Beware of Sexy Cookbooks

by Michelle


 I can remember vividly, Christmas morning 1971, opening my first cookbook. A massive, red leather,  collection of international cookery. I poured over that book for years…

I love all types of cookbooks. It matters not to me whether they are written by celebrity chefs or a group of housewives that have put together a collection of family recipes.

If the recipes are good, I am sold.

I guess because I have cooked for such a long time, I can read a recipe and know whether it’s a keeper. You get to a point where good balance, texture and technique are obvious… but that takes a lot of cooking and a lot of experimenting.

For someone who is just starting their cookbook journey,it can be extremely over whelming to try to choose a “good” cookbook from the rows and rows of choices. It is really trendy right now to write a cookbook. Celebrity chefs, anyone that Oprah decides is a good cook, movie stars, models, bloggers – it is mind-blowing and a lot of fun if you happen to be a cookbook addict.

Whenever I am in another city, I always find a bookstore so that I can investigate the cookbook section. It is a bit of an addiction! I love reading cookbooks that are written by cooks from wherever I am visiting.

The down side of all this variety is there are a lot more useless cookbooks out there than useful. Beautiful pictures can be very enticing and very deceiving. At the same time, cookbooks without pictures can be dull…how to choose.

I am going to share with you my current “favorites”. It is a great list to start from. Make sure you ask around and look for reviews…cooks never lie about cookbooks!

My list is in no particular order. These are the books from my collection, that, recently, are getting the most face time.

 The All New Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethen Becker – I think this is the best all round encyclopedia of cooking. It is a great reference book for all cooks.

The Fine Art of Italian Cooking by Giulliano Gugialli – excellent Tuscan chef and teacher. His recipes are bang on authentic! He is passionate about translating pure Tuscan recipes on to the table of North America. Many of the dishes would never be found in our “Italian” restaurants. He has a number of books but this one is the most comprehensive.

Elizabeth David’s Classics mediterranean food, french country cooking, summer cooking – this is one of my all time favorites. It is a cook’s cookbook…she does not get too involved with amounts and details which I really enjoy. She inspires you to be courageous! When you first look at it, the recipes may seem vague. Not to worry…trust your instincts and go for it!

The Babbo Cookbook by Mario Batali – I am not a huge fan of Mr. Batali, but this book grabs me. Every recipe knocks it out of the park. He puts an American spin on authentic Italian. It’s fun…

Chez Panisse Pasta, Pizza and Calzone by Alice Waters – love it, love it, love it… Alice Waters is the “grand dame” of the Slow Food movement. Her recipes allow the ingredients to speak for themselves. It takes a patient and light touch.

Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver – in my humble opinion this is his best book. and I own them all… I would be a bit of a Jamie stalker. A lot of chefs/cooks do not like Jamie Oliver. They see him as too much of a rock star. He is a rock star!! His love of food is absolutely intoxicating. My food fantasy is to be able to work with him for one month. My world would never be the same!

The Silver Palate Good Times Cook Book by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins – This cookbook had a profound influence on my journey as a cook. When I lived in NYC during the early 80’s, I visited their store as often as I could, just for inspiration – of which there was a boundless amount. They were a brilliant team! This book is always one of my favs…it is the book in my photo of cookbooks that is missing the cover! This is the cookbook that I read on a rainy Sunday afternoon that inspires me to cook up a storm…yikes!

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck – I worked my way through this book the year that I was pregnant for the twins. It is relentlessly perfect. I love it. Although my passion is Italian cooking, it was important to me that I had a sound formal base in French cooking. Julia Child’s book was my teacher.

Made In Italy Food and Stories by Giorgio Locatelli – all of my most extravagant cookbooks were given to me by best friend Christie. This is the latest addition to my collection and I am devouring it. It might seem like a bit of a coffee table book but I find that I do a lot of lateral thinking after I have read it. Dishes from outside the “recipe” box.

The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers – my friend Linda introduced me to the River Cafe girls years ago. She and her husband Dave make a pilgrimage to England as often as they can. She generously brings me lovely cookbooks that are not yet available in North America. This is the last book that Ms. Gray and Ms. Rogers wrote before Rose Grey passed away… another amazing female duo that completely captivated me… they will always be an inspiration. It’s a funny thing to never have met someone you have so much admiration for and then unexpectantly you find out that they have passed on. I cried…

The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Roso and Sheila Lukins – another great reference book…a bit more trendy and current!

My favorite cookbook list is constantly in flux. However, this list is made up of books that I have cooked my way through and can confidently recommend.

Thanks for reading!