IF COOKBOOK publishers are to be believed, far from being overused, tatty and smeared with bits of food, for each cookbook sold, only two dishes will be tested. One glance at Kate Robinson's copy of The Cook's Companion, by Stephanie Alexander, makes it clear this book is not one of them.
Pieces of tape hold sections of the 824-page book together and there are food blots all over it. Even so, it is impressive to hear that Robinson is trying to complete every single recipe inside the book foodies often call the ''kitchen bible''.
After watching the DVD of Julie & Julia last year, about a home cook who makes her way through Julia Child's 524 recipes in Mastering the Art Of French Cooking, Robinson was inspired to take up a similar challenge using the work of an Australian chef. She chose The Cook's Companion (the first edition) because of its diversity of dishes, and plotted her progress in a food blog, cookscompanionchallenge.blogspot.com.au.
Hers is one in an explosion of foodie blogs that have popped up across Australia in response to American Julie Powell's Julie/Julia Project blog, begun in 2002, which turned into a book and later the blockbuster movie.
''I love cooking, love eating, love dinner parties, but probably my favourite thing is attacking any recipe that is complicated and unusual,'' Robinson says.
One year after starting the challenge, according to her meticulous spreadsheet system, she has completed just 28 per cent of the book only, leaving a mere 474 recipes to go - not including hundreds of extra recipe ''suggestions'' in the book's margins. At this rate, she believes it will take her another three or four years to finish.
Walking through her Northcote home, it is easy to see and smell what a large part of her life the project has become. The tattered book lies proudly on the kitchen bench. Robinson says the challenge has breathed life into her kitchen, now the beating heart of the house where her family spend time devouring her food. ''Now I just love it so much I couldn't stop if I tried,'' she says.
She agrees it is difficult not to feel a connection with Alexander despite never having met her. ''As well as her recipes … you read about her journey. And you cook things, like Mary's rabbit pie - and that was actually her mum's recipe. And things like that are beautiful.''
When contacted by The Saturday Age this week, Alexander had already heard about the blog from her assistant.''It's a really nice compliment to me and I hope that she is enjoying it and that it doesn't put her off me for life,'' Alexander says.