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Starting a cookbook library, what are the best basics?

I only have two cookbooks right now, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and The Best of Chef at Home. The Chef at Home one I've never used since it was written for people who are incompetent... there's a recipe for grilled cheese. Anyways, if you were starting out a cookbook library, what are a couple of books you'd buy first?

Preferably with pictures!

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  1. You could build your library based on categories, Baking, Breadmaking for example or buy some good books overall. As usual my first suggestion, The Joy of Cooking.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ruthie789

      Joy of Cooking is my first recommendation, too. I've used mine (the 1973 issue, and the latest one) regularly, since the older one was new.
      Also, though nobody ever mentions Williams Sonoma recipes on CH, our copy of their Meats and Poultry cookbook has been a real keeper. Every dish we've made from that book has been delicious.

      1. re: kitchengardengal

        I do like those small WS cookbooks. We have several.

    2. You have introduced a conflict with your last remark. My best cookbooks have no pictures other than perhaps a drawing introducing each chapter. What I want is lots of words.

      1. Most of my favorites predate the "Preferably with pictures!" era of cookbooks.

        Entertaining by Martha Stewart would be my only recommendation.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jay F

          Hi, Jay:

          No offense, but I absolutely *hate* this book. IMO, the recipes in it are only as good as the person MS paid to vet each one. About 1/3 turn out as if no one ever cooked them at all. I made the same cake recipe from this book 4 times--all with disastrous results--before I donated this book to Goodwill. Unless you're willing to "Julie & Julia" this book, I would not serve any prep in it to guests.

          Aloha,
          Kaleo

        2. My most used books do not have pictures... I have some beautiful books that have pictures....Cornneila Guest, Ina Garten, French Laundry at home....all are beautiful and pretty usefull

          1 Reply
          1. re: girloftheworld

            I do not enjoy cookbooks with pictures unless it is an instructive illustration. I find the glamorous picture books are meant for my coffee table as a decorative accent.

          2. Hi, Gnome:

            This is difficult to dial in.

            I think the biggest determinative factor is how comfortable you are in your own "cooking skin". Are you daunted by recipes? If you are, I would advise adding progressive complexity to your library (and simultaneously discarding) as you get more experienced. But if you're adventurous and not easily intimidated, you can start anywhere.

            IME, after what *kind* of recipes are included in a book, I look for clarity of expression, concision, and a "speak to me" connection with the author. Let me give you an example of what I DON'T mean: I *love* no-knead bread, recently popularized by the popularization of Jim Lahey. So I recently bought his book "My Bread" (title=first indication of wrongness). Decent recipes, but bad connection. I learned some recipes, but little else.

            If I were you--and I'm not--I might try Jacques Pepin's "Techniques". If you come 50% toward absorbing that one book, you will be a chef. He does what he does easily, from a love of a life of cooking, in a non-intimidating way. Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" might speak to you if you are a little more wonkish.

            Have Fun,
            Kaleo