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Classic Cookbooks


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Steve P brings up an intriguing thought...is this HIS thread because he started it or is it OUR thread that he happened to start.

My thoughts are that the originator of the thread should steer the general direction of conversation until it dies naturally.  If it begins to flag they can try to resurrect it or let someone else do so.  Often a thread will fly off in a completely new direction (e.g. these posts) and the originator can try to bring it under control or let it be carried by its own momentum.  I think the originator needs to be respected but once launched its the eGullet members who are in control (except when a moderator needs to step in - thankfully a rare event).

If you don't want someone to contribute to one of your threads - instant message them privately.  Also - if you say something someone doesn't like they can message you asking for a change which you can accept or ignore.

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All the suggested books are the best of their genres, for all the right reasons.Now I have a long list of cookbooks that are classics to different people for different reasons. Whether anyone needs all of these is a personal choice. For instance, the book that is most important to me is a 1937 edition of Ruth Wakefield's Toll House recipes because it was my mother's only cookbook,a wedding present that was always there during my childhood. My first book was The Good Housekeeping 1963 edition. I still check it on rare occasion. There are American regional books that are definitive including Dungeness Crabs and Blackberry Cobblers by Janie Hibler, A Gracious Plenty by John T. Edge(great bibliography) and The New York Cookbook by Molly O'Neill. There are great teaching and reference books including Jacques Pepin's two volume(slip-cased if you're very lucky)The Art of Cooking,the original Making of a Cook,A Cook's Guide to Cheese or Steven Jenkins' Cheese Primer,The Savoy Cocktail Book,Jane Grigson's Art of Charcuterie,all of James Peterson's books especially Fish and Shellfish, Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables,Anne Willan's La Varenne Practique,The Oxford Companion to Food and the rare Alan Davidson's. Helen Witty's Fancy Pantry is the last word on condiments and relishes as Paula Wolfert is on Couscous and others. I'm surprised no one has named Richard Olney edited, 28 volume The Good Cook series. They can be found at library sales and the whole set teaches pretty much all anyone can absorb. All the Cooks' Illustrated books including America's Test Kitchen tell beginners the why of what works without being more technical than the home cook needs. I agree about Claudia Roden's Jewish book,but Joan Nathan's Jewish Cooking in America suits my very lapsed status. Vegetarian and healthy are not really in my repetoire but I do like the Greens books. In my favorite category(which I am trying greedily to  own all of) of desserts and baking there are dozens,but I've tried to narrow them down a bit. The Roux Bros on Patisserie is as valuable as their sauce book, Mastering the Art of French Pastry,tho' hard to find,is a gem. Lenotre's influence can be seen in pastry shops everywhere. From the U.S. there are several masters including Alice Medrich(make the ice water brownies from her Cookies and Brownies book), Flo Braker both of whose books are brilliant, Richard Sax' Classic Home Dessert is just that. I must mention that the best selling book in the whole store when I was at Powell's was Simply Scones and that Betty Crocker's Cooky(sic) Book has sold a gazillion well used copies. My favorite bread books are The Village Baker and The Best Bread Ever. For those who must have pictures,all the Christian Teubner's Bibles are choice. Among the loved ones for me are Calvin Trillin,James Beard and Julia (respect must be paid). Last, but not to be left out,is my most treasured ephemera-don't get me started-How Famous Chef's use Marshmallows. How have you gotten along without it?

Judy Amster

Cookbook Specialist and Consultant

amsterjudy@gmail.com

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Wow!  I've got both volumes of Pei Mei, given to me by a Taiwanese b-school classmate.  Probably my first "authentic" Chinese cookbook -- and I love it.  Especially since there are pictures of every dish, so you know what it's supposed to look like.  That is SO helpful; should be required in all cookbooks, IMO.

I disagree on Peterson, though.  He's exhausting without being exhaustive.  I've got Fish, Vegetables, and Sauces, and am disappointed in all of them.  He just doesn't answer the questions I have.

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Judy - You need to come out to my place in the Hamptons as so many of the books you mentioned are sitting on the shelves there. Next time I am out, I will make a list of some of the stranger books I have. Or you can come over to my apartment in NYC and we can walk around the corner to Kitchen Arts and Letters.

How about the books by the Chamberlins with all those great photos. And I agree with you about Joan Nathan. It's the greatest. And the Georges Blanc Seasons book is excellent. How about Penelope Casas?

How about the category of cookbooks written by service organizations, etc. One of the more precious books I own is the cookbook prepared by the old woimen who live in the Jewish Home for the Aged in Istanbul. The book is leather bound, and prints the recipes in both Turkish and English. The book starts with an inscription that says that these are the recipes their ancestors brought with them from Turkey to Spain 500 years ago and they want to make sure they aren't forgotten. It's quite precious.

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Steve that last cookbook sounds wonderful, I am interested in pre-reconquest food from Spain, to date I have really only tracked down Moorish recipes, not Jewish. I don't surpose that it would be possible for you to post some of the recipe titles?

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Judy, I was about to mention the Richard Olney Good Cook Series. This was one of the highest profile, highest budget food series any publisher ever launched. (I'm told that the extravagance was due to its being used by Time/Life as a tax write-off.) It was bold of Time/Life to entrust the series to Olney, a relative unknown in America. Many of the great cookbooks of the time were drawn on, with the unfortunate exception of those published by Knopf, who, I'm told by a friend who worked on the project, refused to cooperate because one of their authors wasn't given the job of editing it. Sigh.

The essense of the series (though not all the detail) was boiled down into a single volume, _The Good Cook's Encyclopedia_, published by Quadrille.

It's sad how many of the books mentioned here are out of print. It's almost guaranteed that a very high quality food book will be remaindered within a year.

Edit: Steve, the Chamberlains' books are indeed remarkable. They are documents of their entire historical period, not just the food. And those photographs! In spite of having grown up in New England, my memory of those photos, going back so many years, makes me think of it as existing in a sepia twilight zone.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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For those who love pictures of every recipe,you can't do better than The Australian Womens Weekly series. There are dozens of them,some single topic and some compendiums. Good food styling for home cooks. I also left out most of my ethnic cookbooks because others on this board know so much more,but The Joyce Chen Cookbook is a beginners dream,Bruce Cost is great, as we all know Hot,Sour,Salty,Sweet is. Paul Kovi's Transylvanian Cuisine is pretty literally in a class by itself.I also like Lebanese Mountain Cooking by Hamady. Oh dear, here I go again. I truly love my books. There are many fundraisers including the original Settlement Cookbook that capture (usually a woman's) life at the time of their publication. And there is food lit and Pillsbury and Junior League and bibliographies and single subject books on soup,sandwiches,meats,mushrooms,breakfasts and aphrodisiacs and on and on. All of the women associated with the Boston Cooking School i.e. Fanny Farmer were published. Even Liberace wrote a cookbook(as did John Wayne's widow). To indicate the massive number of cookbooks that have been published,not all of which should have been, I just read that a new Seattle branch library will house a 20,000 general book collection. I have a customer/friend whose personal collection of cookbooks is close to reaching 40,000. Of course,she's even more obsessed than I am,but she loves all hers,too. There is as much intrigue,politics,fame and reward in this field as in opera or horse racing. Join us.

Judy Amster

Cookbook Specialist and Consultant

amsterjudy@gmail.com

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Transylvanian cuisine is all thickened with blood and uses no garlic, right?

Has anyone mentioned either of Lynne Rossetto Kasper's books?  The Splendid Table is the last word on the traditional cooking of Bologna, and The Italian Country Table is the all-around Italian book that I reach for most often.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Adam - Come on don't you have the Moro cookbook?  :smile:

I don't have the Turkish book here. And I won't be in that location for two weeks. But I think there is another copy available. Do you want me to check for you?

The Moro cookbook? No I don't own it, I can only hope to dream to find Moorish recipes of such authenticity. Actually, my interest stems from a trip to Andalusia were I went to number of restaurants serving authentic Moorish food. Subsequently, I found out that most of the food was about as authentic as the Ossianic poems and much of the rest was based on one book of anonymous 13th.C recipes. So from that point I have had an interest in the food of that region/time. I have never heard of any Jewish recipes from that period though and given the large amounts of the present Jewish population that had ancestors from that region I thought it sounded very interesting. So if it isn't any bother to you, yes I would be interested.

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John - In addition the recipes in the Wells book all work. It's one of the few books where they actually tested the recipes first.

I found a couple of her recipes lacking in good technique, which makes a big differrence if you are an inexperienced cook.  They are great for ideas though.

I love a paperback book called "French Regional Cooking" that has great recipes by region.  It is authentic and accurate and very extensive.

The Silver Palate cookbooks contain a number of favorite recipes, though some are very complex.

Splendid Table is a wonderful read, though I haven't yet tackled any of the dishes.  I plan to.

I have a fairly large library of cookbooks, and I cherry-pick them for one or two recipes here and there.  There is really no one book I consider essential except Child's "Way to Cook" which serves as a good basic book.

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I love a paperback book called "French Regional Cooking" that has great recipes by region.  It is authentic and accurate and very extensive.

Jaybee, do you mean the Anne Willan book?  In the regional French category I also love Madeleine Kamman's 'When French Women Cook' - it's very personal, which deepens the sense of place.

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Ditto on Steve's mention of Silver Palate.  Also The Complete Meat Cookbook (Aidells and Kelly), I've found it to be an excellent reference.  Anything by Pepin, especially Jacques Pepin's Table.  Union Square Cafe cookbook has always been a favorite as well.

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Jaybee - Most of my cooking is grilling in the Hamptons. I make the world's best hamburger (no joking) and I can make barbeque that rivals what comes out of BBQ pits in the south. I have developed a sort of half grilling/half smoking style of cooking meat and fish that gets rave reviews, and fits the Hamptons well. Since most of the condiments and sauces that go with that style of cooking are mostly based on salsas and other "raw" sauces, it fits both the lifestyle and the type of ingredients that you find out there. My wife does the more serious cooking, which also stays pretty simple. Mostly bistro food, or big platters of steamed shellfish in a variety of broths.

Come over my house someday and I will make you a big pot of steamed shellfish with a hint of curry using curry powder from Israel in Paris along with a chilled Sancerre or Riesling of repute and then half-smoked and grilled double cut lamb chops served with a fresh peach and red pepper relish, corn on the cob that has been cooked by wrapping it in tinfoil along with a few pats of butter, sea salt and a pinch of cumin and tossing it directly on the coals, and shredded Brussel Sprouts that have been cooked in hot oil for 30 second just until they crisp, and then dressed with a large pat of butter and salt, along with a perfectly mature bottle of Cote Rotie. I promise you will want to spend the night.

Did I make you hungry?

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Adam - Come on don't you have the Moro cookbook?  :smile:

The Moro cookbook? No I don't own it,

If I hadn't binned it (i.e. gave to charity shop) you could have had mine.  To my mind, anyway, it contained almost no insight into spanish/moorish/n african cuisine - its was just a bunch of recipies expensively bound.

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Overlaps some of the above, and I may even be repeating myself, but here goes:

We've got lots of David's books but David's French Provincial Cookery is the one most used--if it had nothing in it but the Creme Vichyssoise in it, it would be worth the money

Child, Bertholle and Beck's Mastering the Art of French Cookery Vols I and II.  The second authors often get forgotten, no?

Jaffrey, Vegetarian and meat books

Potale's Gotham Bar and Grill

We've used Kasper's Splendid Table, but use Perla Meyers' Art of Seasonal Cooking much more

Bayless & Bayless's Authentic Mexican

Bayless' Mexico one plate at a time

Jocasta Innes' The Pauper's Cookbook

George Spunt's Step by Step Chinese Cookbook

Prudhomme's Chef Paul P's Louisiana Kitchen. In this book is my favorite dish of all time (at least for the mo) Paneed chicken and fettucini

Charmaine Solomon's Encycl of Asain Food.  Best Vindaloo I've ever made at home, and a really, really informative book with good illustrations of tropical fruits and vegs

Last but not least. Stephen Schmidt's "Master Recipes: A new approach to the fundamentals of good cooking". He gives very precise instructions (the most detailed I've come across), gives classic simple dish, say, roast chicken, then gives more detailed variations, eg., roast chicken with giblet and cream gravy. Also, (and why don't more cookery books do this?), it has two ribbons to use as page markers. How many times do you back and forth in cookery books, esp when using two recipes from same.

[i'd also recommend Nigel Slater's books for learning to cook. "Real Food" is very simple, but the dishes so good.]

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