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Jul 12, 2010 01:13 PM

Which foundational cookbook would you give a beginning 23 YO cook?

Niece has been helping me do some stuff around the house and I would like to give her a gift. Her mother NEVER cooked, no joke, she grew up eating a lot of fast food or frozen dinners. She asked me to teach her the basics and I have. I want to give her a good quality foundational cookbook, more than Better Crocker. She wants the basics, how to choose good cuts of meat, appetizers/soups/salads/desserts. Was thinking of Fannie Farmer or the Joy of Cooking. Is there anything else I should consider? TIA!

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  1. I am loving "Cooking" by James Peterson. It is subtitled "600 recipes, 1500 photographs, one kitchen education" The wealth of pictures is either the best thing to cooking in a professional kitchen, or exceeds it.

    1. My mother gave me the Joy of Cooking (1973 edition) when I was a young 8 year old boy But it has solid fundamentals even if some of it is a bit dated by modern standards still the basics are there as are many recipes great book I read it often

      1. The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (the red & white plaid cover) is still my "go to" cookbook when I just want to know how to cook something, i.e., not looking for a fancy recipe but just want to know how long to boil an egg or how to cook bacon or a basic chicken breast recipe.

        I also like the Cooks Illustrated cookbooks, but I've only got specialized ones (i.e. chicken and grilling, etc) not a generalist one so I can't recommend one in particular..

        2 Replies
        1. re: Shann

          Agree on the BH&G cookbook OR Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything", as laliz noted below. The former is more "user-friendly" but very basic, while the latter can be a bit overwhelming, as it's a monster of a book. But the Bittman book is a seriously good cookbook for a starting cook - gives you a "how to make" on a lot of things you wouldn't think about. Check out the "Look Inside" at Amazon:

          1. re: Shann

            I also agree with BH&G cookbook. There are detailed photos of different types and cuts of meat, type of vegetables and fruits. When I first start cooking I would take it with me to the grocery store to help me buy the right ingredients. I really love the wedding edition as it has a whole section on entertaining, cocktails and cooking smaller portions for one or two. Highly recommended.

          2. I just gave my 26 year old DS (who just began cooking this past year) Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything".

            1. I gave my 22 year old Bittman's How to Cook Everything. Had originally planned to give him the Joy of C, but when I compared the 2, Bittman seemed a lot more "contemporary." The Joy is great (it's my bible) but Bittman seems to me to be the "joy" for Millenials.

              5 Replies
              1. re: masha

                I'll second this. Bittman does better with "ethnic" food than the others.

                1. re: bookhound

                  +1; I gave it to my DD when she moved out at age 21, and she loves it, and became a very adventuresome and confident scratch cook.

                  1. re: mcf

                    Gave HTCE to my baby brother and now he is well on his way to outcooking me. Sob.

                    1. re: sweetpotater

                      That's always a risk. :-) I hope my daughter does at some point, so I can hand Thanksgiving over to her some day.

                      1. re: mcf

                        Two different approaches to learning:

                        My husband learned to cook with a Chinese cookbook by LeAnn Chinn. Although his mom and younger siblings cooked, he never had. My husband's mom (who cooked) told him to pick a cookbook he was interested in and make some recipes. To him, it was more interesting to make something nobody in his family had ever made than to start with a basic cookbook. It took him HOURS to get a meal prepared the first time, but our favorite soup is the soup that he cooked the first day he learned to cook.