I have noticed that lots of book oriented or food oriented websites and magazines do a Best Cookbooks of the Year in January. Those lists are useful for deciding which new cookbooks to buy, but one problem is that recent cookbooks haven’t yet passed the test of time. So, I went looking for Best Cookbooks of All Time lists, and found a few. Here is the one on epicurious.com
and another on Huffington Post
There are other lists out there as well, many of them more specialized (cooking light, vegan, kid oriented etc). One of the first things I notice is that Joy of Cooking always appears on these lists. I have to ask, why? I’ve owned it in the past, and never used it. The recipes are just not that good. The other one that commonly appears is Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which I do not own but know very well. I like the book, and I realize that it was an insanely influential book, especially in my mother’s time, but it isn’t that useful on an everyday basis.
I don’t think I own any of the other books on either list. The epicurious list includes “community cookbooks”, and I will admit I own a lot of these, sort of a semi collection, but I would never cook from them because the recipes are usually so awful. Lots of garlic powder and onion soup mix.
So, I decided to list the 10 cookbooks that I actually use. I am asking everyone to do the same – list your 10 (or 5 or 3) favorite cookbooks. Maybe I will get some good ideas for new purchases this way!
First I realized when I looked at my cookbooks that the ones I really use tend to be specialized. I don’t own or use many of those all around cookbooks. Most of my favorite cookbooks are highly specialized, usually on some type of cuisine. For general purpose, “how long do I roast that?” questions, I usually hit epicurious.com, though I am increasingly a fan of NYTime’s cooking site.
So here is my list, not in any particular order
- Gourmet Today
This is the book that I use when I need to look up, say, how to make basic potato salad or how to roast a lamb leg.
- Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking
We were all absolutely blown away by real Sichuanese food while spending several weeks in Chongqing, and of course wanted to be able to cook it since there weren’t that many restaurants serving it (something that is starting to change btw). For English language books on Sichuanese food, this is the go-to book. Fuschia Dunlop studied at the cooking academy in Chengdu, and learned many of the standard recipes, the real way. Her book on Hunanese cooking is good to (Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook), but this one is one of my most consulted books
- Indian Cooking, a Golden Cooking Card Book
This was purchased by my parents at an Asian store in Seattle in the early 70’s. The cards have all fallen out, so I keep them bound together with a rubber band. My mother used to cook from it all the time, and so do I. The Bengali style cabbage and potato dish I know so well that I don’t need any recipe – I can cook it in my sleep. This was published by a Japanese publisher in 1968 (Shufonotomo Ltd), but amazingly, there is a page for the book on Amazon
- One Big Table:A Portrait of American Cooking
This book covers regional American specialties and has some fine recipes.
- Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking
This is a good general purpose overview of classic Chinese recipes.
- Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking
I love Korean food but never thought I could make it myself. Maangchi’s blog, which was around for a couple of years before this book came out, convinced me I could do it (having an HMart helped too).
- The Food and Wine of Greece
In the mid 90’s I visited Greece and much like I did in China, I fell in love with the food. I bought this book when I got back, and a number of the recipes went into our rotation. Which means I rarely pull the book out any more because i can make the dishes without the recipes since I cook them so often. I should get the book down and look for more ideas.
- The Best Recipes in the World, Mark Bittman
I don’t own it but I get it out of the library every so often for ideas
- A book in French on basic French cooking, kind of a Betty Crocker for French women type book. I learned all my basic French dishes from this one, things like ratatouille and cassoulet and choucroute garnie. I don’t know where it is now, but I know how to cook those dishes!
- My binder of recipes, xeroxed from various sources. A lot of the recipes were my mother’s, but some are ones I found in the pre Internet days, and my DH’s family tourtiere recipe is there too.
- Epicurious.com and NY Times Cooking.com. These days, we keep our recipes in online recipe books. I started using Epicurious around 1995 or so, when it was the poster child for the potential of the Internet. It was truly one of the first commercial sites. These days, I find the best recipes on the NY Times site, and they have an online recipe box too.
What are your go-to cookbooks?