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Cookbooks: which ones are showing their age?


torakris
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I am in receipt of my lovely grandmother's whole collection of cooking publications. The oldest and most beloved book had fallen apart decades ago and the precious pages of instruction for her favourite desserts were the only ones saved -- mutilated, conversions written in the margins and food stained for decades. They were most likely an old Betty Crocker -- the the recipes in the worst shape (*sniff*) are of pineapple upside down cake, lemon meringue pie and divinity.

The second most loved book I inherited is a 1961, fifth printing, revised edition of Out of Alaska's Kitchens. That book has a lot of miles.

Of my own personal pre-existing collection -- none. I have this thing about stained books. The stains drive me mad so I will xerox it as best as possible (poor bindings) replace the book on my shelf and place the photocopy into an Avery plastic page protector. If I don't care for the preparation, I adapt as necessary and/or pitch it to the waste basket and then try another! If it is a bona fide hit, well then it makes it to the "preferred recipe" three ring binder. When needed, it is removed and right there with me to endure unknown batter or sauce specs, grease drips, stuck with dough pieces or wayward drizzles of royal frosting. The handy damp paper towel wipes all anew!

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If you don't care about resale or other aesthetics, most Kinkos-type places can convert any volume, hardcover or paperback, into a spiral binding. That's especially handy for books too thick for your average holder.

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  • 3 weeks later...

After all the joking about Keith Famie's Adventures in Cooking...I do own it. I own all three of his cookbooks. So far everything I have made has been exceptional. I have yet to go wrong with one of his recipes. I own a lot of cook books and have made a ton of things over the years but nothing and I do mean nothing has ever gotten me the reactions I have gotten over the past couple of months with his recipes. I get groans and "When are you going to make that again?" I had to e-mail him and let him know that his Michigan bread pudding got me more "Oh my God.." than I have ever heard in my life over anything I've ever made. His Pacific NW smoked salmon risotto from "Yes, I Can Cook Rice..." was wonderful and the Bonne Terre recipes from his new book "You Really Haven't Been There Until You've Eaten The Food" cajun shrimp, mashed sweet potatoes and anduoille cream sauce are to die for. Just F.Y.I. people.

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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After all the joking about Keith Famie's Adventures in Cooking...I do own it. I own all three of his cookbooks. So far everything I have made has been exceptional. I have yet to go wrong with one of his recipes

Someone MQ this person. :raz: Just kidding!

Im sure Keith would really appreciate your complimentary comments...I just cant get myself to buy those books...

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My 1980-ish copy of the *old* Joy of Cooking is beyond battered. The spine is dead and chunks of it fall out everytime I go for it (at least once a week for some form of reference). I suppose I should get a new one some day...

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Someone MQ this person? O.K. I'll bite and risk sounding stupid...so awbrig, what does MQ stand for? And while I'm at it...don't you wish you could put voice tone on these things? It would help at times. I think sometimes I come across as a little too serious. Meant what I said though about the recipes. It's all about the food, Baby. Good stuff. And thanks everybody for the new titles to check out!

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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Marcella Hazan's first volume, The Classic Italian Cookbook: the binding is cracked, the pages splattered and the cover torn. My copy of Santa Marcella's second volume, More Classic Italian Cooking, is in bad shape, too. I have Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, the one-volume update of the two, but hang on to the old books for sentimental reasons (they were the books I first learned to cook from), because they contain a few great recipes that didn't make it into Essentials (long-cooked broccoli!) and, above all, because nearly every recipe in them comes with detailed menu suggestions while Essentials has none. I think I learned more about the aesthetics and structure of an Italian meal from reading those suggestions than from all other sources combined.

And, yes, many recent North American cookbooks, even hardbacks, fall apart after three or four years of moderate use. Maybe they aren't intended to be used even moderately?

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I asked the same basic question in a foodie chat group I'm in and Marcella was a very common reply. I'm definately going to have to check her out!

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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My ten or so year old copy of "When French Women Cook" has definately seen better days. Judging by the back cover I seem to use it as a coaster a fair amount :biggrin:

I have a 1961 edition of the New Yorl Times cookbook edited by Claibourne, which I think must have been a wedding gift to my parents. It's well used as well and has many interesting "things in aspic".

My mother's little annotations are interesting, and provide insite into why she never really did learn to cook. Alas.

Certainly the weirdest book in my collection is an old La Leche League cookbook which my Mom must have aquired when pregnant with me or a sib in the early 70's. Let's just say ideas on nutrition change! :blink:

I don't even allow my French Laundry Cookbook in the kitchen...lol... I know this is outside the spirit of the thing, but it's just too lovely. I can jot down a recipe when needed.

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I have two that are getting a bit battered and bruised:

Recipes from Le Manor aux Quat'Saisons I bought this ten years ago when I was just getting excited about food and cooking, and I haven't stopped using it since. Going to Le Manoir 5 years ago for the first time was a pilgrimmage, not least for the quandary of having to choose between the dishes I'd been cooking to see how they're done properly (eg his recipe for salmon tartare), the dishes I'd never dared do (eg bresse chicken in a pig's bladder) and recipes that weren't in the book.

FWIW, I particularly recommend the salmon tartare if you're new to posh cooking (it's pretty easy and looks lovely ), the jerusalem artichoke mousse for wintertime when you think you're in with a chance...., the summer fruit soup when the family's round. I could go on, but I won't :biggrin:

But that's for special occasions. Day-to-day, I rely on Verdura by Viana La Place for inspiration. Tasty, hearty, healthy--it's just right. And not a pretty photo in sight.

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The Complete Asian Cookbook (Charmaine Solomon, 1976) and early 1970s Joy of Cooking are both showing their age. But Complete Asian still gets a regular workout and I'm constantly amazed at the comprehensive and useful nature of Joy.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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