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What were your FIRST three cookbooks?

We're on our third volume of "What were your LAST three cookbooks?" (thanks, Buttertart). The first time I encountered the first of these threads, I thought it said "What were your FIRST three cookbooks?" and of course, it wasn't that at all: people were talking about Dorie Greenspan's French Kitchen, not Julia Child's Mastering the Art. But I've wondered ever since what people's first cookbook influences were, and since Buttertart just opened v.3 of "last three", I thought this might be a good time to post about our first three cookbooks. (Did anyone else misread the original thread title the way I did?)

My first three cookbooks:

My mother bought this in 1970 or so, when she became interested in better cooking (quiche, onion soup, coquilles St. Jacques). She sent me a copy in college in 1973, as I chose to learn to cook rather than eat junk food when I got out of the dorms. It's just old and brown now, a paperback I eventually replaced with Mastering the Art.

2. JOY OF COOKING - 1973 trade paperback
I taught myself so much out of this book. Somehow, early on, I learned I could make souffles easily, and the recipe on p. 204 for "Made in Advance Cheese Souffle" is simply the best recipe I tried during my first couple of years of cooking. I also love the Chicken Paprikash recipe.

This one changed everything. I'd loved Italian food since I was a little boy. Four huge changes: Bolognese, fresh pasta, *real* Parmigiano-Reggiano, and, saving the best for last, learning to plan menus while shopping instead of depending on a shopping list (probably the most important thing I've learned about cooking).

Another early influence: BON APPETIT magazine, starting in 1978.
Not a cookbook, but I made so many things I read in Bon Appetit starting in the summer of 1978, with a raspberry souffle recipe from Suzanne Somers. Then lemon mousse, sorbets by Abby Mandel, a chocolate cherry cake from Simca, and on and on (I loved dessert). I could go on and on. I subscribed until sometime in the 1980s.

What were your first three cookbooks?

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  1. 1. The Peanuts Cookbook, beautifully bound in lime and neon pink.
    2. Betty Crocker's Cooking for Kids
    3. The I Hate To Cook Book

    19 Replies
    1. re: mamachef

      I had forgotten the Peanuts Cookbook from my school days, so that's number one.

      Number two was The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, revised by Marion Cunningham. Still my favorite basic cookbook and a go-to when I am trying something new and need a starting point.

      Three was The Betty Crocker, since my mom's edition was HER go to -- she gave me the new edition. I have her old edition now, battered and stuffed with recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines.

      1. re: jmckee

        No one had the green plastic recipe file with the recipe cards that got mailed to the house?
        How I anticipated their arrival !!

            1. re: HillJ

              If it's food-related and has come out since I was seven or so, I've probably rubbed up against it or at least coveted it.
              There were a couple of those. I think McCall's magazine put one out too? White bottom, clear top gigantic Rolodex-style boxes? And the recipes were not cheap, either.

              1. re: buttertart

                The BC version and the T-L books were perched atop my Mother's refrigerator and my sister and I would "share" them. No, they weren't cheap!

                1. re: HillJ

                  My mom got the T-L books for me, Foods of the World and The Good Cook. Good ol' Mom.

      2. re: mamachef

        1. The Peanuts Cookbook for me too! I still have it, it was my mom's and passed down to me when I started cooking. Love that book.
        2. *Microwave* Cooking for Kids - Better Homes and Gardens (LOL it was the 80s-90s, and I was only allowed to use the microwave to cook unsupervised)
        3. Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook - This is the next one I remember, my ex's mom gave it to me when I moved out at 19... I could cook by then but think it was a hint!

        My mom had a big collection of cookbooks and I mostly learned from those. Joy of Cooking was a big one. I scored my own 1946 War Time Edition Joy of Cooking at a Flea Market for a few dollars and it started my vintage cookbook collection. It has some really archaic recipes but I still use it, and it's a great read.

        1. re: elysabeth

          The Peanuts Cookbook was my second acquisition; I ordered it through Scholastic when I was in the fourth grade. The first book I bought for myself was My First Cookbook, from Imperial Pure Cane Sugar. I think I was seven. I don't remember any others until college, when the best and favorite came along: Cooking in a Small Kitchen by Arthur Schwartz.

          1. re: marthasway

            This is funny. Who would guess that The Peanuts Cookbook would inspire so many young Chowhounds? I'll definitely be passing that book on to my own children, when I have some. ;)

            1. re: elysabeth

              I'm yet another whose first cookbook was The Peanuts Cookbook. I frequently made Lucy's Lemon Squares, so much so, that my family used to substitute my name for Lucy's!

              The other two weren't my own, per se, but I read them endlessly. My mother had the Betty Crocker Cooky Book, which I loved to look at/read, though I don't recall making too much from it. I wish I knew what the other one was called; maybe someone here can identify it. It was huge . . . I'm going to guess four-five inches thick, with a yellow cover, and if I'm not mistaken, finger tabs. I remember sections on how to set a table, with diagrams of all the silverware, glasses, etc., and all sorts of other stuff. When I started to cook on my own, I know I used it for reference a lot.

            2. re: marthasway

              Scholastic was the outfit you ordered books through, right? I loved that so much. Waiting for books to come . . . .

              For me, the first would be The Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls. Think that's what it was called. Also the Betty Crocker Picture Book my Mom used. I spent a lot of time with it. She had another book I like which I think also was Betty Crocker. It was a small spiral bound book that had summer recipes.

          2. re: mamachef

            MamaChef, and others who number 'the Peanuts Cookbook' amongst your firsts...

            Hang onto those copies! For fun I looked on Amazon, and a used copy starts at $44.75, and a new-condition one was on offer for over $300.00!

            Practically priceless, in our memories, and to own again today!

            1. re: gingershelley

              sigh. sadly i left mine in Mom & Dad's basement many, many years ago, and when i went looking for them recently i discovered they had disappeared. the Peanuts book was my second, and Betty Crocker was third (or vice versa). but my first was definitely "My Learn to Cook Book" by Ursula Sedgwick, and i was devastated when i found out it was no longer in the basement - there aren't a lot of good condition copies out there, and they run anywhere from $60 to over $100 now :(

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                Mine is sadly gone too... I am sure when I was somewhere around 12, I gave it away in a snit of snobbery, and turned to my new subscription of Gourmet... sigh. Wish I had it now to pass on to my niece!

                1. re: gingershelley

                  i had the same wishes for my nieces...though #s 1, 2 & 3 have shown zero interest in any food-related activity beyond eating. if #4 decides somewhere down the road that she wants to learn, perhaps i'll try to procure her a copy then. but i've got time - she's still on breast milk ;)

            2. re: mamachef

              Betty Crocker's New Boys and Girls Cookbook (circa 1982 edition) was one of my first cookbooks, too. My other first cookbooks included a hand-me-down A Fat Cat Christmas book including some recipes, and a hand-me-down Round the World cookbook published by Fat Cat, soon followed by Kids in the Kitchen, the Nancy Drew Cookbook and the Winnie the Pooh cookbook.

              Another early influence was the Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, which I still use.

              1. re: prima

                Edit: Small World Cook & Colour Book, published by Troubador Press, was the name of one of my first cookbooks, not Round the World. Might try the Armenian Pilaf for old time's sake.

                Another early cookbook was My First Color Library's My First Cookbook. I learned the hard way that Confectioner's sugar was icing sugar, not granulated sugar, when I attempted to make dinner mints.

              2. re: mamachef

                1. The Peanuts Cookbook, beautifully bound in lime and neon pink. - i checked mine the other day, mamachef: it's a first edition. it's worth quite a bit of money now!!

                2. Betty Crocker's Cooking for Kids - best. chocolate chips cookies. ever.
                3. ok, this is where mamachef and i change course: my next was probably either The Pooh Cookbook (that's winnie the pooh...) or this beautiful italian cookbook i found in a remainder bin for $3 which has the most FABULOUS recipes - very authentic. it's called The encyclopedia of Italian Cooking (Jeni Wright, editor). my mom bought one too.. i think i will pass it on to the kids. It really is one of the best italian cookbooks i've ever owned.

              3. The first three I bought or the first three I received?

                The first I received were my cub scout handbook, the Alberta Farmers' Association Cookbook, and this Participaction cooking guide.

                I don't exactly remember the first three I purchased, but I'm pretty sure that one of them was Pepin's Today's Gourmet.

                1 Reply
                1. re: wattacetti

                  That was my first thought. Were they the first 3 that I received or the first three that I purchased for myself?

                  The first three that I received were 2 Frugal Gourmet cookbooks and the NYT cookbook as a HS graduation gift.

                  The first 3 cookbooks that I purchased for myself were the CIA cooking and baking tomes( from a used bookstore because I was too cheap to pay list price) and Harold McGee's textbook. If you don't consider McGee's book to be a cookbook then it would be the first RLB original baking book.

                2. The first 3 cookbooks that were bought especially for me as a child (my mom had her own cookbook collection that I used to read):
                  "For Good Measure: A Cookbook For Children" (printed in my hometown of Fullerton, CA, so I'm assuming it was mostly a locally distributed book, but quite good)
                  "The Little House Cookbook" (wow, was I excited when my mom pulled this one out)
                  "Campbell's American Cookbook" (still use the pancake recipe to this day)

                  First 3 I can remember buying for myself:
                  Florence Lin's "Complete Book of Chinese Noodles, Dumplings and Breads" (love the shao bing recipe)
                  Steve Raichlen's "Miami Spice"
                  Last one might be "Martha Stewart's Christmas"

                  1. 1. The I Hate to Cook Book (still use the "French Beef Casserole" recipe!)
                    2. The Tassajara Bread Book
                    3. Beard on Bread

                    1. Essential Cook Book - handed down from grandma, I still use it often
                      Butte Heritage Cook Book - local ethnic recipes
                      Larousse Gastronomique - bought it as a cook during college, lost it, replaced it, still my favorite resource

                      1. 1. the Silver Spoon (Italian revision into English in 2005)
                        2. Betty Crocker cookbook (circa 1955)
                        3. Normandy cooking

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: atg106

                          The Purity Cookbook,
                          Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens
                          The Joy of Cooking,

                          1. re: spazita

                            I love Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens. The line drawings are quaint and the volume is folk history as well as old Nova Scotia recipes. I have made many of the recipes - they're good and true to the culinary spirit of Nova Scotia. Great reference book if you love the Maritimes as I do.

                        2. The very first was the Carnation Milk "I Like to Cook Book" - when I was maybe 6.
                          I used to look through my mother's books a bit (not very many, the Five Roses Flour book was one) as well.
                          The next of my own were probably the Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cooking, which my mom got for me volume by volume at the grocery store. I have a set of it now and there are some really great rrecipes and excellent writing in it.
                          They were followed by the Time-Life Foods of the World series (subscribed to by my mom, for me), and Julia's 2-vol Mastering (also a present).
                          The first one I bought myself had to be the Claiborne Herbs and Spices book, which I still have (Bantam paperback).
                          And so on, and so on, and so on.
                          I started out on kiddie books but soon hit the harder stuff...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: buttertart

                            Correction -- Fun to Cook Book. Time machine time..."The Sunday Night I Made Supper (Mom and Pop went out and Sis brought her boy friend)"..."I fixed breakfast (The Morning Mom Slept Late)"..."Mother's Wednesday Club Came To Our House and I helped to make Tropical Freeze"...



                            THE JOY OF COOKING.  I think it was the '75 edition though:


                            DEATH BY CHOCOLATE 1992 edition. Marcel Desaulniers 


                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Matahari22

                              I think this is the current-day version of the 1970s JOY OF COOKING: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0026...

                              I don't know if it was ever out of print, but a lot of people were disappointed in Ethan Becker's 1990s revision -- more a whole new cookbook -- and that brought attention back to the original version during the 2000s.

                              1. re: Jay F

                                The 70's one is the best - did not like the 90's one. Several of the best ever recipes (the blitztorte for one) were eliminated in the revision. What were you thinking, Mr Becker?

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  There's a good recipe for German Chocolate Cake in Ethan's Joy of Cooking (EJOC). It is truly the lightest, airiest chocolate cake I've ever eaten (though IIRC, it hasn't got the chocolatiest flavor of any chocolate cake I've ever eaten). But if light/moist/airy is your thing in chocolate cake, look no further.

                                  Beyond that, I can't think of much I use the book for. I bought it because I expected it to be as universally useful as the 1970s JOC. I get phone calls from friends wanting to know how to make something, and I like to be able to say, "Buy Joy of Cooking, and turn to page blah blah blah..." so I can point them to an actual recipe. I thought EJOC would be such a book, but it wasn't.

                            2. When I expressed a desire to learn to cook (in my early twenties), my mother gave me three cookbooks for Christmas:
                              -The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (with that oh so familiar red and white plaid cover)
                              -Like Grandma Used To Make (a decent resource for retro desserts)
                              -The New Great American Brand Name Recipes Cookbook (you know how packages usually have recipes on them? They're in this book. ;) ).

                              My mother dislikes cooking, and I suspect she got these free, or, at the very least, deeply discounted. I used them for a bit, but still felt very disconnected in the kitchen. I realized they weren't what I needed, and the first three I purchased for myself were:
                              -The Joy of Cooking
                              -How to Cook Everything
                              -Essentials of Cooking (by James Peterson, its focus is on learning techniques through foundational recipes, has a classic glossary, loads of pictures--was very helpful to *see* how to bone a whole fish in my pre-internet days--and a brusque writing style that I still appreciate).

                              1. 1. My very first cookbook was the Fisher Price Cookbook: http://www.amazon.com/Fun-Food-Cookbo...

                                I loved it for the fun, easy recipes. "Egg boats" (basically deviled eggs with paper sails stuck in them) were an early favorite.

                                2. The original Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1970s. Mainly for the pancake and cookie recipes.

                                3. The Silver Palate Cookbook. This was more aspirational than actual recipes I followed. I thought the recipes were so "high class" and loved reading it. LOL.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ChristinaMason

                                  I used SILVER PALATE a lot, but mostly for cakes, brownies, and cookies.

                                2. I only remember the 1st one I bought -- an edition of the Joy of Cooking. I remember reading it and wondering if anyone seriously larded pheasant nowadays. On the other hand, the cookbook was modern enough to include a recipe for roasted red pepper and goat cheese lasagna, which I've still been known to make.

                                  1. When I got married in 1966 my mother gave me the Joy and Mastering the Art of French Cooking - my 3rd was a collection of Bantam paperbacks on Asian, French and Italian cooking in the late sixties and then New York Times cookbook in 1970. I still cook from the Joy, MTAFC and the NYT- the others fell apart but they really taught me a lot about other cuisines.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Berheenia

                                      I was married in 1965 and my first cookbook purchases were The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (1957, Bantam paperback, $.95), Let's Cook It Right, Adelle Davis, 1970, Signet paperback, $ 1.50) and The Art of Jewish Cooking, Jennie Grossinger (1965, Bantam paperback, .$60). I also cooked from Gourmet magazine recipes, my own handwritten collection, my mother's Goodhousekeeping Cookbook and a treasure which I ultimately inherited,, Three Meals A Day, Jessie Read , 1946, Toronto Telegram publication, 1946 (a daily newspaper now long defunct). Three Meals A Day, a post-war effort, is still my handy reference when a small amount of food has to go a l-o-n-g way and taste good.

                                      1. re: rakip

                                        Let's Cook It Right, oh that brings back memories! My mother got a copy when she was pregnant with my sister in 1970 and suddenly there was Brewer's yeast, wheat germ and blackstrap molasses in everything! We were all eating liver and drinking Tiger's Milk. My sister is still strong and healthy and beautiful, so I guess it was worth the torture inflicted on the rest of us! :-)

                                        1. re: marthasway

                                          I completely blanked out Adele Davis! I had that book too and Brewers Yeast was a big item for successful breast feeding with my La Leche Group! We spent a lot of our grocery money at a "Health Food Store" and shipping granola etc. from Walnut Acres - everyone was into organic gardening and brown rice. Craig Claiborne saved me from all that healthy stuff I was eating. ha ha

                                          1. re: Berheenia

                                            Walnut Acres - now THAT brings back memories. From my Granolifornia days (a brilliant mamachef coinage).

                                    2. Womans Day Encyclopedia of Cooking, given to me by my mother
                                      NY Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne
                                      Joy of Cooking

                                      1. Better Homes and Gardens cookbook
                                        The Four Ingredient Cookbook
                                        Dining with the Duchess (I am not kidding)

                                        I owe "the Duchess" for introducing me to roasted asparagus. Seriously, I was that sheltered. I never tasted asparagus until I was 25 years old!

                                        I have come a looooooong way. I think people generally consider me a decent cook these days. And I eat far more exotic vegetables than asparagus. :-)

                                        1. Joy of cooking. Which my mother gave me, saying, i got this when i got married, but since you'll have your own apartment, i guess you'll need it now (i guess she didn't want me moving out, but there was no way i was moving back in after grad school!). Thanks mom...

                                          Pick 2 of the barefoot contessa books....i think the cookbook and maybe barefoot in Paris?

                                          Shocking how i gained 10 pounds my first year of working...between the Food Fridays my department threw and the contessa saying to start each recipe with a pound of butter, I got a little fatter....but damn her scones are delicious! Since i grew up with a mom who didn't put a sauce on anything unless it came in a pouch in a box with the food, joy of cooking was truly helpful. And it taught me how to buy veggies and how to cook pretty much anything. It's still what i grab when i don't know what to do with an ingredient.

                                          1. 1. Fannie Farmer
                                            2. Talisman abridged English edition
                                            3. Alice's Restaurant Cookbook (and I don't mean Waters!)

                                            The first two were wedding gifts. A friend who worked at Scribner's bookstore in NYC asked the cookbook buyer to suggest something for a rank beginner. She said Fannie was better than Joy, and she was right. I soon acquired Joy on my own, but always appreciated Fannie. I got a lot of mileage out of the Talisman too, pre-Marcella. I followed the Talisman with same author's (Ada Boni) Regional Italian Cooking. Alice's was wonderful, especially for a grad student in Ann Arbor.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: mbfant

                                              One of the places (like Berkeley for us) that you could get anything you wanted.

                                              1. re: mbfant

                                                I adore and still have the Alice's restaurant cookbook. So fun to re-read.

                                                1. re: mbfant

                                                  So heartening to learn that there's someone else who prefers Fannie Farmer to Joy of Cooking! My first three purchase, all pirated copies bought at Caves bookstore in Taipei by a very homesick me, were:

                                                  Fannie Farmer
                                                  Joy of Cooking
                                                  Craig Claiborne's NYT Cookbook

                                                  TJoC let me down over and over, and Claiborne was way over my pay grade and available supplies in Taiwan, but Fannie Farmer saw me through, and that book, packing taped binding and elastic bands and all, is always in my kitchen.

                                                2. The New York Times Cookbook - Craig Claiborne
                                                  Both volumes of the French Chef - Julia Child
                                                  The New York Times Menu Cookbook - Craig Claiborne

                                                  1. I used my mom's Joy of Cooking and Mastering the Art of French Cooking books when I was at home, but the first I that I actually owned:

                                                    Great Bread! - checked out of my middle school library (and...uh...still have!)

                                                    The Moosewood Cookbook

                                                    The Bountiful Arbor (from the Jr. League of Ann Arbor)

                                                    1. The Joy of Cooking, one of several iterations I'd eventually own. My dad had an old old one, my mom had an even older one. I got them both and one or two newer ones. I don't remember the others, but they may embarrass me anyway so I want to remain ignorant.

                                                      1. JOY, and judging by the condition of the books, I'd say Betty Crocker (mid 70's), Fanny Farmer, Fanny Farmer's Baking Book, and Betty Crocker International Cooking from 1980 (which is a hoot and a half to read nowadays)

                                                        1. -"Personalidades En La Cocina" Mexican celebrities wrote this cook to raise funds for the 1985 earthquake. This was my first cookbook when I was about 7 or 8, I liked it mostly because of the illustrations by Jose Luis Cuevas. I learned to make mole, and many other things from this book.
                                                          -"The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook" by Kate Macdonald. I learned lots of baking from this book, specially shortbread cookies. 1985

                                                          :( and I had another one I used a lot when I was 10, I learned how to make leavened bread, spaghetti, and cauliflower with anchovies... but I dont remember the name... I think it was a 70's yellow color with semi-hippy drawings

                                                          1. My first 3 were:

                                                            1) Bon Appetit Cookbook
                                                            2) Carmine's Cookbook
                                                            3) Williams-Sonoma Classics Cookbook

                                                            I still use the first two almost weekly. The Classics one is a cookbook my husband brought here when we moved into the house. It has since been relocated to a closet somewhere.

                                                            1. My aunt gave me my very first Betty Crocker cookbook when I was 6. Even at that age I was cooking and baking up a storm! Not proficient, but I tried.

                                                              My second one was on ground meat. I received it when I was 8 and wasn't thrilled. I wanted a FUN book!

                                                              Third book was Fanny Farmer when I was 9. I remember these with great detail as they were given to me by said aunt who introduced me to the love of food at such a young age. She lived far away so we did not see her often. I still don't. My mom hated cooking (and still does) so she inspired me to cook or else we would practically have starved or eaten the same two dishes for years! :-p

                                                              1. Original NYT, Escoffier, and Pooh.

                                                                1. Peanuts Cookbook. -- Lucy's Lemon Squares
                                                                  Betty Crocker's New Boys and Girls Cookbook -- salted peanut crisps
                                                                  Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook

                                                                  My first nearly grown up book was a Bon Appetit annual compilation

                                                                  1. The Betty Crocker Cookbook circa 1948 (in 1978), James Beard's Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, and last, but certainly not least, Miriam B. Loos Family Favorites Cookbook, put out by the Current card company, and where I got the ” best ever” lemon bars recipe that I've been making since 1977.

                                                                    1. Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook
                                                                      Joy of Cooking
                                                                      Two Settlement Cookbooks, both from my grandmothers. My maternal grandma had written her maiden name in hers in block letters—which meant she had had it for 60+ years at that point.

                                                                      1. I completely credit my first cook book with convincing me that I could cook and that it would be DELICIOUS. I would grab this before my children's photos, possibly even my children, if there was a fire.
                                                                        Jeannette's Secret Recipes by Jeannette Seaver
                                                                        I read it like a novel until 3 in the morning. Cooking had always bored me before, but this galvanized me. Evefy recipe is easy, tastes brilliant and works every time. What more can you ask for?I still haven't found another that's a patch on it.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: dianne0712

                                                                          I didn't get interested in cooking until I was about 40 years old. My first three books were books made for Borders bookstores (RIP) and sold in their bargain section, with not very imaginative titles-


                                                                        2. As a freshman in college I purchased:

                                                                          Michael Fields Cooking School from Goodwill

                                                                          Joy of Cooking (purchased two volume paperback set by lay-away)

                                                                          NYT's Vegetarian Cookbook, although I don't think I ever used it much.

                                                                          1. In this order:

                                                                            The James Beard Cookbook
                                                                            Craig Claiborne, The New York Times Cookbook
                                                                            James Beard's American Cookery

                                                                            I still have and use them all.

                                                                            1. This is so funny! How many of us early CH'rs had the Peanut's cookbook!

                                                                              I too had that as one of my first, probably around age 7. I started actively cooking around that age. I checked some cookbook out of the library, and lied to my mom about being sick as I desperately wanted to make biscuits, and couldn't wait! She came home in the middle of the day to find me in the kitchen in my pj's, covered in flour... I was in big trouble, but there was no looking back.

                                                                              For a while there, until my tween's, I used my mom's books; better crocker, good housekeeping, and we cooked quite a bit out of Sunset magazine.My mother was an excellent and creative cook, and she let me into the kitchen to cook with her as often as I wanted. We also worked with a wide assortments of recipe cards from ladies in our church who my mom and I thought were good cooks, who all traded recipes.

                                                                              For my first REAL cookbook, when I was 14, my father gave me James Beard's Theory and Practice of Good Cooking. I cooked my way through that, and learned alot of technique. I still remember making a sponge cake, and him exorting you to fold it with the flat of your hand (washed, of course) to underscore to the budding cook that your hands are some of your most valuable cooking tools. Never forgot that.

                                                                              Next in leiu of cookbooks, I started subscribing to Gourmet and Bon Appetit, by the time I was 15, and cooked a lot of recipes from those. Things like a complicated stuffed leg of lamb in a pastry crust for easter, and a boned-out turkey, stuffed with bockwurst and a stuffing with liver and walnuts, then sewed back up to look like a turkey again, roasted, and carved boneless at the table.

                                                                              My first book I bought for myself was Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cookbook, which opened up the world of fresh pasta, true bolognese, and using the best ingredients simply to show off their intrinsic great freshness and quality. Polenta was new, as were gnocchi, a true love of vegetables, and bagna cauda!
                                                                              When I was 15, my family also took a long summer trip all around Europe, and we ate in Germany, Switzerland, France - from Alsace to Paris to Marseleille, and on to Spain. My taste buds sure opened up then.

                                                                              By the time I was 16, I was ordering cookbooks at the library, and went through a lot of classics, like Julia Child, Fanny Farmer, The Larousse Gastronimique, edited by Charlotte Turgeon.

                                                                              I didn't start buying books until I moved out, around 19.
                                                                              Most influential single book at that age - have to say it - Entertaining by Martha Stewart! I was working in a high-end prominent catering company that did only off-premise catering, so her fabulous buffets, creative menus, and fresh approach had us all in awe. I am sure I have dated myself, but I bet many of you can remember that era beginning in 1982, when we all were in love with Martha! It was a certain era.....

                                                                              1. In order:

                                                                                Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child et al. Purchased at the thrift shop while stationed at Fort Meade Maryland, 1976.

                                                                                The Joy Of Cooking by Irma Rombauer. Purchased December, 1976 from South Hills Village Mall, Pittsburgh.

                                                                                Three Rivers Cookbook by the folks of Sewickly. Christmas present of 1976 from Mom and Dad.

                                                                                1. Wow. this made me stop and think HARD. I started cooking at age 6, using recipes from my mom's Betty Crocker, plus my paternal grandmother's italian recipes. The first cookbooks I actually owned were [i think] - Fanny Farmer [a paperback I think I bought in the 60's], Craig Claiborne's NY Times Cookbook, and Joy of Cooking.

                                                                                  Somewhere along the way I acquired a fairly good selection of the Farm Journal cookbooks - best sticky bun recipe EVER is in the Blue Ribbon cookbook [if anyone ever finds it in a second-hand bookstore].

                                                                                  By the time I was in middle school, I was responsible for cooking sunday dinners and a few other meals during the week, so having those simple, boring recipes in Home Ec was ridiculous. The teacher got annoyed when i suggested changes to her recipes. And THEN she had the nerve to assign us the task of writing down the recipes we used at home! My dad wouldn't let me share the family recipes, so i scoured mom's magazines for likely looking recipes.

                                                                                  good grief. haven't thought about home ec for years!

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: jiffypop

                                                                                    I LOVED home ec! Who can ever forget learning to make chocolate pudding from scratch! So sad that it its no longer offered in most schools. Thanks for the reminder jiffypop!

                                                                                    1. re: riversuzyq

                                                                                      Loved Home Ec! My HE teacher actually took me out of the class into the hall a couple of times to reprimand me for showing her up. I, too, started when I was 6 so by the time I was 14 or 15 I was very knowledgable. The teacher and I developed a close friendship, though, and she allowed me to co-teach as long as I promised not to measure the vanilla with the cap! :-P

                                                                                    2. re: jiffypop

                                                                                      Jiffypop, nice to hear of another early-bloomin' chowhound!

                                                                                      I wouldn't even take home-ec in HS, instead took sewing so I wouldn't have to suffer the 'crap' they taught in home ec. Was way beyond snickerdoodles and meatloaf by then:)

                                                                                    3. Kids cookbooks:
                                                                                      The Cookie Book (got that at a RIF sale)
                                                                                      some sort of disney cook book
                                                                                      Betty Crockers New Boys and Girls Cookbook (not so much MINE, but the first one I used a lot)

                                                                                      first ones I got as an "adult":
                                                                                      Frugal Gourmet cooks 3 ancient cuisines (Italian, Greek, Chinese)
                                                                                      New Vegetarian Epicure
                                                                                      Complete bartender

                                                                                      1. When I stayed at college over one summer, working on a paint crew, I bought a Joy of Cooking -- 1971 or 1972. Once graduated, I bought The Vegetarian Epicure; have always been grateful for its real feel for food.

                                                                                        And the third was Recipes for a Small Planet; just the kind of cooking that gave the 1970s a bad name. My housemates and I went strinctly vegetarian for several months; one of them called it 'the summer of Small Planet and Big Newspaper' (NYT Natural Foods Cookbook).

                                                                                        1. Betty Crocker's New Boys and Girls Cookbook, 1965. I still have it. I still love to pull it out and look at it and remember making the recipes for my family. I think the recipes were fun and the photos and drawings were awesome.

                                                                                          I remember being totally mesmerized at the beverage photos. The grape float, lemon-strawberry punch and pink lemonade with fruit floating in it. The Bunny Salad; a canned pear half sitting on a lettuce leaf with raisin eyes, almond ears a cinnamon candy nose and a cottage cheese tail! The polka dot mac & cheese, rocket salad and I even made the enchanted castle cake with help from my mom. I love this book.

                                                                                          I also had the Peanuts cookbook. I remember making the lemon lollypops and bringing them in to school. Then there was some report that the recipe was wrong, I think it used like a bottle of lemon extract which was supposed to be dangerous or something. Well, we all ate them and nobody died so I guess nothing to worry about.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Jpan99

                                                                                            I adored the Betty Crocker's New Boys and Girls Cookbook and still do. The grape float was the firs thing I made from it when I was a child. Am going to pull it out right now and take a look - it's been too long.

                                                                                            1. re: Jpan99

                                                                                              Oh yes! But it was my older sister's, not mine. She actually gave it to me a few years ago and it's on my regular cookbook shelf. I still long for the drinks and the pink castle cake and I cofess - I make the sloppy joes.

                                                                                            2. Besides school-fundraiser books, my dad's typewritten cards from chef school, or my grandparents' handwritten ones copied for my parents:

                                                                                              Joy of Cooking
                                                                                              The Naked Chef
                                                                                              How To Cook Everything

                                                                                              Although I own what appears to be 15 or so cookbooks (sans glasses, from across my living space), I daresay I only regularly use 4 or 5 (plus another couple that are more food reference books than cookbooks). In fact, I moved recently and when I was packing up my old cookbook shelf there was a lot of "oh yeeeeah, that one!" out loud.

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                                                                                              1. re: megjp

                                                                                                Though many have more than I, my 500+ cookbooks each has its place and I could tell you where each is (at least which shelf it is on) as they are divided into sections. There are about 15 cookbook "regrets", though. Those I would be ok with giving away. The rest? No way.

                                                                                                Your dad's and grandparents' recipes are a treasure!

                                                                                                1. re: megjp

                                                                                                  Megjp, that is SO great you have handwritten recipes from you GP's, and that your dad went to Chef school and shared his notes with you - you must have eaten really well growing up!

                                                                                                2. Betty Crocker
                                                                                                  Woman's day cookbook
                                                                                                  Bisquick Cookbook

                                                                                                  1. Fannie Farmer Junior Cookbook
                                                                                                    Julia Child's Mastering (vol 1)
                                                                                                    My mother's collection of Gourmet magazines

                                                                                                    1. 1st was an old Food & Wine hardcover from the 80's, put out by Benson and Hedges. It was my moms, but I stole it from her shelf and kept it in under my matress like a Playboy. Even looked at all the pics with a flashhlight at night. I must have been about 10 or 11 at the time. I still have it in my bookcase to this day.

                                                                                                      2nd and 3rds was the CIA Professional Chef and Larousse Gastronomique, purchased after high school grad. Never ended up going to CIA, so I figured I'd buy all the textbooks, and study guides and learn it all by myself. TEDIOUS and not quite as much fun as I thought it would be LOL.

                                                                                                      1. 1. Frugal Gourmet Cooks 3 Ancient Cuisines. I still use his Chinese roast chicken as well as the "Roman" roast chicken on occasion.
                                                                                                        2. Cooking for the Roommate Impaired.
                                                                                                        3. Gotham. I saw the cover and had to have it. Nope, never saw much use, aside from the amazing duck breast recipe, I never used it.

                                                                                                        1. Time Life Cookbook Series were a pass along in my family.

                                                                                                          1. I don't remember the exact order, but they include
                                                                                                            -The I Hate to Cook Book (i still go back to it not for the recipes but for the philosophy)
                                                                                                            -The Herb and Spice Cookbook by Craig Claiborne
                                                                                                            -The Bantam paperback edition of The Fanny Farmer Cookbook (c. 1960) that I literally used until it fell apart

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                                              I LOVE Peg Bracken. Lovelovelove. I read and reread her books.

                                                                                                            2. The scene is Buenos Aires. The time is, late 1940's. The character is me, in my teens, an American kid living there and taking up cooking in self-defense. First cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, from which I actually learned to cook. The second, Cooking For Profit, a book on how to run a restaurant that I asked for for my 16th birthday. What I remember from it is that customers expect consistency in product (but so far I've never run a restaurant, a girlish dream). Third book, the Argentine classic El Libro de Dona Petrona, with amazing illustrations of unbelievably fancy presentations, cakes with impenetrable icing covered with sugar chapels and roses etc. I don't think I ever cooked a thing from it and over the years the book disappeared. But The Joy of Cooking endureth forever and I have cooked my way through about six copies and currently work from three different editions.

                                                                                                              1. Joy
                                                                                                                NYT - Claireborne
                                                                                                                James Beard cookbook

                                                                                                                All currently bound with duct tape, or duck tape in the case of Beard

                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: BrittanyHound

                                                                                                                  You can't beat those two. That was a heck of a start.
                                                                                                                  Which did you find easier to cook from?

                                                                                                                  1. re: Westy

                                                                                                                    Joy -a great first cookbook that lives on as a good reference.
                                                                                                                    NYT - Clearly the most useful and cookable a survivor
                                                                                                                    Beard -(this i bought used - copyright 1960) the book is a really sort of camp now. it's arranged alphabetically ( yep Appitizers, Bread, Deserts, Meats, Vegatables) but it is solid -great basics. After years of cooking ribs, smoked, dry rubbed, mopped, I pullled out Beard this past week and used his sparerib recipe.

                                                                                                                    Salt and pepper the rack and roast in 325 deg oven for an hour.

                                                                                                                    pure pork flavor. He then offers a few pages of riffs.

                                                                                                                  2. re: BrittanyHound

                                                                                                                    Got these when I got married in 1971! And I still refer to all of them. I probably used the NYT more than the other two, although my Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing is from JB.

                                                                                                                    1. re: BrittanyHound

                                                                                                                      My aunt gifted me the NYT book in about 1984 and I still refer to it often.

                                                                                                                    2. My first cookbooks were given as gifts, and it was a long time ago. My mother gave me the first one: Bride's magazine's 1984 "Lifetime Guide to Good Food & Entertaining." I still have it, but don't think I've ever used it.

                                                                                                                      The next books came a year or two later from my aunt, who was very into cooking. She was clearing out some books to make room for more, and in my box were the Larousse Gastronomique and From Julia Child's Kitchen.

                                                                                                                      That Larousse might be my prized possession.

                                                                                                                      1. Great memories, thinking about my early days getting into cooking. My first three are:

                                                                                                                        1. The Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, 10th ring bound edition 1989 (given to me at age 12 when I first started showing interest in cooking). I don't think I ever actually cooked anything out of it, but I keep it for nostalgic reasons.
                                                                                                                        2. The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian, by Jeff Smith, 1993. Another one given to me since I watched The Frugal Gourmet religiously as a kid. I still use this several times a year, and the recipes are all fantastic.
                                                                                                                        3. France, The Beautiful Cookbook, by the Scotto Sisters, 1994. Yet another gift. Beautiful pictures and the recipes are all great, though I almost never use this one anymore.

                                                                                                                        It's an odd collection of cookbooks to have started off with, but those were my first three!

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                                                                                                                        1. re: mbCrispyBits

                                                                                                                          I wonder how many budding 'hounds were introduced to cooking by the Frug.

                                                                                                                        2. Ada Boni's Italian Regional Cooking, A little Bantam paperback called French Cooking, and Tante Marie's French Pastry, which I found on the street in the West Village. Someone was moving, and there was a bunch of stuff put out, and I still remember my surprise that someone would throw out a cookbook. I looked furtively around, then I snatched it, and made home with my prize. I still have all of these books, but I haven't looked through Tante Marie's in a long time. The French Cooking book was the book from which I first made Beef Burgundy (I remember being flummoxed by the ingredient "salt pork") and Coq au Vin, and from Ada Boni I made my first Italian regional specialties that were outside of the southern Italian food my family cooked.

                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                            1 joy of cooking - gift from mom (hers - she bought a new one) when I moved out
                                                                                                                            2 sunset seafood book
                                                                                                                            3. washington post recipes

                                                                                                                            the only cookbook other than joy of cooking that we had were scores of officer wives recipe booklets since mom was a oh here what is on hand cook and I learned basics from her that way but found I floundered need recipes as a start.

                                                                                                                            not sure if you meant hard back books the sunset/post were inexpensive/free. I used grocery store recipe cards, sunset and grocery store booklets for years until my budget allowed to exand

                                                                                                                            2nd hard back frugal gourmet cooks with wine
                                                                                                                            3rd hard Mollie Katzen still life with art menu cookbook

                                                                                                                            now i use websittes mostly

                                                                                                                            1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                              Glad you mentioned the Ada Boni book. I bought it off eBay a while back and have yet to cook from it. Any favorite recipes, Roxlet?

                                                                                                                              As for my first cookbooks:
                                                                                                                              Hazan’s Classic Italian Cookbook – I found the yellowed paperback at the library, made the Bolognese from it and became a disciple straight away.
                                                                                                                              The Silver Platter Cookbook – from which I learned how to make the perfect filet of beef roast. And the recipe for pasta with lobster and tarragon opened my eyes to cooking with herbs - not something that I grew up with.
                                                                                                                              My third book was an Irish cookbook that I bought while visiting so I could learn how to make soup and brown bread.

                                                                                                                              1. re: EM23

                                                                                                                                Gosh, it's hard to remember without looking at which pages are stained! I know I made cerci, which is a kind of fried pastry, as well as Matriciana. I know there's more, but I'll have to get the book down from a high shelf and flip through it.

                                                                                                                            2. Boy have my tastes changed....but I still use a few from BC.
                                                                                                                              1. BETTY CROCKER
                                                                                                                              2. WOMAN''S DAY
                                                                                                                              3. BISQUICK BOOK

                                                                                                                              1. I do not remember the other two, but this was one of them:

                                                                                                                                Mr. Men Cook Book by Roger Hargreaves

                                                                                                                                I think I ordered it through the book club at school when I was about eight, and I still remember fondly what the recipes were about. There was Mr. Strong's egg drink (with raw eggs), and Mr. Topsy Turvy's Upside Down Cake. Also a "fairy cupcake" where you cut the top off the cupcakes, half them (the tops) and arrange them back to the cupcake to make fairy wings. So cute.

                                                                                                                                I wish I still had it with me, it would have been a great book to pass down to my young daughter.

                                                                                                                                1. 1) The Joy of Cooking
                                                                                                                                  2) Recipes for a Small Planet
                                                                                                                                  3) The Food Stamp Gourmet

                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                  1. re: Seeker19104

                                                                                                                                    OMG, the Food Stamp cookbook? The one w/ the illustrations by R. Crumb? I think I've got that somewhere!!

                                                                                                                                  2. Joy of Cooking (1975)
                                                                                                                                    BH&G New Cook Book (1976)
                                                                                                                                    Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine (1978)

                                                                                                                                    1. Fannie Farmer (1965)
                                                                                                                                      Everyday French Cooking by Henri-Paul Pellaprat (1968)
                                                                                                                                      Joy of Cooking (?)

                                                                                                                                      I'm not sure of the date of JOC, since I eventually replaced the original with a later edition. I still occasionally cook from JOC, rarely from FF, and never from Everyday French Cooking.

                                                                                                                                      1. The two that I grew up with at home were the 11th Edition of the Fanny Farmer cookbook (circa 1965) and The Betty Crocker Cookbook (also circa 1965.) I didn't even see a copy of "The Joy of Cooking" until my 20s sometime in the early 90s.

                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: shaggycub

                                                                                                                                          My first three cookbooks...

                                                                                                                                          I created a multi-volume homemade notebook set comprised of recipes my mother had cut out of various magazines and newspapers over the years. It all started when I wanted to make dinner for a date in college and my mother led me over to this wicker hamper she had that was literally over flowing with recipes. She started sifting through it looking for something for me to make. After getting over the shock that this is how unorganized she was, I went to work sorting the recipes into piles. Long story short, I still have these volumes today.

                                                                                                                                          The next cookbook I acquired was The Flavor of France by The Chamberlin group. This was a gift from my Aunt Adele. The book is a treasure I will always cherish.

                                                                                                                                          I am having a hard time recalling the third book I acquired. It may have been Cooking of the Southwest France. Another keeper.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: dkennedy

                                                                                                                                            That's a praiseworthy bit of organizing, dkennedy! My mother did a ton of clipping, but she filed them -- in three shoebox-sized file boxes with a pretty detailed system of categories (may have been taken from the Joy of Cooking). I still have them in the kitchen, and several of the go-to recipes are there: her German potato salad, the bourbon balls that were a staple of Christmas here, an excellent green summer soup...

                                                                                                                                        2. My first three when I first moved out of a dorm and started cooking on my own --

                                                                                                                                          Adelle Davis (mentioned by another post, I think) -- pretty dated, but still wonderful in several respects: Her basic directions for preparing a salad, preparing a soup, and cooking vegetables can't be bettered! She also makes clear how most recipes are variations on a basic theme.

                                                                                                                                          Settlement House: It's what my mom had.

                                                                                                                                          Craig Clairborne's Kitchen Primer -- all I remember of it is that everything was cooked in lots and lots of butter.

                                                                                                                                          I use different books now! (But still prepare salads and soups just as AD directs)

                                                                                                                                          1. The Joy of Cooking
                                                                                                                                            Red Roses Cookbook
                                                                                                                                            Amish cooking by Marcia Adams

                                                                                                                                            1. New Southern Cooking, Nathalie Dupree. God, I love her. I wish she and Lidia Bastianich would team up and start a grandmas-in-the-kitchen campaign to combat the testosterone-pumped worlds of reality-show cooking and Vegas celeb-chef restaurants that pollute the world of food today.

                                                                                                                                              Joy of Cooking (3 different editions, the first one being my mother's from ca. 1946), Irma Rombauer, et al.

                                                                                                                                              The College Park, MD Girls Club cookbook, from the mid-1970's. It was a collection of recipes from mostly mothers in the community where I grew up. I wish I still had it. Some of the recipes were real doozies.

                                                                                                                                              It's a good thing you only asked for three, because I can't think of any other ones! I started asking my friend's mom's for recipes if I liked something and later when I could drive, I was going to the library and copying recipes out of books (before the internet). Also, I subscribed to Bon Appetit for a bit when I was in my 20's.

                                                                                                                                              1. Betty Crocker (ring binder type), Better Homes & Gardens (ring binder type), Fannie Farmer Cookbook. After that various Sunset paperback cookbooks.

                                                                                                                                                1. Growing up, my mother rarely used cookbooks or recipes. We had a community cookbook (recipes contributed from parents at our elementary school and spiral bound), a Julia Child one (don't know which), and the Better Homes and Gardens red and white gingham cookbook, as well as a few I don't recall. I don't ever remember seeing my mother actually use any of them. Once in a while, she would use a handwritten recipe she got from a friend, but mostly she cooked food from home (south Vietnam) from memory and by taste.

                                                                                                                                                  My first three cookbooks, according to my young but terrible memory...

                                                                                                                                                  1. Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes. I'm pretty sure this is still in family storage somewhere, but I never actually made anything from it. It had a great looking recipe for peach juice (from James and the Giant Peach) and some toffee ice cream. This was the only cookbook I had as a child. I bought it myself!

                                                                                                                                                  2. The Baking Bible. Growing up, I didn't use recipes for cooking anything, and it was only when I went to college that I got into baking and by then I had regular internet access and used allrecipes to find any baking recipes I needed. I was gifted a copy of this from an ex during our first Christmas season together.

                                                                                                                                                  3. Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking and Essentials of Roasting. I found these for a deep discount at TJ Maxx (or similar) and scooped them up. I still like them both, actually, for some pretty basic recipes and beautiful photos.

                                                                                                                                                  I love cookbooks but tend to actually cook from online recipes, or glance back and forth between an online and cookbook version to determine my own preferences/availability for ingredients and technique. I occasionally lug cookbooks off the shelf and spend an afternoon thumbing through them for inspiration and ideas.