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Cookbooks you shouldn't have purchased...which books just didn't work for you?

It's happened to all of us, we hear lots of hype in advance of its release and just have to get it, or it seems like such a great price we can't resist it only to bring it home and find it just doesn't work for us. Boy do I hate when that happens!!

So, which cookbooks have you cast aside without regret? And why?

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  1. I have purchased two "Silver Palate" cookbooks over the years. I have cast them aside without regret. I think it was the hype that made me buy them. I do cook many ethnic, around-the-world foods, but I found nothing that inspired me.

    104 Replies
    1. re: Rella

      Never bought them because they were on my mom's shelf right when I was getting into cooking and I figured out then I wanted nothing to do with them, but couldn't agree more. Too fussy, showy, pretentious. Books for cooking to impress. Books for Betty Draper if she was in her mid-forties in the late-eighties. Too cute by half.

      1. re: eight_inch_pestle

        Good one (Betty - you think she'll make it to her forties?). Never ever cooked from them, was given them as a gift.

      2. re: Rella

        Ditto: Silver Palate. Flipped through it once, never cooked a recipe.

        1. re: EarlyDrive

          +1. Waste of money and shelf space.

        2. re: Rella

          I have the "New Basics" by the same authors. I haven't used it much but enough to find several recipes that immediately went into the standard rotation.

          1. re: Aravisea

            I find the New Basics helpful for things like cooking times and temps for roasts, etc.

            I don't think I've ever made anything from that book.

            1. re: oakjoan

              If you have a waffle maker, try the waffle recipe with cinnamon and part whole wheat flour. We love them - especially stuffed with bacon. :)

              1. re: oakjoan

                My husband likes the recipe for bourbon yams from that book--he makes it every year. Other than that, I can't recall any other recipe that caught my eye.

              2. re: Aravisea

                I love the All American Baked Beans,

              3. re: Rella

                I don't love Silver Palate, but really like "Silver Palate Good Times". A couple of those recipes are on our traditional Thanksgiving table every year (love the Grand Marnier/apricot/sausage stuffing).

                1. re: Rella

                  The one and only thing I ever gleaned from the Silver Palate I was given as a gift was the information that you can make a half-decent risotto in the microwave in 18 minutes. Other than that, nothing. It went to the library for their fund raising book sale.

                  1. re: Rella

                    For several years, I made the asparagus souffle from the Silver Palate book, and it was excellent and is the reason I have held onto this book all these years. However, every time I am invited to dinner and someone drags out that nauseating chicken concoction with prunes, olives and brown sugar, I want to start a bonfire with those books. Oh yeah, it's called Chicken Marbella. Yuck!

                    1. re: roxlet

                      LOL! The thread right below this at this moment is "What to serve with Chicken Marbella." Barf bag is my answer. It's like a vampire: it never dies.

                      1. re: roxlet

                        Definitely. My commenting that the dish was "interesting"* at a baby shower (not for me) was the impetus for me to be given the books by a person at the shower on the next giftable occasion.
                        *"interesting": Canadian for "I don't like it".

                        1. re: buttertart

                          Serves you right for being polite!

                          1. re: roxlet

                            I can't help myself, I come from the land of "sorry!".

                          2. re: buttertart

                            Yes, Marbella sucks, but it has its place as a barometer as we establish our culinary friendships.

                            And so, too, it is, with bad scrambled eggs. I'll take the smell of Duvall's ragged napalm, in Apocalypse Now, over bad scrambled eggs, in the sweet of the morning..

                            And, taking big D's analolgy bit further.... "Charlie don't stir".

                            Surely Charlie nor nobody scorch. That fucks big with my breakfast of course,

                            Give him gentlle with eggs, heat, and pan. It allows building skill if he can.

                            1. re: buttertart

                              "Different": Minnesotan for "I don't like it."

                              Funnily enough, Silver Palate is the second most popular book on EYB. First being MTAFC, third being Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (October's COTM).

                              I picked up a copy of SIlver Palate cheap, knowing nothing about except that it had been a former COTM. I've never cooked anything from it, but now I'm afraid to lest I reveal myself to be hopelessly dated. Maybe for an "Eighties" theme party?

                              To answer the OP:

                              Books I dumped within a month of buying/cooking from them:
                              1) Wells "Vegetable Harvest"--I can't remember why I bought it.
                              2) Glorious Foods of Greece --bought it when it was COTM. Wish I'd just taken it out of the library instead.
                              3) Bon Appetit Y'all--totally turned off by the author's name-dropping tendencies. (I also have a copy of her Pasta Dinners 1-2-3 that I can't seem to find anyone to unload it on.)

                              Books I don't have the courage to dump:
                              4) VCFE, former COTM--the recipes are unreliable and boring, but it's too encyclopedic for me to get rid of for fear I'd lose it as a reference.
                              5) Art of Simple Food, I keep hoping I'll grow into it.
                              6) Silver Palate Cookbook+New Basics, hard to want to keep these books because they are so dated, but I feel guilty for having bought them, so I figure it's my penance to keep them.
                              7) A couple of books I bought by "Simca" after having watch Julie & Julia and getting all sentimental about it...

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                All part of the upper Midwest language belt (as my bil informed me once upon a time), things are somewhat similar across the border in southwestern Ontario (interesting means exactly that).
                                I love "Simca's Cuisine", there are some very good recipes in it. I cooked the first fancypants meal for my husband out of that book. Sentimental? Not Simca, she was apparently a real pistol (aka the b-word).

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  Vegetable Harvest was a COTM. I sold that one as well. Oh - and I sold Art of Simple Food too.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    I was given the Waters and still haven't even opened it!

                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                        Waters'? Hmm. (I'm a former Berkeleyan and while I love CP café Alice Waters as a personality is not one I find endearing).

                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          Here's feedback on her biscuit recipe from when it was COTM http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5688...

                                          Pizza dough recipe got a lot of raves, too http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5688...

                                          ~TDQ

                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            The biscuit recipe seems like a smaller amount of the usual recipe with cream i/o milk or buttermilk. The commentary is favorable but not ecstatic...I'll give it a whirl one of these days (and have a look at the pizza dough too).

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              If you want the definitive biscuit recipe, check out Shirley Corriher's "Touch of Grace" biscuits. None better.

                                              1. re: ChefJune

                                                I've wondered about those! Must try. Thanks for the reminder.

                                          2. re: buttertart

                                            "Alice Waters as a personality is not one I find endearing" - Ha! I find her down right creepy. I remember an interview she gave and she was asked what she remembered about Bill Clinton coming into her restaurant and she said something like "I just wanted to give him a peach. A beautiful, ripe, succulent peach". UGH!!!!!

                                            1. re: lynnlato

                                              Have you ever had a favorite restaurant where they thought you liked something so every time you went there they made sure you got some, but the reality was that your really didn't like it at all but didn't want to hurt their feelings? When I read stuff like this, I think being president must be like that 24/7! Poor President Clinton! Which doesn't make Alice Waters any less of a twit.

                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                Ha! You are so right, Caroline!

                                                Breadcrumbs, she totally makes me feel "uneasy" when I see her interviewed. I feel empathy for the interviewer - ugh.

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  One restaurant gives limoncello (gratis) at teh end of the meal for some of the special patrons. My family and I usually choke it down or have to say none for us tonight because we really don't like it that much. (Although it is growing on me).

                                                2. re: lynnlato

                                                  I think she likes fruit better than people!

                                                  I too have seen her interviewed and she made me uneasy.

                                                  I know some folks love her. Personally I haven't found her recipes to be anything ground-breaking. Here's a good example of what I mean:

                                                  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                    I'm hardly a Waters apologist-- I think she's out of touch with average folk and, worse yet, impoverished folk-- but regarding Chez Panisse's recipes and philosophy, I think it's easy, today, to dismiss them, "duh", as too basic. But, Chez Panisse has been sourcing and cooking this way since 1971.

                                                    That recipe you link to is from 1992, almost 20 years ago, when olive oils from Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Mexico, and California weren't that easy to find in your average grocery market and not everyone was on the fresh, local, and organic bandwagon. Farmers markets weren't in vogue then. CSAs weren't in vogue then. The fact that Waters and others like her broke ground back then is exactly what makes it seem like no big deal today.

                                                    I'd also like to point out that that particular recipe is From Fanny at Chez Panisse, which is a children's cookbook.

                                                    But, yes, her "simple" home cooked egg in a spoon over the fireplace in her kitchen on 60 minutes and her "peach" comment on Bill Maher both made me roll my eyes.

                                                    ~TDQ

                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      We ate at the restaurant when we first moved to Berkeley in 1974 and enjoyed a lunch there - the philospohy was already on the precious or rather hippieish selfrighteous side - and have eaten at the café many times, love the food (although my husband finds it a bit plain). The food was best when Tower was the chef (some of those dishes still live in our memory). I have several of the cookbooks and have made the occasional thing out of them but again they're on the cheffy side. Liked the look of the David Tanis book but unless you're in prime summer in a place with top-level meats etc available you can forget about even approximating the food.

                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                        I felt the same way about the David Tanis book. Never grabbed me, even on discount at Costco.

                                                        Alice Waters' cookbooks are the only ones I picked up again and again in bookstores and felt the nearly unbridled urge to throw against the wall. (Yeah, if I had perfect produce that looked and tasted like that I too could just slice it up, put it on a plate, and serve it forth too).

                                                        I have finally purchased one AW book, Simple Foods, because it's very different from the rest (it didn't make me want to scream) and I felt my daughters might get some use out of it.

                                                        1. re: kellycooks

                                                          I have that Tanis book, too, and have only managed to cook one recipe out of it (a corn dish...). It was pretty good, actually. I don't know why this book doesn't inspire me more.

                                                          ~TDQ

                                                          1. re: kellycooks

                                                            I've got both the first Tanis book and the new one, and think I'll end up cooking from the new one more. Part of the problem of the first was the quantities -- all for 6-8 people, I seem to recall.

                                                    2. re: lynnlato

                                                      "I just wanted to give him a peach. A beautiful, ripe, succulent peach".

                                                      Oh, I just gagged a little...

                                                    3. re: buttertart

                                                      Now SHE is precious. I will not elaborate lest I get removed. Maybe I will say she is... interesting.

                                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                        I wouldn't say she is precious, as much as she is very earnest and sheltered. I've never tried a recipe from one of her books that wasn't terrific, though, except Art of Simple Food, which I was not fond of. And her restaurant is wonderful.

                                                        ~TDQ

                                                3. re: MMRuth

                                                  I can't blame VH on COTM. I bought that one all on my own, I'm afraid.

                                                  ~TDQ

                                                4. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  Oh, TDQ, that makes me so sad! Bon Appetit Y'all is one of my favorites! To tell the truth, I don't even recall the name-dropping. I find the writing and stories charming, besides loving the recipes I've tried. :-(

                                                  1. re: Katie Nell

                                                    Yeah, it just didn't work for me, which made me sad, too. We cooked from it alongside of Screen Doors and Sweet Tea which just suited me better. Unfortunately, I couldn't get past the writing in order to enjoy the great recipes that everyone else seems to love. You know, this is one of those situations that demonstrates how much personal taste factors into one's enjoyment of a cookbook. But, I traded the book away to another 'hound, in whose kitchen, I am certain, it gets a lot of use.

                                                    ~TDQ

                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      Did you ever make that frozen cuke thing from Screen Doors? I thought it was quite appealing (but didn't - and don't - have the freezer space for it).

                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                        No, but I should look at it again! There are just not enough ways to use cucumbers!

                                                        ~TDQ

                                                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        "You know , this is one of those situations that demonstrates how much personal taste factors into one's enjoyment of a cookbook."

                                                        This is so true, something I've been thinking to myself over and over again as I read through this thread - and why it's a great time to be alive for cookbook lovers - there's so many great books and such a wide variety of subjects and styles to choose from!!

                                                      3. re: Katie Nell

                                                        Me too - I bought it in Memphis this summer; one of my favorite places to visit; and I just fell in love with it too. It is next on my list to tab so that I can actually make some of the recipes. I didn't notice the name dropping. Can't wait to try some!

                                                        1. re: kprange

                                                          I think I'm in a very small minority on this. I wish I could love it. Oh well.

                                                          ~TDQ

                                                      4. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        TDQ: "Different": Minnesotan for "I don't like it."

                                                        o.dear.
                                                        funny, that never occurred to me. The in-law family is sooooo busted now!
                                                        : )

                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                          I agree about the Simca books. I know they are classics and I learned something about classic basics but I've never been inspired to cook out of one.

                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                            Not surprised that SP is so popular: its publication coincided with--no doubt contributed to--the surge of interest in home cooking in America (at least the parts that are not located in NYC or SF), and a gazillion copies were sold. Whether they cook from them or not, practically everyone I know (of my generation) owns one.

                                                            I taught myself to cook w/the SPs, so they're particularly meaningful to me--but I actually still use them, too. I know they're dated--I no longer go ga-ga over pesto or blackberry mousse--but do still love the SP recipes for osso buco, black bean soup, blonde brownies, and a few others.

                                                            I've never made Chicken Marbella, but I still occasionally make the Chicken Monterey, a mainstay of my more youthful culinary repertoire, which showcases humbler, budget-friendly veggies like carrots, zucchini, and yellow crookneck squash, and is brightened w/orange juice.

                                                            Those books instilled in me some valuable lessons about using high quality, fresh ingredients and opened up my eyes--and tastebuds--to the possibilities of olive oil, fresh herbs, creme fraiche. Sure, raspberry vinegar was a passing fad, but arugula, balsamic vinegar, even goat cheese--I'm so glad I discovered these through those SP books. The other thing I think those books did was gradually force grocers in Pittsburgh and Peoria--and New Orleans--to stock pantry ingredients previously not available to us. And then, even more importantly, as the eighties waned, more and more folks began growing their own herbs and lettuces, raising their own goats and chickens, making their own cheeses--so that all of us can be locavores if we choose, and still have something to choose from. For starting that chain of events, as I believe they did, I'm grateful to the SP books.

                                                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                              That is so sweet, thank you.

                                                              Isn't it funny how we have these alligiances to the books we learned to cook from even if we think some of the recipes might be out of date? I learned to cook from a very very regional cookbook. And, even though that book may never been mentioned as a "favorite" by any other 'hound, I will never get rid of it. It is the book I always go back to when I want a refresher on the basics. I know exactly how the book is organized and where to find things, etc. I don't know, it's kind of a cooking comfort blanket.

                                                              On EYB, Silver Palate is the #2 "most popular" cookbook, right after Child's MTAFC. Barefoot Contessa is #3. Joy is #4. Barefoot Contessa "Back to Basics" is #5 and "New Basics" is #6. So, it's clear you are not alone in your fondness/gratitude towards these books. :).

                                                              ~TDQ

                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                Yes, but I assume the EYB "most popular list" refers to how many shelves its on; it's probably not the one EYB members like the best--or maybe they do have some way of measuring the most well-liked? (We should ask Jane how "most popular" is determined.) It would be hard to believe that MTAFC is the one most-liked or most-used, rather than one that's on most of our shelves. (Don't get me wrong: I treasure my set and would never part w/it, and worship JC, and all that, but I've hardly ever actually cooked from those books--four, five times maybe--and can't believe EYB members *use* MTAFC more than any other cookbooks. Still, it's one of my favorites. Complicated--a lesson my skeptical sociologist/statistician/survey-suspicious husband has been trying to teach me for many years!)

                                                                It sounds like many CHers don't like or use the SP books, which I can easily understand, but many own or have owned them. I worked in a bookstore part-time when SP came out, and we literally could not keep them on the shelf. It was our bestselling book (along w/Goodnight Moon, IIRC) for over a year (and that's what piqued my curiosity and prompted me to get the first one. My boss, noting my newfound interest in cookbooks, then presented Martha Stewart's Quick Cook as a gift. Funny, the convergences that chart our various paths.)

                                                                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                  Oh, I completely agree that on EYB "most popular"="on the most bookshelves". My point was, a LOT of people own those cookbooks.

                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                    Oh, I hope I'm not sounding argumentative. I find this whole topic, thread, fascinating. Which cookbooks we love, hate, use, give/throw away--tells so much about how we tick as cooks or approach cookbooks.

                                                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                      Completely agree on how fascinating this topic is. Hey, I got rid of 4 cookbooks just based on this thread...

                                                                      (And not to worry, I thought you were trying to be precise, not argumentative!)

                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                        You're a better person than I!
                                                                        I can't even get rid of the ones I know I hate. I had a single one I was going to part with--then I saw it as one of someone's "hidden gem" on another thread and now feel I should re-assess.

                                                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                          What one, if I may be so bold as to ask?

                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                            Its called The Best Casserole Book or something very similar. I couldn't find a single thing I wanted to cook out of it, though, in fairness I'm not big on casseroles, generally.

                                                                          2. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                            I packed all of my possessions for a cross-country move not too long ago and was absolutely amazed by the amount of stuff I owned. Things I had completely forgotten about. Or things that I "remembered" but hadn't been able to find. After that, I vowed that I would never let myself get that overwhelmed with stuff again.

                                                                            I really, really try to be frugal with my purchases. I would like to be a minimalist, though, anyone who knows me would never describe me that way. I don't succeed at it, really, but I try.

                                                                            Books are really one thing, however, that I give myself a little license to own because I value reading. However, I've noticed that, with cookbooks, I've allowed myself to "collect" them, as if they were a stamps or coins or something. And, like most people on home cooking, I'm running out of space on my bookshelves. So, I've gotten pretty strict with myself. If I really think I'm going to cook from a book or refer to a book, then I'll keep it. But, if I know in my heart I never will, and I know of someone who wants that particular book, I will liberate it. :). My local library has a really good collection. Also, I'm starting to get pretty stingy about which books I buy.

                                                                            When I first started with COTM, I decided I was going to borrow all books from the library to "test drive them." But, I ended up spilling water over BOTH books from that month and having to "buy them", which wasn't cheap. Then, I went the opposite direction and decided I should just buy all the COTMs. But then I ended up with a lot of books I didn't really like. Or I liked well enough, but I already owned a book that covered the same ground that I preferred.

                                                                            So, now I'm back to the library. And I am really really careful not to spill...

                                                                            I do have some books in my collection that I own purely for sentimental reasons. I may never cook from them, but I do actually look at them from time to time. Sometimes I feel guilty about those, but I know they would be difficult to impossible to replace, so, I hang onto them...

                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              I aspire to that, TDQ. And I've definitely made some headway in reducing the accumulation of stuff. But the cookbooks defeat me--some magnetic force keeps them on the shelves ; ) And another pulls more in.

                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                I would like to buy the French Laundry cookbooks, but I just can't seem to spend the money - I think mainly because I would buy them for browsing more than for cooking.

                                                                                1. re: kprange

                                                                                  Get them used on abebooks.com. You can probably get it for a fraction of the price there, and the books are generally in very good condition.

                                                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                                                    Thanks! I will have to look there.

                                                                                    1. re: roxlet

                                                                                      I've bought quite a few books from abe from various vendors and have been quite happy.

                                                                    2. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                      I really enjoyed reading your comment and thoughts on learning to cook on a certain cookbook. Really well put!

                                                                    3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      I've used some of these books more for desserts than "real" food: Silver Palate for cookies and bars, a 1-2-3-4 cake in Art of Simple Food that is my yellow cake recipe for life, and in one of Simca's cookbooks, a one-layer chocolate cake with cherries, something Montmorency.

                                                                      I've used each of these recipes enough times to justify the purchase.

                                                                      1. re: Jay F

                                                                        Interesting. We have a motion on the COTM table to do a month where we cook from all former COTMs, but just from the dessert chapters. That would pick up both Silver Palate and AoSF. Too bad I just dumped my Silver Palate book. :).

                                                                        I think that Montmorency cake is in Simca's "New Menus" book, which I might actually have. I have conflicting info in my personal database. But the recipe is available online if you google it. I shall bookmark it to try one of these days. It does look good!

                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          I just dumped Simca's Cuisine myself! Also a Nick Malgieri baking book. I'm doing a major book purge atm. Honestly most of the cookbooks I own are useless. That Southern Cooking one ... written by two great chefs, but I'm not sure I've ever used it. It seems like a useful cookbook is the exception ...

                                                                          1. re: foiegras

                                                                            I just got rid of all my grained flour and most of the sugar. Now thinking of purging all baking books. Perhaps the attic is the best place to purge them (for now).

                                                                        2. re: buttertart

                                                                          HA! My Canadian mother said "interesting" often. I can just hear her tone of voice that "interesting" was said in. Most people didn't get what she was really saying, which did lead to a lot of gifts she couldn't stand!

                                                                          Thanks for the reminder buttertart!

                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                            LOL... well, I'm a Canadian, and while I've certainly used "interesting" in exactly the way you described, I've also used it to mean interesting in the classical sense :D. I'd like to think that my intonation accurately communicates my intention.

                                                                            1. re: vorpal

                                                                              The intonation and facial expression are intended to carry the meaning. You had to have been there. ((nsert wink here.)

                                                                          2. re: roxlet

                                                                            Chicken Marbella - you either love it or hate it. LOL. I made it -- ONCE.

                                                                            1. re: decolady

                                                                              I only read the recipe and decided it looked like a poor imitation of a Moroccan tagine, so I'd just stick with the tagines. '-)

                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                Naw, it's like eating candy thinly disguised as chicken. One hostess I know, who invited us to a Chicken Marbella dinner, served it with a very sweet butternut squash soup first. By the time dinner came, I had a major sugar rush.

                                                                            2. re: roxlet

                                                                              AIEEEEEEEEEEEEE! You've said the CM word(s)!!!! What a terrible dish. I actually first heard about it from a co-worker who thought it was the greatest dish ever invented. She was sooooo positive that I tried it myself. Feh! Phaw! Yuck! It's like the author had a bunch of stuff left over in the fridge and tossed them all together, and I actually LOVE sweet/tart or sweet/savory or sweet/sour dishes.

                                                                              1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                I am so grateful to have found this conversation. I had heard about Chicken Marbella for years as being the best dish on the planet, yet I somehow never got around to making it. I even felt a little guilty about not participating in this global phenomenon. Finally, about 15 months ago I broke down and cooked it, and based on all the hype, I was expecting gourment nirvana. Imagine my astonishment when I HATED it! I began wondering if there was something wrong with me and I found myself unable to confess to anyone that I hated Chicken Marbella! Thank you all so much for relieving me of that notion. No, there is nothing wrong with my culinary instincts -- that dish is just plain horrible!

                                                                                  1. re: foodtrip

                                                                                    "Chicken Marbella" is just another name for "The Emperor's New Clothes." '-)

                                                                                    But there are a LOT of recipes for chicken Marbella that don't have much in common. Maybe that's the problem?

                                                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                                                  roxlet, what I find fascinating is that you've apparently been served this dish multiple times at multiple dinner parties - in a world filled with endless cookbooks and recipes, it just amazes me that would actually happen - I never even heard of this dish until I read your post (giving thanks that I've never been served this concoction....)

                                                                                  1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                    It was very big in the middle 80s-90s especially on the east coast so if you're a young'un or in another part of the country you escaped.

                                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                                      Not too young, but apparently young enough - because I do live on the east coast - (although for the latter part of that period I was living in the L.A. area - ate a LOT of sushi)
                                                                                      and did indeed, escape, as you said. Whew.

                                                                                    2. re: flourgirl

                                                                                      Oh, gosh, it comes up all the time, once you know about it. There were two new threads about it started just last week!

                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7353...
                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7353...

                                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        ahahahhahahaahahha!!! Is this similar to the phenomena of buying a new car and suddenly seeing the exact same car everywhere you go...?.

                                                                                      2. re: flourgirl

                                                                                        It is seemingly endlessly popular, as witnessed by the two new threads mentioned by TDQ. My husband's opinion is that it is the result of infantalized taste buds where in people are only interested in eating sweet things. One of our Chicken Marbella dinner parties illustrated that trend with a super sweet butternut squash soup and a cloyingly sweet salad with sugared almonds and raspberry vinaigrette topped with strawberries. Dessert was superfluous. I think that SP was such a phenomenon in the 80s, that even non-cooks bought it and for many, it might be their only cookbook. Shockingly, we have had it at three separate dinner parties.

                                                                                      3. re: roxlet

                                                                                        As soon as I saw this little article in my Saturday newspaper I thought of you roxlet and all the following discussion on Chicken Marabella.

                                                                                        If you're interested, this was in Canada's Globe & Mail - entitled "We Got Sick After A Dinner Party" :

                                                                                        http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/s...

                                                                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                          Very funny, Breadcrumbs! I never got sick on Chicken Marbella, but I feel sick when I think about it anyway!

                                                                                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                            Fun article, and nice to see something from the Glum & Pale quoted here. I am soundly in the nothenkyew category on that dish.

                                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                                              I read some of the comments. People were offended that the writer didn't like Chicken Marbella. Will the madness never end?

                                                                                              1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                I'm amazed at how well-known this recipe is and how divisive it has become. I think there should be wax versions of this dish in Tussaud's and the Smithsonian! I wonder if it has its own Facebook page!!

                                                                                        2. re: Rella

                                                                                          For those of you who have held on to your Silver Palate books as have I (although I have no good excuse for it), there are two recipes in the "Good Times" book that I've made often over the years and they still hold up: the Herb-Wrapped Filet of Beef (terrific for a party buffet) and the Luxembourg Salad. But now I have to ask myself why I haven't just torn out those two pages to gain 2-and-a-quarter more inches of shelf space. Do you see the light bulb going off?

                                                                                          1. re: JoanN

                                                                                            I have actually started photocopying such recipes, and then get rid of the book - selling to The Strand, if the book is in any kind of decent condition.

                                                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                              I take books out of the library and then try to find the most appealing recipes online, so I can print them out and put them into my binder. So many cookbooks now are so huge and/or beautiful that I feel unable to use them in the kitchen (and wouldn't risk damaging library books anyway). I read them in bed and work from my print-outs, which I put in plastic sleeves so that I can splatter away to my heart's content. It's so much easier to handle one page at a time. Also, I am somewhat visually-impaired, so I print them out in a larger font that's easier to read.

                                                                                              I am curious as to whether anyone here has had issues with Martha Stewart's recipes, not a single one of which (I've tried a few) has worked for me without major tweaking.

                                                                                              1. re: shygirl

                                                                                                I have found a good number of mistakes in the on-line recipes for M.S.

                                                                                                Her cookbooks I have not had many problems.

                                                                                                1. re: shygirl

                                                                                                  I have frequently found issues with Martha's recipes. They always look so fantasy-wonderful in her books and magazines, but then the reality needs some work.

                                                                                                2. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                  I bought a book that was unacceptable in its condition and the company told me to throw it away or do what I wanted with it. I did copy two recipes for my file -- sad to say, but this top-seller cookbook only had 2 recipes that I wanted. I should do that with a few other books I find no redeeming value for.

                                                                                                  I just now went into the shelves and looked at my 25th edition of Silver Palate and realized I've never opened it. I don't think I cared for the original and have no idea why I bought the 25th edition except for nostalgia reasons and couldn't pass up a bargain.

                                                                                                3. re: JoanN

                                                                                                  That makes sense! I keep the highly used cookbooks in the kitchen and the second tier ones or ones I refer to only rarely in the living room.

                                                                                                4. re: Rella

                                                                                                  There are two recipes from "SP Good Times", that have stood the test of time at our house. First is the Poached Leeks with Pink Peppercorn Mayonnaise. I first made that for Easter Dinner 1986. Although I haven't done the poached leeks in years, all of us really like the mayo. Good on a number of different veggies and all sorts of sandwiches. I enjoy it with tomato sandwiches and DH thinks it it wonderful with smoked turkey.

                                                                                                  The other one we like is Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Sauce. I always make my own oil-packed sundried tomatoes every year and this is a good way to use them. Normally I sub green bell pepper for the carrots, as we like the flavour better that way. Sometimes I leave out the fennel seed and stir in fresh snipped basil at the end.

                                                                                                  I will check out the other few recipes mentioned in this thread and see how they go over here.

                                                                                                  1. re: Rella

                                                                                                    Rella, if you're into ethnic food you should read Mark Bittman's stuff.... I often thumb through his books for ideas (I'm cooking one meal for every country in the world).

                                                                                                    I find the recipes solid and easy to follow, with great indexing in the back. G

                                                                                                  2. Nearly every "specialty" cookbook I've ever been gifted with or purchased. Examples: BBQ, Pizza, etc. Appreciate the thought, but so many of them are gimmicky. Like, if you're going to get a bbq book, get a Raichlen title - he teaches you something. So often, when you get the fancy book, it's full of run of the mill, "yeah, so who didn't know that?" tips. You don't learn anything. I need to learn something from the entries (not to mention the recipes).

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: k_d

                                                                                                      I think giving a cook a cookbook is a bad idea unless the cook receiving the cookbook asked for a specific title. I'll have to agree with you on the 'specialty' cookbook thought. I frequently drop in on Goodwill stores to see if there happens to be something to buy. I started it several years ago to buy used paperbacks for my mother. She was an avid reader and I discovered Goodwill had a good selection of the kinds of books she liked. Anyway, I've yet to find a cookbook at Goodwill to purchase, they're all the specialty books that don't interest me.

                                                                                                      Side note, I recently bought a manual drip coffee maker for less than $2. It is a 7 cup aluminum coffeepot that we'll use at our huting cabin up north. (No water/plumbing, no electricity, keeps the riff-raff out). I hate perked coffee.

                                                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                                                        Timing - it's all timing. During a recent move, took boxes and boxes to Goodwill, including unused cookbooks like Silver Palate. When I left the first time, it was on the glass counter by the register. When I came back with another load 20 minutes later, it (and a few others) had already been sold.

                                                                                                        Love this thread, it was a well-thought out gift from my mother, I never cooked a single recipe, and always felt badly about it. Thanks - -

                                                                                                    2. Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's "Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking" is the one that comes immediately to mind. I was very excited about it and found it very disappointing. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6624...

                                                                                                      19 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                        1080 Recipes, received as a gift. I haven't given it the time of day yet but doesn't really appeal to me.

                                                                                                        1. re: King of Northern Blvd

                                                                                                          As I've written several times here, The French Laundry Cookbook.

                                                                                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                                            Yep, that one is now in my storage cupboard.

                                                                                                            1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                                              What did you find disappointing with the French Laundry? I love that book and use it frequently.

                                                                                                            2. re: King of Northern Blvd

                                                                                                              Yeah that book (1080) is no fun from a culinary perspective. It's intriguing historically.

                                                                                                              1. re: King of Northern Blvd

                                                                                                                I bought it, was really excited, about it, and only use it to look at pictures for inspiration. Its time on my shelf is limited.

                                                                                                                1. re: corneygirl

                                                                                                                  I got the French Laundry cookbook as a gift and found that its main feature was that it took up almost half of the kitchen table when opened. Many Hounds are touting his new Ad Hoc book, but I'm gonna have to see it before I even think of buying.

                                                                                                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                                                    I have the new Ad Hoc book and have made several things from it (The tomato-basil marmalade is delicious). Like the French Laundry book, the biggest downfall of this book is its size. I have a very small kitchen with limited counter space and when its open, the book takes up a lot of valuable real estate.

                                                                                                                    1. re: skippy66

                                                                                                                      Can't you get some type of holder so that it stands on the counter instead of laying flat?

                                                                                                                      1. re: observor

                                                                                                                        The Keller books are so heavy and oversized I don't think there's an alternative out there to letting them lie flat.

                                                                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                          There are, but the bookstands that will hold them are impressively expensive...nearly as much as the books themselves.

                                                                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                              LOL! My problem with the Alford/Dugoid books, as well.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Beckyleach

                                                                                                                                I'm with you on the readable in bed (or bathtub) requirement.

                                                                                                                    2. re: oakjoan

                                                                                                                      Never got The French Laundry, but I detest the size of the Ad Hoc book. It is just ridiculous how much space it consumes. Had I known its size, I never would have bought it.

                                                                                                                      1. re: decolady

                                                                                                                        TFL and Ad Hoc are approximately the same shape and size. If you hate the size of one, you'll hate the size of the other.

                                                                                                                        I've cooked a couple of recipes (or, in the case of TFL, a couple of components of recipes) from each. Everyone has liked what I've cooked. My husband keeps asking for TFL sauerkraut. I thought what I cooked from both books was just okay, but I have the feeling that's because I knew a) how much work went into it and b) the costly ingredients that went into it.

                                                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                          What is the TFL sauerkraut recipe like?

                                                                                                                  2. re: King of Northern Blvd

                                                                                                                    I received 1000 recipes as a gift, and have only made but a few recipes from it. The pictures are cool, but most of the recipes don't appeal to me

                                                                                                                  3. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                    I agree. For a cookbook that seems to position itself as the Chinese analogue of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, this book is a disappointment.

                                                                                                                  4. Don't you people look at these cookbooks before you get them? i don't really know why anyone would buy a cookbook anyway, unless it was spectacular...the library has lots of cookbooks you can look therough and just pick a recipe that strikes one's fancy. incidentally, i wish all cookbooks would list the recipes for the entire book just at the beginning...then you can easily look through them and see if there are any you like. They probably don't do that because they know it could harm sales.

                                                                                                                    68 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: observor

                                                                                                                      Hi observor, I really enjoy your posts, you have such a natural curiosity that's infectious. I hope I can do your question justice. I LOVE cookbooks. Cookbooks inspire me. I can love a cookbook without ever having made one of its recipes. It might be the pictures, it might be the back stories, it might be the unique way in which the author has woven ingredients together.

                                                                                                                      I would never want to see all the recipes for the entire book listed at the beginning of the book, it would ruin some of the journey for me. I read cookbooks like novels. I like to hear what has inspired the author to write, to cook, to share their passion for food. Naively, I purchase these books giving their authors the benefit of the doubt that they wrote their book because they need to be heard, they need to share their story, their food, their passion.

                                                                                                                      Sometimes, luckily rarely, I get a book home and it lets me down. Most often I think its because its author has been more interested in pushing out another book and making money than they have in telling their story.

                                                                                                                      I hope that helps!

                                                                                                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                        it was my thought that a cookbook was for making food, and, frankly, it seems most of them are about making money. I don't know, it just seems kind of a waste of money to buy a cookbook that may only have a couple of recipes that you are going to make.

                                                                                                                        1. re: observor

                                                                                                                          I agree with breadcrumbs. I buy cookbooks for all kinds of reasons (and I own close to 600 of them.) Some I use for reference, some for inspiration, some I actually cook from, etc. I've been collecting for years and each and every one of my books was carefully selected. The ones that weren't have long since been discarded.

                                                                                                                          1. re: observor

                                                                                                                            Sometimes I use cookbooks as inspiration. Sometimes pictures, sometimes the recipe. Sometimes I read them just because I like the author's way. I feel that way about Nancy Silverton. I am not every fond of her cookbooks but she is like an old friend.

                                                                                                                            I am sometimes the victim of cooking malaise - dead batteries if you will. Cookbooks and tastespotting are my cooking jumper cables.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                                "I am sometimes the victim of cooking malaise - dead batteries if you will. Cookbooks and tastespotting are my cooking jumper cables.",

                                                                                                                                Yes, same here.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                              Hi Breadcrumbs,

                                                                                                                              I agree with you. Some of my favorite cookbooks, i read from cover to cover. I may not make any of the recipes but they inspire my cooking.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                Breadcrumbs, I love what you wrote. I don't buy cookbooks (or many books at all) anymore, mainly because of lack of space for them, but I love to read them and agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments. (Have you read Molly Wizenberg's book?)

                                                                                                                                1. re: shygirl

                                                                                                                                  Thanks so very much shygirl. Also, I sincerely appreciate your pointing me towards MW's book. I wasn't aware of it but just ordered it from Amazon...sounds terrific.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                      Funny, that book is one that is on my list of books I shouldn't have bought. I feel like it should be titled "A Boring Life". Seems like the last half of the book is wedding planning, and there is not a person who ever lived on this planet whose wedding I would be willing to read half a book about. That book, to me, is a model of everything that is wrong with blog-derived books. Made me think that unless you have done something really extraordinary (like survive 60+ days on a raft at sea), no matter how good a writer you are, you should not be allowed to write an autobiography before age 60.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                        Well, I know she has her detractors, and I knew going in it was blog-based--but I liked her blog and find her very skilled at linking her experiences to recipes. And I also like many of her recipes. Funny, I don't remember much about her wedding or the planning.

                                                                                                                                        (But, hey, I enjoyed the much-reviled-on-these-boards Amanda Hesser "Mr. Latte" book.)

                                                                                                                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                          Reviled by ME, it took a lot for me to get interested in AH after that.
                                                                                                                                          I'm with MelMM on the Wizenberg too -- and her columns in Food and Wine or whichever mag it was were even more precious and annoying.
                                                                                                                                          But then I'm a nasty beyotch... ;-)

                                                                                                                              2. re: observor

                                                                                                                                I don't know how you'd know if a cookbook were "spectacular" or not, unless you'd cooked from it.

                                                                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                  Undoubtedly you couldn't pikawicca. That said, I have some cookbooks whose recipes are so technically complex, I'll never have the interest (or patience) to execute them. I bought them knowing that. That doesn't mean I can't appreciate the vision of the chef/author or their mastery. I'm not buying their books to make their recipes, I'm buying their books to better understand what makes them tick. I may have a deeper appreciation for a seemingly simple yet utterly amazing dish I was fortunate enough to enjoy. Those books "work for me" because they inspire me, they educate me and I hold them as dear as I do my favourite novels, business, or art books.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                    Cookbooks are for cooking, they're not keepsakes, IMO. You say it's happened to all of us, but that does not include me. I've rarely bought a cookbook, most of the time I will just go to the library.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: observor

                                                                                                                                      "Cookbooks are for cooking, they're not keepsakes."

                                                                                                                                      As my lil' nephew likes to say, "Wrong ding-dong."

                                                                                                                                      Cookbooks are keepsakes, travel writings, textbooks, memoirs, culinary ethnographies, cultural histories, political commentaries, photo essays, inadvertent glimpses of how a people live at any given moment, polemics, public health safeguards, backcountry survival guides, guides to healthy lives, tales of nations divided, slave stories, and the collected narratives of myriad diasporas. Not only are they keepsakes, they are some of the most treasured hand-me-downs the world has ever known. And sometimes they are just damned good writing.

                                                                                                                                      Moreover, cookbooks---like anything else---are for whatever the person buying them wants them to be for. Some girl wants to buy a dessert book to touch a flushed cheek and gasp at the pics of creme brulee twice a week. Who are you to judge if that was money well spent?

                                                                                                                                      And yes, most of us "look at cookbooks before [we] buy them." But how on earth does that mean a book still can't disappoint once purchased? Typos in a cookbook are almost impossible to detect in a bookstore and can evade a phalanx of reviewers (professional and otherwise) while upsetting me to no end years later. And a book much-loved by the masses can strike an off-note with any individual home cook, which I think was the point of the question.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                        Beautifully articulated e-i-p, I completely agree and I'm glad I'm not alone.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                          I think Breadcrumbs and e-i-p have said it all - really captured what cookbooks mean to some of us, and why and how we use them.

                                                                                                                                          And I am a big library user as well, like c oliver, in fact a HUGE library user. But due to a love of books that borders on the disturbed, I also like to own and repeatedly go back to some of them. Some cookbooks fall in that camp.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Cachetes

                                                                                                                                            A thirder on the above, very well expressed. I am also a big library user (I test-run books I'm iffy on before buying). My cookbook library goes back to my spiral-bound "I Like to Cook Book" and most if not all of them carry an emotional frisson or concrete memory of the time in which I acquired them. I've been reading them like novels since I was a preteen, my exposure to the world beyond my little corner of it came in good part from things like the Time-Life Foods of the World seris and the Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery. The strictly instrumental part of their being recipe sources is not what's made me a fairly serious collector.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                              I agree! Cookbooks transport us; they are a historical record of the people; and they are "novels" for some of us. Even if I don't cook much or any from a cookbook, I learn something--and I enjoy looking at a beautifully composed book.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                buttertart, is that the "I Like to Cook Book" from Carnation milk? If so, that is my first cookbook I got when I was 8. The spiral binding is long gone but I have the whole book stored in a ziplock. I loved that book! I cooked every single recipe in it and love going back and reading my notes on each recipe scribbled (in pencil) in the margins! It truly started my love of cooking. My mom had the Time-Life books and I pored over those cover to cover. And ironically my mom hated to cook. I wish I would have snagged those Time-Live books before I left home!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Squint

                                                                                                                                                  Mine has a little redheaded girl on the cover, yours too? I never realized it was put out by Carnation milk but I'm sure you're right. I had a lot of fun with the book too.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                    Yes...the little redheaded girl with her hair in ponytails. And her family was featured throughout the book. It was so much fun cooking from the book even though looking back the recipes were so simple. But as an 8 year old I was pretty proud of everything I made and of course my parents made a big deal! I would like to find an intact copy to give to my 3 month old granddaughter when she is a little older.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Squint

                                                                                                                                                    Another "I Like to Cook" girl, here...AND I traveled the world through my mother's Time-Life Foods of the World series, as well. I've completed my own collection--hers was divided between the four kids--from used book stores and library sales. I didn't realize, when I was reading them as a kid/teen, how many incredibly respected authors were used in that series (MFK Fisher, Craig Claiborne, etc.)

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Beckyleach

                                                                                                                                                      Too funny, are you a redhead too? ;-) Maybe we're long-lost sisters. Are you both Canadian? I can't remember if my mom got the book in Canada or on a trip to the States.

                                                                                                                                                  3. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                    As soon as I read your words about your "I Like to Cook Book", it brought back the strongest memory. I'm in Canada too, and I had that book, but I had totally forgotten about it. But for some reason I can't remember what it looked like; I just remember the title. I've looked on Amazon, and ebay, and Googled for pictures of the book, but none are present.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: BrightRedMud

                                                                                                                                                      I'll have a look for it and post a pic.

                                                                                                                                                  4. re: Cachetes

                                                                                                                                                    Right, Cachetes - and OWN them: write notes, dog-ear pages, abuse them - can't do that with a library book.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                                      I find that on oft-used recipes, the book just falls open to the page. It it's grease or tomato-splattered it's probably a REALLY good recipe :)

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                        i have taken to scanning the good ones into PDF files, and print out a copy whenever I go to make it. This way, the book doesn't get (any more) splatters, and the spine doesn't crack.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: kjmerz

                                                                                                                                                          No offense, but what a terrific waste of paper! :(

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: kjmerz

                                                                                                                                                            I've done something similar, except I put the print out in a plastic sleeve that can be wiped off and then stored in a 3-ring binder.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jen76

                                                                                                                                                              Me too! I do that with recipes I find on line all the time!!

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Cachetes

                                                                                                                                                          I agree. So many people just don't get cookbook love!

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                        I'm with you too. At this point, I buy a lot of cookbooks that I'll never cook from, because they interest me for the reasons you say. I love my new "Frigidaire" book from the 1920s - sort of like later microwave cookbooks.

                                                                                                                                                        Plus I've been buying quite of reprints of cookbooks from the 18th century, just because I'm interested in seeing how cooking has changed (or not changed) over the years.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                          There are a surprising number of "ancient" cook books on line. A few are for sale as eBooks, but there is also a fair collection in Project Gutenberg, plus several universities have historical cookbook collections, and a few are famous enough to have websites all their own. Here's one such fun classic to get you started, if you don't already have it. It will not only tell you how to cook, but explain the job of your scullery maid, footman, butler and chief housekeeper! Who doesn't need to know that! '-)

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                              Yeeps! I forgot to add the URL for Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management! Better late than never: http://www.mrsbeeton.com/

                                                                                                                                                              And I lied. This on-line version is a copy of the first edition. Mine is a first edition of the Revised version with adendums from her husband. It's the preferred one that breaks down all of the duties of each member of the household staff. This on-line version only talks about their salaries, not their duties. Well, unless I missed something when I was glancing through it. Anyway, it's fun, and I did try a few of the recipes about thirty years ago when I first got my hard copy from London.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                I love that old stuff! I have a wonderful old tome from 1904 called Vivilore: The Pathway to Mental and Physical Perfection by Mary Ries Melendy. Although not a cookbook, it does have a chapter titled "Beauty Diet" and then there's "Dishes for Invalids" and "Man's Ideal of Woman."

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: clamscasino

                                                                                                                                                                  I know you posted quite awhile ago but I love the Vivilore. My grandmother gave it to her daughter now 81, when she got married because her mother gave it to her when she got married. I found a copy on Ebay and gave it to my DIL,who likes old things. It is a great book.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: wekick

                                                                                                                                                                    Well I guess I haven't opened this thread for a while...What a wonderful thing for you to pass on the Vivilore tradition. It's so revealing of how far we women have come. One of my favorite things in there is "how to take a sun bath."

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: clamscasino

                                                                                                                                                                      If anyone is interested in reading this remarkable book or having a free electronic version of it, you can find it here:
                                                                                                                                                                      http://www.archive.org/details/vivilo...

                                                                                                                                                                      The .pdf version has full illustrations and the whole nine yards. It's basically a photocopy of the 1904 first edition. The author, Mary Ries Melendy, had her M.D. AND Ph.D. degrees when she wrote the book way back then.

                                                                                                                                                                      Take THAT, Women's Lib....! '-)

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                            Perhaps she is touching a flushed cheek because she can't believe how many terrible cookbooks are on the shelf and is wondering what 17th century cooking in Bulgaria has to do with today's food efforts. If you really wanted to show that girl something you could show her how she can make her creme brulee dreams come true instead of just wondering about it.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                              Wonderful post, eight! For some of us, cookbooks LITERALLY are all these things, and more...I specialized in culinary history in graduate school (Ph.D. program in American Studies) and used cookbooks as a direct, primary source material for understanding the culture/norms/sociology/history of the times.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Beckyleach

                                                                                                                                                                How cool! Food is one thing that connect us in this world. How neat to use food to understand history. I know I use food to express love for family as well and rekindle memories. I read cookbooks to understand other cultures and ways of life. It is just like when we travel - we try to eat at local establishments versus touristy places so that we can see even more of our destination.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                                Oh, you said it beautifully e_i_p. I read cookbooks for fun. There is a stack of rotating books that stays by my bed. I make notes and marks in my books. Recipes get dated and notes added about what I might have done differently or would do differently next time. You can't do that with library books!

                                                                                                                                                                Vintage books are of great interest to me, particularly the ones handed down through my family. I love reading the notes made by my Mom, grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Makes me feel as if they are in the kitchen cooking with me - even the ones who died before I was born. I can't imagine a better keepsake. These hold a lot of family history.

                                                                                                                                                                You and Breadcrumb really sum up my feelings about cookbooks.

                                                                                                                                                                Oh, and I still have My First Cookbook that I got around age 8. It was put out by Domino Sugar and I remember the day it came in the mail. I think I eventually made everything in the book (some things multiple times) and my parents happily ate it all, encouraging me to continue cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: decolady

                                                                                                                                                                  Ha! I have that rotating stack by the bed, too! Also a set of sticky flags so I can bookmark promising or long-forgotten recipes. And I'm terribly envious of your family cookbooks that go back so far. What fun that must be.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                                  EIP - speaking of typos... I found a typo in Cooks Illustrated's Best International Recipe - said to cook the ribs 2.5 minutes per side LOL

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: observor

                                                                                                                                                                    I'm a HUGE library user and supporter but for me using library cookbooks rather than owning them would never work. Example, it's 6pm, I have ingredients but no clear idea of what exactly I'm going to make with some or all of them, the library is closed. But I can grab a few books, pour a cocktail and have a heckuva good time planning dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                      There is a wonderful mix of the memories of times and technologies.

                                                                                                                                                                      1980s, as the libraries began their computer indexing, simply mark the best recipe's page then finally xerox and collate all such pages.

                                                                                                                                                                      Then the early 90s, when "World Wide Web" existed only in muted whispers, I collated and digitized those "best" recipes into a database, not knowing that within 5 years it would be fully superceded by the beauty and linking facility of the internet., I printed out a series of notebooks, by historical culture, that were then housed in six linear feet of shelved notebooks, duly labeled. I still enjoy them nostalgically today, but facility now sends me to the internet.

                                                                                                                                                                      Such were the travails and travels of the pre-internet generation.

                                                                                                                                                                      But Dammit, we cooked.

                                                                                                                                                                      I'd almost like to open a bettiing pool as to what future time "cookbook" becomes an anachronism, listed and defined in Webster's as "archaic"

                                                                                                                                                                      It is a song often sung these digital days. It is the lament of us Old Farts who tasted clean air and never consulted a keyboard or touchpad in our mighty fine youth.

                                                                                                                                                                      As we move forward, let their always be praise for those who bring forth the new recipes,

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                                                                                                                        "I'd almost like to open a bettiing pool as to what future time "cookbook" becomes an anachronism, listed and defined in Webster's as "archaic" ."

                                                                                                                                                                        That will be a very sad day because as was mentioned severla times in this thread, wonderful cookbooks aren't just about recipes. Nothing can replace them, and if they disappear, a wonderful experience will disappear with them. Digital technology is not the answer to everything.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                                                                          I agree, flourgirl. There is richness and tactility in the printed cellulose paper page that can never be recreated by any future types of Kendall digital readers.

                                                                                                                                                                          For the fullest sensual experience... well... gimme the Gutenbergs.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: observor

                                                                                                                                                                      This seems to be a rather narrow and oddly snarky viewpoint. "For cooking not keepsakes" implies that you cook from a recipe once.

                                                                                                                                                                      I don't buy as many cookbooks as I used to, but I still now and again find one that I want to add to my repertoire.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: observor

                                                                                                                                                                        Observor - you are just not a "cookbook person". You undoubtably choose to spend your money in a way that would amaze me - as my purchase and reading of cookbooks amazes and puzzels you. To me they are like novels and inspire my meals and are keepsakes too. In my travels, my souvenirs are always a regional cookbook and a Christmas ornament. To each his own!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: observor

                                                                                                                                                                          I love the library as a source for cookbooks. I have a choice among the Oakland, Berkeley and SF Libraries and most books I want are carried by one of the three. In the case of The Rose Bakery Cookbook and the Ottolenghi books, they were not available in any of my libraries and so I bought them.

                                                                                                                                                                          There's another feature of the public library, you can request a book that your local doesn't have and they'll get it from another library. Wonderful. We should all support our public libraries. The ones here in Califa are closing certain days due to our horrible economic problems and the crap government we have in Sacramento.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                                                                                                            I LOVE our library system here in Hunterdon County, NJ. But they too have had to cut hours due to economic constraints. NJ's gov't for the last 40 yrs or so would surely win the crap prize. At least we finally have a governor who's trying to do the right thing...

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                                                                              We used to live in Grants Pass, OR, and their whole county library system closed for two years until a nonprofit was formed and raised enough money for them to reopen.

                                                                                                                                                                              And to try to be on-topic, those expensive cookbooks and other nonfiction just aren't in the budget alot of the time.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                Two years without a library system. That's pretty bad. :(

                                                                                                                                                                                "... those expensive cookbooks and other nonfiction just aren't in the budget alot of the time."

                                                                                                                                                                                So true. That's one of the reasons why I love my library system so much. They still have a pretty decent budget and buy a lot of new cookbooks - so I can test drive the ones I think I'm interested in before I decide to purchase. I know that's saved me from wasting a lot of money on books I would have ended up never using.

                                                                                                                                                                                Books are my weakness though. That, and great cooking ingredients and equipment. I scrimp on a lot of other stuff so I can spend in these areas. Although at this point, I have most of the cooking equipment covered that I really could ever need. Same could be said of cookbooks - but I know that won't stop me from buying more...I'm going to have to start a policy though of "if one comes in, one goes out" I've just about run out of room and I'm getting tired of the piles....

                                                                                                                                                                    3. re: observor

                                                                                                                                                                      Every cookbook I don't like was a gift.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                                                        Me too. Mostly from my mother-in-law. Who wasn't, shall we say, born to the apron.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                                                                                          born to the apron.
                                                                                                                                                                          Oh gosh, I love that expression.

                                                                                                                                                                          Without cookbooks I'd be a sad cook. Whether library, hard copy, digital, mag, recipe swap or from a women on the bus...sharing and discovering recipes is where its at.
                                                                                                                                                                          The only cookbook I purchased with regret was about raw food....my bad...I just didn't have the chops to go full guns with raw food.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: observor

                                                                                                                                                                        That's what the index is for...I do that on amazon.com a lot because the index is something I am able to browse online. This has stopped me from buying a lot of duds in the past.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: observor

                                                                                                                                                                          Not MY library. Try Betty Crocker and a few BBQ and cake things published by Better Homes and Gardens....

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: observor

                                                                                                                                                                            I buy cookbooks for the same reason that I buy novels or anything else: because I believe in them. I believe in having as wide a variety as possible available to as wide an audience as possible, and I believe in paying authors for the work that they do and for the pleasure that they bring into my life. Mega-successful chefs like Hubert Keller don't exactly need the tiny chunk of change that my personal cookbook purchase earns them, but they're the exception rather than the rule. For most authors, cookbook and otherwise, royalties are much needed and book sales will enable them to continue publishing. Sales on previous books are one of the first things publishers look at when they're deciding whether or not to take on a new title.

                                                                                                                                                                            By the way, I love libraries. I used to work in one and they have a highly appealing book-to-person ratio. I also understand that not everybody can afford to shell out for new hardcovers, particularly cookbooks, which can get pretty spendy. Everybody allocates their resources according to their needs and wants - in my case, I wear clothes until they dissolve in the wash and have an instruction sheet posted above my not-always-functional toilet, but I buy good cheese, I have ridiculous vet bills, and I buy books. YMMV, of course. :)

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: observor

                                                                                                                                                                              I'd say that a majority of folks buy their cookbooks online these days and never see the book until it arrives at their door. I think it'd be a good idea to check out the book in person at a book store before spending $40 for something sight unseen.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson. A panel of British food experts called this "the most useful cookbook of all time". Well, to me the only way it could have been less useful would have been if the recipes started with something like "Kill a woolly mammoth first thing in the morning." Every recipe in the book called for something I not only don't keep on hand, but have never bought in my life. Most of them called for an ingredient, usually a cut of meat or fish, I can't get anywhere near me, period. And I am a reasonably food-aware person who lives near Whole Foods just like everyone else.

                                                                                                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: csdiego

                                                                                                                                                                                  I agree to some extent, I found it enjoyable to read - if a bit twee - but the one thing I made from it (a rice and meat abomination) was not good at all. The recipes didn't grab me.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: csdiego

                                                                                                                                                                                    I have to say - I loved the book and continue to make things from it today. It was cookbook of the month by the way - which I mention only in case you would like to check out which recipes people liked. And, while I agree that there are some recipes that have somewhat unusual ingredients - I would be really surprised that every recipe actually called for something that you don't keep on hand or have never heard of.

                                                                                                                                                                                    His hollandaise sauce is a breeze, both the saffron mashed potatoes and olive oil mashed potatoes are fabulous, as are the Delices d'Argenteuil (prosciutto, asparagus, eggs, milk, butter, salt, pepper, flour lemon juice.

                                                                                                                                                                                    (I do confess to being a huge fan of the book.)

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                      OK, I do keep saffron on hand and I have access to a wide range of dairy products so it probably wouldn't be too much trouble to make the saffron mashed potatoes, for example. I suppose the recipes that were accessible just didn't appeal to me. I hung on to the book for years, thinking I really had to try at least one recipe, but I finally had to give up and pass it on to a more patient friend.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: csdiego

                                                                                                                                                                                        csdiego and MMRuth. I think folks are put off by the "most useful cookbook of all time" part. It is a nice little cookbook, but certainly nowhere near the best of all time. I'm glad I bought it.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                                                                                                                          I also regret buying Roast Chicken and Other Stories.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. " The New Basics Cookbook" by Rosso & Lukins (the same people that put out the "silver palate" cookbooks. It was disappointing.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I think once you have the basics, it is going to be hard for a cookbook to wow you. I want to learn something I didn't know before. A compendium of recipes is not usually going to provide that.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I would think it would have to be a book on a technique or cuisine you aren't familiar with and even then it is a tough order. Often times a cookbook will have 100's or recipes and you want to cook 10 of them.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I know a lot of people enjoy sitting around and perusing a recipe book and a lot of people like the photography. Quite frankly, I think you can get pretty much anything you need online.

                                                                                                                                                                                    However, i keep buying cookbooks but less and less.

                                                                                                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm glad I have that one as it got me started on making gravlax (from the Cafe des Artistes recipe) with mustard sauce. You only cure it for 24 hours, which deviates from many recipes.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                                                                                        It's funny, that's the cookbook that got me started cooking. I have used many recipes from it and it still contains my favorite icing recipe but as I get more advanced in my culinary skill, I do find that I am turning to it less and less.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: nuts4food

                                                                                                                                                                                          New Basics taught me to cook.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Even tho I've mostly moved on, I still use their basic recipe for Crab Corn Cakes as my standard crab cakes recipe. The interesting composed-style Lemony Caesar Salad (calls for making an anchovy spread with anchovies, butter, olive oil, mustard, and garlic, which is spread on a multigrain-bread "crouton") is a regular on my dinner-party-menu rotation—never fails to wow! (Try that salad if you haven't....)

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                                                                                          I enjoyed the New Basics and the Silver Palate. Both were go to books for me for years and are quite tattered. I especially like the soups in the New Basics.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cassoulady

                                                                                                                                                                                            Agree - posted further up in the thread before seeing this. The sweet potato/lime soup is especially good - I get huge raves every time I serve it - although I can't remember if that one is in New Basics or one of the Silver Palates.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                                                                                            It's true about being able to get things online ... but I find it's good only if you know what you want. If you know only that you want to make dinner, or cookies ... a book in your hands is so much better for inspiration/narrowing down your choices than the whole WWW.

                                                                                                                                                                                          3. Clifford Wright's A Mediterranean Feast. The James Beard Foundation awarded it Cookbook of the Year about 10 years ago. I know it has many admirers, but it doesn't work for me. It's so disorganized that I can't find anything in it. And the cultural and historical descriptions, which were a major reason I purchased the book, are written in the most turgid style and go on endlessly. Every year or so, I pull the book off my shelf and try to read a few pages, but I'm never interested enough to cook anything from it.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                                                                                                                                                              I couldn't disagree more. This is a book I go back to time and time again. His meticulous research and the scope of the book (both temporal and geographic) are invaluable. As for being disorganized, the indexes are very helpful.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                                                                                                                                                                Im dubious tho a bit admiring of the effort that went into of this book. Ive read it and use if for references but never cooked from it yet. any experiences?

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. So many of the recipes seem untested and there are often many errors which makes one wonder on whether publishing houses are still checking proofs. And these books are snapped up by a gullible public.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. A New Way to Cook.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Liked the principle. Loved the reviews. Spent about an hour with it at the bookstore. Really disliked it after cooking 10 or 12 recipes. That said, I've found three or four real keeper dishes, and a couple big picture concepts have stuck with me in my own cooking. So thanks for that, Sally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  15 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                                                                    This is getting fascinating for me - I taught myself to cook using that book and turn to it again and again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I think it was more her tone than anything else. And while I honestly haven't explored any new recipes in quite some time, I think I felt like a lot of dishes were either pricey or involved or both. Maybe I'll give it another look, though. Do you have a few favorite recipes you'd recommend I throw into the lineup over the next couple of weeks?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Off hand - her French onion soup, the cucumber soup (she has a master recipe for a low fat veloute base), the tarte tatin (I make it most Thanksgivings), the madelines, and - not that you would want to put this in your line up - Buche de Noel. Her Caesar Salad recipe is also the one I use. I'll try to dig up a post I made when it was a COTM.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks! And please don't bother digging up your post just for me----I can find it. I didn't realize or had forgotten it was a COTM.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I may be wrong, but I think MMRuth may be referring to Julia Child's The Way to Cook and EIP may be referring to Sally Schneider's A New Way to Cook -- I always confuse those names myself and have to check the shelf to see which is which.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                No problem! That makes a lot more sense to me. I also cook from and quite like The Way to Cook.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Thanks, mebby, for saving us from what was sure to be one perplexing back and forth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  No problem. Being great admirer of MMRuth's posts and knowing her to be a very accomplished cook, I couldn't reconcile the idea of her having taught herself to cook via the Schneider book.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That said, I have the Schneider and have made only 3 things from it, but all were good (corn soup with chiles and cilantro cream, southeast asian slaw and the thai-style mussels). They did all need to have the herbs and spices called for at least doubled, however.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And somehow JC's The Way to Cook just *magically* appeared in my Amazon cart a few minutes ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mebby

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You won't regret it, it's a great book. The JC that is.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I passed it by when BOMC offered it years ago...$45 or whatever was just an astronomical price, back then, with two little girls to feed and clothe. I was able, this summer, to buy a very early printing, hard cover, for a fraction of that, from a used book seller on Amazon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Good things come to those who wait! :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                              do you think these recipes are better than those in say THE WAY TO COOK?

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think MMRuth actually meant The Way to Cook.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Would love to know those "keepers", eight-inch. Can you share?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: TerryG

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hey, Terry. I'll open it up over the weekend, but I have two off the top of my head. There's a garlic, sage, and crushed red pepper sauce that is perfect convenience food if you've got some homemade ravioli in the freezer, or if you're cool with store-bought cheese-filled pasta of any kind.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Also, there's a seared duck breast in port reduction that has become something of a go-to for me in certain dinner situations. I've posted about it recently, but will dig it up again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. Chocoholic by Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen is useless to me. I was seduced by the pictures, first and last time that happened to me. Anyone want it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. A few years ago I did what I thought was a ruthless purge of that type of book. But I see more on the shelves that should go. Two are Williams Sonoma coffetable, speciality type books. I'm not sure I've cracked the cover since the first time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'll never give up print cookbooks. Online sources can be VERY incomplete and, in the case of blogs, just plain wrong. With an author that has credibility with me, I'm probably not going to get too far off base. If I cook six Batali recipes and like/love everyone, I'm probably going to continue to.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. We all have them, maybe we could use this as a swap forum! I just had a dear chowhound send me a cookbook I've been longing for that she didn't like at all - very nice. What do you think? A little money for parcel post and viola? new cookbooks!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              17 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                A good idea but some people have privacy concerns. Also I donate unwanted books to my library because they're mostly underfunded nationwide.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I've donated a lot of books as well; I was a librarian for 4 years, still volunteer there on a regular basis. I have no problem with exchanging addresses for books as long as it's done by email, not here on a pubic site.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I slept on this and think it really IS a great idea. Why don't you email the mods and ask if it would be allowed (not selling; just giving and paying for postage) and if they'd stickie it? I recently gave something to a CH that I had a dupe of (not a book). Very satisfying.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I agree with this idea as well. Over the years I've donated many books to our library and sent off almost as many to friends and associates. It would be nice to keep this "in house."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks, c - couldn't send an email from this site, so sent it from my home email. Maybe some of you would like to send emails for backup? I also sent this link. I look at bookmooch.com and several others and found them wanting; most "cookbooks" were diet books! No good titles at all. Hope we can do this! It could be an ongoing topic in home cooking or whatever.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I just linked THIS reply and sent a note to the mods also. Said I couldn't see any downside to it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Did you ever hear back from them? I didn't.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            They way bookmooch works is that the books people want (i.e. the "good" ones) go fast, while the other stay "in virtual inventory." When I post a book in my virtual inventory that you have on your wish list, the system e-mails you and you request the book. Try it with 5 titles you want to get rid of, and 5 titles on your wish list. See how/if it works for you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      bookmooch.com is a great (free) site for this.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I've yet to find a cookbook that interests me on Bookmooch, but I've got a great lineup of Calvin Trillin and other non-cookbook food writing on my shelf from there. And maybe if enough hounds join that'll change :-) I think it's already been well shown that one person's 'meh' cookbook is often another's 'yes please!'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Emmmily

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Bookmooch is very hit or miss with cookbooks. I have mooched the last three Time-Life Good Cook titles I needed to complete my set. I also mooched books by Jane Grigson, Waverly Root and several others.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Using the "wishlist" function in Bookmooch is the easiest way to find the titles you want.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Their search function by category is very poor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: ElissaInPlaya

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yeah, my son was really involved with Book Mooch for a while, but it got just too hectic - sending off books, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My son got involved with Book Mooch for a while but it ended up driving him nuts. He said he spent way too much time wrapping and sending books and keeping up with who got what and what he wanted, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. Loved your post e-i-p on why cookbooks are more than just a collection of recipes. And I would add 'love stories' to your list of what cookbooks can be to the reader. Love of a country, a region, an ingredient, a technique, even a person - those are the books that really work for me, when the author's genuine affection and interest in the subject shines through. We probably all have books that feel like they came off a conveyer belt and although they may have good recipes that work, I never love them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            So out of my ridiculously large collection of cookbooks I have quite a few I regret buying over the years but that doesn't mean I won't ever cook for them or even come to enjoy them more in the future. But the one that stands out is the Silver Spoon. I bought it sight unseen as I'd heard so much about it being the Italian standard cookbook but I find it so boring. I think I've cooked one recipe from it and never feel inspired to do anything else. I also found the list of cooking terms ridiculous - sure we might want explanations for Italian terms but do we really need it explained to us the meaning of chop, dissolve, season, sift and many more very basic terms?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            11 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: JaneEYB

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I think the Phaidon series (Silver Spoon etc) is a well-intentioned but failed endeavor, the only one of those books worth having is Vefa's Kitchen. Just because something is the X of Y country it isn't necessarily going to answer to the needs of those outside the country interested in the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I agree. Have had Silver Spoon for a few years and haven't looked at it yet....I believed the hype.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, I found The Silver Spoon disappointing as well, and many recipes just didn't work.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ditto. That and "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook"... bought it to try to like my crockpot, still don't like my crockpot or that book!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Katie Nell

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I also believed the hype, but found that the recipes are so basic and boring that I never use it - are these really what Italian people cook at home? I'm also pretty certain that much of the hype I had come across was from this board ... so why do Chowhounds, who are interested in cooking good food, like it so much?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Theresa

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You know I remember when this book came out and I seem to think they billed it as the "cookbook that's in every Italian's kitchen and has been handed down through generations" or something like that. Evidently it had finally been translated and I can still remember how excited I was when I discovered it at Costco.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        When I got it home, I began to look up recipes for some of the most memorable, traditional dishes we've eaten in Italy and, to my dismay, I couldn't find the recipes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I checked in w a friend of mine who is an Italian national that still spends 25% of the year living in Italy. She'd never heard of the book. She then checked with her relatives in Sicily and Calabria....no one had heard of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I haven't picked it up since and still feel a little resentful when I see it on my bookshelf.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Theresa

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Well, some of the best chowhounds hardly cook at all, I suppose.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Theresa

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Silver Spoon has definitely been my biggest disappointment, too. Shipping was too expensive to return it. When I see it in the living room as I walk by I feel like taking a kick at the dumb thing. Exceedingly dull - absolutely nothing new or unique or even half compelling!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: chefathome

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Me too. It's the only cookbook I've had for a long time that I haven't read through.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Don't bother - it's not worth your time, unfortunately!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: JaneEYB

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The SIlver Spoon was my biggest disappointment also. Not insipriring at all. It was a gift from my husband (boyfriend at the time) and he was so proud, and I was so excited... then I started thumbing through the pages, looking for my first recipes to try... I tried a few, none were that spectacular and certainly nothing like any of the dishes served by any of my grandparents who lived most of their lives in Italy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. Real Stew: 300 Recipes for Authentic Home-Cooked Cassoulet, Gumbo, Chili, Curry, Minestrone, Bouillabaise, Stroganoff, Goulash, Chowder, and Much More - by Clifford A. Wright and Neverne Covington

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Only cookbook I ever threw in the trash.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: CharlieKilo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OMG, really? I *LOVE* the Real Stew cookbook. I have probably made 75% of these recipes. I use it all the time -- both for favorites, and to find non-boring recipes to use up seasonal vegetables.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Which are your favorites? i haven't had a lot of success with this book. i think I've made about five different recipes and none of them are ones I want to repeat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: JaneEYB

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Spinach stew that he calls "bouillibaise" (it isn't), curried chicken/sweet potato and real bouillebaise are my top returnees. I'll look again later and let you know which others I like.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I've never had good luck with chef's books. Bouchon, no thank you. Zuni Café, love the resaturant to distraction but didn't like the book (found it histrionically detailed). Floyd Cardoz, loved Tabla, nope on the book. I understand the Batali books are good but I'm gunshy (and rely on Marcella for Italian). The recipes seem not tailored to the home kitchen. Pastry chef books are a bit better (Kate Zuckerman's "A Sweet Life" and the Payard books for example).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      15 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I have to disagree, as I turn to the orange "molto Mario" book as much as I do to Marcella. i don't find any of his recipes in that book too much for the home kitchen; on the contrary, they are sometimes simpler and more straightforward than Hazan's.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: lidia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think you mean Molto Italiano and I'm +1ing your opinion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yeah, I think Molto Italiano is a very good book. The recipe for chicken livers on toast (with anchovies, capers, tomatoes, etc.) is worth the price of the whole book several times over.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I got it for younger daughter and made a list of things I'd cooked from it (and liked them all) and was surprised by how many there were. BTW, he was in a dream of mine last night :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: lidia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Funny, the "orange molto Mario" book was immediately what came to my mind when I saw the subject of this thread. Hated it! Thought it was pretentious, snobby and full of errors and dubious descriptions of quantities, such as "a handful of" whatever. Whose hands? I'm quite sure Mario's are almost twice as big as mine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            That being said, I know it is a very popular book with many CHs. It just didn't work for me, in large part because I have NO way of sourcing all those precious ingredients that Mario insists are what make the dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I gave it away...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: clamscasino

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Agree on some of this. I've actually found more "keepers" in the fancier-looking Babbo Cookbook than in the orange thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I have the Babbo book and although I haven't made a lot from it, I adore the Sicilian Lifeguard Calamari, which has as a base Mario's basic totmato sauce, also a good recipe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                On the other hand, I was totally disappointed by Essentials of Classic Italian cooking (Marcella). I bought it as a go-to book, but for some reason, when I go to it, it doesn't have what I'm looking for.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: lidia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I was making an exception based on opinions here for Batali, actually (although I paged through Molto and didn't find it captivating on first glance,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I don't find it to be visually welcoming, that's for sure. I think that's a big reason I don't cook out of it often. But the dishes are fine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                From the Babbo cookbook I have only made the rosemary cake and the olive oil gelato. Both simple and they came out well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: lidia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  lidia: I'm surprised you didn't find Molto Italiano visually welcoming. I think the photos are pretty gorgeous and descriptive. I also love the red ribbon book mark attached to the spine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm a sucker for that. Even better if there are two (viz., Vefa's Kitchen).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The bookmark is "de luxe", for sure! The photos are fine, I just thought the recipe/text treatment was harsh and uncomfortable, harder to read in the kitchen than many of my other books.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Chef/resto books: not much luck here either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Two duds on my shelf: Sugar Club/Peter Gordon and Olives Table/Todd English. Not helpful even for inspiration. Why are they still there...?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sinjawns

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I totally disagree about the Chef books being disappointments. For me, they are the ones I turn to most for inspiration. Zuni, Lucques, Ken Frank, Jim Dodge, Daniels, I could go on and on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Every one of them have recipes that make their way onto my regular rotation (Zuni's buttermilk mashed potatoes comes to mind). I agree that many recipes are expensive to execute, and and that some are not do-able by the average home chef, but that is the beauty of these books.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Demystifying those recipes you would love to make at home but you wouldn't know where to start. Explaining the importance of layering flavors. Giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of some of our favorite restaurants. Learning about the Chef's, often surprising journey to where s/he is today.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. My most useless cook book was a gift. Gift or not, I shoulda looked in the horse's mouth before accepting. It is Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything." I had a fairly large cooking repertoire when it was given to me, and looking over his versions of such classics as coq au vin, among many, I concluded that for me, at least, the title of this tome should be "How to Cook Everything Wrong." In too many of his versions of the classics, the ingredients are so pared down and modified you can only end up with a pale imitation of the original. I can't bring myself to throw it away (my god, there has to be half a tree in every hard copy!) and I refuse to warp the mind of a young cook by giving it away. What's a woman to do? <sigh> If I ever need a door stop...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                34 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm with you on this. Not impressive other than in heft!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ditto. One of the most overrated books out there. One wonders if he did not write for the Times if he'd even be on the radar.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I love that Caroline1-- How to Cook Everything Wrong! lol! And I happen to agree with you!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      You know, I use that cookbook, or more recently the app, a lot. It's not complex but it helps me get food on the table, from scratch, day after day. When I have time to splash out I explore other more elaborate cookbooks and recipes, but I really appreciate Mark Bittman's approach to everyday cooking as the art of the possible.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I just made his chocolate bread pudding last night. Very good. I did, however, reduce the four T of butter to three.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          May 22-year old daughter is learning to cook from it, and so far everything she has made has worked. I think the book is very helpful to new cooks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yeah, it's a stellar starter book that does an especially good job of explaining principles. I went through two copies between 22 and 30.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I suspect I have been an accomplished cook longer than Mark Bittman has been alive. And that's the rub. When his book was given to me, I was way too advanced to have use for it, but had heard so much about it, I did read some of his versions of the classics. And that's what disturbed me. In my opinion, he messes too much with classic recipes that are tried and true and omits key ingredients. For someone who has never tasted, let alone honed their cooking skills in classic recipes, this is probably not a problem. It's rather like only ever having had ice milk and not knowing anything about ice cream. As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss. But for me, Mark Bittmans' famous tome held no bliss. I'm sure that had Escoffier lived long enough, he would have been distressed by Michel Guerard's ideas on Cuisine Minceur. No, I'm not equating Bittman with Guerard. They're different kinds of birds. But what I am saying is that when ANYONE messes with the traditions of classic dishes, they are messing with a lot of people's comfort food. It's like saying you can have the macaroni but forget about the cheese. No thank you. '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Im confident someone could learn a lot about cooking from Bittman - my 20 something daughter did. But coming to it as an experienced cook I found the recipes bland and over simplified. Too, there is a difference between getting something on the table and getting something delicious on the table. Im not an everyday cook - I get home too late, and we would rather have good bread, cheese and salad, or maybe a simple pasta, many nights. When I cook, I want the dish to be interesting, tasty, excellent. Maybe someone would call me a hobbyist not a cook. but I judge my cookbooks by a standard of interest and excellence. In this I think Bittman is not very impressive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I dunno, jen. All I can say is I've cooked dozens of "meals to impress" for bosses and parents and friends using nothing but this book, and have always received completely rave reviews. Heck, I've even cooked entire holidays meals, from hors d'oeuvre to dessert, straight from How to Cook Everything, and been asked for the recipe for almost every item on the menu.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm certainly not saying it is a perfect book. Some recipes miss (perhaps a given when you're talking about so many recipes). For a cookbook that claims to teach you how to cook everything, there is almost offensively little from Mexico, especially given the size of the Mexican population is this country and the fact that Mexico is a huge nation with which we share a long border. He also has almost laughably little tolerance for heat, and perhaps a bit of an addiction to cumin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  But this is the book that taught me how to handle chicken, how to keep today's uber-lean pork chops moist, and how to deliciously cook most every vegetable available in an American market. And I've yet to find a better basic French bread recipe. That's just off the top of my head.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A much more experienced cook these days with shelves full of cookbooks, this is still one of the first places I turn when I have a brain cramp and need a quick reference about a basic ingredient or process.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (All comments are in regard to the first edition.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Ahh...so you only read his recipes and didn't make them... well as I said, my daughter is learning to cook very well from it, so I think it has its place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I made some of the recipes (including helping my daughter) when the book was around. Ive also used quite a number of recipes of his published in the NYT, Cooks etc. over the years. He is a simplifier, and someone who has to get dinner on the table every night may appreciate that more than I do, thats all..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Totally cool if minimalism isn't for you. It's not for everyone (my own cooking is rarely as pared down as The Minimalist's). But minimalist cooking isn't about convenience---the need to get food on the table every night---it's about a preference for clean simple flavors. Bittman was preaching about buying high quality ingredients and "letting them speak" at least a decade before it became the cliche of every chef on the tele.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Trish, I think you too have misunderstood what I'm saying. By the time I received Bittman's book, I had three years of total hands-on culinary training under the tutelage of a master chef who retired from her position as executive chef and came to work for me in private service, PLUS about four or five decades of cooking at that level under my belt when I was given Bittman's book. There probably aren't many dishes in it I don't know how to make. I was NOT a beginning cook when I "read" it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I do not like the way he pares down classic recipes. As an example, and I'm not going to go through the book recipe by recipe, in his coq au vin, he makes what I consider a very serious omission from the classic recipe. He does not add a tablespoon of tomato paste. Tomato paste works WITH the wine during the long simmer to develop a richness and "full mouth feel" that you cannot get without it. Even using fresh tomatoes, as Julia Child did in ONE of her coq au vin variations, does not produce the same result.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Now, I have no problem with making up new recipes. What I have a problem with is presenting them under old well worn and much loved labels. Bitttman does that. But if you've never had the real thing, how do you know?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      There is no reason for me to do more than read recipes for dishes I am totally familiar with. I can pretty much tell what a recipe is going to taste like simply by reading it. That's how I tell whether I want to bother making it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Also, I never said someone can't learn the basics of cooking from Bittman's book. I just don't think they will learn them WELL. Or at least not in the classic way. Or to put it in musical terms, Beethoven's 5th Cha Cha Cha may be amusing, but don't throw away the real thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        "Now, I have no problem with making up new recipes. What I have a problem with is presenting them under old well worn and much loved labels. Bitttman does that. But if you've never had the real thing, how do you know?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Caroline, this is my main problem with Bittman, too. When he remakes a dish, it is no longer the same dish. Ergo, it should be called something else. I hate that there is a whole group of people eating from this book and thinking this is what the classics should be.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: decolady

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "I hate that there is a whole group of people eating from this book and thinking this is what the classics should be."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I dunno, Mark Bittman is widely known as "The Minimalist." For anyone who picks up the book without knowing this, it is mentioned right on the jacket. The book's subtitle is (my emphasis): "SIMPLE Recipes for Great Food." In his brief introduction to the book, he repeatedly makes his approach to cooking plainly evident---various forms of the words "simple" and "minimalist" pop up all over the place, as in: "I have chosen simple recipes, those that minimize the number of ingredients and techniques." It's hard to look at this book---let alone own it---without realizing that you're getting a minimalist take on cooking in the late 1990s, not exact reproductions of so-called classics popularized mid-century. I'm pretty sure no one has to worry about a plague of culinary misinformation sweeping the country because of this one cookbook.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          For example, I had never heard of Mark Bittman when I received HTCE as a Christmas gift fresh out college more than a decade ago. I knew squadoosh about food or cooking. But after just a few minutes of skimming the book jacket and introduction and flipping through a couple chapters, it was completely obvious that his approach is to pare down a recipe to what he considers its essential elements. As such, it never even crossed my mind that the way he makes Coq au vin would be "The Way" to make Coq au vin (not that there is such a thing).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          And, honestly, I really don't get why you guys don't think someone can personalize or update a classic and still call the dish by its common name. Coq au vin is still Coq au vin if it doesn't have a tablespoon of tomato paste: it is just not Coq au vin your way or the way you were taught to make it. Julia Child uses only 1/2 tablespoon in Mastering the Art, and none in The Way to Cook. Can she not call her versions Coq au vin? Can French people who make Coq au vin with riesling or vin jaune or cream or morels or porcini not call their dishes Coq au vin? Sometimes Coq au vin has brandy, sometimes cognac, sometimes neither. Sometimes it is thickened by reduction, sometimes by beurre manie, sometimes (apparently) with blood, sometimes with tomato paste, sometimes with a combination of techniques. The dish is Chicken (well, really, Cock) in Wine, not Chicken in a '98 Burgundy with a Tablespoon of Tomato Paste and Three Ounces of White Button Mushrooms Sliced Just So. As The Oxford Companion to Food says, "Indeed, knowledgeable food experts no longer speak of Coq au vin in the singular but of Coqs au vin in the plural, while acknowledging that these dishes were doubtless simmering away for long years before the first recipes were published and before the gastronomes 'discovered' the virtues of simple country fare."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The rigid codification of most any dish, but especially "simple country fare" is nothing more than a fetishism anathema to good cooking, good eating, and good chowhounding. I can think of nothing more boring than a world where recipes become as static and untouchable as museum relics. </rant>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Edit: Suppose I should mention, in the name of full disclosure, that I do not care for Mark Bittman's Coq au vin either! Made it once and moved on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I agree with many/most of your points. But when Bittman's book is frequently recommended as a massive definitive guide for how to cook many classic dishes (it's the one book recommended to beginning cooks and as the main fall-back reference for a lot of people's libraries), isn't pointing out that Bittman tends to present only very simplified versions of said classics a useful and worthwhile criticism.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If Bittman himself had added the emphasis to the word 'simple' in his title, I'd be there with you. But in most discussions of his book, there's no mention of his own tweaking and deviations. Simplified classic recipes are not useful for everyone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hmmm, I guess I haven't seen too many posts where people recommend HTCE as the definitive guide for how to cook classic dishes (not saying they're not out there, just that I missed them). I _have_ seen it recommended---and continue to recommend it myself---as an excellent book for beginning cooks to learn the basics. I also see it recommended (and recommend it myself) as a great reference book. That said, should those recommendations probably mention a bit about Bittman's belief in a simple and minimalist approach to food? For sure, and I'm probably guilty myself of failing to mention it each and every time I recommend the book. I'll work on that. That said, while it's "useful and worthwhile" to point out as an FYI, I can't bring myself to buy that it is a valid criticism.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              To be clear, to me we're talking about recommending the book to first-timers who---like me coming out of college---have never tried so much as steaming asparagus. Here's why I recommend it:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Excellent chapter on kitchen equipment
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Excellent chapter on fundamental cooking techniques
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Very good chapter on appetizers, plenty of items that will impress at your first dinner party
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Teaches you how to make great stock
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Teaches you how to make great homemade salad dressing (with a primer on oils and vinegars and even instructions for making homemade vinegar), and explains the basics of most any variety of lettuce you'll find at your grocer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Teaches you how to make tons of killer pasta sauces, as well as fresh homemade pasta dough and fillings
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Excellent introduction to grains, from plain white rice to spelt
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Teaches you how to make excellent polenta and risotto
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Excellent introduction to the basics of bread-making: in more than a decade of regular baking, have yet to find a better basic French bread recipe
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Completely demystifies fish and all seafood
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Chicken. Good Lord: How to buy, how to cut up for cooking, how to split, how to truss, how to roast, how to carve, how to broil, roast, grill, and saute thighs, breasts, legs, and wings. An excellent (and yes, minimalist) take on Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - An excellent first-timer's recipe for roast turkey with gravy (and a great stuffing)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Completely demystifies the butcher shop, with excellent discussion of where each cut of meat comes from, why each cut behaves like it does, and how to best cook it. Taught me how to cook a perfect steak, perfect burger, perfect pork chop, perfect pork shoulder roast, perfect everything: Bittman knows his way around meat.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Excellent primer on beans, with lengthy introduction to probably 20 varieties and how to cook them
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Vegetables: For most any vegetable you'll find in the common grocery store (although certainly not today's farmers' markets---no purslane here): an introduction to the vegetable; how to buy and store; how to prepare; how to cook; how to tell when it's done; at least two or three recipes.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - How to make dozens of desserts, cakes, cupcakes, pies, tarts, etc. And ice cream!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Eggs: how to soft- medium- and hard-boil, scramble (super slow!), poach, and make souffles, quiches, omelets and frittate
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Teaches you how to make reduction sauces, roux, bearnaise, bechamel, compound butters, etc. etc.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Beverages: Taught me how to make everything from a Tom Collins with freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice to real hot cocoa to a whiskey sour with real lemon juice
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - References: I should mention that long before I found Chowhound, the "Fifty Cookbooks I'd Rather Not Live Without" section of the appendix steered me to Chris Schlesinger, Bill Neal, Edna Lewis, Diana Kennedy, Wolfert, Patricia Wells, Elizabeth David, Kasper, Hazan, Roden, Sahni, Barbara Tropp, James Peterson, Beard, and David Rosengarten, to name a few.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'm just saying it seems odd at best to suggest that a book that does all this---that provides all this instruction and more than 1,500 recipes emphasizing fresh, quality ingredients (and does it for just $25, at least when I bought my second copy of the first edition a few years ago)---is somehow steering newbie cooks in a profoundly wrong direction because of how it treats a few "classics" that can't possibly constitute more than a tiny fraction of the book.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Well said. My daughter who up until recently hated to cook, would never watch me or let me teach her, and couldn't cook an egg to save her life, is now producing DELICIOUS dishes from the recipes she got from Bittman's book. They key I think is the recipes are simplified and easier for a new cook to handle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                While this book may not sing everyone's song, it definitely has its place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "I'm just saying it seems odd at best to suggest that a book that does all this---that provides all this instruction and more than 1,500 recipes emphasizing fresh, quality ingredients (and does it for just $25, at least when I bought my second copy of the first edition a few years ago)---is somehow steering newbie cooks in a profoundly wrong direction because of how it treats a few "classics" that can't possibly constitute more than a tiny fraction of the book."....eight_inch_pestle
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Excuse me, but you're putting a spin on this that I feel is quite unfair. No one, to the best of my knowledge, has used the term "profoundly wrong" about not thinking Bittman's tome is God's gift to cooks except you. If he rings your chimes, that's fine with me, but please don't tell me I'm "profoundly wrong" just because I don't agree with you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I am a writer, I have been a student all of my life, and I find that "best" communication is accomplished when everyone shares a rich vocabulary in which all words have specific meanings. Without that, you're going to be in trouble, likely with some frequency.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That said, to my way of thinking the PROBLEM with Bittman's book is that someone who reads it and learns to cook from it comes away thinking they have an in-depth grasp of culinary skills when, in fact, if their education has been restricted to Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything, they do NOT! Bittman's book may be a stepping stone to get people started, but it is not the place to finish. But I am also of the opinion that it is MUCH easier and better to learn to do things right the first time. And for me, that's the rub. Too often he oversimplifies things and leaves his readers thinking that is the correct way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  You are entitled to your opinion, but please, I consider it quite unfair and extremely judgmental for you to insist I don't know what I'm talking about. If you doubt me, pick up a copy of Larousse Gastronomique and compare notes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "No one, to the best of my knowledge, has used the term "profoundly wrong" about not thinking Bittman's tome is God's gift to cooks except you. If he rings your chimes, that's fine with me, but please don't tell me I'm "profoundly wrong" just because I don't agree with you. "

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Caroline1, I see your point and I'm not a fan of Bittman either (for a different reason), but as an observer I see that nowhere in eight_inch_pestle's response did he or she say you were profoundly wrong in not recommending Bittman's book. At least that's how I understood his or her last paragraph.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Jay2512

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      "is somehow steering newbie cooks in a profoundly wrong direction because of how it treats a few "classics"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      His words, not mine. Or hers, as the case may be. '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I do agree that s/he probably got carried away waxing eloquent with his/her response, but I did want to remind him/her that his/her viewpoint does not negate mine. Different strokes and all that jazz. But s/he does write a goooooood diatribe! '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Again, nowhere have I said you were profoundly wrong about anything. You're misreading the sentence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Also, my posts were not diatribes, unless you are for some reason using diatribe in the archaic sense. Nowhere on chowhound have I ever written a bitter or abusive post.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I think it would take an extraordinarily stupid person to assume that they had an "in-depth grasp of culinary skills" after learning to cook from Bittman's book. Most cooks start out with basic books and move on. (I started with Betty Crocker's book for kids, moved on to JoC, then MtAoFC, and now have well over 300 cookbooks, and frequently don't cook from a recipe at all.) HtCE is a very accessible, non-threatening jumping off guide for the novice, and a good basic reference to have around.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Caroline1: Those would all be great points if I had ever said you were "profoundly wrong" about anything.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I got Bittman's book when I was temporarily hooked into a book club. I was expecting a cooking Bible and was severely disappointed. There was no fun, no inspiration, and no amazing insights there. I passed it along to a non-cook of my acquaintance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think mine is a book club edition too. When a friend changed jobs from one university to another a long way away, she knew I ran a shelter for homeless books! She brought me a few box loads. I was hoping for Larousse Gastronomique, but it turned out to be Family Circle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Not that there's anything wrong with that. '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Always gotta hit the book boxes at garage sales.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The square-cut, softcover series of "Sunset" cookbooks were the simplified entry for many tentative cooks into the world of gastronomy. And it's okay that some home cooks have not yet lifted a leg up to the level of Larousse... et al..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I can''t resist the "et al" while serving as the apologist for the Cuisina Rustica crowd. Where I grew up, the phrase "et al" meant that you had thoroughly cleaned your plate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            LOL! For the rest of my life, whenever I come upon "et al" I will think of you, Fuser! Made me laugh.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The "et" will always bellow forth when each day we be fed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But "all" will be reserved reserved until that final cloaking end.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In our youth, we were sumptuous 'bout the bounty 'twas amongst us

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But we've learned that life comes down to getting fed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              If I see that voicing "all" gives the angels early call

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I will fight like hell for forms of interruptus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: FoodFuser

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Those Sunset books (and the recipes in the magazine) are still good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Their single publication in that series, of "Tomatoes", still reigns as a Bible for gardeners and gustators.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I agree, I just can't get into this book. I did use it to make my first pot roast... epic fail.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. After checking it out from the library the day I got a rice cooker and really enjoying it I bought The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook. Unfortunately, little did I know that a few months later I would begin a low carb lifestyle and never look back. Oh well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Unlike many of you who read cookbooks like novels I read novels and think cookbooks. In other words, I've been reading mystery novels since my teens staying with a series till I've read every one. Then, I go in search of cookbooks that present the food of the countries in which the series take place. For the past 3 years I've been reading Italian mysteries set in Florence, Venice, Rome and Sicily so naturally had to expand my Italian cookbook collection. To go further afield I moved on to other Mediterranean cookbooks. The January 2008 COTM "The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen" by Paula Wolfert was one of them. That book gave me the most trouble in the kitchen I've ever had. I just couldn't get a feel for all the procedures and steps. Knowing that others loved the book and were having success I gave it to a friend.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            33 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I tend to avoid books that tout "Mediterranean cooking." I've never heard of a country called Mediterrania, so I just buy cook books with recipes from Spain, or Morocco, or Malta, or Crete. Wherever. But the cookbook MUST be a collection of recipes from a real country. Along the same vein, I wouldn't buy a cookbook called "The Slow North American Kitchen." I can make my own kitchen go as slow as I want to, no instructions required! '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I don't really see what's wrong with a regional cookbook. There are tons of "Southwestern" cookbooks for foods from AZ, NM, and TX. Such books do have collections of recipes from real places. One of my most favorite cookbooks is a "Mediterranean" cookbook with recipes from coastal Italy, Greece, Turkey, Morrocco, etc. I love the variety and seeing the similarities and contrasts between similar dishes (stuffed grape leaves, for example).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Uf, I have to go find it and look. I'm terrible with names/titles.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Here it is: Mediterranean, a taste of the sun in over 150 recipes by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    http://www.amazon.com/Mediterranean-T...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It's older and I think it may be out of print. My mother has a similar book by the same authors that's hard cover and has all the same recipes plus about another 150 more. I buy a lot of books used from a local bookstore or from Alibris.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I've only done a few of the recipes, but like everything I've made from it. My biggest problem is that I don't tend to have a lot of the ingredients on hand (nuts, figs, raisins, good olives, various wines, anchovies) so it gets a little expensive (we have a tight budget). I make these when I feel like splurging a little.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Jen76

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Jen76, I do a lot of "eastern Mediterranean", Greek/Turkish cooking, and I buy things in bulk. I ALWAYS have bulgur in my freezer and a large plastic container of Kalamata olives in the refrigerator. The olives are good for a very long time when refrigerated in their brine. I also keep a large (18 ounces) bag of pine nuts (from Sam's) in the freezer. Yes, their country of origin is China, but I've been using them for about six years now and never (knock on wood) gotten "pine mouth" from them. I also keep a pretty good selection of dried fruits in the freezer like currants, pineapple, figs, papaya and such. If you just stock up on one thing every month or so, before you know it you can cook just about anything you want without any special shopping. Or splurging! Just a thought... '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Why do you keep the bulgur in your freezer, Caroline? Also, what is "pine mouth" - sounds nasty!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Pine mouth: Beginning early this year, I think, people began occasionally, when eating pine nuts imported from Asia, experiencing a bitter, metallic taste that would remain in their mouths for a few days, affecting the taste of everything they ate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Here are a couple of threads from the General Topics board:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/654197
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/633023

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This happened to afriend of mine and it lasted for at least a week and now she has me freaked out about using pine nuts from TJs.But I do anyway....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Bulgur in the freezer will syay fresh for decades! Bulgur on a shelf will go rancid sooner or later, depending on how old it was when you bought it. I also keep an extra bag of AP flour in the freezer simply because it will NEVER grow weevils when stored that way. Well, unless the weevils are wearing thermal underwear. '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I've never had bulgur go rancid, I have to say, or weevils in my flour. Plus I don't have a freezer big enough - I'm squeezing in the ice cube tray as it is!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                gg: Maybe you should make ice cubes of bulgur.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It's a good thought, indeed. I already do this to some extent, but I just don't make those types of recipes often enough to justify that expense right now. These are similar to the items I posted in the "After the recession..." thread.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'm sorry, but I do not agree at all with Caroline1's dissing of "Mediterranean" or "Middle Eastern", books that cover large areas. This is just too much of a sweeping generalization.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Among the finest cookbook writers ever are Paula Wolfert and Claudia Roden and both have regional books. However, each of their books contain much information, wonderful authentic recipes and great stories of how they found the recipes. I value them every bit as much as I do Memories of Gascony by Pierre Koffman.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Madhur Jaffrey's Eastern Vegetarian Cooking is also a fabulous book containing recipes from India, Japan, China, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Well said, oakjoan. This is especially true in the many parts of the world---such as the Middle East---where state borders reflect not traditional national divisions but the whims of European countries carving out spheres of colonial power. If you want to learn the cooking of a people, follow the people, not political boundaries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Oakjoan,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I am not familiar with Memories of Gascony, by Pierre Koffman. I'd love to hear more.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: oakjoan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  You weren't the only one to disagree!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Jen76

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Jen... I have the older hardcover "...Food of the Sun" book and Love it. Everything I've cooked from this book has been a delight... Love the format too.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This is the cover:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                http://www.amazon.com/Mediterranean-f...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yup, the book has beautiful photography, too. I'm a sucker for pretty pictures in my cookbooks. My mom has this one which was found at a local used bookstore: http://www.amazon.com/Mediterranean-O...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Jen76

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ."I'm a sucker for pretty pictures in my cookbooks."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Me too. I have more than a few cookbooks I keep on my shelves that I don't cook from very often but I do take out and drool over now and than. I don't view them any differently than any of the other non-cookbooks on my shelves. They serve a purpose.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Jen76

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Admittedly there are some parts of the world where regional cooking does have some cohesiveness. Southwestern US is heavily influenced by the cooking styles of indigenous peoples, be they Aztec or Navajo or any other native culture. Then these different cultures gained some similarities through the Spanish influence, then all of the Southwest was, at one time or another, part of Mexico, so you've got a lot of common influences working there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In the Mediterranean, there is a heavy influence of the cooking of Ottoman Turkey that wraps itself around the Med from the Balkans all across the eastern Med and down across north Africa to Morocco, so there is homogeneity there. But when you go to the northern shores of the Med, from Italy eastward, the cuisines are pretty distinct, and that's why I'm uncomfortable with "Mediterranean" cook books. But hey, that's just me. I travel the same way. When I travel, I want to go to a country and totally immerse myself in that country. None of the "If it's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium" kind of travel for me. And I avoid tour guides like a plague!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "In the Mediterranean, there is a heavy influence of the cooking of Ottoman Turkey that wraps itself around the Med from the Balkans all across the eastern Med and down across north Africa to Morocco, so there is homogeneity there. But when you go to the northern shores of the Med, from Italy eastward, the cuisines are pretty distinct..."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Did you mean from Italy westward? If so, while the cuisine starts to become somewhat more distinct in France and Spain, there are still similarities that, in my opinion, make it recognizably "Mediterranean." Just as recognizably Southwestern cuisine can be quite distinctly from AZ, NM, or TX.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "When I travel, I want to go to a country and totally immerse myself in that country."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Cultures and their respective cuisines and customs do not necessarily end at a country's border. That's why I like regional cookbooks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Jen76

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, Jen, Italy *westward*! Thanks for catching that! The foods of Italy, France, and Spain, for example, are pretty distinct. The foods of Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, et al, not as much... A bit, but not as distinctively different as, say, Italy and France. But SOME regions are pretty homogeneous. My GREAT resentment over today's fusion food scene is that in another fifty years, everything will taste the same. Fusion stew! I relish the traditional flavors of all cuisines but don't much like chow mein tacos. '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I love Wolfert's "Mediterranean" cookbooks which always respect and document the particular terroir and culture each recipe comes out of. There is nothing generically "Mediterranean about any of her recipes. On the other hand, there are plenty of books and restaurants where a sunny, vaguely italianate cuisine sufices as "mediterranean".. "Southwestern"too, where around a particular flavor/ingredient palette, anything goes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I only have one Paula Wolfert cookbook, "Couscous, and Other Good Food from Morocco." It's where I learned to preserve my own lemons instead of paying three dollars each for them when they come in a jar.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I suspect you would not particularly like the somewhat beloved restaurant here in Phoenix that combines "Mexican" and "Chinese" food. Want some black beans with your orange chicken? ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Jen76

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I could probably handle an order of Mexican black beans on the same plate with an order of orange chicken. It's things like orange chicken enchiladas where I draw the line! '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Well, they serve everything in bowls or burritos. So, your orange chicken would be on top of the beans on top of some rice. It's not my cup of tea either. ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Jen76

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I've eaten at Chino Bandido and they serve most of the food in round, aluminum disposable cake pans. I actually liked the food, but maybe not as much as others. The food was sde by side and not really on top of each other.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jen76

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This made me laugh!! Thanks for the visual.