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What does your cookbook collection say about you?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
A further reflection of the organization of ones cookbooks

My home seems to be a really, only a reading room and dining room. The library in my home has two walls filled with twelve bookshelves, of those, two and a half are devoted to the culinary arts. I love this section of my library because of all the pleasures that have arose from them, and the pleasant memories they harbor. It is in my library-- on the bistro tables and love seats and lounger--that I serve cocktails and appetizers in the afternoon and tea and sweets after a meal.

Currently, on a chicken feed trough, that holds my books steady, these pictorial lovelies are on display: William-Sonoma’s Breakfast, and Ice Cream the Perfect Weekend Treat by Susan Tee, two of my newest acquisitions. Next to my reading chair is The Elegant Taste of Thailand by Sisamon Kongpan and Pinyo Srissawat bought last week at my local cookbook store in Newhall, California, Cookbooks Plus.

What do those cookbooks say of me, the way I love and feed others, and the way I see the world sautéed upon my kitchen stove? My meals have been described as exotic, innovative, bountiful, prettily presented, lasting long on the tongue, past the merry conversations that accompanied them. I purposely lay out a baroque table, the dishes and platters miniature landscapes and stories, the servings plentiful, the courses seeminly unending, even just for an intimate two.

I have been told that I am a good cook. I have been told that many times over. To me, that means: I have a good heart, because I have fed so many and so often, and that they were pleased. My heart is in my cooking. My cookbooks are the nodding tutors behind my hands. My heart is in my hands. With these cookbooks, I have a many-chambered heart.

If you were to take a quick turn from my very small kitchen, on first two rows of tall white shelves, this is what you would find. This form of organization seems organic to me; I can find what I want without diversion to other places.

For the upcoming 4th of July weekend, I will most likely chose books from the vintage, Americana, Martha Stewart and barbecue sections of my library. Already those titles sound delicious in my mind.


On top of first bookcase:
Oversized cookbooks, mostly compendiums, e.g. The Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon, World Food Spain by Beverly Leblance

First bookcase, top shelf: Europe
Eastern, Central European and Jewish cookbooks, e.g., Love and Knishes by Sara Kasdan (hilarious)
French and French-American, e.g. French Country Cooking by Elizabeth David, and More 60-Minute Gourmet by Pierre Franey (bless him in heaven)

First bookcase, second shelf: Asia
Middle Eastern, e.g., Treasured Armenian Recipes by the Armenian General Benevolent Women's Union, Detroit chapter
Chinese, e.g., Chinese Snacks by Huang Sa-Huei
Korean, Vietnamese, e.g., From Traditional Korean Cuisine by Woul Young Chu
Thai, e.g., Cooking Thai Food in American Kitchens by Malulee Pinsuvanna
Singapore, e.g., The Complete Asian Cookbook by Terry Tan (outstanding)
Indian, e.g. Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey
Filipino, e.g., Recipes of the Philippines by Enriqueta David Perez (like my mother cooks)

First bookcase, third shelf: The Americas
Central and South America, e.g., Cook, Eat, Cha Cha by Philip Bellber
Mexico, e.g., The Taste of Mexico by Patricia Quintana
Western, Southwestern and Southern, e.g., The Florida Cookbook by Jeanne Voltz and Caroline Stuart
Creole and Cajun, e.g., The Commander's Palace by Ella and Dick Brennan
California (where I have lived most of my adult life), e.g., City Cuisine by Mary Sue Miliken and Susan Feniger
Hawaii (where I grew up), e.g., Hawaii Filipina's Favorite Recipes by The Filipino Women's League

First bookcase, fourth shelf: Desserts
New Book of Great Desserts by Maida Heatter
I Want Chocolate by Marie Pierre Morel (all hail the new leader)
Quick and Easy Small Cakes by Kazuko Kawachi

First bookcase, bottom shelf
Barbecue, e.g., The Grill by Avi Ganor, et al
Single subject e.g., The Knox Gelatin Cookbook
Entertaining, e.g., Fondue, Chafing Dish and Casserole Cookery

On Top of Second Bookcase:
Donna Hay magazines and Donna Hay Cookbooks, e.g., New Food Fast

Second Bookcase, first shelf: Italian
Cucina Fresca by Vivian La Place and Evan Kleiman
More Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
Recipes from Pasquale's Kitchen by Pasquale Carpino

Second Bookcase, second shelf: International Cuisines
Time Life Series: e.g., The Cooking of Vienna's Empire
Creative International Cookbook edited by Charlotte Turgeon editor of Larouse Gastronomique
Best of the Best edited by Food and Wine

Second Bookcase, third shelf
Contemporary British and Australian, e.g., Sydney Food by Bill Granger
Tea and Coffee, e.g., Aromatic Teas and Herbal Infusions, by Laura Fronty
(I keep by bar books by my bar cabinet in the dining room)

Second Bookcase, fourth shelf: Americana and Reference
New Boys and Girls Cookbook by Betty Crocker
Encyclopedic Cookbook by the Culinary Arts Institute
ideals Quick and Delicious Gourmet Cookbook by Naomi Arbit and June Turner

Second Bookcase, bottom shelf: Vintage and Oddities
Boston Cookbook by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln(1883)
Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery vol. 21
Kitchen Notes by Von's

On another bookshelf, I have one shelf devoted to my fifty copies of Australian Vogue Entertaining and Travel and another to Martha Stewart. Those are the only magazines I collect (besides Donna Hay); all other magazine recipes are torn from their bindings and filed. I have one drawer of a file cabinet devoted to magazine tear outs, Xeroxed and handwritten or typed recipes.

I keep an entertaining diary with the books, magazines or files, where the recipes are from.

I had thought of putting those tab stickers that say "Yes", "Maybe" or "No" from Lucky Magazine on the pages of my books and magazines so I could find things easier, but I think I would hate the way they would mare the looks in my set.

Now that I have written this post, I think I should make a master index of the location of all the recipes, everyday and for company, can be found.

With this overview, I can see the thoughts and practices that I have been pursuing, and the real estate devoted to them; and the ones I have yet to explore with cookbook in hand. As I had written this, I often had to correct “self” for “shelf”. I think they are one in the same.
post #2 of 16
wow.....organized, labeled, displayed.....wow.
Well, my cookbooks are in an antique handcarved armoire that has a beveled glass door in the middle and carved flowers adorning the side doors. There is a painted metal piece on top of 2 women in their underwear with red painted toenails touching a watermelon in between them, an antique quilt.....blown glass ornaments hang to the left. There are funky pieces of art on the walls....this is the whimsy room. To make it to the whimsy room you need to make me laugh.....just out right burst out in laughter whenever I first see you....
A comfy chair with a blanket and lamp in the corner.

Inside the armoire are top to bottom.....
Julia Childs books
James Beard's books....not all but a goodly amount
chocolate, baking, pastries
Cajun....at least 20 of various local Southern La books
Time Life series
Ethnic cookbooks
Vegetarian books from the 70's-80's
Then in the bottom in a manilla folder is a prize book from the early 50's on desserts put out by homeeconomists.....it is killer.
Various pamphlets from farms...blueberry, pecans, peach how to's

Then there are the magazines on my coffee table....Donna Hay, Aus Travel and Food, Saveur....
In my bedroom scattered around the various flat surfaces are some additional cookbooks I'm in the process of reading.

Day in Day out I don't use um......Joy of Cooking for proportions mainly on baked goods.
There are a couple I pull favorite recipes from....Wolfgang Puck's older cookbook from the early 80's has a great flourless choc cake and a caramel sauce that's great.
An old cut out lemon curd recipe from a newspaper.
Marshmallow recipes from this past winter.
Maida Heatter's cookie cookbook for bars and icebox cookies.

I picked up a couple of cookbooks at an estate sale this past Sun. that look interesting. The price was right and I have children, nieces and nephews that are starting to cook on their own. Older basics never die.

That does not tell you that I threw out the latest Joy of Cooking cus it was just WRONG.....no lemon bars!!!!, or that Bierenbaums books got pitched.....the recipes did not work for me......so it's not only what you have but what you set free back into the world and why.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #3 of 16
I adore people who adore their books. It is so fundadamental to life. I doubt I will ever be so organised though. Every book I pick up sticks to my fingers and distracts me. Every time I want to tidy up.
post #4 of 16
Wow! Your organization blows me away. Good for you! My study is filled with cooking periodicals, and books, all living in chaotic abandon...the way I cook too! Cook wild!

To your collection, may I suggest a quick look at Donna Hay, from Sidney Australia. Simple, paperback, lovely photos, and very fresh ideas, and foods.
Some people may scoff, and want celebrity books, or authentic this or that, but her food is killer! Like a fresh mint, cilantro, parsely salad with a coconut cream and lime juice dressing. Delish, fresh, and simple.
Check her out. She has one called "Off the Shelf" That suggests "pantry stockers". It's great. Another is called "The New Cook",. Make the rice paper wrapped enoki mushrooms, spouts, and cucumber. Fabulous.
post #5 of 16
My collection is completely disorganized by any logical measure, but books are placed in the same location every time, so I know where it all is. I have some clippings too, but also use Living Cookbook (memo to self: back it up- I lost it all in the last computer crash!). I have three cookbooks in French, the rest are in English. The oldest is from 1897 (Poetry in Cookery), the newest a Giada DeLaurentiis. Hard to say which one I use most; it depends what I need. For a basic frosting I used Betty Crocker. For a basic brownie I used the CIA home baking book. I have Suvir Saran's Indian Home Cooking and hope to expand to more titles for Asian and South Asian cooking. :lips:

What does it say about me? That I don't buy all the cookbooks I'd like to! I have about 9 feet of them; I have a looooong way to go to catch up to Suzanne! By now I'm sure hers can be measured in fractions of a mile.
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post #6 of 16
When we bought this house I built a huge 2' (.6m) wide, 8' (2.4M) 8 tier bookcase in my kitchen. Then I found I didn't have enough, so I built an additional 4 tier bookcase. Well, that STILL wasn't enough. So a few years later I had built-in bookcases fabricated in another room to hold my collection. One side is about 3.5' (1m) wide and 7.5' (2.3m) high while the other's about 6' (1.8m) wide and 7.5' high. Now they're all full and... I'm NOT building any more cases. So, I'll just have to slow down my collecting.

All my books are organized by topic, but shelved by weight. LOL. The largest and heaviest books are at the sides, and yes, the shelves are reinforced.

What it tells about me is where I've traveled, lived, and what I eat and read. Not every book there is a recipe book. I've also many reference books. I don't know how many there are, a lot by some people's standards, small by others. I do know I've got more than most of my local libraries.

Order In/Food Out ~ It's NOT magic.
- * - * - * - * -
"It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you." Frank Zappa
Order In/Food Out ~ It's NOT magic.
- * - * - * - * -
"It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you." Frank Zappa
post #7 of 16
Well, I'm a wreck according to my cookbook collection.

I know where it all is and can reach out and pick up exactly what I need at any given minute but on the surface---whoa! Four full floor to ceiling built-ins full of cooking related books and an enclosed cabinet crammed full with magazines (years of subscriptions). I started getting Gourmet when I was still in high school, added F&W and Bon Appetit in college, and just keep going.

As much as I use the internet for resources, there is nothing comparable to the tangible feeling of flipping through a cookbook. Paddleford, Beard, Child, and even Keller's books all have prominent space on my shelves. I consume cookbooks. It's an addiction and I should probably be in a twelve-step program somewhere.
post #8 of 16
What do my cook books say about me? ..... or each other.

I be honest I would be scared to have an opinion. Eggs and Omlettes would snarking on to Mrs Beeton, who would be giving instructions to A Boudaine, who would be blowing smoke up Flatbreads and Flavour, who would tell Fondue Cookery that it is dead, who would reply that they are making a comeback, not like that Novelle Cuisine mob, who would advance the theory that the whole world will die because they don't have .05ml of dressing on their lettuce leaf and single slice of radish for their main course. Naturally the Beef encyclpedia comes to blows with Lamb for the Family on a regular basis, but what can one do?

I know what they say about me when they think I cannot hear. And I should get rid of the lot of them, but somehow......
post #9 of 16
I know what they say about me when they think I cannot hear. And I should get rid of the lot of them, but somehow......

Very clever, Diane!

Off the top of my head, my cookbooks would reflect the changes in my lifestyle and diet. I still have the first cookbook I ever bought- NYT Natural Foods cookbook (I love the veggie burgers made with beets-Maybe I'll shock my kids and make them this week...:D ); then there's Earth Mother years when the old Moosewoods, loaded with cheese and fat and Laurel's Kitchen. Macrobiotic Cooking (titles unknown as they're at my shop-I hope-either that, or I've purged them, God forbid!!!) came next. Then there was the "kids in the house, homeschooling, semi earth mother years when I was baking from Uprisings (the cooperative bakery compilation) and making every meal as if it were an entry in the mother of the year award contest. Of course the the Silver Palate years were in there somewhere

Then came the crockpot stage- I said CROCK pot- not CRACK pot stage.... and the once a month cooking phase. That one didn't last long as I would end up thawing something in the microwave 15 inutes before supper.

Oh yes. Who can forget the SouthBeachAtkinsLowCarbLoseTenPoundsThisWeek Phase:blush:

I am now into picture books. It seems that I only buy books with beautiful photography. Barefoot Contessa, Sara Foster, Williams and Sonoma, Donna Hay. I don't think it's so much for the recipes, but for presentation ideas for my catering business. Which I must get to. I have an assortment of sandwiches, Oriental Chicken Salad, Spring Greens Salad, and dessert platter for 35 to deliver at 11. I would much rather take my coffee out on the deck and read a cookbook or 2.:cool:
post #10 of 16

Sounds to me like it not only reflects a "change of diet" but correlation in a change of media for you as well.

post #11 of 16
Yes, you're probably right. I don't know what it says about my attention span that I'm only looking for picture books these days....:crazy:

My kids are beyond the ages where I could cut up a block of tofu and they'd think they'd been given a prize. One is an RN and tells me, "Mom, I'm an RN and know what I should eat.." as she eats yet another Lean Cuisine, and the other is a 14 yr old boy who'd live on pizza. Doesn't help that he works in a pizza joint now......

My husband likes my cooking, but I'm always at work and don't have much time to please him. So lately, it's been pizza or roasted chicken from the deli for us too.:cry:
post #12 of 16
Don't be blue about that Lentil, things go in cycles. I adore the photography too, my complaint is that often it is not relevant to the subject. I have a book, not laden with photography, I purchased in 1970. Austalian Meat Cookery. I still trawl through it on a reasonably regular basis. I love it. They have, from the same series, the Egg Book, Family Recipes, and Vegetables. Not mad about the veggie one, but the other two are very good. And 35 years old now.

And there is nothing wrong with a deli chicken, hopefully with a good stuffing, crunchy crusty bread, with the best butter, and a pan of fat potato chips, fried just to cover, with the oil/fat just bubbling busily around them. You don't need many, if they are the fatties I have in mind.

I am thinking about it. A sandie, open or closed with fresh tender bread, buttered up with butter (;Þ) stuffing, chicken, chips. Need fresh ground salt and pepper on that chicken. You could even break out and enjoy a sliced tomato, with a bit of iceberg, may a ring or five of raw onion. Beetroot, a slice of cheese would be nice, depends on how wide one can open their mouth I suppose.

Nope, nothing wrong with a deli chicken. Good kai.
post #13 of 16
Maybe it was this thread, but we had lobster ravioli with tomato cream sauce and a spring salad last night.:roll:
post #14 of 16
OOOoooooh, yum. When we (finally end up in in our) final house I will have extensive shelves built in, And our house will be little more than a library and dining room like Yvonnes. Kitchen of course. With curl up chairs and sofas with pillows and cushions and pure wool blankets draped ready for use. One wall of folding glass doors to make it one with the patio and pool.

And raised gardens. Of course.
post #15 of 16
My collection would say that I am crazy I think........Everything from books on geophogy(the art of eating dirts/clays) to molecular gastronomy...along with some of the more reserved one, French Laundry, RAW, Cantu...
Like all good meals, this too shall pass
Like all good meals, this too shall pass
post #16 of 16
Never heard of either of those CrazyTatt. I thought the word for people who ate dirt and paper and so on was Pica.
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