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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:

1. THE FRENCH CHEF COOKBOOK - Julia Child
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.

3. THE CLASSIC ITALIAN COOKBOOK - Marcella Hazan
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