Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I (heart) Cookbooks

As a young girl I remember perusing my mother's copy of The Silver Palate New Basics Cookbook by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso. I poured over the fun illustrations and contemplated ingredients that I knew very little about. I absorbed the concepts of roasting, sauteing, and baking. I dreamed of someday opening up a little shop like The Silver Palate. Later I began enjoying novels that included recipes for the dishes that were profiled in the book, the first of which was Fried Green Tomatoes At the Whistle Stop Cafe. I loved the way that the recipes succeeded in capturing their place of origin and found them interesting even if I never actually cooked from them (I have yet to make a fried green tomato).

I have a lovely collection of cookbooks myself; however, one of my favorite pastimes is to check out cookbooks at my local library. My library has a great collection of cookbooks and the library curators frequently add new titles. I have added a few new titles to my own collection after checking them out with enough frequency that I realized that it would be prudent to purchase my own copy. This was the case with Baking With Julia. I have found a great selection of cookbooks that use alternative ingredients, such as vegan cookbooks and gluten-free cookbooks, and have been able to experiment without any extra expense. If you find yourself at all interested in cookbooks and have not yet availed yourself of this pleasure, please consider doing so as it is well worth the effort to get to the library.

Currently my favorite cookbooks are those that fall into the technical cooking genre. I would include the America's Test Kitchen cookbooks in this category, as well as Alton Brown's trilogy (I'm currently enjoying the third in the series curtosy of Spokane Public Library), Harold McGee's cooking guides (recommendations for success with recipes you know rather than recipes), and any other book that helps the cook understand why ingredients act as they do and how to get them to do what you, as the cook, want them to do.

The best cookbooks are inspiring and, when followed, produce consistently successful results. Many cookbooks fall short of this and get relegated to the bottom shelf. Sometimes they are worth keeping just for the pictures.

Current Favorites:
Keys to Good Cooking A Guide to Making The Best of Foods and Recipes by Harold McGee
Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan
The Gourmet Cookbook and Gourmet Today edited by Ruth Reichl
Good Eats 3: The Later Years by Alton Brown
The Best Lost Recipes by America's Test Kitchen
Julia's Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child
At Home In Provence by Patrica Wells
The Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, August 2012

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