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Relying on old cook books more than new.

law_doc89 Mar 17, 2013 07:44 AM

I see many cookbooks discussed here, but I find that too many of them seem to be collections of recipes with a trend toward novelty. I have many, many cookbooks accumulated over decades, and some from my mother. I find that what I use are the one’s that emphasize techniques, not recipes. I think some might be surprising, as one I refer to is an only multi-volume “Women’s Day” encyclopedia that I think came from the supermarket. I also find a pre-Julia Child book, Maipie, Countess de Toulouse-Latreque “La Cuisuine de France” indispensable. These have information about the ingredients and techniques that I find useful, especially when working with unfamiliar ingredients. I also have some old books that are grotesquely awful, too, but some are my real workhorses. What is your experience?

  1. t
    tastesgoodwhatisit Mar 25, 2013 08:22 PM

    I can think of several reasons.

    There's a filtering effect, too. Really good, classic cookbooks are rare - most cookbooks that come out are mediocre or competent but forgettable. But if someone published a classic cookbook right now, it could take a decade or two to figure out that it is a classic, and for the reputation to spread. In the same time period, the really bad or indifferent cookbooks go out of print and are justifiably forgotten. So it can seem that older books are better than newer ones.

    I remember a lot of terrible cookbooks from my childhood - particularly ones (themed and otherwise) where the ingredient list started out with "One box of biscuit mix, one package instant chocolate pudding mix..." or "One can of cream of mushroom soup, one jar of spaghetti sauce". Or 'ethnic' cookbooks that made pale, watered down to North American tastes versions of great cuisines.

    I would guess, too, that there are a lot more cookbooks being published now overall. So for a publisher, you need to pull people in, which can be done with a novelty theme, or celebrity chef or restaurant endorsement. Great photographs tend to sell cookbooks to the casual user too.

    Plus, really good cookbooks of the sort that explain ingredients and technique in detail and well are a lot harder to write than a simple collection of recipes with pictures.

    1. Caroline1 Mar 24, 2013 07:50 PM

      I do enjoy old cookbooks and have a fair collection of them. Well, if you count electronic copies, I have quite a few. There's also a discussion going on in this thread about "updating" recipes and/or adapting to modern cooking techniques, such as the microwave. hmmmmmmmmmmm.... I have a very fancy microwave that browns things with halogen light and all that jazz, but I still use it primarily to heat a cold cup of coffee.

      When I use old recipes from old recipe books, I use old cooking methods, with ONE exception: I do roast all roasts and such sous vide, then into a hot oven for any required crusting, or over the coals, or hit with a blow torch, depending on the recipe. I cook almost everything from scratch, and guess what? A LOT of things are a lot quicker that way!

      So to directly answer Law Doc's question, ANY recipe book that EVER calls for a can of soup (ANY soup, not just cream of mushroom!), a package of taco seasoning, or any such "modern conveniences" stays on the shelf, or on the web page, as the case may be. Woops! Woops! Let me not lead you astray here! WHEN I bake cakes (hardly ever, anymore) I have been known to use cake mixes, then "customize them" with added ingredients of flavors, then decorate the blue blazes out of them so no one will notice!

      The "cookbook" that I have relied on most over the last half century is (honest injun!) Larousse Gastronomique. Mine is the 1961 English translation that I bought in 1968 and have used ever since, though I will admit to rarely dragging it off the shelf much any more. The damned thing weighs a ton!

      Not as old as LG, I also have a copy of Michael Ruhlman's "Ratio" loaded on my Kindle. It's a keeper!

      But all of this may be moot because what *I* call an "old cook book" may not come anywhere close to what everyone else is talking about. Mr. Isabella Beeton's "A Book of Household Management" anyone? My copy was printed in 1869! And nooooo, I did NOT buy it new... '-)

      1. law_doc89 Mar 24, 2013 08:27 AM

        This discussion got me checking the internet, and I found that these books are often readily available fairly cheaply. For instance, multiple sets of the whole 12 volume WD encyclopedia.

        http://www.amazon.com/Womans-Encyclop...

        Curious how many of you buy them used, versus having had them all along versus inheriting them?

        6 Replies
        1. re: law_doc89
          r
          ratgirlagogo Mar 24, 2013 10:32 AM

          You're talking about used cookbooks generally, not just those WD books? I've bought used books my whole life, and I do buy used cookbooks all the time. On the whole though in my experience it's more common to find the kind of readerly ones (like Larousse Gastronomique or Escoffier) in pristine condition than the hands-on, propped up on the stove kind. You would NOT want to buy my copy of Madhur Jaffrey's Vegetarian Worlds of the East, for example. I know how all those stains got there, but you the buyer would not.:)

          1. re: ratgirlagogo
            law_doc89 Mar 24, 2013 10:48 AM

            Yes, and there are people with perfectly shiny, unblemished pots, no need to say more. We can differentiate "used" from "second hand."

            1. re: ratgirlagogo
              Caroline1 Mar 24, 2013 08:02 PM

              I'm pretty wary of used books since I bought a used copy of "The Chinese Kitchen" from a very reputable dealer that was listed as in "like new" condition. When I opened the package the smell of bad cigarette smoke was so overpowering I had to put the book in the garage fanned open on its spine with paper towels between most pages for two weeks before I could bring it in the house. NO! I am NOT exaggerating. Rather cured me of buying used cookbooks! Soup stains I would have welcomed. I've since concluded it must be the kind of paper that book is printed on. It has to be exceptionally odor absorbent. But as the saying goes, once burnt, twice shy. Or something like that.

              1. re: Caroline1
                law_doc89 Mar 24, 2013 08:30 PM

                Sounds like the books were cured,

                1. re: law_doc89
                  Caroline1 Mar 24, 2013 08:49 PM

                  You could be right! '-)

                2. re: Caroline1
                  Terrie H. Mar 25, 2013 04:04 AM

                  Yet I have only been able to afford used books for many years and have never had one arrive in worse shape than described. I do know, however, what you mean about the cigarette smoke smell in books. My aunt is a heavy smoker and a voracious reader, and passes her books along to the rest of the family before donating. The bag of books lives on the porch for a few days before it's allowed to enter the house!

            2. q
              Querencia Mar 23, 2013 04:28 PM

              I learned to cook from The Joy of Cooking and currently work from three editions---1946, 1953, and 1975. The older ones have a lot of recipes that aren't in the newer ones, especially baking recipes. For example, Roman Apple Cake which is an Article of Faith in our family that I must have made 500 times. I can't imagine why they disappeared some of the good old recipes.

              I also love the cookbooks that are collections of donated recipes from members of a church or club, bound on a spiral---I look for them at yard sales and thrift shops. In Chicago some of these church cookbooks are heavily ethnic and are a treasure-trove of Slavic baking recipes that I don't find anywhere else

              1 Reply
              1. re: Querencia
                m
                mwhitmore Mar 24, 2013 07:11 PM

                Irma didn't miss much.

              2. Uncle Bob Mar 23, 2013 09:46 AM

                Can't say I rely on either....old or new. ~~ I do 'trust' the older ones more. The new books, and I admit I've bought 2 or 3 regional ones lately, seem to be all about making $$$ and printing beautiful photographs. They seem to be full of old TNT recipes/ideas/methods that have been given 'Cutesy Pie' names, and have been bastardized to the point that a Southern Great Grandma wouldn't recognize them. ( What the hell??) If the need arises to jog my memory, it will be from an old book.

                1. f
                  foodieX2 Mar 23, 2013 07:04 AM

                  interesting topic! I have a HUGE cookbook collection, much of my own making but also a large quantity that were inherited from my parents. So I really started thinking about what cookbooks I utilize the most, ones that I turn to time and time again. They are:

                  Barbara Kafka Microwave Gourmet
                  Julia Child The Way to Cook
                  The Silver Palette Series
                  Rosso/Lukin New Basics Cookbook
                  Barbara Kafka Roasting
                  The Joy of Cooking (original publication)-pretty much for baking only
                  Barefoot Contessa Parties

                  I probably have another 20 that I pull out less often, but at least 5-6 times a year. The rest probably get opened no more than 2-3 times a year. My "classics" like Escoffier and Larousse Gastronomique never get used at all.

                  Currently I am working my thru Barefoot Contessa Foolproof.

                  Doing this exercise reminded that I rarely really use cookbooks anymore. I know that I never crack one for my weekly, every day meal making. And even for my more involved weekend cooking I rarely use cook books for anything more than inspiration. It is only for complicated techniques or for baking that I used them verbatim, following them to the letter.

                  The internet has replaced my voracious cookbook habit. Perfect example is all the talk yesterday on the WFD dinner thread about Thai Basil Chicken. 5+ years ago I would have jumped in car and hit my local book store perusing Thai cookbooks. Then I would feel compelled to spend weeks perfecting my technique.

                  But now I not only can find entire websites dedicated to the subject but I also have experienced home cooks "right in my kitchen" giving me tips, ideas and inspiration! Its awesome. So today I am hitting the asian market for some Thai Basil instead of the bookstore and I will be making it for dinner tomorrow.

                  I don't foresee giving up the hardcovers anytime soon as they are still great reads and an inspiration.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: foodieX2
                    The Dairy Queen Mar 23, 2013 07:15 AM

                    I'd be very interested in hearing about the recipes and/or techniques you find most valuable out of Microwave Gourmet. I have that book but have only cooked 1-2 things from it.

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      f
                      foodieX2 Mar 23, 2013 07:43 AM

                      I actually use the directory section in the back of the book a lot. It's an easy reference for cooking anything in microwave. I have mastered cooking fish, potatoes, rice, artichokes, winter squashes, clarified butter and melting chocolate in the micro from her.

                      I own her "Microwave Gourmet Healthstyle Cookbook" too but I use that less often.

                      Here are the recipes I used the most-many of them like the green beans and the garlic potatoes are ingrained in my head!

                      szechuan green beans-if you haven't made these do it NOW. I make this at least once a week and they will be on my easter table too.

                      garlic potatoes-also in the weekly rotation

                      Basic pilaf- I use as a starting point and add my own flavors though her tomato and curry pilafs are both great

                      Basic Risotto- a breeze to make. I often stir in spicy crumbled sausage and spinach at the end to make a meal. The shrimp and spring veggie one is wonderful too, I have made that many times for company.

                      so many soups- the black bean and creamy cauliflower are excellent

                      spicy vegetable ragout. Actually-all the veggie dishes are good

                      corn custard (best with fresh corn but I have used frozen with success)

                      chocolate and butterscotch puddings.

                      steamed chocolate pudding-very decadent!

                      duck confit- i admit I have only done it twice but wow!

                      kimchee

                      both the peach and mango chutneys (makes great gifts)

                      1. re: foodieX2
                        The Dairy Queen Mar 23, 2013 07:49 AM

                        Excellent! Thank you so much! Bookmarking this thread RIGHT NOW.

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                          f
                          foodieX2 Mar 23, 2013 07:51 AM

                          you are welcome! :)

                        2. re: foodieX2
                          monfrancisco Mar 23, 2013 11:26 AM

                          And thanks from me, too! I tend to forget there's more to the book than the directory (which I used the other week, once again, for Cabbage, Green -- nothing to it, really, but so much better than boiled -- and Juniper, splendid with cabbage). Now I'll charge ahead starting with your list. It really is a useful book.

                          1. re: monfrancisco
                            f
                            foodieX2 Mar 24, 2013 07:13 AM

                            please report back any dishes that you make. Would love to read others thoughts!

                          2. re: foodieX2
                            p
                            pine time Mar 24, 2013 07:28 AM

                            Could you please post a paraphrased recipe for the szechuan green beans? Looked for this book at our library, and they didn't have it, nor was it on the inter-library loan. TIA.

                            1. re: pine time
                              f
                              foodieX2 Mar 24, 2013 07:48 AM

                              Here you go! They are amazing. They are great both hot and cold. Very low cal too, so a good "fill you up" snack.

                              6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
                              2 quarter-size slices fresh ginger, peeled
                              2 scallions
                              1 Tbsp vegetable oil
                              1 tsp hot red-pepper flakes
                              1 Tbsp tamari soy sauce
                              1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (I've used balsamic in pinch and it works fine)
                              1 pound green beans, tipped and tailed

                              In a food processor finely chop the garlic, ginger and scallions. In a bowl large enough to hold the green beans, add the vegetable mixture with the oil and red pepper flakes. Cook on high for 3 minutes

                              Take bowl out of oven and stir in the soy sauce and vinegar. Add green beans a handful at time, mixing well to distribute the sauce over the beans.

                              Microwave on high, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring 3-4 times during the cooking time.

                              1. re: foodieX2
                                law_doc89 Mar 24, 2013 08:22 AM

                                While a little off track from my original, you have started in interesting topic on it's own: microwave cooking. I am interested to see there is something for "risotto" and puzzling how one would make a risotto in a microwave? Rice, yes, risotto?

                                1. re: law_doc89
                                  f
                                  foodieX2 Mar 24, 2013 08:40 AM

                                  http://www.bkafka.com "Artichoke Lemon Risotto"

                                  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/mem...

                                  1. re: foodieX2
                                    law_doc89 Mar 24, 2013 09:19 AM

                                    I will definitely give a try. I am suspicious and wonder about MWO power. Something tells me that some mushy stuff I have had in restaurants must be MWO,
                                    But this is worth a try, since my MWO is used mostly for re-heating and subject for future replacement with a convection oven.

                                    1. re: law_doc89
                                      f
                                      foodieX2 Mar 24, 2013 09:35 AM

                                      Report back and let us know what you think!

                                      Keep in mind that microwave powers vary greatly. IIRC Barbara Kafka recipes were developed for 1200-1400 watt oven. Mine is 1300 watt and I find that I don't need to tweak the cooking times all that much

                                      I think I also remember that Mark Bittman got into a pissing match with her about her microwave risotto. I will have to google and see if I can find it…

                                      1. re: law_doc89
                                        f
                                        foodieX2 Mar 24, 2013 09:39 AM

                                        Found it! Wasn't as bad as I remember…. LOL

                                        http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/03/barbara-kafka-responds-re-risotto/

                                        the original article: (which has some good micro ideas too!

                                        )

                                        http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/02/din...

                                  2. re: foodieX2
                                    p
                                    pine time Mar 25, 2013 09:07 AM

                                    Gracias, foodieX2!

                                2. re: foodieX2
                                  i
                                  ItalianNana Mar 25, 2013 07:42 AM

                                  foodieX2

                                  I wanted to cook Szechuan green beans so bad I started a thread! Somehow I missed your recipe. Thank you so much. How would you describe the heat from the 1tsp of pepper flakes you use?

                                  1. re: ItalianNana
                                    f
                                    foodieX2 Mar 25, 2013 02:53 PM

                                    I am the wrong one to ask because I love them zippy and usually add more but my SIL considers them "very" spicy with 1 tsp and prefer to use 1/2 tsp.

                                    Ill look for your thread, they are one of my all time faves.

                            2. PotatoHouse Mar 22, 2013 06:07 PM

                              although my cookbook collection does include newer books (An autographed Wolfgang Puck, an autographed Paula Deen, all three of the Good Eats compendiums (an EXCELLENT Christmas present from my loving wife)) my favorites are my classic cookbooks (The Farmer's Wife cookbook circa 1953, The Art of Cooking circa 1967, some booklets my mother in law received in her junior high home-ec class circa 1946).

                              1. Will Owen Mar 22, 2013 05:33 PM

                                There's a big French Home Cooking Basic book that pre-dates "La Cuisine de France", I think, called "La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange." It was the one that got Julia to cooking, and was translated relatively recently by Paul Aratow, who was one of the partners at the start of Chez Panisse, and an excellent writer. I just learned about it while digging out a drawer full of the old (and much lamented) L.A. Times Food section, this one from 2006, and immediately went looking for it. Still in print at $35 on Amazon, with some used copies listed at about half that. I'm going to Do the Right Thing and order it through our local book store …

                                I'm not going to get into how many hundred old and ditto ditto new cookbooks I have - okay, I probably need therapy here - but they all have to show me something. If it's boring to read, I don't want it. If it tells me something I'd never even thought of, and if the writing is good and the food engaging, then I don't care it it was written last week or by someone who died before my grandma was in diapers. Even some that call for canned soup too frequently can have good stuff in there - and tuna-noodle casserole DOES have canned soup, right? So it can't be all bad.

                                1. 3MTA3 Mar 18, 2013 08:21 AM

                                  Worked the kitchen at a James River Plantation restaurant, found a book (possibly 'Thirteen Colonies Cookbook'). Routinely used menus for holiday functions, such as : Generals Washington and Rochambeau dining on Venison Haunch with Sauce Espagnole. It just seemed to give more meaning to the preparation and service (in a historic setting)

                                  1. g
                                    granadafan Mar 17, 2013 07:42 PM

                                    Remember grandma's cooking and how awesome it is/was? Besides the decades of experience of cooking, she used "old" recipes. Old cookbooks are awesome. My wife found a bunch of recipes in a binder from an estate sale that were dated from the early 1900s. The recipes were simple and delicious.

                                    1. m
                                      marais Mar 17, 2013 04:48 PM

                                      I love old cookbooks, not necessarily for the techniques illustrated there (which, by and large, are quite antiquated and passés) but for the windows on taste and custom that they give me from their time. That being said, I love Escoffier's "Ma Cuisine" written for French housewives - it's quite the encyclopedia of cuisine bourgeoise, yet considered quite basic! It's the French "Joy".

                                      I shall keep an eye out for l'oeuvre de la Comtesse Maipie.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: marais
                                        law_doc89 Mar 17, 2013 04:58 PM

                                        http://www.amazon.com/Countess-TOULOU...

                                        1. re: marais
                                          Will Owen Mar 22, 2013 05:17 PM

                                          It was not Maipie but Mapie, a contraction for Marie-Pierre. A more recent Marie-Pierre (Moine) was inspired by the Comtesse to do a cookbook of her own, "Cuisine Grand-Mere" (English version, Time-Life Books, 1990-2001). The original is bigger and thus more useful, but Mme Moine's recipe for Lapin à la Moutarde is my go-to.

                                          1. re: Will Owen
                                            law_doc89 Mar 22, 2013 05:24 PM

                                            I don't type well, so? The book is a good one.

                                            1. re: law_doc89
                                              Will Owen Mar 22, 2013 11:00 PM

                                              I wasn't trying to beat you up on this, but people do copy/paste words into Google to find links to what we're talking about, and if we misspell a name the search can come up empty. Back when we just read stuff and typed it in, close enough may have been close enough, but it's less so now.

                                              1. re: Will Owen
                                                law_doc89 Mar 23, 2013 06:29 AM

                                                True, we live more in a point and shoot age.

                                        2. s
                                          sueatmo Mar 17, 2013 04:30 PM

                                          I learned a lot from reading a wartime cookbook of my mother's. It had old fashioned recipes. One of its features was to print a basic recipe and then give 3, 4 or 5 ways to change the recipe up.

                                          I consult three editions of Joy of Cooking and a few other cookbooks of varying ages.

                                          1. r
                                            rasputina Mar 17, 2013 03:41 PM

                                            A lot of my new cookbooks are for cuisines or techniques that I had not previously become accomplished at.

                                            I love old cookbooks too and really miss an old one I had from the 1920s that also covered homemaking. Lost it in a move years ago.

                                            I completed my set of The Good Cook last year and I'm pleasantly surprised at how often they are the go to cookbooks in my house for techniques especially but also recipes. In fact my daughter ran off with the candies book when she was teaching herself to make caramel.

                                            1. p
                                              pine time Mar 17, 2013 02:19 PM

                                              I love my old books: Good Housekeeping, Fannie Farmer, Joy of Cooking, etc. However, I have to ignore some of the cooking times/temps, especially for meats. Turkey to 185 degrees? Shoe-leather for Thanksgiving. Other than that, I love the oldies! (Have one from 1870.)

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: pine time
                                                s
                                                sedimental Mar 17, 2013 02:26 PM

                                                I was reading one of mine from 1928 last night...all about boiling vegetables with salt and sugar in the water, then dousing them with butter and cream to make them more appealing :)

                                              2. s
                                                sedimental Mar 17, 2013 02:07 PM

                                                Not me. I am the opposite. I have several old ones that are a hoot to read, but I don't use them. I do read them for entertainment though. Even old "classic" books like joy of cooking and regional ones like River Road are not appealing to me. I can't remember when I last looked at an old cookbook for information about anything, let alone for a recipe.

                                                I use new techniques and equiptment most of the time. New does not equal trendy but I do learn a lot from food trends and appreciate the new knowledge and skill keeping up with trends can bring. I also really like esoteric preservation like lactofermented foods and meat curing (which are very old techniques) but made new, more interesting, safer and often healthier with renewed interest.

                                                I only buy new cookbooks that offer me inspiration to explore cuisines I am not very familiar with or comfortable with.

                                                I use Pinterest and follow great cooks that have similar likes and food styles as I do and that introduce me to cooking and lifestyle blogs that suit me.

                                                I use YouTube for techniques that are more complicated. Even when the video is in another language, it is nice to watch someone do something you are not familiar with.

                                                I cook with my iPod in the kitchen. I use the web to find out about obscure ingredients or techniques not common in my country. I use it to research ingredients and how to use and store them.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: sedimental
                                                  Crockett67 Mar 23, 2013 06:53 AM

                                                  Ironically I share your opinion except for the River Road Recipes.

                                                  I had a 1920's red cook book that had a few recipes for chop suey or pepper steak that were a hoot, but RRR has my favorite pecan pie, lots of different side dishes, and a few sea food recipes (turtle soup!) I love. Sure there are hokey recipes like grape fluff in there and the part "How Men Cook" endeared me to it. But I love RRR and many other junior league cookbooks.

                                                  1. re: Crockett67
                                                    s
                                                    sedimental Mar 23, 2013 09:26 AM

                                                    Yes, River Road books get lots of love here, but I don't care for them at all. I have tried different recipes out of it for years, trying to see what the draw was. I don't get it, just a matter of different strokes, I think. Jr League books are filled with processed, canned and unhealthy dishes. I just don't eat that way, but i still read them, they still inspire me at times to tweak a recipe so I haven't thrown them all away :)

                                                    1. re: sedimental
                                                      r
                                                      rasputina Mar 24, 2013 08:08 AM

                                                      I don't cook or eat the recipes with canned and processed junk either. It's one of the things that drives me crazy about some southern cookbooks. I just ignore those recipes.

                                                      1. re: rasputina
                                                        Crockett67 Mar 24, 2013 05:51 PM

                                                        +1 And I make the rest.

                                                        While there is a hearty amount that use canned soup, most do not.

                                                  2. re: sedimental
                                                    Lillipop Mar 24, 2013 09:01 PM

                                                    I also watch Hulu.com for some techniques by Ina Garten etc. YouTube has great instructional videos.

                                                  3. Ruthie789 Mar 17, 2013 01:40 PM

                                                    I collect and use old cookbooks. I am not fond of the format of books from the 70's for some reason, too many pictures. I love the simplicity of old recipes, basic ingredients and ease of preparation.

                                                    9 Replies
                                                    1. re: Ruthie789
                                                      g
                                                      GH1618 Mar 17, 2013 02:13 PM

                                                      It is not the case that cookbooks from the 1970s have lots of pictures, although the phenomenon may have started around then (it's still with us). I have a few cookbooks from the 70s and 80s that are all substance, no pictures.

                                                      1. re: GH1618
                                                        Ruthie789 Mar 17, 2013 04:17 PM

                                                        I go to vintage shops and buy old cookbooks and seem to come across many with too many pictures although they have great recipes. I am thinking about books that are series and the like. I also do not like the food photography, it is much better today although I really do not enjoy a cookbook with a lot of overdone pictures, I just want the recipes.

                                                        1. re: Ruthie789
                                                          r
                                                          ratgirlagogo Mar 17, 2013 05:34 PM

                                                          I don't care one way or the other about the photos, usually. I do appreciate them when I am reading about a cuisine about which I know very little and am trying to learn enough to recognize the ingredients in a market. For example I'm reading through a library copy of Naomi Duguid's Burma right now and the pictures are helpful. On the other hand a book like that is so heavy, largely because of the photographs, that it's really hard to actually cook out of it and I doubt I'll be buying a copy of this book to use. But I'm really learning a lot from reading it.
                                                          For illustrations of technique I find that line drawings of the kind in the old Joy of Cooking get the point across much more clearly.

                                                          1. re: ratgirlagogo
                                                            Ruthie789 Mar 18, 2013 05:33 PM

                                                            The Joy of Cooking is a great book and yes the drawings are helpful in the cooking process.

                                                            1. re: Ruthie789
                                                              melpy Mar 25, 2013 04:42 AM

                                                              What drawings?

                                                              1. re: melpy
                                                                i
                                                                ItalianNana Mar 25, 2013 07:37 AM

                                                                Joy of Sex had great pencil drawings...:-D

                                                                1. re: melpy
                                                                  e
                                                                  ellabee Mar 25, 2013 09:23 AM

                                                                  The 4th edition (1951) is dotted with drawings of hands doing some of the steps in recipes -- spooning filling into a hollowed-out eggplant, dredging fish, extracting clams from their shells, beating egg whites on a platter with a flat wire whisk. Are these gone in later editions?

                                                                  1. re: ellabee
                                                                    r
                                                                    ratgirlagogo Mar 25, 2013 05:51 PM

                                                                    No, they're there. My favorite was always the booted foot and gloved hand pulling the skin off the squirrel. That and the building of the champagne fountain.

                                                                    1. re: ratgirlagogo
                                                                      monfrancisco Mar 30, 2013 06:45 PM

                                                                      The squirrel! The squirrel! That drawing is worth the price of admission. It's just so matter of fact, and so unlikely (to these eyes, anyway).

                                                      2. g
                                                        GH1618 Mar 17, 2013 01:01 PM

                                                        All of my cookbooks are somewhat old. "The New James Beard," published in 1981, is one of the newer ones.

                                                        1. e
                                                          ellabee Mar 17, 2013 12:55 PM

                                                          My experience is that a great many of my cookbooks, old and new, have valuable information about techniques and ingredients. There are old workhorses (1953 Joy of Cooking, my mother's), workhorses of my early cooking (1973 Veg Epicure), recovered workhorses from the middle years (1982 Victory Garden), late middle years (1998 Veg Cooking for Everyone), and my cooking-intensive last five (2007 Art of Simple Cooking).

                                                          Most of the cookbooks discussed here don't strike me as "collections of recipes with a trend toward novelty", but as explorations of cuisines and cooking styles that necessarily have extensive information about ingredients, techniques, and the cultural context of the foods covered.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: ellabee
                                                            law_doc89 Mar 17, 2013 01:42 PM

                                                            Sure, but so many are mere collections of recipes. Some of the ethnic ones are interesting to compare to older ones covering the same material. Again, I didn't mean my statements to be absolute.

                                                            1. re: law_doc89
                                                              e
                                                              ellabee Mar 17, 2013 06:05 PM

                                                              Impressions will differ, naturally. It might be more fruitful to give some examples rather than re-asserting that many of the newer books discussed here are mere collections of recipes.

                                                              Likewise, what are some examples of newer books covering other cuisines that suffer by comparison to older ones covering the same material?

                                                              1. re: ellabee
                                                                law_doc89 Mar 17, 2013 06:25 PM

                                                                You raise a valid point, as I have raised generalizations, which I stick by, at the moment. I look at the COTM posts and others, and wonder why I am wasting time with these, When I think of the CB's I value, I can look up basic info. So I grabbed a volume of the WD encyc, at random and opened to Hollandiase. 4 pages describing the chemistry, variations, methods; the chemistry of foams; not just recipes.

                                                                I think there are too many cooks who view cooking and cook books as chemistry sets: rules but not understanding.

                                                                I have said that there is no magic in old as there are old books that suck as much as new.

                                                                1. re: law_doc89
                                                                  meatn3 Mar 17, 2013 07:27 PM

                                                                  I think that there are many factors involved here.

                                                                  The price of books in relation to disposable income has dropped over the years. There are so many ingredients available now that the average cook never heard about or could acquire even 30 years ago. Housing size has increased over the years too - so more room to store stuff. Televised cooking shows, You-Tube, etc. has allowed people a chance to see techniques and feel more comfortable trying something new. All of these factor into why we have such a wealth of newer books, many of a highly specific nature.

                                                                  Many cooks of the past had little storage space, limited ingredients available, and the cost of books was rather high. Womens magazines and the once sizable weekly food section of the daily paper provided most of the inspiration for new recipes.

                                                                  1. re: meatn3
                                                                    Breadcrumbs Mar 22, 2013 05:05 PM

                                                                    I agree meatn, you raise many great points.

                                                                    I also think that in this information age, many folks just Google a technique or information on ingredients and there is incredible information out there created by credible sources, including the videos on You-Tube as you mentioned.

                                                                    Where years ago folks cooked to put food on the table, now thanks to media and a heightened interest in all things culinary, folks who are not chefs cook as a hobby or because of their passion for food and cooking. We no longer need a one size fits all cookbook. As you say, cookbooks are accessibly priced and readily available.

                                                                    Books solely focussed on techniques and the science of cooking exist. For those of us that are interested, information is available instantaneously and, even at no cost.

                                                                    I have a sizeable cookbook collection and while I enjoy looking through or reading my antique and vintage books, it's definitely the newer ones from which I cook or draw my inspiration from most frequently.

                                                                  2. re: law_doc89
                                                                    Lillipop Mar 24, 2013 09:05 PM

                                                                    If I am going to resort to a cookbook then I for one will appreciate what you have described...a *mini* science lesson.

                                                              2. re: ellabee
                                                                l
                                                                laraffinee Mar 17, 2013 02:18 PM

                                                                I love "Vegetarian Epicure" and the Victory Garden cookbooks!
                                                                I love all of my cookbooks - I give away those that I don't, which haven't been too many. The problem with some of the older paperback ones is that they are falling apart. Now, any new cookbook that I get, I only get the hardbound version if it is available. Unfortunately, some debut as paperbacks and no hardbound editions exist. My cookbooks range from pretty old (1930's) up to the present. I search used bookstores when I have a chance and have found some wonderful collectors items for ridiculously low prices. Each book offers something wonderful - great recipes, techniques, ideas or memoirs. I love and use them all.

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