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Author Topic: The Cookbook Thread  (Read 5501 times)
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« Topic Start: April 11, 2009, 05:33:27 pm »

As many of our long-term members know, one of TC's most memorable flounces turned into a discussion about cookbooks halfway down the fourth page of the thread.  Since we have so many new and lost members since December of 2005 (and since no thread like it exists on the current incarnation of TC), I thought it was about time for another cookbook discussion on TC.

How many cookbooks do you own?  Which ones are your favorites and why?  How many (on average) recipes do you use from those books?  Let's say somebody doesn't know the first thing about cooking.  What books would you recommend to them?  Which books would you recommend everyone to have regardless of how experienced they are?
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« Reply #1: April 11, 2009, 05:44:28 pm »


My go-to is Joy of Cooking.  I have mixed results with the recipes sometimes (at least partly because of a lack of talent on my part), but what I really like about the book is that it has a lot of information about techniques (including things like canning and freezing).  A lot of the basic recipes (such as the muffins I posted in another thread) also give lots of options for how to adapt the recipe in various ways.  It's been an invaluable resource for me.
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« Reply #2: April 11, 2009, 06:20:59 pm »

How many cookbooks do you own? 

50? 60? Something like that.

Quote
Which ones are your favorites and why? 

Actually they're not cookbooks, per se. They're the 11 or so (current number...it grows periodically) of three ring binders I've put together from recipes I've printed out.

Quote
How many (on average) recipes do you use from those books? 

All the time. Literally.

Quote
Let's say somebody doesn't know the first thing about cooking.  What books would you recommend to them? 

I don't really have anything that I could recommend to them. Most of my stuff is advanced, though if they have a certain type of cooking they're interested in, I could probably help there.

Quote
Which books would you recommend everyone to have regardless of how experienced they are?

License to Grill, Thrill of the Grill and The BBQ Bible for grilling/smoking. Outstanding stuff.
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Marcella Hazan)
Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean (Paula Wolfert)
Stews, Bogs and Burgoos (James Villas)
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« Reply #3: April 11, 2009, 07:43:19 pm »

As many of our long-term members know, one of TC's most memorable flounces turned into a discussion about cookbooks halfway down the fourth page of the thread.  Since we have so many new and lost members since December of 2005 (and since no thread like it exists on the current incarnation of TC), I thought it was about time for another cookbook discussion on TC.

How many cookbooks do you own?  Which ones are your favorites and why?  How many (on average) recipes do you use from those books?  Let's say somebody doesn't know the first thing about cooking.  What books would you recommend to them?  Which books would you recommend everyone to have regardless of how experienced they are?

I have downsized my cookbook collection.  I now have maybe a dozen that I own and another twenty at the library that I borrow when I need them.

Beginning cooks should look to the Joy of Cooking and Betty Crocker.  Both have lots of good information about food, basic skills and individual ingredients.  Moosewood for the veggies. 

Most of the cookbooks I have now are specific cuisine books.  There's only one book I think my collection needs now, and that's the Cordon Bleu's rather enormous tome. 

Not that I actually use most of them for anything but inspiration, mind you.  I learned to cook in a professional kitchen from a master chef.  Recipes are, for me, a starting place.
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« Reply #4: April 11, 2009, 09:45:39 pm »

How many cookbooks do you own?  Which ones are your favorites and why?  How many (on average) recipes do you use from those books?  Let's say somebody doesn't know the first thing about cooking.  What books would you recommend to them?  Which books would you recommend everyone to have regardless of how experienced they are?

To answer my own questions:

I only own eight cookbooks and five of them were text books for school.  One was given to me as a gift and the other two I bought with my own money.  Before I moved out of my parents' house I used my mother's books and never really thought to get any of my own (I preferred to spend my money on fiction rather than cookbooks).  I also have scattered around my computer over 70 recipes that I am in the process of organizing/printing/put into a three ring binder.  All of these are either recipes I got from my teachers or got from the internet for my final practical in a few of my classes.

My favorite books are probably the texts from my American Regional and International Cuisine classes as well as a Greek cookbook I got at a fund raiser from a local Greek Orthodox Church.  However, some of my favorite recipes are the ones are my hard drive (which includes the croissant recipe I posted earlier).

From each book I own, I probably use on average 3 or 4 recipes.  I tend to use the ones on my hard drive more often.  For an absolute beginner, I would recommend On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals by Sarah R. Labensky and Alan M. Hause.  It covers EVERYTHING, from basic cooking techniques to what happens chemically when food cooks.  No wonder it was the required text for Principles of Culinary Arts I and II.  However, since it is a college textbook it may be not only hard to find but expensive as well.  When I got it, it cost $100.  Luckily, financial aid covered it for me Undecided

For a book I recommend to everyone, I would have to say a book that Barnes and Noble came out with called 500 All-Time Great Recipes.  It has a little bit of everything in it and is a great spring board for ideas.
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« Reply #5: April 12, 2009, 11:38:15 am »

As many of our long-term members know, one of TC's most memorable flounces turned into a discussion about cookbooks halfway down the fourth page of the thread.
<nostalgic sigh> One of my all-time favorite TC threads - and it's very pleasant not to be the one who goes and digs it out of the slow archive (after the first two or three times, I bookmarked it, since it looked like it was going to be one of those threads that gets referred to again and again).

Unfortunately, I didn't get exactly what I was asking for recommendations for in that thread (see below), though I got some good approximations - that's when/how I started a wishlist on Amazon.

Quote
How many cookbooks do you own?  Which ones are your favorites and why?  How many (on average) recipes do you use from those books?  Let's say somebody doesn't know the first thing about cooking.  What books would you recommend to them?  Which books would you recommend everyone to have regardless of how experienced they are?
Almost exactly a shelf-full (about 2 1/2 - 3 feet wide); I'm not going to go count.  About a third are "trivia", the sort of thing my mom might stick in my stocking at Christmas, and that can be useful as idea-generators and such, but aren't cookbooks so much as just recipe books.  Many of the rest focus on a particular type of cooking (Greek, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, one of traditional Canadian recipes by region, a couple of culinary-herb books, microwave, grill - I may have missed a thing or two).

My original choice for the "every home cook has a Big Fat Cookbook" book was The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, since my mom's '40s edition what I grew up with and learned a lot from; I pounced on the GH Illustrated and, a couple of years later, the then-newest revision of the regular GH in the '80s, but never found them as useful as my mom's (they placed less emphasis on how cookery works).  Late in the '90s, I was exposed to Joy of Cooking (left behind by someone who preceded me as a roommate), which I'd previously assumed to be simply an alternate choice of Big Fat Cookbook; I was very pleased to find that it went into quite a bit of the chemistry of ingredients, and a couple of years later asked for/received a copy of the brand-new edition for Christmas.

Joy is my favorite for refining techniques, though if what I'm looking for is info about a particular dish (either a well-known dish, or an instance of "how to prepare X food in a Y-ish way") I'll consult any books that have a variant of that dish.  I'm also very fond of Canadian Family Cooking, because although it's primarily a recipe collection, many of the dishes are part of a regional folk tradition and have folk-tradition techniques that go with them.  I can't really quantify how many recipes I use, because there's a continuum from "have cooked this dish using this book's recipe" (with minor improvisations even the first time, usually, and further improvisation thereafter) to "these are the several recipes from various books that I consulted to make X" to "got inspiration, ingredient combinations, or technique tips"; I'm an improvisational cook by nature and preference.

For someone who knows nothing about cooking, both Joy and GH start at a probablysufficient beginner knowledge level - or there's the Cookbook for College Kids, which really does assume the reader, if not wholly lacking knowledge, is likely to have some significant gaps at a basic level.

Recommend to anyone?  Well, possibly Canadian Family Cooking mentioned above, though it's out of print.  But I wouldn't presume to make cookbook recommendations to professionally-trained chefs unless it was something that out-of-the-ordinary, and I'd hesitate to recommend that sort of book to a complete novice.  The book I'd like to be able to recommend, I haven't found yet - unless....

From each book I own, I probably use on average 3 or 4 recipes.  I tend to use the ones on my hard drive more often.  For an absolute beginner, I would recommend On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals by Sarah R. Labensky and Alan M. Hause.  It covers EVERYTHING, from basic cooking techniques to what happens chemically when food cooks.  No wonder it was the required text for Principles of Culinary Arts I and II.  However, since it is a college textbook it may be not only hard to find but expensive as well.  When I got it, it cost $100.  Luckily, financial aid covered it for me Undecided
Shocked Shocked (at what I've bolded, not at the price) Now, there's at least part of my Culinary Grail (and possibly all of it)!  What I used to yearn for was the Red Book (as it was generally, so I understand, called; I don't know if it has a more formal title) that is/was the core text for the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's highly-regarded culinary arts program, but it is/was really tough to get (folks enrolled in the program had priority on it, and the SAIT bookstore would check to see if a prospective buyer was enrolled).

What I'd really like to see is a book that focuses mainly on the chemistry/physics of ingredients and techniques, in a fairly comprehensive way, and in a way that's useful to both the rankest novices and and the professionals - it wouldn't have many recipes, mostly the "foundation" ones that have many dishes built on them, and perhaps a few others if needed, to fully illustrate the application of the science involved.

I checked on Amazon.ca, and On Cooking seems to be readily available.  Better yet, the "also bought" and "also looked at" links got me (immediately/directly and indirectly) to several other items that look like they might cover part of what I'm after (Dornenburg & Page's Culinary Artistry and The Flavor Bible; Herve This's Molecular Gastronomy and Kitchen Mysteries - all of which looked dirt-cheap by comparison to your textbook Cheesy).  Between these, and the recommendations folks made to me in that long-ago thread (which, alas, I still don't own), the knowledge I seek might just be covered (including, I suspect, some supplementary material expanding beyond what my hypothetical single-volume compendium would cover).

I must be a Cauldronite; I can talk cooking/cookbooks until the cows come home. Cheesy

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« Reply #6: April 12, 2009, 12:23:16 pm »

<nostalgic sigh> One of my all-time favorite TC threads - and it's very pleasant not to be the one who goes and digs it out of the slow archive (after the first two or three times, I bookmarked it, since it looked like it was going to be one of those threads that gets referred to again and again).

Whenever I want to read that thread, I just go to the Brief History of Weirdness at TC that Everfool wrote.

Quote
Shocked Shocked (at what I've bolded, not at the price) Now, there's at least part of my Culinary Grail (and possibly all of it)!  What I used to yearn for was the Red Book (as it was generally, so I understand, called; I don't know if it has a more formal title) that is/was the core text for the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's highly-regarded culinary arts program, but it is/was really tough to get (folks enrolled in the program had priority on it, and the SAIT bookstore would check to see if a prospective buyer was enrolled).

*snip*

I checked on Amazon.ca, and On Cooking seems to be readily available.  Better yet, the "also bought" and "also looked at" links got me (immediately/directly and indirectly) to several other items that look like they might cover part of what I'm after (Dornenburg & Page's Culinary Artistry and The Flavor Bible; Herve This's Molecular Gastronomy and Kitchen Mysteries - all of which looked dirt-cheap by comparison to your textbook Cheesy).  Between these, and the recommendations folks made to me in that long-ago thread (which, alas, I still don't own), the knowledge I seek might just be covered (including, I suspect, some supplementary material expanding beyond what my hypothetical single-volume compendium would cover).

That's nice you found cheaper books for your Grail.  I'm just happy the taxpayers paid for mine Grin  And I don't know if Amazon says this or not, but On Cooking has well over 1,000 pages.  It is easily the largest book I own.  And after a semester of having to lug it back and forth between my apartment and school, in now has a place on my general bookshelf (or the floor when I'm doing homework for some other class).  I have got to get a bookshelf for my kitchen so I have room for my other non-fiction books Undecided

Quote
I must be a Cauldronite; I can talk cooking/cookbooks until the cows come home. Cheesy

Either that, or a certain segment of Cauldronites Wink
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« Reply #7: April 12, 2009, 12:53:03 pm »

<snippage>

My original choice for the "every home cook has a Big Fat Cookbook" book was The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, since my mom's '40s edition what I grew up with and learned a lot from; <snippage>

If it was red, cloth-covered and about three inches thick, I have the same one on my shelf. It lost the spine covering, but it's still intact otherwise and I still use it often. Mom gave it to me when I first moved out of the house and I've taken it everywhere.
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« Reply #8: April 12, 2009, 01:00:54 pm »

That's nice you found cheaper books for your Grail.  I'm just happy the taxpayers paid for mine Grin  And I don't know if Amazon says this or not, but On Cooking has well over 1,000 pages.  It is easily the largest book I own.  And after a semester of having to lug it back and forth between my apartment and school, in now has a place on my general bookshelf (or the floor when I'm doing homework for some other class).  I have got to get a bookshelf for my kitchen so I have room for my other non-fiction books Undecided
I'm still interested in your hefty tome, though.  I didn't look at page count (I took for granted it'd be "hella lots") but Amazon usually includes it; good to know for sure.  Yep, it's expensive, but there's clearly value there (not always true with textbook prices, too often based on the assumption that no one but the captive student market will buy 'em - which ensures no one else will Roll Eyes).

Every kitchen should have a bookcase, if you can squeeze it in - any shelves that don't have cookbooks and such on, can be storage space for things that look nice when they're visible, like teapots and cannisters.

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« Reply #9: April 12, 2009, 01:05:15 pm »

If it was red, cloth-covered and about three inches thick, I have the same one on my shelf. It lost the spine covering, but it's still intact otherwise and I still use it often. Mom gave it to me when I first moved out of the house and I've taken it everywhere.
Ochre background with green plaid-markings, here - but fat enough to deter people from too much criticism of the cook Cheesy.  (IIRC the copyright is 1948, but I might be off by a year either way.)

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« Reply #10: April 12, 2009, 01:19:10 pm »

I'm still interested in your hefty tome, though.  I didn't look at page count (I took for granted it'd be "hella lots") but Amazon usually includes it; good to know for sure.  Yep, it's expensive, but there's clearly value there (not always true with textbook prices, too often based on the assumption that no one but the captive student market will buy 'em - which ensures no one else will Roll Eyes).

Which is why I kept this book.  I could have easily sold it back to the school bookstore for extra cash.  In fact, I kept all of my culinary textbooks.  My Baking book (called On Baking -- yes it's from the same publisher and one of the writers of On Cooking) has useful information too.  However, the information in my International and American Regional books are a bit shoddy (parts that talked about history and geography) but the recipes are good.  I still don't know if I'm keeping my Garde Manger book, though.  I can't imagine myself needing a recipe for forcemeat or sausage anytime soon but I might as well just to say I have all of them Undecided

Quote
Every kitchen should have a bookcase, if you can squeeze it in - any shelves that don't have cookbooks and such on, can be storage space for things that look nice when they're visible, like teapots and cannisters.

I just looked and I may be able to fit a small one underneath my window.  Plus, it would give me more space for an herb garden.
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« Reply #11: April 12, 2009, 02:20:15 pm »

As many of our long-term members know, one of TC's most memorable flounces turned into a discussion about cookbooks halfway down the fourth page of the thread.  Since we have so many new and lost members since December of 2005 (and since no thread like it exists on the current incarnation of TC), I thought it was about time for another cookbook discussion on TC.

How many cookbooks do you own?  Which ones are your favorites and why?  How many (on average) recipes do you use from those books?  Let's say somebody doesn't know the first thing about cooking.  What books would you recommend to them?  Which books would you recommend everyone to have regardless of how experienced they are?

I'm at the beginning of putting together my own cookbook collection. At the moment the count's at three 'real' cookbooks, one very full little blue binder, and a collection of typed up recipes soon to be bound and made into a cookbook by my housemates and I.

The three 'real' cookbooks are two Jamie Oliver books, Jamie's Kitchen and Jamie's Italy, both given to me by friends and an ancient copy of The Cookery Year which has been in my family for three generations.

My little blue binder was given to me by my Gran when I was about 10 and has all my favorite recipes in it. Don't know what I'll do when I can't fit any more in there any more...

The last one's a compilation of all the recipe's my housemates and I have used this year. We had to battle to be able to do it (our campus has a stupid compulsory meal plan rule), and most of our parents didn't think we could do it, but we've cooked all of our own food this year, and we've done it free range, organic, and for under $6 per person per day (dang close to $5 actually). Even more important, particularly considering the whole point of the whole thing is that it's really not too hard for college students to feed themselves a balanced diet..., it's been bloody delicious! So we're putting it all together and making a cookbook out of it. We'll probably get it published on Lulu or something so we can each get a bound copy for not too much.

As far as the other questions... Favorite cookbook's gotta be Jamie's Kitchen I adapt the recipes quite a bit, but it's a great starting point, particularly for deserts which are my favorite things to make.

I use about 3 or 4 recipes routinely from each of my 'real' cookbooks. I use ones from my binder and typed up stuff quite a bit more frequently.

I really haven't found one that's good for beginners. When I was teaching one of my housemates to cook at the beginning of the year I just used old family recipes I'm familiar with. She was mortally afraid of the kitchen (no, I'm not kidding, she had a veritable panic attack at being asked to watch the pasta, and don't even think about putting her near something that sizzles...). Slow cooker stuff was a really good thing to start with for her as it involved a bit of frying before you put the stuff in (got her used to the sizzling), but most of the work is done by the slow cooker itself, and the end result is generally delicious enough to feel very proud of.

I'd recommend The Cookery Year and Joy of Cooking as really good overall cookbooks. If you can think of something to cook that isn't mentioned in one or other of them then you have quite some skill! As far as smaller cookbooks go, like I said Jamie's Kitchen is awesome. Also, for Indian cooking, you can't go wrong with 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi.

Can you tell I like cooking Smiley.
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« Reply #12: April 12, 2009, 02:32:59 pm »



I used to have over 300 cookbooks. I love collecting them. I had a house fire 12 years ago and all of those were destroyed. The only one that survived was The Joy of Cooking, which was in the kitchen at the time. I really hated the fact that my maternal grandmother's 1938 Watkins (Company) cookbook was also destroyed. I was able to recently get a copy through the used book department on Amazon. While it is not my grandmother's personal copy, it is the book that she used.

My #1 favorite cookbook is The Joy of Cooking. I have two different editions. The first one is the one that was not destroyed in the fire. I got it from my cousin at my first wedding. I no longer have my wedding ring or my wedding dress or any of the other wedding gifts from then, but I still have my cookbook. It's falling apart, the spine is broken and the pages are stained with various sauces. My present husband got me a new edition, but I've kept the older one, because a lot of the recipes from the older one are not included in the newer edition.

I have started to build up my cookbook collection over the years. I may have about 50 of them now. A lot of them are those little ones that you can find in the checkout line at the grocery store. I do have some specialty cookbooks, like my Middle Eastern cookbook. But the one that I always return to is The Joy of Cooking. I would recommend that one to anyone. I'd also recommend the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and also The Good Housekeeping Cookbook as well. But my absolute favorite will always be The Joy of Cooking.
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« Reply #13: April 12, 2009, 03:01:26 pm »

"every home cook has a Big Fat Cookbook"

Mine is one my mom got for me; it's from Betti Bossi, Switzerland's answer to Betty Crocker, and it's awesome. (My mom has, like, 40 Betty Bossi cookbooks on her shelf). It's mostly got traditional European-style fare in it, including a kickass Blancmange. I sometimes need a dictionary to decipher what the ingredients are, but it's worth it.

Otherwise I have several books on Japanese cuisine from my stay there, a few on specific topics like muffins or apples&pears, and a BoS-type notebook where I copy stuff from magazines or the net. yay cooking.  Grin
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« Reply #14: April 12, 2009, 05:47:00 pm »

My #1 favorite cookbook is The Joy of Cooking. I have two different editions. The first one is the one that was not destroyed in the fire. I got it from my cousin at my first wedding. I no longer have my wedding ring or my wedding dress or any of the other wedding gifts from then, but I still have my cookbook. It's falling apart, the spine is broken and the pages are stained with various sauces. My present husband got me a new edition, but I've kept the older one, because a lot of the recipes from the older one are not included in the newer edition.

I've given JofC as a wedding pressie to six brides, as a housewarming gift to four young women and two young men, given my own copy away three times to someone who just needed to learn to cook, stat, and replaced it.  I'm due for yet another copy as I broke the spine on my current copy.  I wear that poor book out.  I should own stock in them!
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