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Cookbooks That Never Fail

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I noticed tonight that while I have a plethora of cookbooks to choose from when it comes to "normal" cuisine (i.e. american mainly) I always pull out the trusted Better Homes and Garden cookbook. I think I got my first version at a garage sale for for a dollar and received the 3 ring binder version as a gift years later. Every time I want to try a recipe for something I've not made thats pretty common (I grew up eating Thai food so somethings normal for you I don't have experience cooking quite as much) I find the BHG the old workhorse. Example I just started making buttermilk pancakes from scratch (used to use the box *hide*) and I'm in love with them. I have Nigella Lawson's Domestic Goddess and I don't care for her version as much. I was just thinking it's was wierd that for "exotic" cuisine (thai, chinese, japanese) I use recipes from all over but for "normal" I find the staid old BHG cookbook to be my favorite. Anyone else have this experience?

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Yup! For me, it's the Joy of Cooking. Don't use it for much - but I do use it for pancakes, waffles, or when I want to understand basic concepts. Fantastic.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. It was my first cookbook, it's been taped together in spots, it has grease stains and notes taped to it, and whenever I want to make something it's where I go to first. The recipes may not be exciting but they work.


Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

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My go-to for when I want to launch into something new is Cook's Illustrated The Best Recipe. No, it isn't always the best recipe. But, it gives me the basics and explains why they made the choices they did. I rif on it from there.

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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For many years, it was a toss between two books.

At work, "The Gold Cookbook" which is sort of Escoffier-like but simpler to read and somewhat more extensive. It was written by a chef whose name I'll have to hunt up because the book is not available on Amazon and I can't remember his name right now.

At home, it was the 1947 edition of "The Settlement Cookbook" by Mrs. Simon Kander which I'd found at a yard sale for fifty cents.

I loaned it to a girl (an acquaintance from an ESL group) several years ago and never got it back.

Doubt if I will, since she has since returned to Tibet. With my book. :angry::hmmm:

Just looked it up on Amazon. It's worth eighty-nine dollars! Settlement Cookbook:shock:


I've got to get over this habit of lending books. :huh:

(Actually upon further thought now I don't feel so bad, upon imagining a small Tibetan village now being taught the joys of kreplach and milk toast, hot dogs and beans, German chocolate cake and stuffed cabbage. . . :laugh: )

Edited for geographic confusion and further thought. . . :wacko:

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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Good to know I'm not alone! So what made you all choose the books you did? As I mentioned earlier I bought mine at a garage sale for a dollar. I think I just picked it up for whatever. I wasn't cooking much at the time and had just moved out into my own apt. The 3 ring binder edition was given to me by Meredith Corp (my company does there product ordering).

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So what made you all choose the books you did? As I mentioned earlier I bought mine at a garage sale for a dollar. I think I just picked it up for whatever.

Serendipity in both cases with the books I mentioned, also - in finding them.

I always pick up cookbooks that look interesting at yard sales - and at that time (the 1970's) there were some very interesting finds, or so it seemed to me. Both of these books were immediately post WWII - a time when "food" and what it was in and to America was shifting to a different shape.

"The Settlement Cookbook" I'd read about in other places - it was always mentioned as being a classic - and so it was. The recipes were for common-sense good basic cookery, "American", mostly, sometimes with some Eastern European or Jewish additions. No snobbery to this book, nothing fancy in word or posture - just a sort of focus on how to really prepare some good things to eat at home, every day, from "scratch". And that it was from scratch was taken for granted without any heavy panting done over it. The recipes always worked, always provided something delicious to eat, and there was extra information about cuts of meat, grades of eggs, preservation of foods etc. etc. You could sense the author behind the book. . .and I liked her.

"The Gold Cookbook" I found a link to on Amazon: (it is out-of-print):The Gold Cookbook The comments on the page say some of the things I felt about the book.

He's written seventeen other books, some of which I've read, and each was incredibly comprehensive and also amusing:Cookbooks by De Gouy

Louis De Gouy was a chef who had worked in some of the large fine hotels on what was then called "The Continent" (as if there were only one. . . :biggrin: ).

He was incredibly knowledgeable and this book is massive. You can find any formula for any basic French sauce soup entree etc etc you may want - plus more more more ad infinitum. Simply presented, and his cogent commentary adds to the sense of the thing. Again, an author that one could sense - and, again, I liked him. He presented cookery as a trade, a vocation, something that was a living part of each day as a natural thing, and not something that one would find separate, pick up, and struggle at to arrive at somewhere intended that was of a higher power.

Well. Heh. There's my short answer, Onigiri. :smile::shock::wink:

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Like someone else said, I also 'fall back' on the Joy of Cooking. Not inspirational, of course, but after I'm inspired in another book to try something, I pull out the J of C just to see what they have to say on the matter.

And also Mastering the Art of French Cooking by St. Julia.

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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Here's another vote for the Joy of Cooking, with a couple of exceptions. I use my mother's copy of Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook whenever I'm making comfort food, and Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking for any foray into Indian recipes. I've got a ton of cookbooks / cooking magazines that have been read for techniques and pleasure - but those three books are the ones that I stain on a consistant basis.

No one can be exactly like me. Even I have trouble doing it. - T. Bankhead
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My favorite old stand-by is my Betty Crocker cookbook which I purchased in 1974, the 1973 version. It's pages are stained and the book itself has completely separated from the binding. I handle it very carefully these days; guess I should take it someplace to get it re-bound...but then I'd have to do without it for a while. There is no mention of microwaving in this book...duh!....but that's probably a good thing for someone who's learning the basics. Although the recipes aren't "dumbed down", they're pretty easy to follow. Among other things, I taught myself to make yeast bread(s) using this book.


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Joy of Cooking and The Fannie Farmer Cookbook are old stand-bys. When I want to hit a "home run" I always turn to Julia Child's The Way to Cook.

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. It was the first cookbook I bought for myself, and I still use it frequently. The spine is broken at the "Classic Beef Stew" page (a pretty bland recipe, really, but one I've built from.

I also used a very old Betty Crocker cookbook of my mother's (I now have the binder version) quite extensively in my youth, but almost exclusively for baking, particularly chocolate chip cookies.

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Greene on Greens by Bert Greene has seen me through the years with last minute ideas on how to make vegetables more interesting. It is absolutely falling apart at the seams.

Jean George by Vongerichten and Mark Bittman is an easy and intriguing book of recipes that I use to dazzle dinner guests. Many of the recipes have become staples, especially the roasted beet tartare and the garlic soup.

The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy. Invaluable.

Edited by shelora (log)
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I will go to Joy of Cooking or Betty Crocker for Down Home American, Biba Caggiano for Italian, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, for French, Japanese Cooking a Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji for Japanese. Oddly, I don't have a specific choice for Chinese foods even though I have a fairly large collection of Chinese cook books. If I want to try something new I scan many of them.

Am loving Ah Leung's food pictorials. It's filling up some blanks.

Carrot Top, The Gold Cookbook rang a bell with me and I checked my bookshelves. Sure enough there it is, so battered that the cover is gone from the spine. It was the first "French Cookbook" I bought.

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:biggrin: Yes. . .mine is terribly battered also. And yet it soldiers on. . . :rolleyes:

I am always startled by the encylopedic magnitude of the thing - and his comments often make me do a double-take (which is sort of fun :smile: )

It is good to know that the book lives on, on other bookshelves besides my own.

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the joy of cooking, natch. was given it by my mom when i moved to chicago to go to cooking school.

also use maida heatters book of great chocolate desserts. the devilish cake recipe is one i made for my eleventh birthday, as my mom loves to remind me; the fbi cake was another frequently requested item in my household growing up.

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