I'm not a natural cook. I can't have a dish at a restaurant and easily parse the ingredients to recreate it at home. If I want to make something, especially if I've never made it before, I need to go to my reference library of cookbooks and research several recipes for a dish, then get online and check some more at sites like Epicurious or The New York Times.
Which got me to thinking about my favorite cookbooks and the cookbooks I'd recommend to friends. With props to authors of new cookbooks, I tend to prefer older tomes and prowl the shelves of used bookstores for classics (or even fairly recent releases) at reasonable prices. We're fortunate in Portland to have Powell's Books, which has a terrific selection of used cookbooks. And Robert's Bookshop in Lincoln City has a whole room dedicated to the culinary arts.
With that in mind, here are my picks of some of my faves. Put them on your list or buy them for friends. And be sure to add your favorites to the list, too!
- Top of the list has to be the little spiral-bound recipe books that came with the Time-Life "Foods of the World" picture books, particularly "Provincial France," "Italy" and "American Cooking: The Great West."
- Patricia Wells At Home in Provence.
- Any of Diana Kennedy's books on the cooking of Mexico.
- The 1943 version of The Joy of Cooking and the 1955 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook.
- Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso's "The Silver Palate Cookbook" and their "New Basics Cookbook."
- James Beard's "American Cooking."
- Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking."
- Make fun of me, but Barbara Kafka's "Microwave Gourmet" has to be on there, too.