Collecting usually has more to do with the person doing the collecting than the actual items. For me, different cookbooks signify different periods of my life. I have a number of Rome cookbooks, acquired after my first trip to Italy, and then after my wedding in Rome. I also received a bunch of cookbooks as shower gifts. Other cookbooks indicate my interest in a particular type of cooking - like now, where I am focusing on vegetarian cooking. I also have favorite chefs or food people, and I like to acquire their cookbooks as well (Tom Colicchio, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Alice Waters, Mark Bittman). I prefer to cook simple, powerful dishes, and these folks all tend to have that philosophy.
I have the masters - Julia, the Essential New York Times Cookbook, and my favorite standby, The Bon Appetit Cookbook. Husband also has the original NYT Cookbook, which is hard to find, and a favorite. I'm also a sucker for cooking magazines, but love Food and Wine above all (it shows up the same day as Women's Health, which is sort of awesome. Actually I need to cancel that one).
For me, nothing is more relaxing than getting home from work early enough for the lines at Whole Foods to be tolerable, and to dig into a new recipe. Sure, I don't always follow them exactly, and often I like to play with recipes to make them my own.
I am not a real chef (my sister is!). I'm a hobbyist, and a food geek. I'd never say foodie, as I find the word silly, and because I also like to dig into the history and traditions of food, the supply and demand side of food, and sadly, the lack of food for many. Cookbooks demonstrate what was happening during a certain period of history - are there a number of books dedicated to eating on the cheap? Was there a war happening, and certain items were harder to find? Which chefs were changing the ideas of how and what people should eat? Which people are eating what - and which part of this is dictated by preference and which part by income? What is happening in different parts of the world? This will someday be my PhD study, but that's a dream for a different day. Instead I will daydream about my future kitchen with custom cookbook shelves to hold my growing history of foodways and food trends.
It's beginning to be spring in DC, so I'll be using a lot of herbs, veggies like ramps and asparagus and peas, spinach and arugula, and other fun stuff found at farmers markets to create these recipes. I promise I'll post pics!