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What are your favorite cookbooks of all time?

Here's my three cents-worth:

1. COOKING LIGHT magazine: Okay, I cheated right off the bat. But, darn it, I've read this magazine for years and have never prepared a recipe from it that wasn't at least good. Not haute cuisine, for sure. Just good, healthy American cooking using ingredients that are very accessible in my neck of the woods.

2. Mark Bittman's HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING: Not the most elegant cookbook visually, but the simple, fresh ingredients and fool-proof directions more than make up for it. (I also enjoy Bittman's recipes in Men's Health magazine.)

3. THE JOY OF COOKING (75th Anniversary Edition): The standard by which all other cookbboks should be measured, and the one to buy if you're only buying one--not to mention a perfect wedding gift.

PENDING: Alice Waters' THE ART OF SIMPLE FOOD. Haven't prepared any of the recipes yet, so I'll reserve judgement. But I am so far very impressed with Waters' tasty but healthful approach to fresh, seasonal ingredients. (Have got to get to Chez Panisse someday.)

A FINAL NOTE: My choices above do not reflect my overall tastes in food, which go well beyond regional American cooking. These are simply the sources I consult most often when cooking at home.

So, how about it, guys? What other good ones have I missed? And, in particular, what Asian, Italian, Mexican, and/or French cookbooks are MUST-HAVES for American cooks?

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  1. I mentioned this in another thread, but I like the idea of expanding my library to include these "essential" according to the James Beard Foundation cookbooks



    11 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      A solid list. And I'm gratified, of course, to see a few of my choices on it (even if they are no-brainers).

      1. re: Jeff C.

        While the Beard list is interesting, it completely lacks "world view". Frankly, it lacks US "regional view" as well. That list is myopic at best. But I suppose the purpose Beard Foundation is to advance Amercian Cookery (not sure of the mission)?

        1. re: Ora

          Hmmm...excellent point. According to the link I provided, "the James Beard Foundation is dedicated to celebrating, preserving, and nurturing America's culinary heritage and diversity in order to elevate the appreciation of our culinary excellence" and it goes on to describe Mr. Beard himself as a champion of American cuisine. So, I'm not surprise to find the list lacking a world view, even though it does have a handful of cookbooks from other cuisines represented (5 books of the 20, so 25%), several of which (Bayless, Hazan and Child) are often recommended on this board:

          Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico, Rick Bayless
          Classic Indian Cooking, Julie Sahni
          Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking , Marcella Hazan
          Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume One, Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck (as well as "The Way to Cook" by Julia Child)
          The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking: Techniques and Recipes, Barbara Tropp

          But, on closer examination, it is surprising that there aren't more American regional cuisines represented given the Beard foundation's MIssion. Obviously, this list would be a starting point for just some basic techniques, since the list is limited to 20. What would you add (or strike or replace), Ora, to give a home cook the fundamentals with a more world view or for a more regional American view?


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Apologies for butting in, but I think we have to take into consideration the time in which James Beard lived. Were he alive today, I think he would be dumfounded at the array of Asian cuisines that are now considered "everyday American."

            My experience is that any institution that is founded to memorialize someone tends to cling to their view of the world at the time of their death. I somehow doubt that James Beard ever had pad thai. Maybe not even sushi, and god knows that's certainly proliferate in this country today. Japanese business men regularly fly to L.A. to have American sushi! Where's the sushi cookbook on the Beard Foundation list?.

            1. re: Caroline1

              More importantly, what sushi cookbook would you add to the list since you live in the here and now? James Beard Foundation list aside, very few sushi cookbooks have been mentioned in this thread, no? Even by our esteemed, worldly, and diverse fellow 'hounds? And many mentioned on the James Beard Foundation list including Child, Hazan, and Tropp have also been mentioned in this thread by others, so, it doesn't sounds like the James Beard Foundation list was that far astray, it just wasn't that expansive in terms of its world view. How would you add to the list with your current knowledge and superior 'hound sensibility?

              This Beard Foundation list was created in November 2007 by a committee including Pat Adrian, (The Good Cook), a division of Bookspan; Pat Brown, (Bon Appétit Magazine); Lee Svitak Dean, (Minneapolis Star-Tribune); Doralece Lipoli Dullaghan, (Sur La Table); Jan Turner Hazard, (Ladies Home Journal); Martha Holmberg,(The Oregonian); Kathleen Purvis, (The Charlotte Observer); Irene Sax, (New York University, The New York Daily News and Epicurious); Nach Waxman, (Kitchen Arts & Letters); and Rita Wolfson, (Doubleday & Co.) A decidedly American group, but a reasonable cross-section thereof, given the task at hand, I think.


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Whew! Guess I ruffled your feathers. Sorry. But you seem to have missed my point. So from my "current knowledge and superior 'hound sensibilities," let me reiterate:

                I: The James Beard Foundation was/is formulated to focus on American food from a memorialized James Beard perspective.

                II: Not specifically stated but hopefully understood by most readers, it takes at least a generation, according to social scientists, for broad new cultural influences to be absorbed to a point where they are accepted as mainstream norms.

                III: The Beard Foundation list of books does not (as can be expected) fully reflect the multicultural food influences that are broadly active in this country today.

                Not rocket science. There's nothing wrong with the way the Beard Foundation does things. But it is a bit naive to think it reflects present day food in America. What it does, it appears to do well within the narrower confines of its scope and goals.

                CHOW POLICE: If you remove this reply too, then please also remove Dairy Qeens reply to me. It's only fair.

                1. re: Caroline1

                  No feathers ruffled. As you can tell, ora made the "lacking the world view", as well as the lacking a regional U.S. view, point here ... http://www.chowhound.com/topics/47636... and I conceeded those points here http://www.chowhound.com/topics/47636..., noting that, indeed, the self-described mission of the JBF is American centric, which would explain the limited world view of the list. I further expressed that it seemed strange that the JBF list wasn't better at covering the American regional cuisines, given its mission and, (as I tried, apparently not so successfully, to point out in my reply to you) given the relatively broad cross-section of "committee" members who made the JBF list.

                  I still think (and, of course, you're free to disagree) the James Beard list is a decent starting point for American "basics" cookbooks, and even the handful of non-American cookbooks on the list, based on recommendations for many of those same cookbooks from other 'hounds, even in this thread. (Except, I will say, I don't know why the Martha Stewart cookbook is on there...), which is the point I was trying to make to you.

                  Just an aside about my my personal cookbook collection: it's rather weak on American cookbooks and over-represented on cookbooks for other cuisines, and even regional cuisines, as I typically pick-up cookbooks whenever I travel both within North America and abroad ( if I can't find any in English while abroad, I buy one when I get home--it's a way to "extend" my travels) . Cookbooks and photos are my primary souvenirs of my travels. So, when I saw that James Beard list, something clicked in me because it seems to be a list of cookbooks that would be helpful in supplementing my personal collection, but I didn't notice the American-centricness of it until ora pointed it out.

                  I'm not sure what additional point you were making in your intial post over and above the points ora made and I conceded, and my apologies if I've completely missed it, but I agree with the point you're making in your follow-up post about generations. However, since this is a thread about listing cookbooks and you seem quite knowledgeable, I was hoping you'd list out which cookbooks you think would "round out" the James Beard list and, since you mentioned sushi specifically and (if I recall correctly) only one Japanese cookbook (not specifically sushi) has been mentioned in this thread, I was hoping you knew of a sushi cookbook to add to the list!


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Sorry for misunderstanding. And I seem to have missed the Ora post, or skimmed at such a rate it didn't seep in. Bad habit!

                    As for the Beard Foundation's "Ameri-centric" list of cookbooks, it's a valid service. I think there is a tendency among all people to subconsciously ignore the cookbooks of the cuisine they grew up with. After all, Mom cooked it and we've eaten it all of our lives. For many Americans, that means pot roast, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, pan gravy, iceberg lettuce salad, sliced tomatoes, and oatmeal. How many recipes for such staples do any of us have in our cookbook collections? Well, I do have a few cookbooks that include them, but they aren't cookbooks I use often, and when I do it's almost always for recreational reading or to research something I've run across elsewhere: The New England Yankee Cookbook. Cooking in Old Virginia (1879). Blue Ribbon Recipes. I think most cooks who collect recipe books have a few staples in their library, but nine times out of ten I think they're more the result of opportunity and impulse converging rather than a premeditated act of library building.

                    Sushi... I (stupidly) loaned my favorite and best sushi cookbook and never got it back. Damn! Moral: Do NOT loan ANY books! For good basic Japanese cooking I highly recommend "Home Style Japanese Cooking In Pictures," by Sadako Kohno. She does cover the basics well and succinctly for making sushi, but she simply calls it, "Vinegared Rice Rolled in Nori (Nori-maki)". Her words are clear, her pictures are worth the proverbial thousand words, and best of all her recipes taste good. That makes for a very good cookbook!

                    Since Chinese cooking is primarily an imprvisational precedure once you have a few basic techniques down, I only have two Chinese cookbooks. One is unfortunately not yet unpacked two and a half years AFTER the move! God, I hope it's in one of the boxes in the garage! It contains the greatest sweet and sour recipe known to man. It's a small spiral bound cookbook written around the time of WWII by a group of nuns in China, to raise funds for their work. I understand it's a sought after collector's item and hard to come by. Can't recall the name.

                    The Chinese cookbook I do have at hand is called "Chinese Snacks" by Huang Su-Huei. Incredible illustrations and a wide variety of Chinese recipes you won't find in any U.S. Chinese restaurant I've ever been to. One of my favorite recipes is a sweet dim sum she calls "Steamed Long Life Cake." It's a yeast dough filled with dates, then formed into a peach and steamed. Gorgeous and delicious. In many ways, I find her versions of Chinese dishes more akin to traditional Japanese kaiseki presentations, in that her dishes are designed to visually stimulate the appetite before coming near the taste buds. An excellent book.

                    I must confess I don't own any Thai or Vietnamese cook books. I do browse them, but impusle and opportunity have not yet coincided. That, plus there are tons and tons of recipes of all ethnicities availbable on the internet, so that has seriously damped my enthusiasm for needing to add more bookshelves.

                    As for Indian cookbooks, well, I'm allergic to garbanzo beans and have my tandoori marinade memorized, so I gave my only Indian cookbook to a friend. And Google serves me well.

                    Sub-Saharan African cooking seems to be gaining in public attention. Expeience has taught me caution on that count. A Nigerian student of my acquaintance volunteered to cook Nigerian food for me. God, I hope she is not a typical Nigerian cook! She boiled two pounds of white rice for three people! Can you imagine? And she made a chicken and shrimp "stew" by deep fat frying the chicken pieces for half an hour, then adding them to a pot with pureed red bell peppers and onions and a few other things and boiling them for an hour, then adding the shrimp and boiling an additional hour. As I said, for the sake of all Nigeria, I hope she is not a typical Nigerian cook! She cooked it here in my kitchen, and I'm still wondering if she had really ever cooked before or just wanted to play with my kitchen toys? But I have been reading sub-Saharan African restuarant menus on line, and some of the dishes sound quite interesting. I suspect that regional African food may be the next major food interest in this country. We certainly have a wide population base that will be attracted to it if only because they're wondering about their possible heritage.

                    As for the James Beard Institute, I find their lists interesting, but that's about as far as it goes simply because I have yet to find a list for anything, including all of the "Top 100" lists that are so plentiful, to really be all that illuminating. I knew a lot of people like "Casablanca" before AFI made it "official." I find single recommendations for single books, movies, music to be a lot more useful. But then I've never claimed not to be strange. '-)

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      Hey, these are fantastic additions, thank you! And, yeah, only lend out cookbooks that are still in print lest you never get them back!

                      P.S. No worries about the misunderstanding, tone is especially hard to read on a message board, I think!


              2. re: Caroline1

                It appears he ate sashimi way back in the 70's or earlier. I was reading a collection of his essays a few days ago, and it is apparent enough when he talks about raw fish and how eating it makes it clear that it is a crime to overcook fish. This would be from Beard on Food.

                Your points are interesting. Myself, I don't think of food like that as American. But Americans eat all sorts of Asian food routinely, as you say. Puzzling.

      2. I have the 1975 annd the 1997 editions of the Joy of Cooking and go to both of them more often than any other cookbook it have!


        2 Replies
        1. re: PamelaD

          Yes. JOC and MTAOFC (Julia Child). As most CH'ers, I consider myself a cookbook afficianado, and these two are hands down the very best I have ever used.

          1. re: diablo

            I have three large bookcases in my dining room crammed with cookbooks and JOC and MTAOFC are the ones I go to most often. I have the new Joy, the 1997 and 1975 versions, and one from the late 60s. I would add to these the 60s Fannie Farmer cookbook. I have made gallons, washtubs, barrels of the FF lemon curd (lemon cheese, she called it) over my career, and she's got my go-to chiffon cake recipe too.

        2. Currently (meaning: for the past year or so) I am smitten by Judy Rodgers' Zuni Cafe Cookbook. What lovingly detailed instructions and sensory descriptions. For example, five dense pages of copy to explain how to make (the best) roasted chicken!

          Other titles that I still return to often, sometimes after more than 30 years:

          • Craig Claiborne's New York Time Cookbook
          • Silver Palate (both)
          • Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Julia Child, et al.)
          • Marcella Hazan's first Italian book

          2 Replies
          1. re: FeelingALittleBreadish

            You must be about my age. Those were the cookbooks where I learned to cook. I would also like to add Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts and others by her.

            1. re: veggielover

              Yeah, I guess my choices date me. I forgot to list Jean Anderson's Processor Cooking cookbook (vintage 70s). I got it when I received my first and only food processor—the original Cuisinart. Her cookbook introduced me to hummus (remember, this was the 1970s!), baba ganoush, dips, pureed vegetable soups, and so on.

          2. Here are a few of my older favorites that don’t get much mention on this board.

            For holiday cooking, I wouldn’t want to live without either “John Clancy’s Christmas Cookbook” or “Thanksgiving Dinner” by Anthony Dias Blue. Excellent recipes, and good ideas.

            “Jean Anderson Cooks” has one terrific recipe after another. I don’t think Jean Anderson gets anywhere near the recognition she deserves.

            “Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen.” I’ll be making his seafood and sausage gumbo, and my friends will continue asking for it, until the day I die.

            “The French Menu Cookbook” by Richard Olney. Because he really knew his stuff and every recipe’s a classic.

            “The Art of Fine Baking” by Paula Peck. Before there was a Rose Levy Berenbaum

            “Simply French: Patricia Wells Presents the Cuisine of Joel Roubuchon.” Sort of the Zuni Cookbook of the early 90s, and just as revelatory.

            “The Foods and Wines of Spain” by Penelope Casas. Still the best.

            And one new(ish) book, just because I don’t think it’s as popular as it ought to be: “The New Gourmet Cookbook” edited by Ruth Reichl. This book has amazed me week after week since I first got it. It’s not, for the most part, fancy dinner party, two-days-in-preparation food. It’s for those days when you don’t know what to do with the chicken thighs you have in the freezer or what to serve the bunch of teenagers who will be coming home hungry from a soccer game. I always find something I want to cook, and it’s always good, often, very, very good. I’ve made three dozen recipes from the book so far and there isn’t one I wouldn’t repeat.

            2 Replies
            1. re: JoanN

              Haha, JoanN, my mom and I are making Paul Prudhomme's seafood and sausage gumbo today. And I completely agree on his cookbook, that one would definitely be on my list.

              1. re: JoanN

                Agree 100% on Jean Anderson, the new book on Southern cooking is a joy and the Portugal one inspired me to go to Lisbon on vacation. "Cooks" is wonderful too, the peach soufflé is a dream.

              2. Bittman, previously mentioned; the Goldbecks' American Wholefoods Cuisine; Diet for a Small Planet; the Mennonite Central Committee's old More-with-Less Cookbook; and an old Betty Crocker if I need to look up something really basic.

                1. My favorite for Americana:
                  America Cooks by the Browns

                  1. 1. Vegetarian Celebrations by Nava Atlas
                    2. The Best Light Recipe by America's Test Kitchen
                    3. A Fork in the Road by Chef Paul Prudhomme
                    4. Betty Crocker Cookbook

                    1. Bittman's How to Cook Everything
                      Joy of Cooking (1997 edition)
                      -these two answer most of the questions I have
                      Extending the Table--A World Community Cookbook (also a Mennonite Central Committee Book)
                      - I enjoy the recipes, but the text makes me feel so grateful for what I have
                      Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (Deborah Madison)
                      - I have never made a bad recipe from this book
                      Das Mittelmeer Kochbuch (the Mediterranean cookbook)
                      - a present from one of my Dad's Germany trips--beautiful photography and tasty recipes from France, Spain, Italy, Turkey (yes, a limited subset of Mediterraneana)
                      The Cooking of Provincial France (MFK Fisher)
                      - the sheer joy of her words and the wonderful (now very dated) pictures always drum up nostalgia (for that which I never experienced in the first place!)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: nofunlatte

                        On your last selection do you mean the Time Life Foods of the World one? If so- I agree it always inspires me as do every one of the volumes. My most "get an inspiration" set.

                        1. re: torty

                          Yes, torty, that's the one! It's the only one I own (bought it at an AAUP used-book sale almost 20 years ago). What are your favorites? I may have to go used-book shopping again!

                      2. Not necessarily in order, it depends on what I am looking for:
                        The Hungarian Cookbook by Susan Derecskey
                        The German Cookbook by Mini Sheraton
                        1,000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles
                        My "go-to" book for basics is a 1973 edition of Good Housekeeping
                        Joy of Cooking is another "go-to" book.
                        I love Bittman's as a gift for college students, recent grads and anybody setting up their first home away from parents.

                        1. La Technique by Jacque Pepin

                          Some may argue it is not a cookbook - but a way to cook.

                          1. I find myself increasingly coming back to the Mario Batali books (Babbo et al). What's wonderful about his books is that the recipes are simple, yet unique. They are grounded in tradition yet inspire some novel flavor combinations. That's rare.

                            1. My favorite cookbook to use in getting quick offers of dinner out is "Diet for the Sick", from the late 1800's filled with hundreds of variations on "mush". I would thumb through it & my SO would immediately suggest a nice dinner out! :)
                              My favorite for actually cooking, well I have hundreds & refer to many often for inspiration. For solid info regarding techniques I love the old Good Cook series from Time Life. Also use the '70's edition of Joy for temperatures, new ideas for specific cuts of meat. A new one I use frequently (and wish I had had years ago) is a cooking reference rather than a recipe book called Timing is Everything by Jack Piccolo. This book is unsurpassed in its scope - if it can be cooked, here are guidelines & times for how to do it! The New Gourmet Cookbook, mentioned in an earlier post, has been working its way up my rotation ladder. There have been some very solid, tasty dishes from this book.

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: meatn3

                                I have been doing very well on offers for a dinner out lately. I hope that is not a commentary on my cooking. But may have to stock "Diet for the Sick' for any future lean spells.

                                For a couple more frivolous or specialized books, I would nominate The Last Course by Claudia Fleming (a dessert book) and Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini by Elizabeth Schneider. Also Home Baking by Jeffry Alford and Naomi Duguid.

                                1. re: karykat

                                  I can't believe THE LAST COURSE (Claudia Fleming) is OUT OF PRINT!!! That's criminal. Amazon has new/used copies starting at $195!

                                  I have over 1,000 cookbooks, and my excuse is that I also write them. But my favorites are:
                                  1. Anything by Julia Child. Anything.
                                  2. Marcella Hazan's ESSENTIALS OF CLASSIC ITALIAN COOKING
                                  3. THE JOY OF COOKING (I have 5 editions, all wonderful in different ways)
                                  4. Anything by Mark Bittman or James Peterson or--oh!!--James Beard
                                  5. Just to name something recent, BISTRO LAURENT TOURONDEL is a very fine book.

                                  1. re: Tom Steele

                                    At the rate the cost of The Last Course is escalating, maybe I will hold on to my copy so that it can help fund my retirement!

                                    1. re: Tom Steele

                                      How approachable is BISTRO LAURENT TOURONDEL? About as complicated as Hamersley's Bistro Cooking at Home?

                                      1. re: Westy

                                        Most of Tourondel's recipes are at least approachable. A few are complicated, but every one I've tried has had sumptuous results.

                                        1. re: Tom Steele

                                          does the BLT cookbook contain his popover recipe that they send home with diners in his restaurants? they're positively divine.

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                            Yes, the gruyère popover recipe is in the BLT Cookbook.

                                      2. re: Tom Steele

                                        I shipped out my copy of The Last Course to a fellow hound who really wanted it. I never baked anything from it -- just seemed too fussy for me, and not the way I bake. Spending almost $200 for this book is just plain crazy.

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          I love the tapioca coconut "soup" that Fleming used to make at Gramercy Tavern, and the recipe is in THE LAST COURSE, but every time I've made it, I've had to soak the pearl tapiocas overnight or the recipe doesn't work at all. I asked her about that once, and she said it's important to get tapioca that isn't too old, but I have yet to see an expiration date on a box or bag of pearl tapioca, so I just soak them, and the recipe then works beautifully.

                                          1. re: Tom Steele

                                            Thanks Tom. Very good to know that. I have the book, have been tempted by the recipe and bought the pearls (Quite a while ago now!) So now I will know what to do.

                                      3. re: karykat

                                        I love Eliz. Schneider! Vegetables had been on my wish list for years & just received it as a gift. Would love to have her book on fruit too.
                                        Diet for the Sick is quite an interesting look at that period - the line between cooking & healing was not very wide. People probably used mustard more as a poultice than a condiment!

                                        1. re: karykat

                                          If anyone is interested, you can access an electronic copy of the original "Diet for the Sick" here: http://tinyurl.com/24hyf4

                                          While I love the feel of "the real thing" in my hands, I'm very grateful for the bookshelf space saved by these electronic freebies!

                                      4. 1. Minimalist Cooks Dinner - Bittman
                                        2. Appetite - Nigel Slater
                                        3. Chinese Cooking - Ken Hom
                                        4. Bistro - Patricia Wells
                                        5. Peace, Love BBQ.

                                        1. As mentioned by others, an early 1970s edition of the Joy of Cooking is the one I consider most indispensable. It's tarnished and tattered and the binding is breaking but I'll never part with it.

                                          Among my other cookbooks, the only one I consider truly essential is a well illustrated 1980s edition of Chinese Cookery by Rose Cheng & Michelle Morris.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: Sam D.

                                            I have that!!!!! Agreed - it is very good. I have a bunch of other Chinese cookbooks, but it is a sure-fire winner.


                                            1. re: Westy

                                              The Cheng & Morris cookbook sounds promising. Unfortunately, an Amazon search turns up zilch...

                                              1. re: Jeff C.


                                                It is not a very large book, nor is it the most amazing/inventive one I have ever read. But it is solid and foolproof food that people really seem to like. It is just different enough from others to make it a standout.

                                                1. re: Westy

                                                  Well, I'll be damned. There 'tis. (My typing must've been off or something.) Thanks.

                                            2. re: Sam D.

                                              "A Taste of Chinatown" by Joie Warner is a classic.
                                              No longer in print. You will be lucky to locate one at a garage sale. Illustrations which are spectacular are by her husband Drew Warner.
                                              There is not a Joie Warner cookbook that I do not covet,
                                              Her Shrimp won ton soup is enjoyed again and again.

                                              1. re: easily amused

                                                Much easier than finding one at a garage sale, you can buy used copies of "A Taste of Chinatown" (starting at fifty seven cents) here:

                                            3. JOC and MTAOFC are culinary standards, but I like the New Your Times cookbook as well. It might not be politically correct, but I learned a lot and still use many of the Frugal Gourmet cookbooks.

                                              I love Nick Malgeri's baking book.

                                              1. The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking by Barbara Tropp - I got this 25 years ago and I love reading it.

                                                The Classic Italian Cook Book by Marcella Hazan - also great reading

                                                The New James Beard - maybe out of print?

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Linda513

                                                  I have the barbara Tropp book as well. It is every bit the classic people say it is. It was the first book i got that sent me into chinatown for ingredients (dried orange peel etc) and equipment (Dexter cleaver). On the other hand, the China Moon book she wrote has waaaayyyy too many sub-recipes. Nice as a book for parties/entertaining, but that is it.

                                                2. I learned to cook using The Frugal Gourmet and the Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine (a 21st birthday present).

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Avalondaughter

                                                    Oh wow. My Mom had both of those and the Frugal Gourmet cooks America. I took 3 Ancient Cuisines with me to Asia and used the Chinese Roast chicken to woo my then-girlfriend (now wife). He was sort of a hack, but...for the time and my skill level...not half bad.

                                                  2. Rather than specific cookbooks, I will first list the most reliable and educative American or US-based cookbook writers (in alphabetical order) whose works show a uniformly high level of quality and attention to technique:

                                                    James Beard (I have a dear soft spot for American Cookery in particular)
                                                    Madeleine Kamman (The New Making of a Cook will teach you more than almost any other text readily available)
                                                    Edna Lewis (reading her books is pure joy)
                                                    Rose Levy Berenbaum (yeah, hypertechnical, but invaluable for cooks like me who want to understand baking the way we understand cooking)
                                                    James Peterson (he is incapable of writing a bad book, it seems; amazing)
                                                    John & Matt Thorne (Chowhounds should have all of their books and subscribe to Simple Cooking, folks)

                                                    Judy Rodgers and Marian Morash have single hit wonders (Zuni Cafe Cookbook and the venerable Victory Garden Cookbook) worthy of honorable mention.

                                                    Mark Bittman's works are more uneven - his smaller Minimalist books are better than his larger works, I think, which are not as well laid out. Otherwise, he'd be on the list.

                                                    The Joy of Cooking and The Fannie Farmer Cookbook also merit mention for all around comprehensiveness; they complement each other in a variety of ways.

                                                    I've not made up my mind about Alice Waters. I have several of her books. But I don't use them at all.

                                                    A plug for non-US English language favorite that is virtually unknown in the US: The Chez Piggy Cookbook, from the fabulous restaurant in Kingston Ontario (which I will avoid comparing to Chez Panisse)... Very fun and very good stuff.

                                                    1. #1 Joy of Cooking

                                                      #1a Chef Paul Prudhmme's Louisiana Kitchen

                                                      1. For me, the 4 standbys are:

                                                        The Joy of Cooking
                                                        How To Cook Everything
                                                        Mastering the Art of French Cooking
                                                        Essential of Classic Italian Cooking

                                                        That is probably the most standard list possible, but those are the 4 that are always out on the kitchen counter.

                                                        1. many excellent ones listed thus far. i'll refrain from repeating, but add a few more of my favorites that haven't been mentioned...

                                                          "a new way to cook" and "the improvisational cook," both by sally schneider
                                                          "mediterranean light" by martha rose shulman
                                                          "deliciously healthy jewish cooking" by harriet roth - a great resource for holiday recipes

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                            I don’t know why I neglected to include this one in my earlier post because it’s the resource for many of my family’s favorite recipes.

                                                            The L.A. Gourmet: Favorite Recipes from Famous Los Angeles Restaurants by Jeanne Voltz and Burks Hamner.

                                                            Ms. Voltz was for many years a food writer and editor for Women's Day magazine. She also edited the food section of the Los Angeles Times. The cookbook is a compilation of recipes for some of the most popular dishes served in L.A.’s famous and not so famous restaurants at that time.

                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                              I love Mediterranean Light, too, so much so, I have two copies. I bought my first one at the used book store years and years ago simply because the recipes looked so good. About 10 years later, I saw it on the shelf at another used bookstore and was so surprised to find it that I was seized with a sudden panic that I'd never find it again should I want to, so I bought a second copy. I've never really been sure how authentically "Mediterranean" (that's a pretty broad sweep anyway) the recipes are, but I do like it nevertheless.


                                                            2. I love my Frog/Commissary Cookbook. So many great recipes--the curried chicken salad, oatmeal cookies, orzo salad, creamy herb vinaigrette, carrot cake, quick appetizer suggestions etc. Have destroyed one copy and am trying to preserve a second.

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                                                              1. re: malvern girl

                                                                Oh yeah, I have that one too. There is a great peanut sauce recipe in that book.

                                                                1. re: Linda513

                                                                  I forgot about that one. Everything in that book seems to be wonderful.

                                                              2. My three most used cookbooks over the years are:

                                                                The Way to Cook - Julia Child
                                                                Essentials of Italian Cooking - Marcella Hazan
                                                                Delicioso - Penelope Casas

                                                                For Asian cooking - I love the Alford/Duguid books and cook from them quite often - Mangoes & Curry Leaves, Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet and Seductions of Rice.

                                                                I don't bake much these days, but have relied on The Cake Bible and Paula Peck in the past.

                                                                My favorite over the past year - Sunday Suppers at Lucques - Suzanne Goin

                                                                And my latest favorite author - Simon Hopkinson, for wonderful English food and his wry tone.

                                                                I don't have Joy of Cooking, but do have a second hand Fannie Farmer that I consult occasionally. I do have Kamman's book, and find it to be a great resource, but for some reason rarely cook from it. I've enjoyed reading about the favorites of others on this thread.

                                                                1. I almost hate to admit this, but -- the Sopranos cookbook. It made for fun reading, plus it had all of my Grandma's recipes ACTUALLY WRITTEN DOWN!

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                                                                  1. re: RGC1982

                                                                    No reason to be ashamed. The recipes in the SOPRANOS cookbook were written by Michele Scicolone, who really knows her way around authentic Italian-American food. Some of those "tie-in" cookbooks are really good!

                                                                    1. re: Tom Steele

                                                                      Speaking of Michele Scicolone, my copy of "The Antipasto Table" is held together with rubber bands

                                                                    2. re: RGC1982

                                                                      Are we related? I saw the Sopranos cookbook in the bookstore and was shocked to find that the baked ziti recipe is essentially my grandma's recipe too. I don't own the book, though, so couldn't say about the other recipes!

                                                                    3. The Professional Chef (Culinary Institute of America, 8th Ed.) IMO, the cooking bible. Great technique reference and 600+ recipes.

                                                                      1. Well I always preferred the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, I think Bittman's is excellent as well I like The Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy as well as Essentials of Asian Cuisine by Corine Trang.

                                                                        1. No need to repeat the many good cookbooks already mentioned (and many of which I use regularly), but several unmentioned favorites of mine are "The Herbfarm Cookbook" by Jerry Traunfeld; "The Foods and Flavors of Haute Provence" by Georgeanne Brennan (some may call her a Patricia Wells wannabe, but this is a very reader-friendly journey through Provence with someone who knows and loves the area); and "Food and Wine Best Recipes 2000"...ordinarily, these compendiums are kinda throwaway, but for whatever reason, they hit the proverbial nail on the head in Y2K...I've cooked many good recipes from this book.

                                                                          1. My favorites are:

                                                                            World of the East Vegetarian Cooking - Madhur Jaffrey
                                                                            Bistro Cooking - Patricia Wells
                                                                            Classic Indian Cooking - Julie Sahni
                                                                            The Joy of Japanese Cuisine - Kuwako Takahashi

                                                                            I also have a sentimental attachment to the Moosewood Cookbook, my first!

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                                                                            1. re: steinpilz

                                                                              Nothing wrong with Moosewood! Some great vegetarian soups in there. bistro cooking is fine too.

                                                                            2. Cuisine Rapide by Pierre Franey. It's an old book, but the recipes are all classics and easy to cook. I've made everything in there at least twice, and had to replace one whole copy that was falling apart.

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                                                                              1. re: SSqwerty

                                                                                I love Cuisine Rapide! What a gem. I remember his tv program when he brought his grandson on. This darling little kid (about 4 years old, I think) took over the whole show and had absolutely no camera shyness.

                                                                              2. Joy of Cooking 1975 is always my go-to reference book, though I don't actually make the exact recipes very often.

                                                                                Moosewood was the first cookbook I bought when I got my first apartment away from home. I still use a lot of the recipes from it.

                                                                                Claudia Roden's book of Middle Eastern Food gets used a lot. It's very simple and accessible, and the recipes always work out really well for me. Plus, it's got some good background info and stories in it.

                                                                                Lately, I've been cooking a LOT from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. Very pleased with that purchase!

                                                                                River Cafe Green: Great ideas about what to do with all the seasonal fruits and vegetables when they arrive.

                                                                                Nigella's How to Eat and Domestic Goddess books are my favorites when I need inspiration about what to cook or bake. I can always find something good there.

                                                                                1. First, the "joy of cooking" 1960's edition; the latest one is terrible, IMHO. Great all around advice, from ingredients to recipes to table settings.

                                                                                  Second, "Larouse Gastronimique"- it takes a while to understand their terse instructions, but the sauces and the preps - it puts a whole foundation under your cooking.

                                                                                  1. I can't say my favorite cookbook is one I cook from a lot, but it's certainly my favorite for browsing. Waaay back in the early sixties, during the quest for elegance that overtook the U.S. during the Kennedy administration, House Beautiful magazine published a "mini" five to ten page cookbook segment at the back of the magazine every month for at least a couple of years. They offer the most amazing recipes, and a cover page with photgraphs that are drop dead mouth watering gorgeous! As far as I know, I clipped and saved every one of them and have them mounted in a large loose leaf binder. They cover everthing from "soup to nuts," as the saying goes, and then some. When it comes to cook books, this is my greatest treasure.

                                                                                    1. THE ART OF SIMPLE FOODS is amazing. The carrot salad is so simple and fresh tasting. I also made the braised short ribs which were tender and tasty. The cookbook isn't so much about following a recipe to the exact specifications as it is about understanding how ingredients interrelate and how things should be prepared. I seriously read this book like it is a novel.

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                                                                                      1. re: Bcakes

                                                                                        I learned to understand cooking from the Joy of Cooking back in the 70's, though I'd been cooking since I was in third grade in the fifties, and for years I couldn't live without it. Since I am not recipe-oriented, but procedure oriented, my current favorite cookbooks are Kaman's The New Making of a Cook and Hazan's Essentials. That said, my favorite book that includes recipes is John Thorne's Outlaw Cook. And all of his books are real winners. In the baking department, there are a string of bread books.

                                                                                      2. Although I'm not a terribly prolific cook, I do like to do it right when I make the time.

                                                                                        I have two cookbooks and don't feel the need for any more:
                                                                                        - Joy of Cooking : new edition... but I use it for the "basics" help rather than the recipes
                                                                                        - the ReBar cookbook : from a restaurant I visited in Victoria, BC, Canada. I've never had a meal and bought the place's cookbook before-- obviously-- and I think I bought this more as a memento of the wonderful meal than as a book I'd use. However, I have made 20-30 recipes from it and every single one has been great. It's unbelievable, frankly-- I keep waiting for one to be 'meh' but they're all solid. It's mostly veggie (some fish/seafood), and it's perfect for casual dinner parties. It's just fancy enough to impress-- in fact 2 of my guests have bought the cookbook on their own after they came over for dinner. I love, love, love, love, love this cookbook.

                                                                                        1. Here are some recs from my huge collection. I have focused my list on books on food from other cultures:

                                                                                          Anything by the great Paula Wolfert. I especially adore the Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean.Her Cooking of Southwest France is superb too.

                                                                                          Lord Krishna's Cuisine. Yarmuna Devi. For me the penultimate Indian cookbook.

                                                                                          All of Rick Bayless for Mexican.

                                                                                          Spice by Anna Sartun. Turkish and eastern Mediterranean. Beautiful book with fantastic descriptions and recipes.Sartun is a treasure!

                                                                                          Cracking The Coconut Classic Thai Home cooking. Su-Mei Yu. Time consuming, REAL Thai cooking.Fantastic food writing too.

                                                                                          Anything by Ming Tsai, his recipes never fail to delight.

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                                                                                          1. re: missclaudy

                                                                                            I am definitely in the "Joy of Cooking" camp. My copy is quite tattered, splattered and loved. I use quite a few recipies from "Vegetarian Times" as well.

                                                                                            1. re: missclaudy

                                                                                              I'll have to look for that book by Anna Sartun--I've been using "The Complete Book of Turkish Cooking" by Ayla Esen Algar, and I do like it, but I'll confess, I didn't have a huge array of choices and I was looking for a recipes for a couple of specific dishes.

                                                                                              And, again, I'll have to look for the Su-Mei Yu book. I have been using "True Thai--the Modern Art of Thai Cooking" by Victor Sodsook, as well as a hand-bound Thai recipe book, but I'm ready to try some new ones as I feel I've just scratched the surface.


                                                                                            2. Anything by Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, and Deborah Madison.

                                                                                              Patricia Wells and Ina Garten run a close second. I'm surprised not to see anyone else mention the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. She may be famous tv personality, but her recipes are excellent and well-suited for modern life: simple and with a focus on tasty and quality ingredients.

                                                                                              For baking, I turn to Greg Patent's Baking in America. Outstanding recipes for pound cakes and pies and layer cakes, as well as some breads. For cookies Carole Walters is my ultimate favorite.

                                                                                              I second someone else's mention of Claudia Roden's Middle Eastern cookbook.

                                                                                              The cookbook I have but use the least is the Joy of Cooking. The recipes aren't particularly sophisticated and lack the finesse I've come to expect from cooking.

                                                                                              When I want to turn to regional American cuisine, I check the Junior League of Charleston's cookbook.

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                                                                                              1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                                I so agree with you. I've got a couple of hundred of well used cookbooks. Back when I was learning to cook in the 70s, I would actually spend a whole day cooking complicated recipes without the use of a food processor or a mixer. Now the only cookbooks I refer to are Ina's because her recipes are tasty but so simple and foolproof. So many cookbook authors don't test their recipes well. The only other recipes I use regularly are 4-fork rated ones from epicurious. I don't always agree, but it's less risky than a 2-fork rated experiment.

                                                                                              2. Madhur Jaffrey's Taste of India is a good intro to Indian cooking. She also has one called "Far Eastern Cookery" which was a good read, but I don't use it, although I like it for the photos and discussions of ingredients.

                                                                                                I use the Picayune Creole Cookbook (1901 ed) often. Much more so that Joy of Cooking (the latter mostly for things like cookies).

                                                                                                1. If you can ever get your hands on "Stop and Smell the Rosemary" by the Junior League of Houston, grab it. Amazing photography and every recipe is a gem. It makes a beautiful gift and I've given one to practically every home chef I know. It's on Amazon.com

                                                                                                  1. Anything by Richard Onley.