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Best cookbook for a wedding present?


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My nephew is getting married in a couple of months. I don't have a heck of a lot to spend on a wedding present, but I like Ivan and his bride quite a bit, and want to give them something they'll enjoy.

Since we're known in the family as the gourmet cooks (which is a nicer way of saying that the rest of them can't cook to save their lives), the obvious candidates are food related. I'm thinking of giving them a solid cookbook and, perhaps, one of the wedding spice boxes from penzeys.com.

I have something like 200 cookbooks in my collection, but few of them seem suitable for a new couple starting out. A high percentage of my personal favorites are ethnic or too specific (such as Kafka's Roasting, which has the right "heft" for a gift like this). I'd prefer a title that'll help them get started, the one book they turn to repeatedly, probably because it's the only major one they own. So it should probably cover the entire meal rather than just the entree. (I don't think they're afraid of cooking, but they're definitely beginners.)

Also, I don't want to pick a cookbook that has a lot of recipes for expensive foods that twenty-somethings can't afford (which is why I eliminated Roasting, as beautiful a book as it is). That was the problem with the "Cooking School" book we bought, lo, 23 years ago (damn, now I feel old). It had lots of good "beginner" recipes, but too many of them were for lobster and prime rib -- not exactly what I could afford on my then-salary of $185 a week.

I was considering something like Witt's Classic American Food Without Fuss but (a) it seems to be out of print and (b) it seems like a cheap gift, even if it's the most useful. (Ivan wouldn't care, but my sister would sniff) My husband suggests the Jamisons' Real American Breakfast, which is a possibility (and a great book, if you haven't seen it), but I'm looking for more suggestions.

Esther

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How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman.

900 pages long, tons of stuff, great general cookbook. Won tons of awards. And hey, its on sale at Amazon!

Or find a vintage copy of The Joy Of Cooking (not the new edition) at a used book store.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman.

900 pages long, tons of stuff, great general cookbook. Won tons of awards. And hey, its on sale at Amazon!

Or find a vintage copy of The Joy Of Cooking (not the new edition) at a used book store.

I agree, as long as you don't take the title literally, like my daughter did.

Ditto Jason's caveat on Joy. It's a great book that I still consult on a regular basis.

Some other choices I wish I'd had as a young'un:

The Best Recipe from Cook's Illustrated.

Julia Child's The Way to Cook

Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Our own SuzanneF reviewed Glorious French Food here.

By the way, Welcome, Esther.

In case you didn't know, using the links that Jason and I posted (as opposed to going straight to Amazon) will reap a few pennies towards the upkeep of eGullet. It's much appreciated.

Here's one for GFF: Glorious French Food

Thanks.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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It might be nice to get the Bittman book plus a subscription to Cook's Illustrated or Bon Appetit or which ever magazine you think will contain information on the right level for them. Those spice collections are nice but they mostly go unused.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In the 60's the traditional gift was Joy of Cooking (paired with Joy of Sex)

Depends how sophisticated they are. Escoffier and/or McGee would be good if they are pas the basics.

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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If you actually care about them learning and cooking and developing a usable reference library--a kind of go-to collection--I'd stay away from every magazine, including Cook's Illustrated, at this point. I'd even stay away from Dave the Cook's recommendation of the book form Cook's Illustrated. There's no passion, no sense of one person's voice and appreciation of how personal and meaningful food and cooking can be--and for a beginner, I think that's what's most important to convey.

In that vein, so far on this thread I'd second the Bittman and Judy Rodgers books but add two more: Jody Adams "In the Hands of a Chef" and Sally Schneider's "A New Way to Cook."

If you feel a smaller book might just get them hooked--go with Rodgers or Adams; if you don't feel something more substantial would turn them off, and sit unused on the shelf, go with Bittman or Schneider.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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It might be nice to get the Bittman book plus a subscription to Cook's Illustrated or Bon Appetit or which ever magazine you think will contain information on the right level for them. Those spice collections are nice but they mostly go unused.

The recommendations here are fantastic. I'm going to take a look at them, and have a great time deciding which is best. (Though I'm leaning towards the Julia Child.)

I also like Jason's idea of giving them a magazine subscription, as I'm a fool for Fine Cooking. But I may still stick with the spice collection, partly because Penzey's wedding sets include "wedding charms:" traditional spices with love-and-marriage significance, such as rosemary for rememberance, a whole nutmeg for family happiness, etc.

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I think a subscription to Fine Cooking would be just the thing. I love it, too -- I learn something every month! And the passion IS there, I think. :biggrin:

I also second the vintage Joy of Cooking, full of good recipes for solid dishes, and the answer to just about every basic question. (I have one from 1975.)

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My nephew has a great idea for a wedding gift. He gets a Lodge cast iron chicken fryer (kind of like a deep frying pan so it is very versatile) and puts either a book or a card announcing a gift subscription inside. He chooses those depending upon the couple. It is always a hit. Lately, he has been buying the pre-cured version.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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My nephew has a great idea for a wedding gift. He gets a Lodge cast iron chicken fryer (kind of like a deep frying pan so it is very versatile) and puts either a book or a card announcing a gift subscription inside. He chooses those depending upon the couple. It is always a hit. Lately, he has been buying the pre-cured version.

What a creative gift idea! You have one clever nephew, fifi!!

I wasn't aware one could buy pre-cured cast iron . . . :huh:

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Oh, yeah!  There was a piece in TDG by Dave the Cook about Lodge preseasoned cast iron.  Made me sorry I didn't pop for it when I bought a 12" skillet.  :biggrin:

Thanks for the link to the article (noticed it was written "before my time" here at eGullet), Suzanne. It seems as if Lodge has done a fine job with its Logic line, so much so that I may have to get a skillet -- even though I don't need another piece of cast iron in my kitchen! :wink:

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Thanks for the plug, Suzanne.

This pre-seasoned thing has actually put a kink in my gift giving. Like fifi's nephew, I used to give cast-iron for weddings and especially housewarmings. If I had sufficent notice, I seasoned them first, or at least got them well on their way. Instead of presenting a lovingly tended future heirloom, I'm handing over a mass-produced (and not very expensive) hunk of metal. Lodge has a nice product, but they've deflated the 'value-added' feature of my gifts significantly.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I'd also suggest you go buy one of those "recipe collection" notebooks at your local gourmet store - they have loose-leaf pages, and are divided into categories.

Write down some of your favorite recipes in them, and even though you said that few of the rest of the family cooks, everyone has at least one or two favorite preparations. So pass out some of the pages to other members of the family and have them write a couple of recipes in their own hand, date them, and include a brief sentence or two as to where they got that recipe, why it's special, any important or noteworthy occasions when they served it, etc. - that kind of thing.

Those books are not expensive, and it will be a treasured momento to which they can add their own favorites as the years pass.

I have done this for everyone that has married into my family and they are much appreciated. I did the same thing with recipe boxes before the notebooks were widely available but now prefer the notebook.

Give that and a good cookbook as discussed above. And I like the idea of a herb/spice collection. Especially for kitchen showers, I buy an attractive gift basket at one of the "craft" stores like Michael's, and fill it with herbs and spices and a nice cookbook. I think it's welcome.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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When my cousin got married, I gifted her and her new hubby with a fondue set (they had registered for), a couple of inexpensive fondue cookbooks, and a bottle of Chasselas, the perfect wine for cheese fondue. This is also do-able with a bread machine, slow cooker, pasta maker, wok, etc. Makes for a nice gift that shows the giver put some thought into it, and also gives the newlyweds an excuse to have company over and show off their new kitchen toys.

Your original idea is also very nice. The Penzey's "Wedding Box" is a great present, that I've both received and given. I really love the Julia Child Way to Cook. You can't ever go wrong with Julia! And I always turn to my vintage Joy of Cooking. Good heavens - there's an illustration on how to skin a squirrel in there! Yes - it will answer vurtually any question anyone might ever have!

And Jaymes' idea, is of course pure genius. What a nice way to welcome someone into your family!

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I'd also suggest you go buy one of those "recipe collection" notebooks at your local gourmet store - they have loose-leaf pages, and are divided into categories.

Write down some of your favorite recipes in them, and even though you said that few of the rest of the family cooks, everyone has at least one or two favorite preparations.  So pass out some of the pages to other members of the family and have them write a couple of recipes in their own hand, date them, and include a brief sentence or two as to where they got that recipe, why it's special, any important or noteworthy occasions when they served it, etc. - that kind of thing.

What a lovely idea, Jaymes. My brother is getting married in September and this will be one of their gifts.

I haven't given many cookbooks as a gift, because for me that's sort of like trying to buy someone else a purse, if you know what I mean. But, I do like theme gifts like specialty foods to go along with something on the registry. The fondue set and accoutements is a good example.

When we married my favorite gift was a set of maragarita glasses, pitcher and a bottle of very good tequila. :biggrin: You could do the same with martini glasses, wine glasses, etc.

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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La Varenne pratique can be useful for beginners. For fun, I'd get them Nigella Lawson's How to Eat, which includes a great chapter on baby food. Might come in handy down the line. :smile:

If they're picture people, Forever Summer might be the ticket. It has been providing me with interesting food for the past few months, and I think beginners would enjoy the mix of styles. For a gift, though, I'd through in some kitchen tools and some great non-stick frypan.

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And I always turn to my vintage Joy of Cooking.  Good heavens - there's an illustration on how to skin a squirrel in there!  Yes - it will answer vurtually any question anyone might ever have!

I've never been keen on Joy of Cooking. I bought myself a paperback copy when I got my first college apartment (which would make it, oh, 1977 or so -- thus among the originals?).

After our halloween pumpkin lighting, I decided to try making a pumpkin pie using what I could scrape out of the jack-o-lantern. My very first pie. The recipe said "3 cups of pumpkin" but, you see, it never said to COOK the pumpkin.

Let's just say that it was not a success.

Thankfully, I got better since then. But I'm not sure I ever used Joy of Cooking again.

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Or find a vintage copy of The Joy Of Cooking (not the new edition) at a used book store.

Yup. I have given scores of copies as wedding or shower gifts. Or graduation gifts. Or first apartment gifts.

Combine them with Jaymes' and Dave's ideas, and you're hitting for the cycle.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Another vote for Bittman here.  You might also consider The Zuni Cafe Cookbook--full of wonderful recipes and cooking lessons from Judy Rodgers.

The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

Yes, "Zuni Cafe," given the young couple has A Clue about cooking. A wonderful, exciting, satisfying book to cook from.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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