Do you like to read cookbooks? Not just peruse them for recipes. I mean actually read them? It depends on the cookbook, sure, but I get a thrill from reading how the author learned the techniques he/she did. Or the family history that caused them to gravitate to the recipes they chose for a particular cookbook.
When we had our kitchen remodeled, it was important for us to have a shelf just for the cookbooks. We had been using a secretary given to me by my uncle many years ago. But as cool as that piece is, there was just no room for it in the new kitchen. We actually overflow the shelves we had built.
This is where I keep the ugly ones. Magazines, unfiled printouts, DIY cookbooks made from 3-ring binders. And there isn’t really enough room for them down there either.
All this is really ironic, because I am not the primary cook in our family. I love to choose recipes and to cook on special occasions or when the spirit moves me. But D— is the every day cook. And he hates using recipes. Well, maybe “hates” is a little too strong. But he does tend to veer off course and use them as a guideline rather than a rule. Me, I am the baker, so I follow recipes to the letter. Enough about that. Let’s take the tour of some of our favorites. (and I really do mean OUR here.)
The bottom two shelves are the go-to books we use most often. We are huge fans of Sheila Lukins. I think we own most of her books. There have only been a couple of clinkers. Celebrate!, which is on a higher shelf, has great recipes and pictures but is organized by holiday rather than course. I find that one harder to get around, but it certainly makes for slower reading if that’s all you want to do. The Williams-Sonoma Potato edition has the best latkes recipe I’ve tried. And a kitchen just isn’t a kitchen without The Joy of Cooking. Thanks to our moms, we have 2 editions.
It’s a trip around the world on the second shelf. Burt Wolf – one of my first TV passions – has some good and good-for-you recipes from around the world. Greek Cooking is a copy we bought from amazon.com. Kids aren’t the only things that get caught in between when a couple separates. Sometimes it’s cookbooks. D— was so fond of this that he had to have a copy. It has the best grape leaves ever in it. Better Homes & Gardens could only be better if it were a 3-ring binder version instead of a paperback. Pancakes, cookies, lots of great basics. The dark books with comb bindings are from vacations and are usually put together by a local historical society or women’s group. And the red & white mess on the end is my very first DIY cookbook. I skipped over two important books on this shelf, because they deserve their own paragraphs.
My sister and brother-in-law gave us Frankies for Christmas one year. It doesn’t have any color pictures, but it does have drawings and some of the best Italian cooking we’ve found. This is also a great one for stories, and the Sunday Sauce is to die for. The Tucci Cookbook has great stories, great pictures, and a warm potato salad recipe that is as delicious as it is easy. Besides, he’s cute.
Several years ago, we put together a cookbook of all our favorite recipes and gave it to our families along with home grown oregano and Cajun spice mix in a gift basket. We quickly discovered that we had more favorites that didn’t make the book. So recently, we recreated it and renamed it. It went from B&W to full color and from a comb binding to a spiral. D— wanted to expand the recipe selection to include other family favorites, so we have contributions from daughters, his former wife, sisters, moms, nieces, and probably others I’m not remembering. The chocolate chip cookie recipe the page is open to in the photograph is a Betty Crocker recipe from my childhood. And the ever famous Appleanna Bread is in here too. Someday we may have to redo it again.
The New Professional Chef is really a textbook from the Culinary Institute of America. Most of the recipes are for a million billion people, although you can scale them down. But if you want to know how to bone a bird, this is the place to go. Techniques galore. Indian food is one of our favs, so we have two dedicated books. Other Indian recipes are in the DIY cookbooks. And we would just die without our seafood. There are so many of those, I’ve lost track.
Top shelf in this case doesn’t mean “the best”. It means they couldn’t really fit anywhere else or we don’t go to them as often. D— can reach them from the ground, but I have to either get out the footstool or jump up on the counter. Guess which one is easier? At least for the moment. Before too long I expect I’ll be too old to jump up on the counter. Bernard Clayton’s Bread is absolutely the best thing going. I seldom go anywhere else. Especially with Soups & Stews right next to it. Tea isn’t about tea so much as it is about scones and cucumber sandwiches. Someday I’ll have a real English cream tea at home. It still will be hard to compare with the one I had on the Cornish coast though. >sigh< The Settlement Cookbook looks like I’ve used it a lot, but I don’t think I’ve ever made anything out of it. It was a wedding present from 1984. Time to get rid of it maybe? Wine Bites was gift from a dear friend. I’m hoping to make use of that one soon too. Lovely little noshes to go with that Cabernet.
I do tend to go online and to magazines for a lot of recipes. If I’m not at home, I can’t look through my cookbooks. I end up printing a lot of recipes at work (shhh…) and then bringing them home. I could, I suppose, just bookmark the page for my iPad. But I can’t make notes on my iPad. Cookbooks are the one kind of book I feel that it’s not only okay, it’s important to write in. How do you know if you put in too much salt the last time? Even Sheila is not exempt.
Looking through the cookbooks for recipes quickly degenerates into a droolfest of looking at the pictures and reading the stories, table decorating ideas, and histories of the herb (or whatever it is). I can spend a whole evening wishing there were a special occasion that I could make a big vat of chicken chili with all the fixings for. I think I’d better wait to buy any more cookbooks.
What are some of your favorite cookbooks?