Theme Cookbook.


Anyone who has ever made a Haunted Forest Veggie Platter complete with jicama ghosts, olive bats and black-tinted broccoli trees knows exactly what I’m talking about. And those of you who haven’t, don’t. I beg you. Stop before you start, you’ve no idea the power of what you face. Oh sure, you think it might be fun to try it once, it’s a party, what the hell, everybody does it sometime, right? Wrong. The Haunted Forest Veggie Platter leads to the Witch’s Broom Breadsticks, and from there to the Egg Roll Coffins. Before you realize what’s happening, you are up to your elbows in ground turkey, striving to form the perfect CorpseLoaf. There is no end to it. The only true end is to never begin. Trust me on this.

It has been 149 days since my last purchase of a Theme Cookbook. But before you begin to think that I am cured, free of the Theme Cookbook draw, allow me to relate to you what happened just yesterday.

September 19 is Talk Like A Pirate Day. Sadly, my love and I will not be together to celebrate this glorious occasion, but to raise our spirits we turned yesterday’s conversation toward next year, and the idea that we could then throw a Talk Like A Pirate Day party. Before we even finished speaking the words, my brain popped up with “Oh, and you have a recipe for Skull & Crossbones Salad with the skulls made out of canned pear halves, you can make that.”

I haven’t even looked at the book that contains the Skull & Crossbones Salad recipe in almost a year, yet there it was, hovering on the periphery of my mind just waiting to spring the instant it had an excuse to come forward.

I am not a well woman. I realize this now. Once you have taken the Theme Cookbook into your life and home, you can never truly be free of its power.


  1. i see theme cookbooks the same way i see every new study on a newly discovered protein or mineral that is apparently a crucial building block in health and well-being and is the reason why we're all so unhappy and rash-covered: you don't know that you need it until you find it. and then when you do, it's all good.

  2. I HAVE noticed I don't get nearly as many rashes since I started my 'Cooking with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup' diet...