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Fifty Cookbooks [Mark Bittman Would] Rather Not Live Without

JoanN Apr 12, 2008 06:38 AM

Here’s a link to a list that Bittman published in his NYTimes blog.


And here’s a link to his blog from yesterday summarizing readers’ responses.


It will be interesting to see readers’ contributions when he gets around to posting them. Lots of ideas here for possible Cookbooks of the Month (and a few we've already done).

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  1. The Dairy Queen RE: JoanN Apr 12, 2008 06:59 AM

    Very interesting! Thank you for posting this link.


    2 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen
      CubanCoffeeGirl RE: The Dairy Queen Apr 12, 2008 08:59 AM

      Oh my. I have five. I flunked!

      1. re: CubanCoffeeGirl
        abs294 RE: CubanCoffeeGirl Apr 16, 2008 08:16 AM

        I have one. Oops!

    2. a
      alienor RE: JoanN Apr 16, 2008 08:34 AM

      wow, just looked at the list and i have 13 of the books. plus many, many others. i really am addicted to cookbooks. when my kitchen was be redone i insisted on having a 6 foot bookcase installed, but now it is full......
      i think i must down size or else

      1. m
        Mothership RE: JoanN Apr 16, 2008 09:45 AM

        Happily I have 17 of them. I will add the rest to my giant list of "cookbooks to look into". I have over 850 cookbooks and just love to read them. I think there is no better way to learn about a culture or a region than by reading cookbooks from the area. Plus you never know when you will find your next favorite recipe.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Mothership
          ms. clicquot RE: Mothership Apr 16, 2008 09:53 AM

          I'm so happy to have found Chowhound and some like-minded people! My husband thinks my love of cookbooks is a bit odd and doesn't understand how I can spend an afternoon reading them (his interests are sports and politics). I've been buying books for years and always pick up one or two when travelling but have only recently gotten serious about building a proper collection. This Bittman list is a great reference point and I'll definitely seek some of them out.

        2. DanaB RE: JoanN Apr 16, 2008 02:30 PM

          I think it's a very interesting list, although from my perspective, there are is at least one glaring omission. I would most definitely not want to live without Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and while he has her "The Way To Cook" and other books on French food, I would still have included that one. Also, I have fallen in love with Fuschia Dunlop's books on Chinese food, and would have included one of her books in the Chinese category in addition to the on by Barbara Tropp.

          In the "Chef's Books that Work for Home Cooks" category, I most definitely would have included Judy Rodgers' "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook," Suzanne Goin's "Sunday Suppers at Lucques," and Alice Water's "The Chez Panisse Cookbook," or "Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook."

          From that list, I definitely want to check out the "French Farmhouse Cookbook," by Susan Herrmann Loomis and really hope that one day we get around to doing one of Penelope Casas' books on Spanish food.

          Glad to see the nod for Claudia Rodin. After our month doing Arabesque, I am convinced she's the best current author on middle eastern food.

          1 Reply
          1. re: DanaB
            LulusMom RE: DanaB Apr 18, 2008 08:25 AM

            I'd like to do one of the Casas' books too (or a group of them).

          2. Megiac RE: JoanN Apr 16, 2008 05:25 PM

            This list seems to be identical to the list in my copy of How to Cook Everything which is at least 8 years old. The most recently published cookbook is from 1998, so it doesn't include any cookbooks from the past 10 years (which has been a damn good period for cookbooks).

            7 Replies
            1. re: Megiac
              DanaB RE: Megiac Apr 16, 2008 05:43 PM

              If you look at his blog, the topic of the list came up because he was updating it. Here's the link:


              And the blog on the feedback:


              A couple of other authors that repeatedly came up in reader feedback were Deborah Madison and Dorrie Greenspan.

              1. re: DanaB
                The Dairy Queen RE: DanaB Apr 18, 2008 07:45 AM

                It will be fun to see his updated list. I wonder if he'll stick to 50 cookbooks and will have to boot some of his old favs to make room for newer ones or if he'll need to expand the list! I love these kinds of list--I'm such a sucker for this kind of stuff.


                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                  yayadave RE: The Dairy Queen Apr 18, 2008 12:50 PM

                  Yeah, I already ordered one of them from the list.

                  1. re: yayadave
                    The Dairy Queen RE: yayadave Apr 18, 2008 01:00 PM

                    HA! Which one? I've been admiring a few as well. By the way, I only have ONE of the books on the list and I'll say that I only purchased it recently at the urging of a few of the home cooking 'hounds.

                    I have a long way to go, apparently.


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      yayadave RE: The Dairy Queen Apr 18, 2008 01:43 PM

                      I went for the Edward Giobbi one, because I have two others of his which I like. I don't have many on the list, either. Many of the books on the list are for places whose cuisine doesn't interest me a whole lot. Maybe if you're Mark Bittman you have to be able to say you cook from VietNam and Thailand and eastern Mediterranean and a twelve square mile island in the Baltic and a village in the Congo, but I don't.

                      Of course, sometimes when I order used books, things go awry. I'll believe it when it's in my mail box.

                      1. re: yayadave
                        The Dairy Queen RE: yayadave Apr 18, 2008 01:57 PM

                        Ooh..good time of year to get that Giobbi one. I hope nothing goes awry.

                        You know, it's unrealistic (especially given my own particular lack of cooking skill), but I actually do wish I could cook at least a classic dish or two from each of the world's cuisines just so I could have exposure to that cuisine's techniques and flavors and influences. I learn so much by reading a really good cookbook. But, I just can't get that deep into that many cookbooks. So many cookbooks, so little time.

                        And, really, if you think about it, he's just scratched the surface with 50 cookbooks! Even his U.S. regional cuisine isn't that fleshed out if you start picking at it...


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                          yayadave RE: The Dairy Queen Apr 18, 2008 09:51 PM

                          Yeah. Any one's "Best of .... List" is another persons garbage list. Look at all the different suggestions on the home cooking board for a "Dessert Cookbook of the Month." We just have to remember to call it "difference" and not "right and wrong."

                          Lately I've been getting my exposure to Thai food at a restaurant. I order some things that I don't know what they are. They come out looking beautiful and taste great. Then I order some rice stuff for dessert!

            2. SilverlakeGirl RE: JoanN Apr 18, 2008 04:50 PM

              Here are all of my cookbooks ... all 525 of them. And I highly recommend Library Thing:


              1 Reply
              1. re: SilverlakeGirl
                Leepa RE: SilverlakeGirl Nov 27, 2008 05:23 PM

                Thanks for the link to Library Thing. I was just saying I need to catalog my cookbooks. The last time I counted it was over 1200. And that's been several years ago.

                Lee, addicted to cookbooks

              2. The Dairy Queen RE: JoanN Nov 30, 2008 04:14 AM

                Did Bittman ever publish his revised list? I'm intensely curious which ones have been replaced, and what those replacements are. Not that I need any new cookbooks...


                7 Replies
                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                  JoanN RE: The Dairy Queen Nov 30, 2008 07:02 AM

                  This past March (2008) Bittman put out a call on his blog saying it was time to revise the list and asking for suggestions. Some interesting responses to his post. And one would assume it augurs for an update sometime soon.


                  1. re: JoanN
                    MMRuth RE: JoanN Nov 30, 2008 07:10 AM

                    This is interesting - someone started a blog with a list of suggestions for Bittman, and one can add to it I gather.


                  2. re: The Dairy Queen
                    JasmineG RE: The Dairy Queen Nov 30, 2008 11:32 AM

                    The updated version of the cookbook has been published, so I'm sure the revised list is in there. Is there anyone who has the book who can tell us any new additions to the list?

                    1. re: JasmineG
                      JoanN RE: JasmineG Nov 30, 2008 12:14 PM

                      Here's a link to the Table of Contents to the revised edition. It looks as though he eliminated the cookbook list entirely.


                      I can't imagine that once the list is revised he wouldn't be doing a rather comprehensive article on it in the Times.

                      1. re: JoanN
                        The Dairy Queen RE: JoanN Nov 30, 2008 01:52 PM

                        He did do a follow-up in April to his inquiry in which he said he would publish a revised list in "Autumn." I guess it is technically not yet "winter" until solstice, nevertheless, I would have expected he would have tried to get the list out by Thanksgiving. I wonder if the delay is because he found the task so daunting?



                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                          JoanN RE: The Dairy Queen Nov 30, 2008 02:00 PM

                          Ha-ha! I see we've come full circle here. The blog post you link to is the one I saw earlier this year that prompted my starting this thread in the first place. Good thing you reposted it though, because I see that my OP link was for the first page of Bittman's blog--appropriate on the day it was posted, but no longer valid.

                          1. re: JoanN
                            The Dairy Queen RE: JoanN Nov 30, 2008 02:30 PM

                            Ha! That is funny!


                  3. Candy RE: JoanN Nov 30, 2008 02:06 PM

                    Okay, I checked, have 24.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Candy
                      Jim Washburn RE: Candy Nov 30, 2008 06:11 PM

                      I've got 34. <gloat!>


                      1. re: Jim Washburn
                        MMRuth RE: Jim Washburn Nov 30, 2008 07:55 PM

                        I only have six, and, to be honest, I don't feel deprived, though there are a couple books on the list that I would like to have. Then again, I don't have any of Bittman's books, nor do I particularly want any.

                    2. jen kalb RE: JoanN Nov 30, 2008 03:06 PM

                      I have about half of the books on his list - have to say I feel it is a bit dated (hate that word). but books that were foundational for Mark Bittman may not be the same for me - he's a simplifier, I tend to like the slower, more complex stuff. Interesting too that a lot of the responses are websites rather than books (natural maybe for the online crowd). I like searching for, reading and comparing recipes online but they many times are no substitute for a book with an author's name on the cover and reputation on the line.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jen kalb
                        oakjoan RE: jen kalb Nov 30, 2008 06:51 PM

                        So maybe Bittman hasn't gotten around to updating his cookbook list because he's been wasting his time making lame programs for PBS with Gweneth Paltrow and Mario Batali. He was using his brain to decide whether to drive a white Mercedes convertible or a blue one. I hope he comes to his senses!

                        1. re: oakjoan
                          mutterer RE: oakjoan Nov 30, 2008 07:33 PM

                          I totally agree! I so wanted to like the Bittman in Spain show, but I have found it unwatchable.

                      2. Chocolatechipkt RE: JoanN Dec 1, 2008 08:27 AM

                        I was thinking this list is a bit dated, too. It's all subjective, but I have a lot of good cookbooks and very few are on this list. Interesting collection, though.

                        1. JoanN RE: JoanN Dec 1, 2008 08:48 AM

                          Since this thread has revived again, and it's become obvious from some of the more recent posts that I both titled and phrased the OP in a way that made the subject much more obscure than it should have been, I'd like to point out that it was Mark Bittman himself who said that the original list, published eleven years ago now, had become dated. He posted on his blog a few titles that he would add today and called for readers to submit their ideas for cookbooks they thought should be on the list. This past April he said he'd be publishing a revised list sometime this Autumn, but so far at least it doesn't seem to have appeared anywhere.

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