Cookbooks are an entirely different category than regular books. Though they each have a direction, they rarely offer much of a plot. Still, for me, they are wonderful to explore. The ones I love best gained that status for various reasons. These are my favorites:
- Meals: Tested, Tasted and Approved, by the Good Housekeeping Institute. I don’t know when this book was published, because there is no copyright. Some things that suggest its age: a chapter on how servants should present the meal; another suggesting that babies should not be served solid food until they are two-years-old, and no meat until they are at least three. Though I rarely use this cookbook, it has a place of honor on my shelf. I treasure it because it belonged to my Grandma Thelma, and has, in her own handwriting, her recipe for Green Tomato Relish inside the back cover.
- The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. This was a gift from my mother, given to me when I was seventeen years old. It’s the book I learned to cook with, and its spattered pages are a testament to its use.
- Home Food Systems, by the editors at Rodale Press. This book came out in the early 1970s. It is a little dated now, both in the bearded and bell-bottomed cooks in the photographs, and in the product reviews. Still, it has my go-to recipe for the very best easy whole-wheat bread. Plus, if I ever decide to start raising rabbits, goats or even trout, this book has the information I will need!
- Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, by the Moosewood Collective. Though I rarely cook from recipes in this book, it is, to date, the most entertaining reading of any cookbook I’ve found. Each chapter is written by a member of the Moosewood family, and tells about their own experience with food. They introduce the cuisine and customs of their country, or region of the United States, and recipes for a full-course meal are presented. I’ve read this book at least three times from cover to cover. If I ever retire, I’m going to start travelling the world right in my own kitchen, through these recipes.
- An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler. This author has been compared to M.F.K. Fisher, who wrote wonderfully and extensively about food. This book is simply outstanding.
- Let’s Get Together, by DeeDee Stovel and Pam Wakefield. This book is sub-titled “Simple Recipes for Gatherings with Friends,” and that pretty much defines it. This is the book I most often turn to when I’m cooking for others. It has the best no-fail popover recipe, an easy and good muffin recipe with several variations, and main dishes that are simple yet impressive in both taste and appearance.
I turn to Irene Kuo’s The Key to Chinese Cooking and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking for specific instruction. I often turn to Martha Stewart when I’m baking. I count on The Mediterranean Heart Diet for the best pizza crust. The Quick & Easy Vegetarian Cookbook by Manners and Manners has my favorite “Dark and Handsome” chocolate cake recipe. And, I have to admit, most of my cooking is based on time and ingredients at hand, and doesn’t require a cookbook at all. Still, I like having them here in case I need them!