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Dec 27, 2009 07:05 AM

Help me find a cookbook for an unadventurous cooking novice...

Okay, apologies, I know this question has been asked and answered a hundred different ways, but I'm looking for a basic, non-overwhelming, cookbook for a a recent retiree, a meat-and-potatoes kind of man who is now picking up kitchen duty a couple of nights a week.

His wife has always done the cooking, and subscribes to all the cooking magazines (Gourmet RIP, Bon Appetit, Cooks Illustrated, CIA) and is an adventurous cook and eater. They have a robust garden, a freezer full of beef, lamb, and pork and a fully-stocked kitchen, (both equipment-wise and grocery-wise)--she'll continue to do all the shopping. But, he has simple "American" tastes and aspirations--no pork in peach chutney, or curried butternut squash for this guy.

I'd like to get him his own basic cookbook, bonus points if it's on the healthy side, instead of the cream-of-mushroom soup side. I'm looking for a book with a basic meatloaf. A basic spaghetti. etc. He doesn't need a grilling book (a. wrong season for that here in the upper Midwest and b. he knows how to grill).

The outcome doesn't need to be gourmet, just edible, especially for his poor wife!

Ideas? Also, I was thinking of given him a manly kitchen apron to go with his cookbook, but if you've got other ideas, I would love to hear them.

Thank you!


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  1. Bittman's How to Cook Everything may be a start. Are you the poor wife?

    3 Replies
        1. re: wattacetti

          I too was going to suggest "How to Cook Everything," but it might be a bit overwhelming, just by its size. What about one of Bittman's slimmer volumes, such as "The Minimalist Cooks Dinner"? I'm quite fond of a good half of the recipes in that one.

        2. I would suggest any of the Junior League cookbooks --- I would think you could easily find them on eBay or Amazon. I would pick Junior League of Savannah or Atlanta or Charleston which has put out countless volumes over the years.

          I suggest this because they are consistently tasty and not complicated recipes that almost anyone could follow. I started learning how to cook on those cookbooks many moons ago....

          And a similar vein is the annual Southern Living cookbooks. Sure - there may be a few traditional Southern dishes in there, but across the board they are, like the Junior League editions, tasty and consistent. I can't imagine you would have difficulty finding any year online at eBay or Amazon. And, I would suspect that the more recent years have more widespread entree choices than say a 1978 volume which might be more Southern focused)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Tehama

            But almost all of those are pretty dependent on cream of whatever.

            1. This one popped into my head first-- "Mrs. Wilkes Boardinghouse Cookbook". It's got plenty of basics, but certainly would please his wife too.
              Also, "Diner -- The Best of American Casual Cooking" by Diane Worthington. This has "blue plate special" kinds of dishes, as well as sides, breakfasts, desserts--if I am picturing this guy accurately I think he'd like this one too.

              1. The red plaid ring binder version Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. The older the better - 50+ years. Look for one on eBay.

                2 Replies
                1. re: greygarious

                  Along the same lines as greygarious's suggestion I recommend the Fanny Farmer Cookbook, published in 1979. I have the 1981 edition. The recipes are very simply written, directions are v. easy to follow, and there are many helpful tips. This is the one cookbook I packed when we went to our rental house in Vermont because it was so useful.

                  Here's a link to one for sale on eBay: