There, I’ve said it out loud…well, sort of. I know many of us have lots of cookbooks and/or love to read them, but I’ve kind of taken it to the extreme. In fact, they are running me out of the house.
Sure, I have my favorites, and they rotate sometimes. I have some very old ones, hand me down ones and some found at yard sales. I have some by famous chefs, some by famous cooks, some from other countries and some from little churches, schools and Junior Leagues. And In addition to the ones I own, I’ve read a bunch that I checked out from the library. It’s like some kind of a jones or something, every now and then…mostly now…I have cravings to read a new cookbook, essay or magazine about food like others have cravings to eat some chocolate. What can I say? I’m kinda weird that way.
So I’ve decided to share my addiction with you, my readers and friends, in the hope that perhaps I am not alone…or perhaps I am, but at least maybe you’ll get a chuckle from this post…or you’ll walk away shaking your head…probably one or the other.
My mainly used and most organized cookbooks are stashed in a groaning antique secretary (see main photo above) located next to my kitchen (as well they should be), and I have favorite recipes in each of them. I’ll just highlight a few here as this is not quite one third of the cookbooks I have around the house. (!!!)
There’s Chez Jacques, Traditions and Rituals of a Cook, one of the great books by Jacques Pepin including the most amazing recipe for olive tapenade I’ve ever tasted—made with anchovies of course, and it has some beautiful personal photos and some wonderful paintings, too. Next in line, and maybe my all-time fave, is Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home—a brilliantly organized and amusing collaborative effort by Jacques Pepin and Julia Child, which features Jacques’ recipe for “Seafood Bread,” a Boule opened up and slathered with dill, almond, garlic, white wine and Pernod butter and filled with mixed seafood and wild mushrooms, then topped with seasoned and spirited breadcrumbs and baked. It’s an inspired creation. There’s also Julia’s recipe for pan bagnat and some fine mutual takes on an outstanding bouillabaisse, plus some luscious profiteroles with a step by step on how to make Pâte Choux…I’ve made it and it came out right the first time! The list goes on and on with this cookbook. In fact, I don’t think there’s a bad recipe in this gorgeous book, and the thorough instructions with photos make it so that anyone can do what they are doing, just like in their TV programs. Okay, now my mouth is watering…
Next on the row there’s Julia Child’s Cooking with Master Chefs, Gourmet Magazine‘s cookbook compilation, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by “Les Trois Gourmands,” and Bon Appétit‘s cookbook compilation, need I say more? But I will, because those are some of the ones I go to for inspiration when I have an ingredient and I don’t know what to do with it. In the Brit section, I have one cookbook by the “Two Fat Ladies,” who I miss greatly and mine is Full Throttle, and next to them is Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer, followed Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Dinners and Jamie’s Food Revolution. Bubble and Squeak, anyone?
Then there’s a short Southern series with Virginia Willis’ Bon Appétit, Y’all, The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by those fabulous boys from Charleston—including the best crab dip ever, made with only the tiniest speck of mayo and featuring tarragon, red onion, lime juice and, drum roll please, no cream cheese! Those boys make some mighty fine cheese straws, too—straws that you don’t have to squeeze through a cookie press. And I have their second book, Simple Fresh Southern, and it is. Next there’s Damon Lee Fowler’s New Southern Kitchen…he’s from Savannah, don’t ya know? (Oops, my southern accent is showing) His was the recipe I used in the We’re Jammin’ post for peach-orange marmalade, plus there’s a recipe for a bourbon, brown sugar and mustard-glazed pork tenderloin with an apple chutney that’s just out-of-this-world good. Next up: Cat Cora’s Kitchen…she’s from Mississippi, and this book has become my staple for Greek-inspired dishes (see Glorious Greece post for some of my faves of hers.)
Uh-oh, I’m only 3/4 of the way done with the first row here. Let’s see, there’s Field of Greens, an outstanding vegetarian cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (What’s not to like?), and The Silver Palette Cookbook and Silver Palette Good Times Cookbook, both of which helped me learn how to cook and have some really wonderful entertaining ideas. Then there’s Kindred Spirits, a bartending book, Larousse Gastronomique, The Joy of Cooking and The New York Times Cookbook. I think those last 3 pretty much stand on their own merit.
Now I’m to the top row and it is not so organized…mainly because this secretary dictates what can go where by height, completely blowing my attempts to organize in a meaningful way. It starts with the Barbecue Bible, and ends with the local Emory Seasons Entertaining Atlanta Style, and in between is a real mix of genres, styles and ideas.
There several really good local and regional school cookbooks and Junior League cookbooks. Then Julia Child’s The French Chef, Mark Bittman’s Food Matters and the Silver Palette New Basics Cookbook, which has some of my favorite pasta ideas including a roasted garlic and broccoli penne pasta that is a staple around here during broccoli season. There’s a bread cookbook, Todd English’s The Olives Table, Community Gardeners Cookbook (Smith and Hawkin), and Bobby Flay’s Boy Meets Grill (amazing taco and salsa recipes). There’s Ellie Krieger’s So Easy and The Food You Crave, from which I’ve not found a bad recipe so far and her ideas have changed the way I approach healthy eating. I’m almost at the end now (whew!) and there’s Tassajara Cooking—actually that came with my husband but is kinda interesting in a retro sort of way, and the Vegetarian Epicure, which was from my own vegetarian phase of life and it’s a wonderful cookbook for anyone. Last but not least you see The Art of Mixing Drinks, an old-y but a good-y, Stalking the Blue-eyed Scallop by Euell Gibbons and you’re probably close to my age if you remember him (I have this just in case I’m out in the wild and need to forage for dinner), and…for something completely different…Campfire Cuisine. I’ll probably do a post in more detail on campfire cooking the next time we go camping, but suffice it to say that if you love to cook and eat, and camp…you need this cookbook! It’s fun, clever, has great ideas and requires a better cooler than I actually have, but I’ve still used a LOT of her recipes.
So, I think this must bring me to the end of this post. (exhale) And, I still have at least 50 more cookbooks around the house and they run the same gamut of interests and styles that you’ve just seen. But, getting to those will require a “Part 2” and for now, at least, I think I’ve proven my point. (A-hem!) Like they say: you can take a cookbook addict out of the bookstore, but you can’t take her out of the library…or away from Amazon…or yard sales…or away from booksellers of any kind. I can only justify myself by saying that I do use and enjoy them, and I hope that this will prompt you to seek out some of these great cookbooks and reads. Or, if you already have one of them sitting around your house…pick it up, find a great recipe and try it! And if you happen to be as much of a cookbook-a-holic as I am, well…maybe we could go in together and rent a storage facility. Let’s talk.