What cookbooks comprise/would comprise your essential collection?
Only one that I'd consider "essential" and that is "The Joy of Cooking." Others, like "La Technique" by Jacques Pepin or James Peterson's "Sauces" can be worthwhile, but so much depends on what you like to cook (or bake). Generally I avoid food "celebrity" cookbooks, but even they can be worthwhile to someone just learning to cook. There's a wonderful resource for anything cookbook-related, Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks. Do a web search, contact her...she's a one-stop resource for all things gastronomic!
I agree if you limited yourself just one cookbook and one website. Between JOC and Epicurious, you could get by just fine on just about anything. If we were including regional cooking I'd add Marcella Hazan for Italian food and Diane Kennedy and/or Rick Bayless for Mexican. I've got a Craig Clairborne cookbook, and a James Beard, that I always find myself falling back on for inspiration.
When I don't use the Internet (rare anymore), I repeatedly turn to the dull and unexciting "Rodale's Basic Natural Foods Cookbook", edited by Charles Gerras.
Even though it includes a huge collection of recipes, I don't think it's as good for recipes as it is for ideas about what to do with the raw ingredients at hand, and basic knowledge. it's a hugely useful reference, full of tables, charts, and combinations. To go a step further, you could consider the substantial "The New Professional Chef" from The Culinary Institute of America. Not light, by reading or by weight.
The Joy of Cooking because it is one of the most extensive in terms of subjects and because it is relatively easy to read. I like two Canadian cookbooks, The Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook and The Kate Aitken Canadian Cookbook. I like simple fare and the last two books were used by my Mom so I find many family recipes. As well the french version of Jehane Benoit`s recipe book as it contains French Canadian food and this one is a brick in terms of matter. Also my Laura Calder and Dorie Greenspan books. All of my Julia Child books.
I think it depends on how experienced the cook is and which cuisines they are interested in.
Joy of Cooking ... certainly.
Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.. certainly.
Cookwide by Shirley Corriher .. highly recommended.
I have seen many experienced cook's recommend The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I recommend it, too.
Anything by James Peterson or James Beard.
I don't need to refer to any 'cook books' any more for basic home cooking. 'It's all in my head' as they say. The only time I refer to a recipe book is to get the exact ingredients and measures needed to cook a specific dish. For example, I enjoy making dishes that require great care to replicate. Escoffier was a genius. Simple simple ingredients taken to culinary nirvana. This 'recipe' book is my all time treasure. My goal is the make every dish in this book. I'm about a third there.
I think we buy or try cook books what we associate with. Your backround will steer you. If you grown up in the South,New England, or in Europe for example will forge your cook book library.. For example me being a European who loves all offal as is .. will not care much for Alice Waters cook books ( for many reason) , but go over hot coal for provencial french cooking books, and so on.
I don't like generic cook books, even so the basics has to be learned. I hate pseudo cookery "authors" lke the phony songsterss Rachel Ray ( Please people ..she is not even a cook!) but amazed by the accesibilty of Thomas Keller's Buchon ...( What a jewel that is !)
Maghee , is essential if you a thinking man.
I love authentic cookery with out some celbrity "twist and man handling".
Olnay for example one of those respectfull wondernment , in his Provence coook book.
But after all your upbringing and influences will detemine your collection. If course some snobery also could make you buy books , but end of the day what you eat is kind'a who you are .
tells a lot when you look over the man library ... testament with out words .
I own hundreds of cookbooks. Most are for inspiration or learning about specific techniques/cuisines.
The majority of my cooking is not recipe oriented. I look at what I have, think about the flavors I want and go from there.
But I completely suck at remembering temperatures and times. So the most used book in my collection is:
*Timing is Everything: The Complete Timing Guide to Cooking by Jack Piccolo. I take it with me anytime I might be in a kitchen.
Others I consider essential in my life are:
*Anything written by Shirley Corriher
*Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: The Essential Reference: 500 Recipes, 275 Photographs by Eliz. Schneider
*The Flavor Bible by Page/Dorenburg
*The Ball Blue Book - I always review method/times when canning!
*Joy of Cooking - '70's edition is my go to if looking for general ratios and starting points