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Cookbooks, diamonds in the rough

Perhaps you picked it up at a yard sale, maybe in a bargin bin at the mega books store, nonetheless, what cookbook did you pick up perhaps with low expectations that turned out exceptional?

For me it was the Culinaria collection. Picked up the Italian one on a whim followed by the Spain and Greece one. They are solid gold to me. I could have like a chicken or some assundry fish and they always have some good simple ways to prepare them.

What about you all?

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  1. LOVE the Culinaria series! I have France, Spain, Germany, and European Specialties.

    My diamond was The Cooking of Provincial France (time-Life series). Written by MFK Fisher. When I bought it (decades ago) I didn't really have any expectations and I didn't know who Fisher was. But this is such a pleasure to read. Definitely a desert island book!

    4 Replies
    1. re: nofunlatte

      That Time-Life "Foods of the World" series hands-down comprises my favorite set of food writings.

      My gateway-drug volume was "The Cooking of China," which I had tossed on my stack of books at the used book shop more to irritate an impatient husband than because I was that interested. (It was just one of those days, y'know? And the book cost a buck. Ugh, I was petty AND cheap.) Loved the book, and started scrounging for more, eventually amassing the whole set. Well-produced books. The writing holds up through the years, the recipes I have used have been reliable. I'm so glad I was once petty enough to toss a random book purchase on the counter. I've spent many happy hours with those books, and we've eaten well.

      They're harder and harder to find now (I'm trying to amass a second set for my son), so snap them up if you find them!

      1. re: cayjohan

        Looks like I will need to check out Time-Life "Foods of the World"! :D

        1. re: Crockett67

          Silly me--I had the India Time-Life edition and gave it away. Would like to have it back. As I recall, it was 2 volumes of differing sizes, with lovely pictures and interesting recipes.

          1. re: Crockett67

            Crockett, by all means search them out. Here's a thread that is a testament: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/740693

            Time-Life published a subsequent series called "The Good Cook" in the late 70s/ early 80s. The volumes have titles like "Beef," "Eggs and Cheese," "Poultry," "Vegetables" and the like, but the prosaicness of title belies the truly wonderful information presented. The technique photos are actually helpful, the recipe selection is fairly wide-ranging, and the text is engaging. I'm *almost there* filling out my collection, and it's yet another series I wouldn't want to be without. my husband, who had not had a very solid technique background but has really wanted to learn, has used these books as his go-to references for his cooking adventures, and to great success. Here's a thread discussing the Good Cook series: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3156...

            Too bad Time-Life got out of the book business. These two series are invaluable to me.

      2. Well, I enjoy church cookbooks as I like vintage recipes and there are some real treasures in them, especially for home canning. I recently for $1.00 purchased a book called, Clementine in the Kitchen. A true story of an American family in France and their cook, chef, called, Clementine. It has some French cooking recipes, and it is a lovely book. Also got Julia Child, The Way to Cook for $2.00 in impecable condition. Yard sales, thrift stores are great to find cookbooks.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Ruthie789

          LOVE Clementine in the Kitchen!

          Best deal at a yard sale: Howard Mitcham's Provincetown Seafood Cookbook for 25 cents.

          Best deal at a used bookstore: sweet little volume called The Country Kitchen by Della Lutes - $5.00

          1. re: elenacampana

            Just purchased the Joy of Cooking 75th anniversary issue, Craig Claiborne`s New York Times Cookbook for $4.00 total and in excellent condition.

            1. re: elenacampana

              I also love Clementine in the Kitchen. Another book in that series that I've enjoyed is Katish: Our Russian Cook (about a family in 1920s LA with a Russian cook).

          2. I think my best garage sale purchase was battered paperback copies of Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cooking and More Classic Italian Cooking, for 25c each.

            I've also gotten a lot of use out of the cookbooks I got at Costco - the Spanish and Moroccan cookbooks in particular.

            And a batch of Time Life world cookbooks retrieved from my parents basement.

            1. What made you have low expectations of the Culinaria books? They are, IMO, obviously of high quality and are not cheap when bought new.

              1 Reply
              1. re: DougRisk

                I picked them up in the $7.99 bargin cookbook section of B&N. I took a chance on them and glad I did.

              2. How To Cook Without A Book by Pam Anderson, culinary consultant, not of Bay Watch. 'Tis a great book for beginning cooks.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ChiliDude

                  That is a great book. It probably should be someone's 1st or 2nd cookbook... probably 2nd but I am having trouble thinking which should be first.

                  Of course, I don't buy cookbooks new or retail. Every once in a while, I have to wait a long time to get a very popular cookbook at a really good price. I rarely pay more than $10 and that was Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".