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Dec 27, 2012 06:50 PM

Cookbooks we bought in 2012: the great and not so good

Buttertart “What Cookbooks Have You Bought Recently” threads have been super successful, fun, and a wonderful enabling tool to assist us to expand our collections. They certainly helped to expand my collection to a point where cookbooks have outgrown their assigned home and now live on the fringe of the bookcase…

I think it will be super helpful to all of us for many reasons to have a talkback about these purchases. Maybe a list or a summary of what you bought during 2012, an evaluation, a discussion or some other kind of sharing your buying, reading, cooking from, gifting, donating, etc. experience.

I bought at least 60 books in 2012; some new and many used. Eight books were bought for COTM and I cooked from all of them – some a lot and others a bit. Six books were reference – such as Ruhlman’s Twenty and Flavour Bible – and I did not cook from them at all but flipped through some but not all and definitely not enough. I cooked from seven books that were not COTM. Thirty + books were bought and never even opened…. This is very painful to realize but good to know. I will now attempt to “shop” from my own bookcase and borrow books from the library when I have an urge to buy.

Looking forward to hearing about your experiences!

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  1. Hmm, I just went through my Amazon purchase history. Amazon Prime has either been very good or very bad for me. Remember the days when you'd go to your local bookstore (or B. Dalton or Walden Books at the mall) and discover new books on the shelves...? No pre-ordering or internet research about books being published 9 months from now.

    The good (or at least the cookbooks that I feel have potential if I haven't cooked from them):
    **Every Grain of Rice**
    Baked Elements
    Everybody Eats Well in Belgium
    Dahlia Bakery Cookbook
    Vietnamese Home Cooking
    Gran Cocina Latina
    Burma (though the recipe reviews seem mixed)
    Sugar and Spice: Sweets and Treats from Around the World
    Japanese Farm Food
    Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes
    Cracking the Coconut
    Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook
    Hawaii's Best Local Desserts
    Norwegian Cakes and Cookies (interesting that I just noticed that this is a Norwegian book, not Swedish, which is what all my other Scandinavian baking books are!)
    Bouchon Bakery
    The Korean Table
    My Japanese Table

    The returnable:
    Jerusalem (wanted to love it, but only flagged 2 recipes)
    Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to SF
    Rose Petal Jam: Recipes and Stories from a Summer in Poland
    Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack
    Liddabit Sweets Candy Book (I don't care for caramels made with corn syrup because I think they taste muted and there's too much corn syrup in this book)
    Tacos, Tortas and Tamales
    Smitten Kitchen
    Country Cooking of Greece
    Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks

    Have no opinion about:
    Jerk from Jamaica?
    660 Curries?

    Still in my Amazon cart for 2012:
    Key to Chinese Cooking
    Macaron Magic
    From a Polish Country House Kitchen

    Already looking forward to 2013!

    7 Replies
    1. re: emily

      Jerusalem is head and shoulders above every other cookbook I purchased this year, and some of them are great.

      1. re: pikawicca

        This and Gran Cocina Latina are my favourites for 2012. Least favourite? Babycakes (a gluten free baking book).

      2. re: emily

        Can you tell me more about the Smitten Kitchen cookbook? I've been thinking about getting it but for some reason keep putting it off.

        1. re: Njchicaa

          I didn't buy but I am borrowing Smitten K's cookbook. The recipes are nice food for thought approaches to upping your weekday game. I like Deb's approach to recipes; her inspiration to home cooks to experiment and her food ideas.

          I won't buy it but I will make copies from the recipes I like.

          1. re: Njchicaa

            I actually think that, if you like her style, this is a good one to buy because the pics are gorgeous and it is fun to just read.

            1. re: magiesmom

              I have to agree. I think I read every last recipe in her book because of the story she painted. Plus the pictures definitely pass for foodie porn.

          2. re: emily

            The cookbook I've used the most this year is Jerusalem. I've tried around 8 recipes and have another dozen flagged.

            I haven't been good about using the other cookbooks I acquired over 2012, so I can't really say any of them have turned out to be duds for me, yet.

          3. I'm taken to getting cookbooks from the library first, then if they're interesting reads and if there are several recipes that sound like something I would make, I'll buy them. The two I bought last year were The Shapes of Pasta and Ottolenghi's Plenty. The big disappointment was Claudia Roden's The Food of Spain: pretty, but compared to her other books really lightweight.

            4 Replies
            1. re: tardigrade

              With all the history etc., lightweight? That's a heck of a book. I loved what I made from it, too.

              1. re: buttertart

                Well, maybe not in terms of avoirdupois. But compared to her book on Jewish cooking, which is packed with historical information and recipes, it seemed somewhat meager to me. Or it could be the result of getting old - not much is new anymore.

                Pretty pictures, though.

                1. re: tardigrade

                  Different books for different folks...

            2. Primarily baking: the new Nancy Baggett cookie book, "Simply Sensational Cookies"..."The Sunset Essential Western Cookbook" (some dynamite dessert recipes in this, and it makes me homesick for Berkeley)..."Vintage Cakes"... Medrich's "Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts" (GET THIS BOOK, IT'S SUPERB)...Nick Malgieri's "Bread"..."The Italian Baker, revised" (Carol Field) (love it)...rebought Paula Peck's "The Art of Fine Baking", well worth anybody's time -- several techniques thought of as new are in this book, which is from the 1960's.
              Chinese food: Lucky Peach issue 5, the Chinatown issue (must-read for Chinese food fans, including Fuchsia's discussion of the "secret Chinese menu" "problem"..."The Hakka Cookbook", by Linda Lau Anusanasan, ethnography, family history, and recipes, excellent..."Food and Cooking of Shanghai and East China" by Terry Tan, just got it but it looks very good (and is on an underserved topic that deserves MUCH more attention...)...
              Other non-western: Madhur Jaffrey's "Curry Nation", a sort of "Stirfrying to the Sky's Edge" of Indian food...
              Category of beautiful but I haven't cooked from it yet: "Jerusalem", "Burma", very good reading, Charles Phan's "Vietnamese Home Cooking".
              Also loving "The Science of Good Cooking" (Cook's Illustrated), clearly written and very useful, and speaks to my inner Sheldon.
              There are sure to be others that come to mind.

              2 Replies
              1. re: buttertart

                So glad there is another Sheldon lover.

                1. re: angelsmom

                  Edit: I replied to another comment and my reply ended up getting posted here. I hate when that happens.

              2. Great=

                Burma: rivers of flavor
                Every grain of rice
                Vietnamese home cooking
                Elements of Dessert
                Modernist Cuisine at home
                Gran cocina latina


                Bouchon Bakery


                Art of cooking with vegetables
                James beard foundations best of the best

                1. Don't we like Amazon's order histories. If it's not for it, I wouldn't have any idea what I've bought this year!

                  I went back to work full time after my maternity leave this year. So many of the purchases reflects this change.

                  In chronological order, from January, I bought

                  * My Daddy Cooks, by Nick Coffer. I love this video blog and bought this book because of it. It was useful for the period when my daughter 6 months to slightly over a year. I did what they called "baby led weaning" which means she wasn't given any mush but ate only the same food as us. In reality what it means is we all switch to a diet without salt (and soy sauce, fish sauce) and without much chillies. All the foods really need to be pickup-able by little hands, as babies can't really use spoons themselves. Now my daughter is a toddler, I haven't used this book for a while. It does still have good ideas about cooking with a toddler (eg doing paella in an oven), and I would recommend it to someone who isn't an very experienced cook.

                  * Bill's Everyday Asian, by Bill Granger. My first Bill Granger and I love it. It's the food I grew up with and I've cooked many many recipes from it. Most recipes in this book are simple and can be done easily within 30min. Everything I cooked from it is a success.

                  * Mighty Spice Cookbook, by John Gregory-Smith. Another hit. It's simple, no fuss cooking, but they don't taste like we just hurriedly made dinner after a day at work and putting toddler to sleep. I don't think I have a fail with this one either.

                  * Good Food: 101 Barbecues and Grills, by Sarah Cook. I think I bought it because it was a 'Very Good' used copy, and it was very cheap. I have cooked a single recipe from it. I really should take this to the charity shop.

                  * Good Food: 101 Veggie Dishes, by Orlando Murrin. Same as the previous one.

                  * Every Grain of Rice, by Fuchsia Dunlop. I like it, but I don't think it's as good as her other two books. I have a few flops from this. But there are hits too. Like the vegetarian version of ma po tofu, many of the vegetable side dishes and the dumplings.

                  * Bill's Food, by Bill Granger. Bought this because I love Bill's Everyday Asian. I wasn't very inspired by it, but the few things I've cooked from this are good.

                  * Jamie's 15-Minute Meals, by Jamie Oliver. Another big hit. Many of the meals are great. I've also taken ideas from this book and applied it to my normal cooking. For example, using flavoured rice more, and a larger variety of carbs. I now always cook chicken thighs the Jamie 15min meal way. This makes it easier to make a veggie main, and serves a little bit of chicken on the side. (Which is also part of the better multi-tasking I've learned from this book).

                  * Everybody, Everyday, by Alex Mackay. Wasn't inspired to cook anything from it.

                  * Curry Easy, by Madhur Jaffrey. I've cooked one thing from this since I got it in November. There are many things I'd like to try, but I haven't got around to it yet.

                  * Slow Cooking Curry and Spice Dishes, by Carolyn Humphries. It looks ok but I haven't cooked anything from it. I'll need more time on this one.

                  * Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Bought it on xmas day, so definitely need more time.

                  So in summary, this year I got
                  * three big hits: Bill's Everyday Asian, Mighty Spice, Jamie's 15min meals
                  * three ok ones: My Daddy Cooks, Bill's Food, Every grain of rice
                  * three to go into the charity pile: Good Food 101 bbq and vegetarian, Everybody Everyday
                  * three that I need more time to explore : Easy Curry, Slow Cooker Curry and Spice Dishes, Jerusalem

                  PS. It looks like I bought a cookbook a month. I know this is lightweight compared to many on this board. But I have the most cookbook amongst people I know in real life. I still can't believe I got so many this year...

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: lilham

                    Thrilled to read this, especially your three big hits. I'm a huge fan of Mighty Spice and love JO's books (I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to cook from his 15 minutes yet, but now that the holidays and a vacation are out of the way, I hope to do so soon). And Bill's Everyday Asian was under the tree for me this year. Yay!

                    1. re: lilham

                      On average this year five per month made it to my house thanks to Amazon.

                      1. re: lilham

                        Can you tell me what you think of Slow Cooker Curry and Spice?
                        I am a HUGE fan of Bill Granger's. I even like his TV show (when ic an find it).

                        1. re: Westy

                          Where have you found his show Westy? I believe you're in my neck of the woods, and I'd love to watch it too. Thanks very much in advance for any advice on finding it.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            LM: I have seen Bill's show on Cooking Channel. I checked there website and he will be on again on Wed. Jan 2nd at 8am.


                            1. re: LulusMom

                              Yes, I think you are (I am in Morrisville, NC). And the post below is correct - Cooking Channel.

                              Next up for me will likely be Matt Moran's book: When i Get Home.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                Thanks to you both for the info. I'll give it a quick guide search this evening if there isn't too much celebrating going on and record it. I'd love to see it.

                                Westy, we're in Chapel Hill, so we're not far at all.

                              2. re: Westy

                                The slow cooker curry and spice dishes is by Bill Granger. Or maybe I'm reading in between lines too much?

                                I made my first recipe from the book today, a tandoori chicken. It smells really really good but disappointingly, it is also very bland. It also left really hard to scrub off dried sauce on the ceramic pot. The book looks quite good so I am going to try another couple of recipes before writing it off. I think I should have picked something saucier (more normal stew like slow cooker food). I'm going to try the tikka masala next.

                                  1. re: MelMM

                                    Yes. And my post is trying to say it's _not_ by Bill Granger!

                              3. re: lilham

                                "Curry Easy" is "At Home with Madhur Jaffrey" in the US and is very good -- I've cooked quite a few things out of it. (Not included in my list because I got it last year.)