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"Must Have" Cookbooks?

post #1 of 88
Thread Starter 

I have never been a big cookbook guy. There are a few that I have that get used a lot, but they are mainly regional cookbooks, and mainly written by John Folse. Most of my experimenting is based on what I have learned from those books. Generally when cooking, I either come up with something based on what I know, or look for a specific recipe online to prepare whatever I have. However, now I'm wanting to expand my collection of cookbook, so I'm trying to find out what everyone thinks are "must have" cookbooks. I came across this list earlier, and thought it would at least be a good starting point for conversation. It looks like a very well-rounded list, which is great, but I'm slightly less interesting in cookbooks about baking - it's just not really my thing. Tell me what you think of this list, and maybe what should be on the list that isn't.

 

American Cookery by James Beard (BBS Publishing Corporation, 1996)

Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From the Heart of Mexico by Rick Bayless (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2007)

Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (Better Homes and Gardens, 2004)

Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1980)

Complete Techniques by Jacques Pépin and Léon Pererr (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2001)

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan (Macmillan, 1995)

How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman (Wiley, 2006)

The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (Scribner, 2006)

The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook (Countryman Press, 2003)

Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts by Maida Heatter (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1999)

Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook by Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, 1999)

Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume One Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck (Knopf, 1961)

The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking: Techniques and Recipes by Barbara Tropp (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1996)

The New Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst (Barron's Educational Series, 2007)

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson (Oxford University Press, 2007)

Rick Stein's Complete Seafood by Rick Stein (Ten Speed Press, 2004

The Silver Palate Cookbook by Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso (Workman Publishing Company, 2007)

The Thrill of the Grill: Techniques, Recipes, and Down-Home Barbecue Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby

       (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2002)

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison (Broadway, 2007)

The Way to Cook by Julia Child (Knopf, 1993) 

"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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post #2 of 88

I'm a bit confused about your goals. Are you looking to expand beyond Louisianna cooking? Broaden your techniques base? Be entertained? Establish a basic library?

 

Most of the books on that list are primers; that is, introductions to the topic. Indeed, many of them are considered classics of their genre, the standard against which others are judged. So, while I could take exception to some of them (don't care for anything Mark Bitman has ever written, for instance) I wouldn't argue too hard about including any of them in a well-rounded cooking library.

 

There's an interesting syndrome about lists like this. There's no question that Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking belongs there. But one could argue that The Silver Spoon is a better fit. The thing is, by the time you know enough about Italian cooking to argue the point, you no longer really need either of them, other than for specific recipes.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #3 of 88

One other thing. There doesn't seem to be anything about Spanish cuisine on that list; a serious oversight IMO.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #4 of 88

If I were to compile my list of must haves, the only overlap with your list would be The Joy of Cooking.
 

Get the cookbooks that interest you for the kind of food you want to eat. It doesn't matter much what other people think you should have if those books aren't of interest to you.

 

But yes, drop the Bittman.

post #5 of 88
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

I'm a bit confused about your goals. Are you looking to expand beyond Louisianna cooking? Broaden your techniques base? Be entertained? Establish a basic library?

 

 

My goals kind of include all of the above. The books that I do have contain mainly French technique, but are much less technical than, say, Pepin's Complete Techniques. Essentially, I want to build a library starting from the basics.

 

I know this is a very subjective topic, which is why it's posed in a forum: to get the widest range of answers so that I can look at different books to choose which ones to include. I'm not asking anyone to tell me what the all time best cookbooks are, just what some are that you think should be in a home cook's library.

 

"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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post #6 of 88
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

One other thing. There doesn't seem to be anything about Spanish cuisine on that list; a serious oversight IMO.



Agreed. Spanish food is a favorite of mine. I already have a cookbook dedicated to paella, and I've come up with a few paella variations of my own. Any Spanish books you would recommend?

"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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post #7 of 88

1080 Recipes is to Spanish cooking what The Silver Spoon is to Italian. So it's not a bad place to begin. Nowadays it's often used as a gift for new brides, the same way we use The Joy of Cooking.

 

My favorite introductory book, however, is Spain and the World Table, because it's coverage includes everything from traditional tapas to molecular gastronomy. It's depth isn't all that much, but the breadth is exceptional.

 

The new The Book of Tapas (see current reviews) is about as encyclopedic as you're going to get on that subject. Keep in mind that any tapas can be expanded to full-serving portions if desired.

 

Essentially, I want to build a library starting from the basics.

 

When it comes to techniques and basic culinary building blocks (but not recipes), it's hard to fault the CIA's At-Home series. There currently are 5 of them, with more planned. I would include Cooking At Home and Baking At Home in any basic library. Martha's Stewart's Hors D'Oeuvre Handbook is exponentially better than Hors D'Oeuvre At Home, however, and were it me I'd get that one instead.

 

I'm not qualified to judge Chocolates and Confections At Home. One of my reviewers is, however, and her review will appear in October. Artisan Bread At Home is an OK choice if you have no others. But, frankly, I'd take The Bread Baker's Apprentice or any of Dan Leaders books over it. BBA is always my top pick in that category.

 

I would certainly include Paula Wolfert's Clay Pot Cooking in any basic library, not only for the clay-cookery techniques but because it's a great introduction to all the cuisines of the Mediterranean region.

 

Another must-have, IMO, is James Peterson's Sauces. In the absence of any others, Bruce Aidells' The Complete Meat Cookbook is a worthwhile introductory text. Cheese deserves a bookshelf of its own. But, fwiw, my single favorite title is World Cheese Book.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 88

You want basics/??? There is a book out there you should read and it will explain to you why all the authors of these other books do what they do. It's called  THE SCIENCE OF GOOD FOOD by    D Joachim and A Schloss  with A Philip Handel , PHD. These 3 gentleman have written over 70 books all toll. They know their food tech

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #9 of 88

I have several of  James Peterson's books and IMO they are all great the only problem especially in Sauces you practically need a dictionary to understand what he's trying to teach. I prefer the second edition more so than the third ( I have never seen the first edition).

Another book that I really have enjoyed is "Gastronomy of Italy" by Anna Del Conte.

This is not a book with recipes but I really enjoyed the book "What Einstein told his cook".

post #10 of 88

Elizabeth David

Nick Nairn

Delia Smith

Rick Stein

 

 

 

post #11 of 88

The French Laundry Cookbook will teach you to respect your ingredients and teach you love for food.  i cannot believe it has not been mentioned.  it is a very upscale book but there is a lot to take from it.  great pictures and important insights as well as over-the-top recipes.

 

other good books to have are the flavor bible, the food lovers companion, ad hoc at home, and what to drink with what you eat (for wine lovers)

 

i have a lot more in my library but those i think are some great ones to start with on top of your list of current books

 

hope this helps

 

CS

post #12 of 88

Repertoire de La Cuisine, Le: A guide to fine foods should be in every kitchen.

post #13 of 88

We don't use a lot of cookbooks, but we own a lot. Many of them are those awful pampered chef things. My mother used to sell it and she would get them for free, and give them to me. (Did that just rhyme, too much Dr Seuss) One thing I hate in a cookbook is anytime it calls for the use of a specific brand of mass marketed spice. I have a Emeril Lagasse Cookbook I was given as a gift. Every recipe it seems calls for 1tbsp"Emeril's Italian blend" or "Emeril's Essence" (which just sounds wrong BTW). Just tell me what seasonings are in your little mix and I am certain I can make it Myself! It's a cookbook version of the telemarketer. I'm not sure how I got on that tirade.

   One can tell how much we like a cookbook based on its condition. The more stained pages and bent bindings, the better the book. Our home favorites:

Helen Chen's Chinese Home Cooking- Which I think is pretty much an update of her mother, Joyce Chen's book.

Stephen Raichlin's The Barbecue Bible- I love the large sample of world cuisine, and on the grill no less.

Madhur Jaffrey's From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail- Great info on Indian spices and techniques, plus an interesting historical/anthropological read

Nurses, we're here to get our gloves dirty, and wash our hands frequently.
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Nurses, we're here to get our gloves dirty, and wash our hands frequently.
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post #14 of 88

Williams and Sonoma tools and techniques is a great book.

post #15 of 88

White heat.

post #16 of 88

I think Rose Levy Beranbaum's books, The Cake Bible, The Bread Bible, The Pie And Pastry Bible and  Rose's Heavenly Cakes are a must have to anyone interested in baking something right from the very first try.

post #17 of 88

I'm not fan of the Cake Bible nor the Bread Bible. I own them, but never refer to them. Too obtuse.

post #18 of 88

 I'm a beginner and get results described as "phenomenal"  on everything I make from Rose's books.

post #19 of 88

My go to baking book is Baking Illustrated from Cooks Illustrated.

post #20 of 88

I bought that for my daughter and one for my daughter in law.  I wanted them to get a good foundation.

 

I don't understand why you don't like Rose's books.

 

post #21 of 88

I think a lot of it comes across to me the same way Bittmann does: Someone writing as a deep authority who really doesn't have the depth of knowledge they claim. Whether that's a factual view is up for debate I suppose but they strike me as fakes.

 

Rose tends to toss around jargon needlessly when simpler clarity would serve her better and the presentation and writing of the recipes is needlessly complex.

 

I write professionally too, so it could just be my own professional sensibilities that they offend.

post #22 of 88

 I, myself, use a certain level of vocabulary when speaking to people with whom I converse professionally. 

 

I really don't know anything about Rose's background. The only thing I have read about Rose is that The Cake Bible was her thesis. Please correct me if I am wrong.  

 

All I can say is I have had great success with her recipes. I make her recipes for special occasions and they always WOW everyone..so much so that people have told me I should open a bakery. Believe me, it has nothing to do with my skill other than the fact that I can read and follow directions carefully. 

 

On Bittmann, I totally agree with you. Browsing his books at the local Border's only reinforces my opinion.

 

It is really cool that you are a writer. May I ask the genre of your writing?

 

I am very new to baking and want to read anything I can find which will improve my skills and broaden my knowledge. I really would love to go enroll in the local college's Pastry class.  I am considering it and hoping to get my husband to agree.

 

 

~missy

post #23 of 88

It's the kind of writing everyone hates. I'm a technical writer, usually software manuals and on-line help systems, occasional web sites and other business writing.

post #24 of 88

Wow! How did you get into that? It's not that I hate that writing but, for me, it is very hard to follow.  I need someone to show me how to do something. I have a difficult time with reading instructions

post #25 of 88

I think, MissyJean, what's at odds here is only orientation.

 

As you've made clear in the past, your interest in cookbooks is the quality of the recipes. If they work, and produce a great dish (or, in this case, baked good) you're happy. And there's nothing wrong with that.

 

But that is different from judging a book by the quality of its writing, which is what Phil is doing. Is the writing clear and concise? Does it flow smoothly? Does it communicate without talking down to its audience? Etc.

 

So, based on the comments made here (I've never read any of Rose's books), what we have are poorly written books with great recipes. Which makes you both correct.

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #26 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by missyjean View Post

Wow! How did you get into that? It's not that I hate that writing but, for me, it is very hard to follow.  I need someone to show me how to do something. I have a difficult time with reading instructions


There's a lot of bad technical writing out there. I've written some terrible things too, particularly in my first job writing for internal banking (credit card stuff). I got into it as a back door into high tech businesses. I like high technology but am not an engineer, rather an English major with a strong geek bent. Very little of my work has been widely seen as the target audiences are quite small. Probably my widest seen work was part of the website for 3com and USRobotics in their merger.

post #27 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

I think, MissyJean, what's at odds here is only orientation.

 

As you've made clear in the past, your interest in cookbooks is the quality of the recipes. If they work, and produce a great dish (or, in this case, baked good) you're happy. And there's nothing wrong with that.

 

But that is different from judging a book by the quality of its writing, which is what Phil is doing. Is the writing clear and concise? Does it flow smoothly? Does it communicate without talking down to its audience? Etc.

 

So, based on the comments made here (I've never read any of Rose's books), what we have are poorly written books with great recipes. Which makes you both correct.

 


Oh, I didn't understand that was the issue. Still, IMO, I don't see the book as being poorly written.  From a consumers point of view,  I find it clear and concise.  I was able to duplicate the desired results in appearance and, I hope, in taste. 

 

If I am understanding you correctly, I would have to say there are a lot of books out there, such as The Baker's Companion by King Arthur Flour, whose recipes are not that easy to follow.  If I hadn't learned what to look for when I cream butter and sugar, for example., from Rose's books, I would have great difficulty successfully duplicating KA's recipes as they go into no detail about whatt to look for, etc.

post #28 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by phatch View Post


There's a lot of bad technical writing out there. I've written some terrible things too, particularly in my first job writing for internal banking (credit card stuff). I got into it as a back door into high tech businesses. I like high technology but am not an engineer, rather an English major with a strong geek bent. Very little of my work has been widely seen as the target audiences are quite small. Probably my widest seen work was part of the website for 3com and USRobotics in their merger.


Did you know this field existed before you got this position? I didn't know until you told me. I think it is great and you must be a very well-qualified writer to get this position.

 

post #29 of 88

I knew about it before hand. I'd seen the job postings. There's even a national professional organization, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_for_Technical_Communication

post #30 of 88

Interesting, Phil, that your first technical writing job was in the banking industry. So was mine. One of the worst experiences of my life!

 

This guy had written a book: Mini- and Micro-Computers In The Banking Environment. Shows you how far back we're talking. The editor who hired me hands me the manuscript, with no guidelines of any kind, and goes off on vacation.

 

Literally every time the guy referred to the equipment he used the term "mini- and micro-computers in the banking environment." And he referred to it a lot. Never said "small computers," or "the equipment," or even just "computers." Mini- and micro-computers in the banking environment every damn time. Very boring. And all my attempts to make it more interesting were overturned by the editor once she came back.

 

Suffice to say, I've never again written anything for the banking industry.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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