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When I slashed the tape binding the huge box from Amazon a couple days before Christmas, I was more than delighted with the contents. Inside there were four beautifully wrapped and ribboned packages.  It was hard to tear off the adornments, so I decided from now on, I’ll just have Amazon gift wrap everything I purchase.

I had asked my son Eric for two cookbooks: The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook and The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. I added a wish at the end: “For S&G, send me the French Laundry Cookbook. I’ll never make anything from it, but it will be fun to look at.” The French Laundry Cookbook was included in the array, and giggles ensued as I perused the pages of entrees and desserts the size of shot glasses commanding a price higher than the wage I earn in an average week! Ah, but the French Laundry (http://frenchlaundry.com) describes its ever-changing menu as a series of nine small courses meant to “excite your mind, satisfy your appetite, and pique your curiosity.” Not exactly the Midwestern take on eating, ’cause we’d rather leave with our stomachs full and a little something left in the pocketbook, but it is the coolest coffee table book I own.

The fourth inclusion in the Christmas book bounty was River Road Recipes: The Baton Rouge Junior League Cookbook. It’s full of traditional Southern recipes, tips, and tricks, including how to prepare squirrel, quail, or raccoon for cooking.  I’m not thinking roadkill, people. But if I decide to host a wild game dinner, I could make Squirrel Pie (this recipe takes six squirrels! If I want to make this, Dante is going to have to stop greeting my birdseed thieves by their first names), Dove and Oyster Pie (16 doves and four dozen oysters — these Southerners don’t skimp!), or Coon A La Delta (just one raccoon needed for this one). I’m planning to go to Baton Rouge in March and wondering what the restaurants might be like. Not the French Laundry fare, I’m betting.

My goal for 2012 is to make one hundred new-to-me recipes. Things I’ve never tried before, but also, new ways with old things. Doesn’t matter, just one hundred new recipes.

I’m pretty pleased. In January, I made ten new recipes. The one I’ll make over and over again was Italian sausage soup with potatoes and kale: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/rich-italian-sausage-and-potato-soup/detail.aspx. Mardi Gras King Cake was a hit for Twelfth Night and I would definitely do that again. I tried the “Ultimate” chocolate chip cookie recipe from Cook’s, but found it, ultimately, rather unforgiving.  A recent attempt at rolled sugar cookies for Valentine’s day ended up as pink-frosted blobs with dimples, but they really tasted good. So far, I’ve made 15 new recipes — a few runs, several hits, and a couple outs.

Starting a new venture is always fraught with great expectations. Great inspirations lead to fun results, no matter what.