Cookbook Junkies: A delicious addiction

Parker woman’s Facebook group cooks up 12,700 members

Posted 10/5/14

If the cooking community speaks a universal language, Jenny Hartin is undoubtedly fluent.

A few years ago, she was a paralegal working in Manhattan. Now a stay-at-home mom in Parker, she presides over a domain of devoted cooks from every corner …

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Cookbook Junkies: A delicious addiction

Parker woman’s Facebook group cooks up 12,700 members

Posted

If the cooking community speaks a universal language, Jenny Hartin is undoubtedly fluent.

A few years ago, she was a paralegal working in Manhattan. Now a stay-at-home mom in Parker, she presides over a domain of devoted cooks from every corner of the country. Hartin created a Facebook group called “The Cookbook Junkies” in 2010; it has since exploded in popularity, amassing 12,700 members, as of Oct. 6.

The online forum enables cooks from all walks of life to share family recipes, swap tips and techniques, and perhaps most importantly, bond over a love of precise food prep.

It was, of course, Hartin’s obsession with cookbooks — she owns about 3,000, give or take — that sparked the idea for the group, but the recipe guides have become almost secondary to the friendships that have blossomed out of “The Cookbook Junkies” page.

“There are a lot of lonely people out there who are connecting now,” she said. “I’m not in this for the glory. This is making me feel more fulfilled.”

What started as a private group for “people who don’t want their families to know how much they spend on cookbooks” became a place for like-minded people to find a shoulder to lean on. Without “The Cookbook Junkies,” Hartin says she would lead a somewhat isolated existence. She quit working to take care of her 10-year-old son, Andrew, who has autism, but felt stuck in a friendless world of monotony.

Six years ago, Hartin created a blog about Andrew (and cooking) that gained a following, and that soon morphed into “The Cookbook Junkies,” a community of “easy-going people with a great sense of humor who are all willing to help each other,” she said.

Beverly Babarovich, a founding member of the group, can attest to the helpful nature of her fellow “junkies,” not to mention the therapeutic benefits of the relationships she has built. She considers Hartin one of her best friends, even though they’ve never met in person.

“She’s pulled me through some hard times,” Babarovich said. “I lost a son a year ago, and she was one of the first people to call me. I’ve never laid eyes on her, but she’s been a brick.”

Help just a click away

The Facebook forum is as much a kitchen resource as it is a social club. Babarovich is a 68-year-old widow who lives on an island in Washington state, and borrowing key ingredients from a neighbor isn’t always a viable option. But incredibly, she can get assistance by simply putting the word out to “The Cookbook Junkies.” If she can’t find, say, parmesan rinds for soup, Babarovich said a quick plea on the forum will bring out volunteers willing to send frozen ones in the mail.

In fact, Hartin sent the rinds this week to Babarovich, who quickly posted a photo and a 'thank you' note on "The Cookbook Junkies" page. Hartin also obliged a request for mushrooms from Pam Capone, a blogger she met online three years ago.

Capone recently moved to a house on a mountain in a desolate part of Utah and savors the company of her kitchen cohorts. Her closest neighbor is 2.5 miles away, so Capone and her husband eat at home "98 percent of the time" and rarely go out to dinner.

“I don’t know anybody, so this is what I do. I cook,” she said.

Discovering fresh frontiers

Capone's specialties include Italian and Mexican cuisines, in addition to southern delicacies, but she also experiments with recipes she finds on “The Cookbook Junkies.” Capone tried out a tortellini soup recipe that's now part of her regular rotation of favorite dishes.

Cookbook reviews and recommendations are a big part of the conversation on the Facebook page. Babarovich’s adult son lives at home and is diabetic, limiting the types of foods she makes, so Hartin sent her a cookbook from the Colorado Dietetic Association called “Simply Colorado.”

“I’ve been feeding that kid out of that book,” said Babarovich, who has also received guidance on the forum for her in-home dog treat bakery business.

Aurora resident Kathleen Leverett found the group via suggestion from Facebook, which tracks users’ interests. She considers herself a “moderate” cookbook collector, claiming nearly 300 of them. Leverett didn’t hesitate to join “The Cookbook Junkies” and found the recipes and tips from ordinary cooks quite useful. She also enjoys the exchange of knowledge from expert members, like nutritionists, gluten-free chefs, recipe book authors, reviewers and cooking equipment specialists.

Because there are members from places like Alaska, Kansas, the Deep South and even Australia, there is an infinite number of influences and cooking styles from which to borrow, opening fresh worlds and possibilities. While Hartin and others relish the discovery of new cooking frontiers, there are supporting casts of characters quietly reaping the rewards of their passion.

“My husband is happy I’m having this wonderful experience, too,” she said.

The Cookbook Junkies, Facebook, Jenny Hartin, autism, cookbooks, Simply Colorado

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