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April 17, 2010

Some of My Favorite Cookbooks

I don't often follow recipes strictly, and many times don't use them at all. I prefer developing my own and occasionally using a recipe as a guide. I like the experimentation and the process, be it resulting in failure or success. However, I still love cookbooks. They are my shoes, my baseball cards, my rare coins. They are my source of inspiration and, quite frankly, my personal porn. I have 47 cookbooks in my kitchen and I'm quite positive I have more scattered throughout the house. This is only because I did some spring cleaning and donated several that I felt comfortable parting with.

As much as I love all of them as you would your children, I admit to having some favorites. Perhaps it's the nostalgia of one, the photography in another. Each have their own personality and purpose. Maybe that's why I have so many of them and can't resist buying more every time I enter a bookstore. Here are three that I highly recommend splattering your red wine reduction on:

  • The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, Hearst Books, 1989 Edition. I hold a special place in my heart for this book. Out of the three, it's the only one I've actually cooked from and it's also the book I've cooked from the most out of all my cookbooks. I grew up with this book. It was always in the drawer to the left of the stove at my father's house. It was, and still is, his main culinary guide. It was also the book I cooked my first dinner out of for my family- Chicken Oporto (Chicken with mushrooms in a port wine cream sauce). When I left for college, my dad bought me my own copy. I was probably the only college student making ravioli from scratch and baking loaves of bread at 2 am. Coincidentally, it was my textbook in my Food Science course. I love this book because it's easy to follow and has all of the recipes you should cook at least once in your lifetime. 
  • The French Laundry Cookbook, Artisan, 1999. If there is a cookbook that could actually move you, this is it. I don't even want to call it a cookbook because it's so much more. The French Laundry delves into the lives of everyone who contributes to the nation's finest restaurant as well as Thomas Keller, who's considered by many to be the most prestigious and inspired chef out there. You learn about the author-turned-fishmonger who provides The French Laundry with the finest quality seafood and a commercial pilot who grows hearts of palm. These people have the utmost respect for their ingredients and a passion for what they do. This book goes beyond instructing you on a Beurre Monte or infused oils. To a chef or foodie, it is an inspiring work of art.
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Knopf, 1966 Edition. If you haven't heard of this book I don't know what rock you've been hiding under. This is the masterpiece that launched the career of Julia Child, and is the subject of the book and movie Julie & Julia. Many of these recipes are dated and complicated, but they are a piece of history. I love the way the old book smells and the pictures were hand-drawn illustrations. It is nostalgic to see a print other than helvetica. Opening this book is like putting on comfy slippers and sitting by a fire. I feel like it's an honor to read her words. She was quite a lady- a real firecracker! I have nothing but admiration for a woman who always cooked with a drink by her side and was completely fearless in the kitchen. No one can touch her.


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