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Which Cookbooks DON'T You Use & Why?


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I just thought of another illuminating example from my cookbook stash. I am a (mostly) happy owner of Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For The Food, which I guess is technically more of a reference book than a cookbook. Nonetheless, it does have recipes in it ... of which I don't think I've cooked a single one. And I must confess that while the coffee table book format and sprightly graphics are kinda cute in an abstract way, in terms of practicalities they're a bit of a pain--the book weighs a ton, and I find the squiggly lines rather distracting. HOWEVER ... the darn thing is full of AB-esque explanations of how stuff works that really seem to broadcast on my wavelength, so I'm pleased to keep this sucker around for a loooooong time.

Another illustrative example: somewhere along the way I acquired one of the Two Fat Ladies' cookbooks. Again, I think I've yet to cook a single one of the recipes. But again, I'm keeping it ... partly because I did really get a kick out of the Ladies, whose attitudes are well-captured by the book; plus it's a window on styles of cooking I'd barely been exposed to. Plus who could resist a book that ends with detailed instructions on how to roast a whole "beast" on a spit? I mean, visions of the Grinch's Roast Beast fairly danced in my head! :laugh: (Okay, so I do have a bit of a taste for gratuitious porn after all--I am nothing if not inconsistent. :laugh: )

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The Nobu book, definitely -- I just read it for the pics.

The event that launched my family into FoodieLand was my parents' first watching of "Great Chefs of New York" on PBS. My dad was so stoked from that show that he was on the phone ordering the cookbook at the end of the program.

We still have the 20-something year-old Great Chefs of New York cookbook lying around one of our houses -- not a recipe has been attempted.

<a href='http://www.zenkimchi.com/FoodJournal' target='_blank'>ZenKimchi Korean Food Journal</a> - The longest running Korean food blog

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I got excited about having the Emeril cookbooks, but...I need to change our basic items on hand list to better match the recipes I want to make. Then at other times, some of the things I would like to make are a little more expensive, though that is not always the case.

So, two patterns here:

1) Esoteric Ingredients

If you don't shop with a recipe in mind, but turn to cookbooks as sources of inspiration once you have done your shopping (something recommended over and over again in basic cookbooks: let what's available and of high quality determine what you buy), your pantry lacks the spices, oils or exotic flour required. This would be particularly true in certain parts of the country.

I confess I couldn't be bothered ordering anything by mail and would rather turn to a different recipe or book.

2) Expense

3 pounds of prosciutto and 2 of morels to stuff and sauce veal chops for eight, anyone? Then, there is the equipment you need to buy. The special pans. Sometimes, for the weak, these are incentives.

Hmmm. Y'know, this question may well be complicated by the practice of many people--myself included--to use recipes more as inspirations for their own improvizations than blueprints to be followed exactly as written.

Very good point. After shopping, I will often consult several books and then combine ideas gleaned from multiple sources, myself. Major culinary figures constantly tell home cooks to think of recipes as sources of inspiration, not Mosaic Law.

However, there are some cookbooks that do inspire you to follow instructions to the letter because they sound so good and worthwhile, while others do not.

When the book was a present or a freebie, it's understandable that the book just sits on the shelf.

Then there are the books you order online that you think are going to be great, but prove less than thrilling once unwrapped and in your hands.

What's more intriguing is the book that looked so tempting in the bookstore that you had to buy it then and there...and then, once owned, proves disappointing.

It's harder for me to distill these observations into points 3, 4, and so on, so I'm going to stop trying.

I purchase some books with the intent of cooking from them, and others just to read, although there always ends up being some overlap.

The second intention is echoed in this thread. That's the phenomenon that O'Neill could not understand; it was the source of the "titters" I mentioned. Her fans confessed they just like to read cookbooks for pleasure...or even edification, I'd argue, though the lessons might not involve a superior way to bake a proper loaf of bread.

I've also had trouble with Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads (earlier edition).  Some of the recipes are in my standard repertoire, but others were just plain flops... I think it's just a lack of communication. 

3) Who says you need to follow recipes to the letter? Cookbooks are sources of inspiration or pleasure. (OK, combo srhcb & mizd)

4) If at first you don't succeed, give up. The chef needed a co-author or a better editor (as do I).

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I am an owner of about 60 odd cookbooks myself.

The issue that I find with many of my cookbooks ( and the opposite of which happens to be one of the great things about egullet and other web-based recipe/instruction sites ) is that one picture of the dish doesn't really inspire me to go all out and get things done. Process capturing is hardly present (atleast in the books I own).

That's one of the reasons, cooking shows on PBS / FTV are a big success in my opinion. Capturing of the ease in process in order to yield a very fine dish at the end is a great inspiration to people like me who began as eaters and started going the reverse engineering way of 'how did it taste this good'...

Another thing in my case is the aversion to certain foods - read meats - in my family. I am a converted non-vegetarian - so red meats, blood... etc. are a little hard to get and find.

Space availability is another thing. Exotic dishes usually require a lot of ingredients in miniature quantities to get the taste. Living in smaller apartment with 2 other people makes it harder to store things after awhile.

Thus the recipe books become a space hogger, an afterthought or a mid-night read pretty soon after you have bought them...

These are my reasons why cooking books go through the phase you have mentioned in many kitchens

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You know, I've got two different Alice Waters/Chez Panisse cookbooks, and I doubt I've cooked seven recipes between them.  Zuni Cafe was a big disappointment, though I flip through it as a reference every now and then.  I wonder sometimes if that's not just because the lessons taught by Alice and embodied by what's-her-name have been so internalized that one hardly needs their cookbooks any more.
I'm with Busboy both on these cookbooks and his theory. To this category I'd add early Deborah Madison cookbooks, Greens and A Savory Way, still gathering dust on my shelves.
Edited to add that while think ford porn books are too expensibe and take up too much damn room in a small kitchen, I've cooked the hell out of the French Laundry and Bouchon.

I've also done a few from Kaminsky-Kunz's The Elements of Taste, and hope to do more.  Despite their pretentious, or at least boring, theorizing, the recipes tend to be, well, tasty.

Maybe a second question is: about which food porn books can we honestly say "no, really, I read it for the articles, not the pictures!" ??

Both of you bring up books and authors I had in mind. Paul Bertolli's book for ChezP seems far more useful to me than AW's Menu cookbook, the latter purchased long after I knew that citrus works nicely with butterleaf lettuce in salads, etc. There's a good eggplant soup and fish cooked in parchment in those pages, I think, though otherwise, it's just the composition of menus that interested me enough to buy the book, but not enough to use it.

As for Judy Rodgers, I purchased her book because of the buzz and rank the introduction to The Zuni Cafe Cookbook up there with some of the best autobiographical food writing ever, though I know I am biased. (You, Busboy, ought to appreciate the story about the pig's head!) I've made a total of eight recipes and consider the book a worthwhile investment because of the recipe for (BRINED) roasted chicken with bread salad and the simple kale soup with egg. I also learned from its pages that I prefer chicken stock without all the extras I used to add (bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley...). I'd have to look through it again to figure out why I don't look through it more often.

As for Deborah Madison: there seem to be VERY strong opinions on both sides of the camp on that one. I made a good friend in grad school in a town known for its potlucks and vegetarians. She hates Greens and thinks it's too fussy (and this is a person who bakes her own VERY good baguettes) and for that reason, never bought anything else by the author. James Peterson is HER man. While I never attempted the cannoli with beet greens and walnut sauce as described by the fat, bearded Russian specialist who sold me on the book, I have made more than 3 dozen things and own two other later books by Madison.

Over time, she simplified as many of us do. I probably have made more things from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone than I have from any other book excluding those by Marcella Hazan...or maybe James Beard (my teething ring) or possibly Bittman. Local Flavors is one of those 7-recipe books, but the roasted tomato and pepper soup made last summer is the one of the few things that is going to get me through the prospect of a hot, muggy summer.

As for comment made about the Thomas Keller books, there goes my theory about restaurant-affiliated cookbooks, although this is an exceptional figure and the two mentioned may be exceptional books.

In a cable-free household, I am relatively immune to the chef-celeb aspect of cookbook culture. I bought Molto Italiano mostly because of a cover article in Gourmet some time ago and know I will make a lot despite the fact that a few of the recipes have seemed a little sloppy--i.e. instructions don't make sense, steps are omitted, etc.

On the other hand, I resented Lidia Matticchio Bastianich's public profile since Marcella Hazan was my demi-god and wished that TV didn't have such an influence on those who purchased cookbooks, overlooking the unfamiliar pioneer for the woman they recognized. I caught one of LMB's shows on PBS, tried one of her published recipes, bought one of her terrific books and learned something about overcoming prejudice.

* * *

Thanks for all the interesting posts here. I hope to learn more.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I don't have any cookbooks I don't use.

I do have one that I use primarily as an excuse to practice my critical reading of secondary history sources skills, but I still use it. I generally don't cook from it as the recipes are either dumbed down versions of things that really do take *time* to make, or are rather over fancy versions of peasant food. The tagines in it read a lot like Americanized versions of Paula Wolfert's recipes. The avgolemono is well... not so good. The cassoulet recipe is so shortcutted and speeded that I can't see how it would produce something worth the effort. The book almost has more history than recipes, but the author's history strongly resembles his recipes. Sloppy and careless.

I keep it around because every so often rereading it will cause me to go haring off after primary sources in an attempt to get a better understanding of things the author glosses over or misrepresents. (not giving the title because I'd hate for the author to make money off it)

Emily

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"The Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Bernbaum. My wife actually owns it, I just look at the pictures and don't kid myself for a second that I could pull any of that stuff off. Books like that remind me how bad my patissier skills were in school.

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[As for Deborah Madison: there seem to be VERY strong opinions on both sides of the camp on that one.  I made a good friend in grad school in a town known for its potlucks and vegetarians.  She hates Greens and thinks it's too fussy (and this is a person who bakes her own VERY good baguettes) and for that reason, never bought anything else by the author.  James Peterson is HER man.  While I never attempted the cannoli with beet greens and walnut sauce as described by the fat, bearded Russian specialist who sold me on the book, I have made more than 3 dozen things and own two other latter books by Madison. 

Over time, she simplified as many of us do. 

this is an interesting thread and pontormo brings up very good points. i just wanted to add that different books serve different purposes. the madison books are a good example (obligatory disclosure once again: she's a very good friend and in fact wrote part of the greens book at my house). Greens is a very specific book: written about the cuisine of a restaurant in the first place, and a restaurant that was famous (justly i think) for breaking teh nutloaf and tabbouleh image most people at that time had of vegetarian cuisine. her later books are simpler because they are reflective of her home cooking (as opposed to restaurant cooking).

there are authors, like st. marcella, who mine the same vein through their whole career (and still come up with gold). but i think there are just as many whose work evolves over time.

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Definitely my El Bulli cookbook. I fear I do not have the patience, nor the talent, to attempt even the simplest of dishes in it. The pictures, however, do keep me warm on a long winter's night.

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Most restaurant cookbooks. Especially ones for restaurants I've never been to. I've vowed not to buy another one, but I'm pretty sure I'll fail to keep that vow.

There are exceptions. I think the French Laundry is actually a usable book if taken in small doses, for example - but then I've only made a couple of things from it. I've made a few things from JGV's first book with Bittman - most turned out well, and some of the recipes are actually quite simple. (I recall a steak with a carrot and wine sauce. Other than S & P, I think those were the only three ingredients). The Young Thailand cookbook (from a resto in Toronto) has been a fave and one of the few, maybe only, cookbooks that I've cooked (nearly) everything from.

Some authentic ethnic cookbooks I also don't often cook a lot of things from. I suppose it depends on the cuisine - I'm thinking Paula Wolfert's Moroccan, a lot of Mexican stuff. It's just too time consuming for everyday cooking. I also find that with cuisines I'm not as familiar with cooking, I tend to more closely follow the recipes as written and am less apt to take shortcuts or improvise. So meals have to be planned more - and as a result I cook them less. But in the end it's not usually an ingredient procurement issue that limits my cooking with them, but simply a time issue.

On the other hand I have maybe a dozen cookbooks on Indian cooking, and I've cooked extensively from most of them, and some of the recipes can get fairly labour intensive. Part of it is simply that my wife loves Indian and isn't wild about Mexican. (I love 'em both). I have a few books on Chinese cookery, but the only one I regularly return to is Fuschia Dunlop's Sichuan one. So, I don't know if it's something about the other books, whether it's me - but for whatever reason sometimes a cookbook in a certain category will catch your attention, and the others in that category suddenly become almost superfluous. I also tend to go through phases - this month's mostly Asian. Next month might be largely Italian. So sometimes I'll see a cookbook referred to pretty often for a couple of weeks, and then it won't get looked at again for a year or two even. Does anybody else do this? (Well I've seen the cooking Italian for a full year thread - I guess that's an example of this). By the next time I get the urge to cook a particular cuisine I might have a new cookbook that takes over - this is pretty much what happened with the Fuschia Dunlop book.

And, I simply have a lot of cookbooks. And most of the time I don't cook from a cookbook. So, the amount of usage any of them gets is limited by that factor alone.

There are also cookbooks that just don't seem to work very well. If the first couple of recipes I try from a cookbook don't work, then I'm not likely to return to that book again (unless it has good historical info about the cuisine, in which case I'll read it for that, but not likely cook from it again).

And, this may seem silly, but I store my cookbooks by cuisine or topic (so Vietnamese and Vegetarian are near the end). OK, that's not the silly part. This is: I wouldn't be surprised if I referred to the ones at eye level more often.

Cheers,

Geoff Ruby

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I've never once used my French Laundry cookbook. It sits on the coffee table as porn. It's not that I don't think it could pull off the recipes - I'm almost 100% positive that I could - but it's mainly a time and money thing. I work. I work in a kitchen. I don't want to come home and spend all night cooking, or alternatively, spend my entire two days off making one single recipe. And money. I'm not rich. I can't afford truffles, foie gras, decent caviar, or morrels. I mean, I guess I could if I really wanted to spend half my paycheck on one meal. But if I'm going to do something like that, I rather just go out.

Other books I've never used are cookbooks that people give me as gestures of kindness, but that really don't fit my needs. I mean, I don't really need to use a William's Sonoma simplified book on pasta sauces when I have Marcella Hazan. Someone also gave me a sushi cookbook that is very nice, but again: I can't really afford most of the ingredients. Then there are the chocolate and pastry books that I've been given - I'm not a pastry person, and don't have the patience, time, or inclination to make three-tiered chocolate monstrocities covered with sugar flowers. Not my thing.

It can be kind of awkward when someone I haven't seen in a while says, "SO! Tell me about cakes you've made from the book I gave you!" I'm kind of like, "Umm... let's not talk about me! What have YOU made lately?" :raz:

Edited to add: If I ever achieve my dream of being a pampered, spoiled, trust fund baby who doesn't work, I'm sure I'll make all sort of things out of French Laundry and Chocoalte Monstrosity.

Edited by MissAmy (log)

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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for the most part, i agree about the french laundry book (as opposed to the bouchon, which i cook from regularly). but two words: sauce gribiche. it is absolutely amazing, really fast to put together and it goes with so many things. i'd be willing to bet there are more like that if i cooked through it and maybe someday i will.

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I own and NEVER use any of my Chez Panisse cookbooks (but have them all), none of my Southern cookbooks (including Emeril, Flying Biscuit, James Beard) or Deborah Madison or hardly any of my 'restaurant' cookbooks, like White Dog Cafe, nor any of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks. I most often go to Bittman's brilliant books, and lately Sunday at Lucques, and Bobby Flay, and once in a great while, Batali.

That said, for some reason I can't bear to part with any of them.

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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Some authentic ethnic cookbooks I also don't often cook a lot of things from. I suppose it depends on the cuisine...It's just too time consuming for everyday cooking. I also find that with cuisines I'm not as familiar with cooking, I tend to more closely follow the recipes as written and am less apt to take shortcuts or improvise. So meals have to be planned more - and as a result I cook them less. 

On the other hand I have maybe a dozen cookbooks on Indian cooking, and I've cooked extensively from most of them, and some of the recipes can get fairly labour intensive. Part of it is simply that my wife loves Indian and isn't wild about Mexican. (I love 'em both).

Geoff, I have a feeling your observations apply to a lot of us. What draws us to foods outside of our own up-bringing tends to be based on personal experiences, whether travel, studies, profession, or of course, the desire to please someone dear to us.

The first "exotic" tradition I turned to was France, not because of Julia Child, but the fact that my public school system USED to introduce foreign languages in fourth grade and it was easiest to continue in the same language later, ultimately leading to classes with remarkable cooks in high school and college and then study abroad where I lived close to a market street, Lenotre and had access to a kitchen. Hooked.

A used book by Diane Kennedy sat on my shelves for ages before I read through Docsconz's thread on his trip to Mexico. Between that and the eG obsession with pork, I ended up cooking one fine recipe and found the book far less intimidating than it first appeared to be.

I also recall being a little disappointed in David Downie's book Cooking the Roman Way, having used it primarily for three recipes, one of them extraordinary. Nothing else really appealed to me until April when some of us cooked the regional foods of Rome and the book just proved convenient. I think in this case, time was a factor, too, although the prospect of buying expensive artichokes, throwing away most of the leaves and then frying them in lots and lots of oil also was off-putting. I ended up making an amazing vegetarian stew with braised artichokes that proved more economical than I anticipated, something I would not have produced earlier when fava beans were hard to come by. Now they're fashionable, so the book's more useful, too.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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i just wanted to add that different books serve different purposes. the madison books are a good example (obligatory disclosure once again: she's a very good friend and in fact wrote part of the greens book at my house). Greens is a very specific book: written about the cuisine of a restaurant in the first place, and a restaurant that was famous (justly i think) for breaking teh nutloaf and tabbouleh image most people at that time had of vegetarian cuisine. her later books are simpler because they are reflective of her home cooking (as opposed to restaurant cooking).

there are authors, like st. marcella, who mine the same vein through their whole career (and still come up with gold). but i think there are just as many whose work evolves over time.

Yes, I agree with you about the value of Greens and the difference between this "break-out" book vs. later books designed expressly for home cooks. In many ways Moosewood & Anna Thomas (esp. VE, Book 2) did the groundwork by appealing, first of all to idealistic younger consumers who identified with some aspects of CA/Counter culture. Both books were very different from the boring British Penguin PB or earlier US publications motivated either by faith (7th-Day Adventists?) or health (Adele Davis).

Madison elevated vegetarian food to the level of "gourmet cuisine" and made it more attractive to omnivores at the same time that options for buying produce were expanding. Chard at the time the book came out was something I never bought. Now? It's readily available and familiar.

As for what you say about your friend's professional growth vs. the publishing career of St. Marcella*, I have to think about that. Both authors serve similar didactic purposes for the English-speaking public. Both are proselytizers, too, if with utterly different personalities and approaches.

However, Hazan's mission introducing unfamiliar Italian cuisine does not offer as much flexibility as Madison's does, especially now that the vegetarian is an omnivore and is focussing more on the Waters/Slow Food/farmers' market foundation of her cooking. Because specialization or "micro" approaches in cookbooks are selling, Hazan provides variations on traditional, regional Italian dishes in her most recent books, but...well, this is material for a different thread.

*Beata? Proof of public veneration is essential for official canonization, but at least two--formerly three--posthumous miracles are required for papal approval of a cult.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I own and NEVER use any of my Chez Panisse cookbooks (but have them all), none of my Southern cookbooks (including Emeril, Flying Biscuit, James Beard) or Deborah Madison or hardly any of my 'restaurant' cookbooks, like White Dog Cafe, nor any of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks.  I most often go to Bittman's brilliant books, and lately Sunday at Lucques, and Bobby Flay, and once in a great while, Batali.

Any idea why, Sara? What makes Bittman's books "brilliant'" and the others less attractive?

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Hi

Several things put Bittman's books into heavy rotation in my kitchen:

1. Comprehensiveness; no matter what I bring home from the market, I can find something to do with it in a Bittman book.

2. Clarity and Simplicity; it's easy to see exactly what Bittman's trying to do, no guessing or heavy study of a recipe needed

3. Candor: He's extremely honest about what you must have, and what you can do without; providing many alternatives (look at the pork stirfry recipe in How to Cook Everything for a great example), and not putting on airs about the need for a certain veg cut for example to achieve a specific result

4. Results: Every single thing I've made from his recipes tastes great, every single time.

I think those are the main things. He has no expectations that you'll have a gourmet pantry fully stocked at any moment, or that you'll have 2+ hours to finish a meal, and he doesn't pretend that there's only one right way to do anything. I've given his books to family and friends who can barely scramble an egg and they've actually learned to cook, and enjoy cooking, from his work.

Many of the other cookbooks I mentioned are lovely reads, but even with plenty of time on my hands to cook, they shoulder me with too many obligations to hit 3-4 stores to find ingrediants, judge me for my amateur knife skills or lack of kitchen appliances, and most importantly--they often--often--fail to result in successful dishes. Maybe this is b/c having eaten the dish at a restaurant I have an expectation of how it *should* be so I know when I've failed-- but I don't have those same ideas in my head when I approach Bittman's books.

Edited by sara (log)

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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Someone gave me, as a gift, Jacques Torres's Dessert Circus (I like making desserts, though I don't do it as often as I ought). I've yet to make a recipe from it, though it pleases me to look at the photos. It even survived my great cookbook purge, despite its lack of use.

There are some cookbooks out there I'd never use, even though I'd considered buying them before I actually picked them up and perused them. Alice Water's Chez Panisse cookbook, because the ingredients she uses so brilliantly weren't available to me then. Thomas Keller's French Laundry cookbook, because it's the kind of food I'd rather eat at a restaurant than produce at home.

I do use the Green's cookbook. I have a lot of vegetarians in my life, and it's a resource good enough that carnivores would not turn up their noses at the dishes.

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Sally Schneider~ A New Way to Cook............there is just SO much !

David Rosengarten~whom I love~ Dean and Deluca Cookbook because.......  :unsure: ...dunno !

Try the sherry vinegar chicken from " A new way to cook"

Its so fabulous.

If anyone has cookbooks they don't want, you might want to check out this

clicky and offer up a cookbook to someone who really wants it.

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I'm 23, live by myself, and own over 200 cookbooks. Most of what I cook though ends up at the office (a newspaper lunch room + food = no need to eat leftovers). I love the French Laundry Cookbook and have made a lot from it (Yabba Dabba Do, the short ribs, the "Strawberry Short Cake" and all the stocks and the all-purpose red wine marinade).

The only book I would say that is utterly useless to me?

The Big Book of Tofu.

Nuf' said.

Shannon

my new blog: http://uninvitedleftovers.blogspot.com

"...but I'm good at being uncomfortable, so I can't stop changing all the time...be kind to me, or treat me mean...I'll make the most of it I'm an extraordinary machine."

-Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine

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Paul Bertolli's book for ChezP seems far more useful to me than AW's Menu cookbook, the latter purchased long after I knew that citrus works nicely with butterleaf lettuce in salads, etc.
i just wanted to add that different books serve different purposes. the madison books are a good example (obligatory disclosure once again: she's a very good friend and in fact wrote part of the greens book at my house). Greens is a very specific book: written about the cuisine of a restaurant in the first place, and a restaurant that was famous (justly i think) for breaking teh nutloaf and tabbouleh image most people at that time had of vegetarian cuisine. her later books are simpler because they are reflective of her home cooking (as opposed to restaurant cooking).

Both of you make essentially the same point--what was a new direction in cooking at the time gets taken for granted later. There's certainly something to that.

The other explanation behind the lackluster enthusiasm for the Chez Panise cookbooks is that it is less the recipes than the attention to local, in-season, quality ingredients that put Alice Waters' cooking on the map. I suppose we take this for granted today too. (But I'll take a perfect brandywine tomato with a bit of evoo and basil over a fussy dish any day.)

"The Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Bernbaum.  My wife actually owns it, I just look at the pictures and don't kid myself for a second that I could pull any of that stuff off.  Books like that remind me how bad my patissier skills were in school.

Forget the pictures, try some of the recipes! I'm a mediocre baker, and I've learned a lot from this cookbook, and found a few great standard cake recipes. I've never tried to make them look like her pictures.


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Keller's cookbooks are doable. I actually use them 4-5 times per year.

Bourdain's cookbook is a stained mess, the spine is broken and I should probably buy a new copy.

Diane Kenndy's cookbook scared me to death until I found a decent source for dried chili's now her cookbooks have taken a pounding.

Batali's cookbook I followed a number of his recipies to the letter. I hated the results, it is probably me but I felt Keller's recipies more of a challenge.

I loved my Justin Wilson cookbook until someone stole it at a party I through.

Paul Perdomme's books are okay although he is a bit heavy on the spice for me.

Craig Clairborn's are a favorite.

A cooking at the CIA, the one when the show first came on the air I used so much I have memorized most of recipies.

Lidia, I love her show, hate her cookbook.

Chez Panise, I have never used.

I should stop now. I am embarrasing myself with the number of books.

I get a lot for gift I read but never use.

**************************************************

Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

--------------------

One summers evening drunk to hell, I sat there nearly lifeless…Warren

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You know, I've got two different Alice Waters/Chez Panisse cookbooks, and I doubt I've cooked seven recipes between them.  Zuni Cafe was a big disappointment, though I flip through it as a reference every now and then.  I wonder sometimes if that's not just because the lessons taught by Alice and embodied by what's-her-name have been so internalized that one hardly needs their cookbooks any more.

...

Interesting point, but I still find myself using all my Chez Panisse Cookbooks for both inspiration, information and also specific recipes. I've had them and read them for a long time and have somewhat internalized their flavors and approaches but I still find them very useful. The ones I turn to the most right now are Chez Panisse Desserts (Lindsay Shere), Chez Panisse Vegetables and Chez Panisse Menu. The style and tastes of the dishes really resonate with me and I always receive terrific comments from any dishes prepared from the books.

(My latest success was the twice baked green garlic soufflees at Easter which I look forward to making with corn later in the summer.)

Besides enjoying the flavors and aesthetics of the dishes, it's true that livlng in the Bay Area I do also have easy access to many of the more unusual ingredients and am also able to get high quality ingredients. Most of the dishes would certainly not be the same with supermarket fruits and vegetables. When I do bring great produce home, I turn to the books with anticipatory pleasure.

I'm also a big fan of Judy Rodger's "Zuni Cafe Cookbook" and am still cooking my way through many of the recipes. Again, the style and taste of the dishes is right up my alley. It is one of my favorite cookbooks and I have not been disappointed with anything I've made from it yet.

A few cookbooks that I have barely cooked from yet are my small collection of Indian cookbooks. One contributing factor is that I am currently surrounded by dozens of excellent Indian restaurants, where I can also get all the great Indian breads. Nevertheless, I still have a personal food project on my list to assemble a collection of the necessary spices and just start cooking from them frequently. I do have good access to Indian markets! :smile:

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I should stop now. I am embarrassing myself with the number of books.

Me too. I'm not very good at weeding the collection even though, despite the best of intentions, I don't actually use most of them. I rationalize this by saying they provide inspiration. For example, I have most of the Mollie Katzen cookbooks which I enjoy looking at, but rarely try any of the recipes. I keep meaning to get to Baking With Julia, which I was inspired to buy from another thread, but haven't quite managed to find the time.

Thirty years ago when I met my husband, he had one cookbook that his mother gave him. It was the New Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, printed in the early sixties. No one is more surprised than I am that I turn to that cookbook at least as often as the Joy of Cooking.

There has been a recent success, however. A few months ago, I bought The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a cookbook more. I know I've never tried as many recipes from one book before. They are, for the most part, the kind of meals you can throw together after work. My husband, who is far more carnivorous than I am, is enjoying the results as much as I am.

pat w.

I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance

Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.

-- Ogden Nash

http://bluestembooks.com/

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I have a hundred or so cookbooks and still have every cooking magazine I have ever purchased - including the premier issue of 'Eating Well' - stashed in a trunk. My books range from the ladies auxilliary of my church circa 1952 to Silver Spoons, which I got for my birthday. I use the same few books all the time.

1) The Joy of Cooking - I have six different editions and use it for pancakes, waffles, a certain ginger cake and one or two vintage dessert type things. That's about it.

2) Feast by Nigella Lawson - I make the Chocolate Guiness Cake and the Damp Apple Cake once in a while

3) Ethnic books - I use one thai book and one indian book. But really, I have made that stuff so often I rarely look anymore.

That's all. I have never once cooked anything from a magazine, although I have gotten much inspiration from reading them. I have never used Silver Spoons, Thomas Keller, Batali, Oliver or Feenie, although I read them often and use them for ideas.

Don't try to win over the haters. You're not the jackass whisperer."

Scott Stratten

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