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Which Mark Bittman book to buy as a Christmas gift????

I'm looking to give either "Best Recipes in the World" or "How to Cook Everything" for someone as a gift. Problem is I live in a remote area where I myself don't have the ability to view the book in person before purchasing. (Which I hate!!!) I'm sure many of you out there have one or the other. Please tell me what your preferences are, and also why you like that particular book. The person this is for has "medium" range cooking skills and likes dishes from many parts of the world. Thanks!!!

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  1. I have both the books Phoebe mentioned as well as his superb earlier book on fish. Both of these books would fit the criteria of medium-range cooking skills and international dishes. But if the accent is on the international, go with "Best Recipes." If the accent is on cooking, the other book might be a better choice. But either would be a winner. And, in all probability, if you buy one this year you will get the other one next year. These books are extraordinary in their range of recipes, the sheer number of recipes, and the quality of instruction. The titles of both are a little over the top, but only a little.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Father Kitchen

      I'm actually looking more towards the international aspect, than just techniques. He already has many "How-to" such as Joy of Cooking, etc. Have seen Bittman's named mentioned many times on these boards and thought one of these two would be a good choice. Thanks for the input.

      1. re: Phoebe

        There is no "international" guru foodwise, as far as I've seen and read. If he wants international, you have to go with regional writers. Marcella Hazan for Italian, Julia Child or Richard Olny for French; Rick Bayless or Diana Kennedy for Mexican; or Irene Kuo or a variety of other writers for Chinese or other asian cuisines. There is no universal "international" cookbook as far as I know.

    2. I love Bittman's How to Cook Everything. It's a great all-around cookbook with tasty recipes for, well, everything! I much prefer it to other "basic" cookbooks out there like Joy of Cooking, etc. I think it would make a great gift, especially for somebody who is looking for a good, foundational cookbook.

      I haven't cooked from the other book, so can't comment there.

      1. I don't consider any food writer a guru. And certainly you can get greater depth and understanding of the cuisines of different countries by reading food writers that specialize in those cuisines. With that caveat, I still think you will find Bittman's "Best Recipes" a very good tour of world cooking. I think any cook would be glad to have it, and it may well open doors to interest in more specialized books.

        1. The person I'm purchasing a book for already has quite a few books on Southwest, Tex-Mex, Spanish cooking, and several on Tapas. I was looking for a non-specific book that included many different cuisines. As stated in my earlier post, it seems that Bittman is one of many chefs highly regarded on this board. Any other books fitting this theme would be greatly appreciated.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Phoebe

            I also have both books and Everything has lots of international recipes.

            I think, though, from your description, Best Recipes in the World would be better. There are no beautiful photos, though. It's a workmanlike book, but it has sooooooo many good recipes. For instance: potato pancakes with kimchee. Fabulously fabulous (and easy).

          2. I think Best Recipes would fit the bill. I have both; I tend to turn to How To Cook Everything more, but that's just my preference (and prob. because I had it first). HTCE does have a fair number of "foreign" recipes, but Best Recipes covers a broader range of international food.

            1. I will be a contrarian and suggest his Minimalist books are better than his larger cookbooks.

              1. Definitely 'How to Cook Everything'. I've given it about 6 times and everyone loves it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: wookie

                  I gave it to somebody who now "reads it like a novel"

                2. I don't think you can go wrong with the Bittman books. Alford and Duguid have a number of interesting books out that cover a lot of territory physically, though they center around a central theme. I find "Seductions of Rice" and "Flatbreads and Flavors" very interesting. Both are prize-winning books. Google their names and you'll find their website. But I think the Bittman books are the ones I would think of giving as gifts first.

                  1. i'm a professional chef of 25 years and my absolute #1 desert island cookbook is The Silver palate Good Times cookbook.not what you asked, but just wanted to share it with you.

                    1. I'd go with Best Recipes - it's a great overview of many different cuisines; your friend can then go on to research a particular cuisine in depth after getting a good introduction. And grab a copy of How To Cook Everything for yourself off eBay or something - it is a wonderful resource and I too "read it like a novel".

                      1. You can see some of the recipes in Best Recipes in the World here


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: heatherkay

                          Heatherkay, thanks for posting the above site. I loved all of the recipes so much so, I ordered two copies. One as the gift and the other for me to keep. Thanks again!!!