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May 14, 2010 02:24 PM

What five cookbooks would you keep?

I'm doing a little late spring cleaning and realized I have over forty cookbooks, some still stored in boxes from a move and other in my pantry. Since I keep my go to recipes in a binder and don't use a majority these cookbooks very much, I've decided to donate many with the idea of keeping only five.

So far I've kept...
1) Bread Baker's Apprentice
2) Julia Child's Way to Cook
3) Old red binder Betty Crocker Cookbook (nostalgia)
4) Charcuterie
5) ?

If you could only keep 5 cookbooks what would you keep?
General cooking?
Ethnic or specialty cooking?
Would you even keep five cookbooks?

Just curious :-)

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  1. In no particular order:
    NYT Cookbook circa 1961
    MTAOFC Vol 1 Julia Child et al
    The Sultan's Kitchen Ozcan Ozan
    The Way to Cook Julia Child
    Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home Child/Pepin

    I really like the NYT cookbook because so many of the recipes can't found anymore. Especially the hors d'oeuvres for cocktail parties, and some of the great sauces I've found in it. Totally appropriate for having the popular Mad Men party.

    7 Replies
    1. re: cosmogrrl

      Cosmogrrl (et al)

      Thanks for answering and providing a list.
      Part of the reason for the question was to look for inspiration on what to keep (or buy) to round out my (new) collection.

      Five is an arbitrary number which, for myself, would assure I'd use the cookbooks more often. Some have been packed in my garage for two years (after a move). If I didn't miss the books, I guess I really didn't need them. :-)

      If it's allowed by CH, I plan to collate all the inputs and post the list sometime during the weekend.

      1. re: dave_c

        Well, since you only have 40 books, this list might not help you much, but this is Mark Bittman's list of 50 books he's rather not live without. It's a pretty old list (which means some of the new books, such as Charcuterie, aren't going to be on it) and he was going to update it a couple of years ago according to his blog (but never did, as far as I know), but it's kind of an interesting read. Many of the books listed by 'hounds as indispensable--including Child's Way to Cook, Tropp's Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, Kennedy's Art of Mexican Cooking, Casas' Foods and Wines of Spain, Hazan's Essentials, Joy--appear on Bittman's list, too.


        1. re: dave_c

          To better utilize those underused (and forgotten) cookbooks,try this new site:

          beetlebug turned some of us on to this site not too long ago.

          I LOVE it! It saves me soooo much time. For example, recently I wanted to use some shanks in my freezer. EYB found about a dozen recipes in my books, and I was able to narrow the list down to three from the ingredient lists on the site. That means I only had to look at three specific books. Instead of trying to go through my entire collection. Saved me oodles of time!

          1. re: mirage

            Second Eat Your Books - it has been a fantastic resource to finding recipes that I'd never have found otherwise. Got chickpeas? Well, you also have 45 recipes that use them! Lamb shanks? Here are 16 different preparations! And so on. Definitely recommend using this if you have a lot of books.

            1. re: mirage

              Well, that site is just pretty clever isn't it? Might help me justify a few more purchases...thanks!

              1. re: mirage

                I just checked out Eat Your Books and I am so excited!! what a great idea, thanks for the tip.

                1. re: mellycooks

                  Thanks for the tip about

                  I just joined and I have been using it everyday since. Love it!!! What a great find.

          2. I'd hang on to the specialty or ethnic whatevers. General cooking is just that; how many variations on a theme can you have. Since you have the binder of go-to recipes, you're good with general cooking.

            Only 40? I don't even want to tell you how many I have in my little studio apartment. I sleep wtih them some nights.

            I do applaud you for cleaning out and donating them; I've purchased many a good book from donated causes.

            1. How many angels can fit on the head of a pin? Five is rational number.
              Sir Thomas Aquindumkeg

              1. 1. Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course
                2. Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food
                3. Nigel Slater's 30 Minute Cook
                4. Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries
                5. Madhur Jaffrey's Far Eastern Cookery (probably)

                1 Reply
                1. re: Harters

                  I am a big Nigel fan, too. But I am surprised "Appetite" didn't make it onto your list.

                2. I agree in scaling down where you need to scale down, but I wouldn't set an arbitrary number, either. You might end up getting rid of books you wish you hadn't. I'd keep the old, hard to replace books. Charcuterie is in my public library, several copies, so, I'd toss that.