Posted 10 February 2002 - 03:46 PM
My main concern on cookbooks is just quality: Do the authors really know what
they are writing about? Is the information provided of high quality? Are
the descriptions careful and complete? Does the information have claimed
'cultural' authenticity? Are there some good broader lessons and principles
presented well there? Can I really learn some solid lessons there? If I cook from
the information provided, will the results actually be good?
So, if the book says to cook the mixture for five minutes to the softball stage,
and I cook for 75 minutes and am still 15 F short of the softball temperature, then
I question the quality of the information provided.
If the recipe says to make a beef stew of cubes of bottom round roast and does not
explain sufficient means for getting a good stew from bottom round roast, then I
question that the authors ever got good results from what they wrote.
It is easy to suspect that most of the recipes in cookbooks, the authors never
used and that nearly all cookbooks are sold based on the covers, pictures,
travelogues, issues of style, fads, or personalities and not on the quality.
Bluntly put, they are getting paid for the books, not for the food.
I have concluded that nearly all recipes are just invitations to waste time, money,
and effort and feed the bugs in the septic tank. Literally.
Unless there are some really strong reasons to believe otherwise, most
cookbooks fill much needed gaps on bookshelves and would be illuminating if ignited.
I would like a good cookbook for Chinese cooking, but so far I have not found one I
am willing to list. In particular I would like one that, just as a start, would be
very clear on how to duplicate what is in the many inexpensive US Chinese food
carryout restaurants -- have not found such a book. Somehow, Chinese cooking
'does not translate well' into the traditions of detailed documentation of Western Civilization.
The books I have found useful and give some significant trust to, essentially in order, are:
(1) A. Escoffier, 'Le Guide Culinaire: The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery', Translated by H. L. Cracknell and R. J. Kaufmann, ISBN 0-8317-5478-8, Mayflower, New York, 1982. Escoffier is the lion, and you can recognize him just by his paw. This guy is SERIOUS. He did NOT write this to provide "fast, easy, economical recipes to perk up the lagging appetites of your whole family" for busy soccer moms.
(2) Louis Diat, 'Gourmet's Basic French Cookbook: Techniques of French Cuisine', Gourmet, New York, 1961. Good, but compared to Escoffier, a kitty cat. Not NEARLY as serious.
(3) 'Foods of the World: The Cooking of Vienna's Empire', Time-Life Books, New York, 1968.
Adding in some experimentation, the 'Sachertorte' can be good.
(4) 'Foods of the World: The Cooking of Provincial France', Time-Life Books, New York, 1968.
(5) 'Foods of the World: Russian Cooking', Time-Life Books, New York, 1969. Quite good and novel Strogonoff.
(6) 'Foods of the World: Classic French Cooking', Time-Life Books, New York, 1970. Franey had some good influences.
(7) 'Foods of the World: The Cooking of Germany', Time-Life Books, New York, 1969. Adding in some experimentation, the Black Forest Cherry cake there can be quite special.
(8) Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, 'Joy of Cooking, Main Course Dishes, Volume 1', The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, 1964.
(9) Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, 'Joy of Cooking, Appetizers, Desserts & Baked Goods, Volume 2', The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, 1964.
(10) Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck, 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking', Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1967.
I recently sat for an evening in the cookbook section of Barnes and Noble. Looked though stacks of books. Often thought: "You don't know, do you? Tried that, then flushed it. Later, found out
how to do it, and there's no hint here that you know." Got some real laughs. Walked out with nothing.
For my next cookbook, I want among the authors Ph.D.s in chemistry and biochemistry. I want to see discussions of pH, solubility, esters, amino acids,etc.
My main work is in some topics in applied mathematics; the quality of work and exposition in that field is quite high; and in all of cooking I have found only one author with comparable quality --
What would be the right food and wine to go with
R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?