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Steve Plotnicki

Classic Cookbooks

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In the "Chefs as Writers" thread a subtopic developed about classic cookbooks and I thought it deserved its own thread. Here are some books no cookbook collection should be without.

Louise Bertholle - Secrets of the Great French Restaurants

Richard Olnay - Simple Cooking

Patricia Wells - Bistro Cooking

Chris Schlesinger & John Willoughby - The Thrill of the Grill

Harold McGhee - Science of Cooking

Robert Carrier - Great Dishes of the World

There are loads more. Feel free to post your list.

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I learned to cook from the two volume Child & Lucas Mastering the Art of French Cooking and the two volume Hazan Classic Italian Cuisine. My favorite bread book is The Bread Builders by Dan Wing. I also like Bugialli's books.

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Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques which is a reissue and combination of his books La Methode and La Technique.

Hm. Do we want to list Escoffier and things like that? What do we mean by "classic"? Having stood the test of time, I think. But by what time-frame? 30 years? 50 years? More?

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Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni

EVERYTHING by Elizabeth David (too numerous to mention)

James Beard's American Cookery

EVERYTHING by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid: Flatbreads and Flavors, Seductions of Rice, and Hot Sour Salty Sweet

EVERYTHING by M.F.K. Fisher (also too numerous to mention)

Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables and Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini by Elizabeth Schneider

All of these define their subjects so thoroughly, carry so much information (culinary, sociogical, historical), and have so many usable recipes -- to me, that's what makes a classic.  Escoffier is excellent historical reference, but dare I say his day has long since passed for usefulness (outside of certification exams).

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not convinced about the patricia wells bistro cooking. always struck me as a. n. other french bourgeois cook book.

fernand point's ma cuisine

Culinary Artstry; Dornenburg-Page

Quentin Crewe Great Chefs of France (something of a hagiography for the Bocuse crowd, but quite important in launching the whole three star chef peronality cult thing)

Of the Elizabeth David books, French Provincial Cooking & Omelette and a GLass of Wine

will think of more as/when they occur

j

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Jon - Well what makes the Patricia Wells book (in fact most of her books) different is that most of the recipes comes from bistros. Just flipping thorugh the book, 6 out of 11 appetizers are from restaurants, four out of 12 soups, 17 out of 22 salads etc. It not only functioned as a cookbook, but as a restaurant guide because it gave some insight as to what she thought were signature dishes at bistros all around France. Bistro Cooking is sort of the modern day successor to the Louise Bertholle book, which lists almost all of the famous dishes in France, by restaurant during the 70's.

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I have recently completed a collection of every cookbook by James Beard.  They make for interesting reading.  Definitley old-school, but lots of classic technique.  And, lots of fat.

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I agree with all the above, and can add:

Madhur Jaffrey - An Invitation to Indian Cooking

I learned to bake bread from Edward Dspe Brown's The Tassajara Bread Book.  Many of the breads in it seem too hippy-dippy to me now, but the sections on making the sponge and shaping hold up well.

Paula Wolfert Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco

An old Joy of Cooking still offers good basic information

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I wholeheartedly agree with Sandra abouut Madhur Jaffrey's "An Invitation to Indian Cooking."  One of my favorites.

I also love all of Copeland Marks' books.  And a book called "Yiddish Cuisine" which is the best primer of Ashkenazi food I've ever seen.

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I'm going to disagree with the Mark's books, some of which I own. I never thought they were really top quality books. I think there are better books written on almost every region.

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Well, what's a "top quality" book?  I like Marks' books because they're straight and to the point, the recipes are simple and eminently executable, and his narrative is brief yet informative.

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Correction to my earlier post:

Julia Child's co-authors for Vol 1 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking were Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck; for Vol II, her co-author was just Simone Beck.

The titles of Marcell Hazan's two volume set are:

The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian Cooking

The co-author of The Bread Builders with Dan Wing is Alan Scott

I think Pepin is the best teacher of technique for home cooks, both in his books and on television.

The Italian classic, The Art of Eating Well (1891), by Pellegrino Artusi, has been translated into English by Kyle Phillips.

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Thought I'd add two which are lesser known in the US, but certainly are the best I've seen in their category:

Cresci: The Art of Leavened Dough

by Iginio Massari, Achille Zoia

Patisserie of Pierre Hermé (English/French Edition)

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Nina - While the Copeland books might be good books, they certainly they aren't essentials for a cookbook library. I was trying to draw the distinction between useful and necessary.The Julia Child French cookbooks, now those are a necessity for any well rounded collection.

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Gotcha.  You're right, the Marks books aren't' essential, but boy, are they fun.

I do, however, consider the Jaffrey book an essential for anyone interested in embarking on an Indian cooking jaunt, or learning the basics.

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The Italian classic, The Art of Eating Well (1891), by Pellegrino Artusi, has been translated into English by Kyle Phillips.
Kyle runs a very good Italian food website and newsletter. Anyone who loves Italian should get on his list.

Steve, I agree about the Wells Bistro Cookbook. I go back and cook from it whenever I feel homesick for a Paris bistro.

Another remarkable anthology is _Cuisine du Terroir: The Lost Domain of French Cooking_ It is a collection of recipes chosen in 1984 by the Master Chefs of France and represent their personal selection of classic dishes which were in danger of disappearing.  The editor was Céline Vence.

As a book, how dated it is! The chefs are listed in the back of the book, in small print, and it would take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out which chef was responsible for which recipe.

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In addition to the above:

Claudia Roden's Books of Middle Eastern and Jewish Food

Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Julia's The Way to Cook

Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book

Pastry:

Rose Berenbaum's The Cake Bible

anything by Maida Heatter

Paula Peck's The Art of Fine Baking

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I would say a Larousse is essential.  Much more than a cookbook, but it's hardly short of recipes.

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Larousse - yes indeed, certainly essential for anyone interested in French cuisine. And those with a historical perspective should have the first edition, edited and largely written by the great Prosper Montagné.

As for the latest edition, the best translator I know tells me that the English language edition is full of errors, mistranslations, and maladaptations. Those who read French would be well advised to get the original.

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There are two English language versions - one for the UK, one for the States.  I use the latter - have no idea about the accuracy of the translation, but still find it very useful.

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My goodness, am I the first to mention Michel Roux's "Sauces"? Absolutely essential in our kitchen.

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CathyL,I'm mad that you got to Maida Heatter before I did. Her books are great because they are 100% reliable and the recipes are well-written and tempting. I was slow because I am composing a list of classics,keepers and must-haves. Different people have different needs. I am often asked what 5 or 10 books would be a good gift for someone who wants to cook,but knows nothing beyond toast. So when we get back from some outdoor time on this sunny Seattle day,I'll post again. In the meanwhile,lurkers,please discuss among yourselves.

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