What’s Your All-Time Favorite Cookbook?

Cookbooks are my Food Bibles. My vast collection of cookbooks numbers well over 250 specimens — hardbacks, soft covers, spiral notebooks, and even labeled binders full of well-worn recipe clippings. Topics range from classical French cooking to baking to food styling to special desserts to candy making to hearty soups/stews to to long-lost recipes to hefty food reference textbooks. Cookbooks inspire me to create my own versions of beloved and new recipes!

Each cookbook has a special meaning, whether it was a gift from a favorite aunt, a lovingly-used cookbook passed down from a great grandmother, or a special offering from a foodie friend. A photo excerpt of some of my cookbook collection is directly below (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals):

My first cookbook was the Peanuts Cook Book for kids. My parents gave that cookbook to me when I was just a little girl. It was full of cute recipes that kids could make with help from an adult. Security Cinnamon Toast was my favorite recipe that I could make myself, with no help from my parents! I was a grown-up cook!

My first cookbook as an adult was the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. I still refer to that cookbook often especially regarding how long to roast meats and poultry based on weight. It’s organized nicely and has a lot of pretty color photos of finished recipes in the center of the book. Some of the recipes are dated, but fun to make. And in fact, when I’m trying to find a recipe from “the past”, I tend to gravitate towards it, and also an old version of the Joy of Cooking.

My husband gravitates to three favorite cookbooks. One is Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. The second is The Escoffier Cookbook and Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery. The third has definitions of basic cooking techniques: Larousse Gastronomique: The World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia. Each cookbook offers him inspiration and guidance as he creates his own dinner masterpieces.

Whose cookbook to purchase for lovely spicy Indian foods, than Monica Bhide’s Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen? Monica is a fabulous cook, and also a dynamite lady to know. I enjoy reading her blog, “A Life of Spice“. She’s an inspiring writer and you should follow her especially for her touching stories of life and food.

Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page is a great reference book for pairing different ingredients. What goes best with cucumber? What’s a great nut that goes with chicken? How about a green vegetable that pairs well with fish?

I love The Pancake Handbook which was written about the wonderful recipes from Bette’s Diner in Berkeley, California. Once I bought this book, I was able to learn how to perfect making my own pancakes. The buttermilk pancakes recipe is my staple. Stir in some diced apple, cinnamon, and some chopped toasted pecans for a nice treat. Or sprinkle fresh blueberries on the batter on the griddle before you flip the pancakes.

And last, but not least, my favorite muffin recipe comes from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. It’s a multigrain muffin recipe that is crispy outside and so soft and lovely inside.

Very old cookbooks are a joy to collect, and I have a few of my own. Some of the recipes are hard to understand, or to replicate, for lack of available ingredients from those times. It’s interesting to see how so many cooking basics have been kept constant over the years. And fun to read lovingly-written notes in the recipe margins, or see splatters of foods from over the years. (OK, so I’m weird.)

Other recipe collections that I reference regularly are online at epicurious.com, Whole Foods Market, and the Food Network.

You can install the tablet or phone apps for Whole Foods and Epicurious, and buy e-cookbooks as well. I’ve used them while shopping for ingredients for a meal. You can, too.

What’s YOUR favorite cookbook? Please leave a comment!

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