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Best First Cookbook


weinoo

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If you absolutely are forced to gift someone who knows nothing at all about cooking their first cook book, what book might that be?

 

I might go with Julia's The Way to Cook

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Interesting choices. I think the book one chooses would depend somewhat on whether you think the best way to learn to cook is by learning science and technique, or by following recipes and seeing what happens. Not that the two can't be combined, but different books will concentrate on different things.

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My first influential cookbook was James Beard's Theory and Practice of Good Cooking. All the basic recipes and a lot of teaching.  I'd still recommend it if you can get it on Ebay or somewhere.

 

Tom Colicchio's Craft of Cooking and Think Like a Chef aren't quite beginner level, but the instructions are clear, photos pretty and the recipes pretty inspiring (for me anyway).

Edited by gfweb (log)
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 Not sure in the 21st-century that I would actually be recommending a cookbook. I think I might lean towards either online videos or DVDs by such people as Jacques Pepin, Sara Moulton  and their ilk along with their books for back up. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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There's always "Essential Pépin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food"...it comes with a DVD of videos where he shows his techniques. 

Or my very first cookbook at 10 years old..."Peanuts Cook Book" by Charles M. Schultz. :B

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I'm fond of Shirley Corriher's Cookwise. But I'll confess to getting HTCE for folks for a wedding gift. No, it's not a book most of us in this forum want or need. For someone just learning to cook, it's not bad at all.

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Don't ask. Eat it.

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It might depend on whether that person is intimidated by cooking. I was. The book that got me over it was Sunset's Easy Basics for Good Cooking. It isn't big or threatening or dense. It's well-illustrated and clear. For each ingredient and cooking method it gives a few different recipes with big differences in the final result (chicken cacciatore vs. chicken in vermouth, say). Its theme-and-variations format demystified cooking for me.

 

Unfortunately it's out of print, but if that doesn't bother you I'd recommend tracking down a copy.

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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Looking back, I realize that Sunset  cookbooks were often my introduction to many different cuisines , Mexican, Asian, French and more.

I probably have at least 20 of those specialty paperbacks and I can never resist one at a sale or thrift shop.  I can honestly say that I

have almost never had a failure using their recipes.  And when I do,  it is usually my own fault.  And don't get me started on all the Sunset

books on houseplants, gardening and more.   When the offices were still in Menlo Park, CA., we made a point of visiting them and wandering

through the test gardens.  The test kitchens were in use that day so we couldn't poke around in them....drat.

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I need some sort of personality profile. 

 

A country boy/girl, White Trash Cooking iregardless of race/ethnicity. 

 

A geek, Modernist Cuisine at Home. 

 

Something in between those two could be The Four Hour Chef. 

 

Athletic, Feedzone and/or Feedzone Portables. 

 

Living alone/college, The Joy of Cooking for One, or maybe Tinned Fish, or Not Your Mother’s Microwave. 

 

Give us a bit of personality profile?

Edited by Spork (log)
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58 minutes ago, Smithy said:

It might depend on whether that person is intimidated by cooking. I was. The book that got me over it was Sunset's Easy Basics for Good Cooking. It isn't big or threatening or dense. It's well-illustrated and clear. For each ingredient and cooking method it gives a few different recipes with big differences in the final result (chicken cacciatore vs. chicken in vermouth, say). Its theme-and-variations format demystified cooking for me.

 

Unfortunately it's out of print, but if that doesn't bother you I'd recommend tracking down a copy.

One of my first cookbooks was Sunset Cookbook of Breads. I still remember the first loaves of white bread I made, they were great. As you said, there were clear simple recipes, ample pictures (black and white) that were meant to instruct rather than just sit there and look pretty, it was really a great beginning book. I have a copy that I bought at a second hand book store several years ago, it's a little different than the one I had but still basically the same. My friend's son was here a while ago because he wanted to learn how to bake bread (he's 25), and we used that book. The loaves still came out great.

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4 hours ago, kayb said:

I'm fond of Shirley Corriher's Cookwise. But I'll confess to getting HTCE for folks for a wedding gift. No, it's not a book most of us in this forum want or need. For someone just learning to cook, it's not bad at all.

I've actually given Julia's How to Cook as a wedding gift myself.  I just think it's so much of a better book than Bittman's.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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It seems to me that there are two ways to go.  First, a compendium of simple recipes (say, The Joy of Cooking), or something that will actually teach them the whys and wherefores.  For the latter I would suggest Alton Brown's I'm Only Here For the Food.  His few pages on roasting meat (for example) and how the heat actually penetrates will automatically make you a better cook if that's something you didn't already know.

 

It all depends on whether you think the recipient will sit down and read the book, or simply use it as a reference when the need arises.

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I agree that these days , with tech advances , seeing something done would be vital for a beginer

 

so its Pepin.

 

i know of no other book that offers text and video of this caliber.

 

 

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21 hours ago, Toliver said:

Or my very first cookbook at 10 years old..."Peanuts Cook Book" by Charles M. Schultz. :B

 

OMG. I completely forgot about that book. I had it too..I loved it. Get them addicted early, I'd say :biggrin:

 

But in all seriousness, I often give Bittman's book and Cook's Illustrated Best Recipes. Reason I like to give the latter is that I think it is appealing to folks who like to understand (in a simple form) the why's of cooking and how different methods produce different results (moreso than a compendium of good recipes). My ex, who was NOT a cook, picked it up one night and read that sucker cover to cover...then became an avid griller.  

 

EDIT: I often will substitute Ruth's "The Gourmet Cookbook" for Bittman's. I lurve Ruth.  Thorough, accessible, and yummy.

 

But I do heartily agree that Julia's How to Cook is an excellent beginner book (we could never keep it in stock at Williams Sonoma)  and hmm...now I will have to crack open the Pepin book that I recently purchased.  :)

Edited by TechieTechie (log)
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Although, she is deeply unfashionable these days, the British writer Delia Smith taught  thousands of people to cook. She is seldom adventurous away from the mainstream, but  all her advice and recipes are clear and , unlike many cookbooks, actually work.  I and many millions still turn to her for the  basics.

That said, my biggest influence remains the inimitable Keith Floyd. Brilliant, enthusiastic, hilarious and usually drunk. Sadly missed.

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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  • 1 year later...

When I was first away from home, I had a great time cooking. I think I owned a few cookbooks, however, I've always liked to ad lib. At one point I realized that all my food ended up the same: some version of tomato-based pudding or stew. So then I bought Joy of Cooking and carefully followed the recipes. (I sometimes reference JoC, in part because I know where things are, or at least, that they exist).

 

When I got married, I got two versions of Julia Child's How to Cook. It never got the same treatment JoC got though.

 

Now I have a bookcase of cookbooks. Which I read for entertainment.

 

When I'm trying something new, I peruse my book shelves and online, and collect a thrice or two of recipes. But I usually close all the books before I start cooking (except baking). My B-I-L, a good cook, is horrified by the idea! Works for me though.

 

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12 hours ago, TdeV said:

When I was first away from home, I had a great time cooking. I think I owned a few cookbooks, however, I've always liked to ad lib. At one point I realized that all my food ended up the same: some version of tomato-based pudding or stew. So then I bought Joy of Cooking and carefully followed the recipes. (I sometimes reference JoC, in part because I know where things are, or at least, that they exist).

 

When I got married, I got two versions of Julia Child's How to Cook. It never got the same treatment JoC got though.

 

Now I have a bookcase of cookbooks. Which I read for entertainment.

 

When I'm trying something new, I peruse my book shelves and online, and collect a thrice or two of recipes. But I usually close all the books before I start cooking (except baking). My B-I-L, a good cook, is horrified by the idea! Works for me though.

 

 

When I was in collage and cooking for myself and others I used a lot of MSG and green food coloring.

 

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