Teaching books blog

On Sunday I put a call out on Twitter for books that a 60-year-old guy could use to teach himself to cook and got scores of suggestions: Lots of Julia of course, but others that got three or more votes were Bittman's How to Cook Everything, Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food, and The Joy of Cooking.  A couple mentioned Tom Collichio's Think Like a Chef and Madeleine Kamman's The Making of a Cook. A few kinds souls mentioned Ratio, a not unreasonable suggestion as it explores the fundamentals.  But after I read all these comments, and, having been speaking intensively with a couple of publishing executives about the changing nature of cookbooks I wanted to put this out as a post, to discuss the nature of the new cookbooks and also so that people can name their favorite teaching cookbook in comments so we have a more permanent record of them than we do on twitter.

I pulled the above stack (photo by donna, thanks!) randomly but they are all good books and all teach in their own way.  And "own way" is the key here.  Most of them don't overtly try to teach (Alton's and my books do, and the CIA pro chef series is an explicit culinary textbook), but some are more effective than others by being more than simply a compilation of recipes.

Now that the tsunami of free recipes has flooded the cooking landscape, what is the purpose of cookbooks?  Some of the points addressed by Sydny Miner of S&S and Bill LeBlonde of Chronicle Books at The Greenbrier included the fact that once we needed books of recipes, compilations, such as Joy or Craig Claiborne's The New York Times Cookbook.  But now, because recipes are a click away, books have evolved.  They come now with voice, with story, with a distinct personality.  Also, as Miner pointed out, decades ago, somebody in most households cooked (usually a mom) who passed a fundamental set of skills down to the children so that recipes could read, "use a lump of butter the size of a walnut, mix together with flour, egg, sugar, pour into a cake pan and bake in a moderate oven until done."  That was enough.  Now we must be very specific in our instructions because not everyone knows what moderate means, mix together how, etc. We managed to lose a generation of cooking knowledge.

Bill LeBlond commented that he was much, much more interested in unconventional ideas because the old model is just not selling anymore.

And while at Greenbrier a reader emailed to say this: "After getting used to reading food blogs, I’m
looking for the stories behind the food. Today, for example, I browsed
through 2 older David Lebovitz cookbooks and I missed the stories. I
now find traditional cookbooks to be dry/boring without the wonderful
stories I read on (good) blogs. Plenty of people can make up a recipe,
but not many are good story tellers or have something particularly
interesting to say."

What are the best teaching cookbooks out there and what are we now looking for in today's cookbook?

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165 Wonderful responses to “Cookbooks That Teach”

  • DC

    A vote for Jacques Pepin’s “The Art of Cooking” and “Complete Techniques” here. And a hearty nay for Bittman.

    As to what people are looking for: no idea.

  • underground chef

    definitely cookbooks with narrative attached. the river cottage series is particularly helpful in this respect. i have always wanted to know how to think about food, not simply to know a recipe. about five years ago i determined that this was the best way i could learn. first purchase was larouse gastronomique. and since then i have never purchased a cookbook that did’t have the thoughts/stories of the chef. food without story is disembodied and impersonal, the anti-thesis of what food should be.

  • Todd

    I vote for Charcuterie – I learned (and am still learning) a ton from it!

  • chris brandow

    the original chez panisse cookbook written with Paul Bertolli, was absolutely incredible. to think that it was written 20 years ago, it shows why chez panisse was on the forefront of fresh, local & simple. I learned a ton, though I have yet to cook many of the recipes.

  • Brad Urani

    Alton Brown’s ‘I’m Just Here for the Food”. Beneath the humor and Nickelodeon graphics is real usable cooking knowledge properly presented and scientifically explained.

  • Leslie

    I think the best cookbook to teach someone to cook is the one that makes them want to cook. Photos are key for beginners, as are explanations of techniques. Anything heavy enough to double as a doorstop is out. I think Bittman’s book is a great resource for someone learning to how to cook, and Kamman’s is wonderful for forming a bond with the food.

  • Michael Greenberg

    Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is fantastic. It has a large section on vegetables discussing selection, storage, cooking techniques, and complementary flavors for each — along with a few sample recipes to help you get started.

    Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty teaches technique and approach as much as it provides excellent recipes. The stories are interesting, also, with Shark’s Fin and Szechuan Pepper making a good companion.

    Of course, Charcuterie is the first cookbook I read that really changed the way that I see food, not just the way I use it.

  • Schlake

    Long ago, if a cookbook only had recipes, I called a recipebook (with disdain) and not a real cookbook.

    Now, I can cook, and I don’t need help deciphering even the most obscure recipe (such as pork pie in Kurlansky’s new book whose cooking instructions are only an admonishment of how not to cook it).

    What I admire most these days is genuineness. Cookbooks written by anthropologists are the best cookbooks out there. They give detailed recipes that are deadly accurate in their reproduction.

    By the way, Twitter is a sign of impending brain damage.

    When I recommend starting cook books my list is: Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here For The Food, Mark Bittman’s I Can’t Believe I Wrote The Entire Thing (How To Cook Everything), and Marion’s Joy Of Cooking (either an old one or the very recent one). After that it gets harder to choose. I’d have to jump from a list of three to a list of 50, because I just can’t choose.

  • CB

    Two worn copies of Pierre Franey cookbooks are my guides for so many recipes. And his story is wonderful.

    60-Minute Gourmet and Cuisine Rapide.

    Oh – and I’d recommend my own – Everybody Grills! – because what’s cooking to a guy if it doesn’t involve grilling?

  • Martha

    How to Cook Everything was definitely the cookbook that moved me a big step further toward serious cook, rather than someone who just follows recipes really well. I think the way it is laid out explaining an ingredient or technique and then offering several suggestions makes it an excellent teaching cookbook.

  • Alison

    Back in the day, I learned to cook from Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ The New Basics Cookbook. It’s full of interesting little tidbits, which today might seem quaint, but back then they thrilled me.

  • Jason

    I learned a lot from Bourdains Les Halles book. It does a good job of explaining the mental mise en place which has helped me more than anything.

  • Madison Foodie

    I think the The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg fits into the same “Cooking 2.0” vibe that Ratio is channeling. Their guide isn’t about recipes per se, but an exploration of flavor combinations of different ingredients that can add complexity and interest to a basic dish.

  • Jason

    BakeWise and CookWise, both by Shirley O. Corriher, offer a lot of science to explain recipes and allow for experimentation to change recipes.

  • Camille

    I got How To Cook Everything in college and loved its recipe + variations aesthetic.
    In culinary school, I marveled at how “correct” all the methods in The Silver Palate Cookbook were, and learned a lot about how to compose meals.
    Working in a professional pastry shop, La Pâtisserie de Pierre Hermé was indispensable: great flavor ideas and solid techniques.
    I have most recently fallen in love with Fergus Henderson and his Nose to Tail books. They really urge you to take a step outside your comfort zone, which is a great way to learn and improve your cooking, even if you’ve been doing it for years!

  • Chris D

    Unfortunately, cookbooks do little more than show recipes. A little plug, Ratio has inspired me to experiment with many things including crepes and homemade bread for the first time. These days, most technique can be found on the web. The future of cookbooks may be Kindle with accompanying video.

    Art of Simple Foods does a good job breaking the dishes up into technique (a rarity), but does not go far enough with instruction to be truly great. I would like to see a cookbook that teach technique including what to do and what not to do, what to look for and what to avoid.

    Also, it would be cool to have a book on various plating techniques including family style, stacking, deconstruction, etc. But I would not want a huge, coffee table food porn book of pictures. Rather, just simple instructions on what great chefs have learned with accompanying illustrations which support the lesson.

  • christopher

    I have a lot of cook books and never use any. Most are little more than food porn; glossy pictures and uninspiring recipes. “The Whole Beast” is the first book that speaks in a language that makes sense to me. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and leaves room for interpretation. “Let the ingredients get to know each other” is more meaningful than “simmer for 5 minutes.” Sometimes 5 minutes isn’t enough or is way too much. Its better to let the food guide you through cooking it rather than a book. My $0.02 anyway…

    The Whole Beast also contains wonderful asides that aren’t recipes but give you enough to make it. Bath chaps are a favorite.

  • Thom

    I’m totally surprised that nobody has mentioned this yet, but I’m going to put my vote in for The Fundamental Techniques of Classical Cuisine by the French Culinary Institute. As someone who aspires to one day go to culinary school, finding cookbooks that really teach technique was something I focused on. I must say that the FCI book is more of a teaching book than the CIA book, Professional Chef, because it explains the techniques rather than simply being a sort of new cooks reference, which is what the CIA book seems to be (I also have and use Professional Chef, in addition to the CIA books on baking and pastry and Garde Manger).

  • Bbq Dude

    For a beginner, I always recommend Joy of Cooking (any version before Ethan Becker got his hands on it) and Kamman’s Making of a Cook. Making of a Cook opened my eyes to new techniques, new foods and new ideas, while Joy simply pointed me towards the stove and showed me how much fun cooking can be. The first rabbit I ever cooked was using a recipe from Joy.

    The thing that cookbooks bring that the internet doesn’t is trust. I trust that any recipe I look at in Joy will be good (though perhaps a tad bland). With an internet search, you’re at the mercy of the vast majority of recipes which are bad (just try looking up margarita on google and find how many of the top hits are just simply lousy).

  • Lucy Vaserfirer

    Anything by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. Becoming a Chef, Culinary Artistry, The New American Chef, What to Drink with What You Eat, and The Flavor Bible are some of the best teaching books out there.

    As far as what readers are looking for next, I’m trying to figure that out before I write my next proposal! I’m hoping that new, exotic ethnic cuisines might be on the list. I grew up with the amazing foods of Uzbekistan, and I would like to share those recipes with readers.

  • carri

    My first favorites were The Silver Palate Cookbooks…I loved the whimsical drawings and great stories, though, truly, Joy of Cooking and Julia’s The Way to cook are where I go for practical methods and formula’s that work.

  • jfwells

    Hello – just found your site and Ratio and am excited about both.

    I would add to Alton Brown’s books, the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Besides those, I find that most of my recipes and cooking ideas come from blogs these days. There are some amazing amateurs out there that have combined a modern writing style, cooking/baking, and excellent photography.

    jfwells

  • 19thandfolsom

    I learned to cook with Viana La Place’s Pasta Fresca, Unplugged Kitchen, and to a lesser extent, Cucina Fresca. They worked for me because they suited my approach to food at the time: simple food that focuses on letting the natural flavors come through, made with organic ingredients.

    What I look for in cookbooks now are the elements of finesse. Can it teach me to reach new levels in flavor, plating, and overall composition?

  • Amber

    I would second (or third) most of the suggestions already listed, but Nigel’s Slater’s “Taste” really got me thinking about cooking as an extension of eating. I think his unpretentious style would also appeal to a new cook.

  • StumptownSavoury

    I learned from Julia Child, both on TV and “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Early editions of “The Joy of Cooking” are excellent reminders of what I should know. Fuschia Dunlop’s “Land of Plenty” taught me what Chinese cooking should be like. Jacques Pepin’s “La Technique” showed me how to do the things Julia encouraged me to do.

    But now? If I can’t remember, I use the cheat sheet I copied from “Ratio” to remind myself. Thanks Michael!

  • 19thandfolsom

    Oh, and other things I look for in cookbooks:

    (a) authenticity
    (b) explanations of the story behind the food, whether that’s technical (about some aspect of the dish) or personal (“I first ran across this when I was walking through an Italian meadow…”)

    From a usability point of view, layout and graphic design are incredibly important. There are some gorgeous and well-written cookbooks out there that are printed with a point size of 11 or 10 or in grey against a white background. They’re hard enough to read held close to your face, let alone while sitting on a counter while you’re cooking at the same time.

  • Dennis

    I have too many cookbooks. What has by far the most use is Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything. The whole family uses it. Personally, my favorite books are James Peterson’s Cooking (along with Sauces but not as a general cookbook) and Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone. I have Alton Brown’s books, but the Peterson book is better IMO.

  • Laura

    As a cook that likes to be told just as much how and why to do something as what to put into it, the books that really set me off into being able to cook vs being able to follow a recipe have that style. I always recommend Nigel Slater’s Appetite and Real Food – both are simple fare (but excellent) written in an accessible style. Every recipe has variations and suggestions – invaluable to those that want to go beyond the basic recipe.

    I also refer to The New Best Recipe regularly for the same reason. The explanations of why and how let me decide if I want to look for a fussy ingredient or substitute, follow all 18 steps or cut corners, and what the consequences of those decisions might be.

    Charcuterie, River Cottage Meat, etc, are great references once you already understand the basics. They’ve taught me a lot, but I wouldn’t recommend them as a starting point.

  • Charles Thompson

    It seems to me that there’s teaching someone to cook by technique — and I’d vote for any book that teaches French methods, Julia being top of the list; and then there’s teaching the concepts of food and cooking, understanding taste and flavor, cooking and eating as a way of life. Such writers as Richard Olney, Elizabeth David, and MFK Fisher come to mind. As far as today’s cookbooks and food writing, maybe that’s why the books/blogs with stories and memories combined with recipes and cooking techniques resonate. Maybe we are now beyond just needing to learn technique?

  • Kevin Hennessy

    My go to books are The Art of Cooking 1&2 by J.Pepin. The Way to Cook by J. Child. The Zuni Cookbook by J. Rodgers. The Making of a Cook by M. Kamman. Professional Baking by W. Gisslen

  • Bruce Harlick

    How to Cook Everything was a fantastically useful book; I learned approaches to making things that I thought I’d never do.

    I also enjoy Cook’s Illustrated magazine because of the approach they takes. Reading through the development of their recipes, I can see what they tried, what didn’t work and how they ultimately ended up with what they published.

  • Pat

    I like (and am sad to see it neglected here) Julia Child’s ‘The Way To Cook’. Its aim is to teach, its recipes are great, its pictures are helpful, and her wise and funny stories and hints are the ‘icing on the cake’. Also votes for ‘Mastering the Art’, Joy (older), Alton Brown’s books. I’m enjoying how ‘How To Eat Supper’ is teaching me what it claims to do, but that may be a second course or a refresher.

  • beerick

    I’m a fan of Peter Berley’s books. The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen is fantastic (even for non-vegies like me), as are his others. He sneaks a lot of lessons into his recipes.

  • Todd

    The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking: Techniques and Recipes by Barbara Tropp. It has great chinese recipes and teaches a little bit of method throughout a lot of its recipes.

  • matt wright

    For me, I have learned so much from Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. Just a fantastic book, written in an age when it was OK to write a book that required some skill in the kitchen.

    Bouchon is another favorite for learning too.

  • beerick

    to respond to the second part of the question, I look for cookbooks that have a larger picture than just recipes. A seasonal perspective is great, or a look meals rather than recipes. Or interesting insights into ingredients. Present challenges and contexts. Plain ole recipes is a tough market against the internet and already-favorite authors.

  • Mike Fincham

    I don’t think that any cookbook actually “teaches” because there is no teacher present. Even the CIA tome is really just a textbook. I view cookbooks as textbooks. The best of them have a strong authorial voice that tries to fill the void and anticipates the potholes awaiting the reader. Shirley Corriher’s Cookwise and Alton’s books are a good example of books that succeed in this respect. Ratio would fall into this category. The French Laundry cookbook teaches at times (Big Pot Blanching), but it mostly a collection of recipes. The narrative structure in between the recipes in TFL helps, but I think a hybrid approach of using the TFL book and Carol Blymire’s excellent blog on TFL is closer to a experiental teaching method. I’d like to see more cookbooks utilize the web and a “cook the book” blogging style to flesh out the measurements and instructions on the page.

  • Harlan

    I once read somewhere someone (maybe it was you, Ruhlman!) talk about how to learn how to cook. They suggested making a list of 30 recipes that you’d like to know how to make. A variety of fairly basic stuff, like waffles, chicken picatta, white bread, a stir fry, etc. And then you make those 30 dishes over and over again. Start out with the recipes in Joy (or wherever), then try some suggested variations, then look at a variety of recipes in other cookbooks or on the web, and try to figure out what makes them the same or different, then make up your own variations.

    Someone should write a cookbook like that for beginners who really want to become good cooks. Or better yet, create a web site, where you can take notes, compare with other people doing the course, see links to other recipes, etc.

  • sara

    It depends on what kind of cooking you’re trying to learn.

    For french, I like Julie.

    For italian, any of Marcella Hazan’s excellent tomes. I learned risotto from “Marcella Cucina.”

    I love Zuni for that fresh california take. Jerry Traunfeld’s recipes also excel in the simple and fresh realm.

    The flavor bible (as mentioned above) for experimenting with food pairings.

    Rick Bayless for mexican.

    Jennifer Brennan’s the original thai cookbook for thai.

    But the first cookbook I fell in love with was Jane Brody’s, “Good food.” Simple, reliable and mostly good for you.

  • Josh Condon

    Absolutely The Best Recipe Book by Cook’s Illustrated / America’s Test Kitchen.

    Rather than giving a single recipe, they look at the various ways fundamentals (roasting a chicken, say), test it out 40 or 50 different ways, then give scientific and practical reasons why they came up with the recipe they did. They also have instructions for everything from boning a chicken to seasoning a cast-iron skillet, plus experiments to see if, say, washing mushrooms really does waterlog them (the answer is no, contrary to popular wisdom).

    You can read the book front to back and be a better cook just from the fundamental food knowledge it imparts.

  • Duncan

    I honestly have learned a bunch from The French Laundry and Bouchon books. I know they can be a little intense and complicated in some respects but I love the way the idea behind the method is explained. As an example, after reading about the proper way and the reason behind blanching haricot verts I use that method all the time with lots of different veggies.

  • Josh Condon

    Sorry – just realized the way I opened that post was unclear.

    The title is “The Best Recipe Book,” not “Absolutely The Best Recipe Book.”

  • Jesse

    Wow… until I wrote this, I really didn’t understand what a hard question this is! Indeed, I agree that nearly any growing foodie finds their short-list of treasures being overwhelmed by piles of books that are either useless or just boring to them.

    I think a great “teaching cookbook” has to have at least three qualities:
    First, it must motivate you to seriously read it. Secondly, it must give
    you the desire to actually cook from it– it must have the magic to
    actually get you into the kitchen. Finally, it needs to provide
    information of great explanatory power, otherwise it is just a recipe
    collection.

    Here are some books that came to mind while I thought about this:

    * “Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook” claims not to be a book that
    will teach you how to cook, but accomplishes the opposite. It was the book
    that started to give me real culinary tools to go beyond “follow the
    recipe”. It was too fun to put down, got me in to the kitchen all the
    time, and (often slyly) taught me a lot. Another point about it that must
    not be underrated is that it provides so many starting points to branch
    out of, including a great bibliography that helps you go beyond it. Very
    rare, indeed.

    * “Jacques Pepin’s Complete Techniques” for me has a great balance between
    the serious and playful, and tons of information. It’s also fun to cook
    from!

    * The CIA book is a bit too dry to read just for fun. Everything’s
    restaurant scale. Useful? Absolutely. A great teaching cookbook? Not for
    me, because I almost never cook from it!

    * “Larousse Gastronomique”. Not really a cookbook, but I sometimes read it
    for very long stretches of time. Teaching? Well, not really: I seldom cook
    from it. But, is it ever interesting!

    * Fergus Henderson’s books are motivating to me. I cook from them
    frequently. The better I get, the better the results are. They get me in
    to the kitchen, and get me to cook new things. There’s little on
    “teaching”, but tons of magic!

    * I think I can add “Ratio” to my list, because it’s the only book I have that describes all things dough and baking in a way that actually makes sense to me. Somehow, it’s getting through my fear, and I’m actually making the stuff! Interesting + good info + actual cooking = good teaching cookbook!

  • milo

    I have always found Joy of Cooking to be extremely useful for both recipes and techniques, tons of information in there.

    And I’m partial to the 1997 edition, it was their best yet, and I consider the newer one a disappointment and a step backwards.

    I have to admit, with all that is available on the internet, it takes a lot for me to buy yet another cookbook. They are probably more useful to flip through and get ideas what to make than to go look up a specific recipe.

  • Roberto N.

    It’s hard to say what is the purpose of cookbooks. The CAP Books from france were a treasure trove of technique, but on the other hand a book like Cucina of Le Marche gave me a lot of insight about Fabio Trabocchi’s origins and let me undertand his cuisine much more. Too bad I read it when I was no longer working for him. Others are more like inspiration.

  • Robin Benzle

    I’ve always been inspired by The Dion Lucas Book of French Cooking for dishes that always turn out beautifully. Also, you must check out my online cooking show, Chow Time, at http://www.robinbenzle.com. My mission has always been to inspire people to make their kitchen a more interesting place – through unintimidating recipes and humor.

  • Nick

    One approach that I particularly liked was in Ming Tsai’s “Simply Ming: Easy Techniques for East-Meets-West Meals.” The book teaches a master recipe and then follows up with several other recipes that utilize the master recipe.

    Chef Tsai, Jose Andres and others provide tips and beverage recommendations that shed some light on how to elevate a meal and make a recipe substitutions when in a pinch. These “add-ons” help to make recipes more approachable.

  • Wilma de Soto

    I’ll probably be run out of town on a rail, but I learned a lot from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

  • Joanne Chang

    For baking, I always point my bakers to Flo Braker’s Simple Art of Perfect Baking and Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Cake Bible. Both do a terrific job of explaining WHY you should do something a certain way in baking. I skipped baking school with these under my belt (actually my bed)! Julia’s Baking with Julia is a classic too of course.

  • ctussaud

    Please tell him to read M.F.K Fisher, Julie and Julia, Jeremiah Tower’s books. I think he would appreciate Victor Gordon’s The English Cookbook ISBN 0224023004 (probably oop but available at Abebooks or the like).

  • Susan Greene

    The best baking cookbooks are still those written by Maida Heatter. I love her introductions to the recipes and how she is very ddetailed in her explanations. It is as if she is right there in the kitchen holding your hand and reassuring you along the way. She explains ingredients, cooking equipment and technique. Perfect!

  • Chris

    I have learned more technique from the French Laundry and Bouchon than any other books. While many may critique the focus on ‘fancy’ food, Keller’s (and Ruhlman’s) explanations of the fundamentals have permeated all my cooking, most of which is thrown together based on what’s in the house at the time.

    As for what I personally am looking for… I often find myself wishing that cookbooks had more photos of the process. Take Keller’s agnolotti in the French Laundry, which I’m planning to make this w/e as my first foray into homemade pasta. Great photos of how to roll and cut them, but a shot illustrating what is meant by (and I’m paraphrasing here) ‘the dough should be rolled thin enough that you can see your fingers through it but not so thin as to be transleucent’ would be valuable. Otherwise, more detail on flavour pairings. I love Culinary Artistry for this.

  • AliceWaters:Abridged

    I adore Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child. It’s a very thin book that’s all about the basics of, say, a quiche and then goes on to suggest a few variations. It’s what I turn to again and again for ideas about where to start.

  • gabriella

    i am one of those cooks with few cookbooks.

    i grew up with the joy of cooking and julia. that is what I know. that is what i love. and i a ma pretty good cook.

  • Florence McCarthy

    While my husband was preparing Cal-French cuisine for high paying guests I was left at home to fend for myself — a foodie but not a cook. I turned to my cooking trinity: Learning to Cook with Marion Cunningham, our complete collection of Cook’s Illustrated and Jacques Pepin (La Methode &
    La Technique.)

    P.S. My husband wanted me to add his first cookbook experience – The Joy of Cooking.

  • Steveo

    I really learned a bunch from mario batali’s book molto Italiano for taking the intimidation out of cooking. And I stand by the river cottage meat book, because it is probably one of the most overlooked cookery books.

  • Sara

    I really like “The Practical Encyclopedia of Baking” (it has pictures of each step in the recipe) The Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer, I’m Just Here for the Food and now Ratio. For Indian food I highly recommend “The Indian Spice Kitchen” by Monisha Bharadwaj.It’s food history and recipes all in one.

  • 123

    I agree with many here that books with an emphasis on the stories and/or histories behind the food are great teaching tools. Understanding why a particular recipe is important to a culture or a place, and then having a thoughtful, well explained take on a recipe – particularly when it is sensitive to what can actually be done at home – provides a context that helps you better work with a recipe. Years ago, I enjoyed books of this type by Lynne Rosetto Kasper (The Splendid Table), Jeff Smith (many of the Frugal Gourmet books – in particular Three Ancient Cuisines), and I recently enjoyed reading Jamie Oliver’s latest – Jamie at Home, in which he focuses on ingredients that can be grown in a home garden, with growing and harvesting tips. It is also beautiful to look at and hold.

    Harold McGee’s “On Food and Cooking” is practically a food geek degree program packed into 800 pages…and has been a remarkable book in teaching me how food works.

    One other note: Although not books, both Cook’s Illustrated and Saveur magazines are amazing “teaching” tools. Cook’s actually publishes all of the year’s magazines into a hardbound edition. The excellent writing in Saveur that focuses on the cultures and people behind a cuisine have taught me a lot over the years.

  • Natalie Sztern

    I actually wish I could open a cookbook and press a button and watch the cook doing the video of the printed recipe in front of my eyes….

  • Brooke

    I started my own blog of recipes as a simple online archive of what I’ve tried, what we liked (and didn’t) and what modifications I would make for next time.

    I include links to online tutorials and other sites (like yours) with real recipes that work as a reference for the future.

    I am excited that family & friends are now contributing but it honestly was started to reduced the volume of cookbooks & magazines in my kitchen!

  • Kristine

    Ditto on Bourdain’s Les Halles. It taught me some great “basics.” I also go straight to Jacques’ La Technique and La Methode when trying something new, as well as Julia’s “Way to Cook.” All have been mentioned already, but they are my go-tos. I haven’t finished Ratio yet, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be added!

  • Lorrie

    I absolutely agree with the reader who e-mailed you whilst at Greenbriar. Reconnecting with the soul of the recipe is vital. In my own on-line food journal/blog, it is my hope that people will reconnect with nourishing their bodies, as well as their souls, while at the sime time, nurturing the global environment. This can be hands on, messy and flat out fun, because one is connecting with the passion of the recipe. It is for this reason, that I have come to to adore both Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater. Both have stated that there is nothing more precious to them, than to have a reader come to a signing with a spattered, dog-eared and written in cookbook, because they know the reader/cook has really connected with their writing and recipes and made them their own, simply using the given recipe as a suggestion. I think that is the heart and soul of cooking.

    In recent publication are Molly Wizenberg’s “A Homemade Life” and Tessa Kiros’s “Falling Cloudberries”. Both are wrought with rich narrative, so much so that by the time one reaches the recipe, they find themselves sprinting for the kitchen–or at least planning their next meal.

    Additionally, as chefs/authors find wider audiences, I believe that both European and North American measures will have to be included in cookbook publications.

    Lorrie King
    http://read-n-eat.com/

  • blowback

    As a Brit, I would suggest Delia Smith’s three-volume How to cook as the ideal book for some one learning to cook. When it was first published, it was ridiculed for including instruction on how to boil an egg but since then I have seen enough under and overcooked boiled eggs to understand where Delia was coming from.

    As for learning to cook from any Fuschia Dunlop book, forget it. While I think they are wonderful books, you have to be a fairly accomplished cook to even understand the recipes.

  • Jennifer S

    I like having the Joy of Cooking (reference always available at Mom’s & Grandmom’s), but I think now I would suggest one of Jamie Oliver’s books. They have great pictures, and he uses a voice that is encouraging to cooks, not intimidating. Certainly some ingredients might not be easily available in rural areas, but he has master recipes and ways to change them. I love the “come on, get your hands dirty” voice.

  • Elmer

    I did get to learn some kitchen basics from my mom, but did a lot of learning and experimenting on my own. When I got my first place in college, my older sister sent me the best gift ever – a good wooden spoon and spatula, some kitchen towels, and some cookbooks that she had always found useful: Fannie Farmer (which I still use as a quick reference guide), Betty Crocker, Better Homes and Gardens, and two Jeff Smith cookbooks (the first Frugal Gourmet and Frugal Gourmet cooks American). Those last two books were the most useful. Fifteen years later, I still go back to those when I need ideas for dinner. I liked them because they gave a realistic idea of what you need in your kitchen, they had a good reference section with diagrams of the items he was talking about, and because he gave the recipes or foods a reference point for the user.

    Since that time, I have kept collecting the Frug books (even Alton Brown refers to him in his first book) because the recipes work, and because they are just interesting books to read. They certainly aren’t cutting edge, though I have read many a recipe in those older books which still pop up as “the next thing” for home cooks in the glossy food mags.

    The cookbooks I look for now are the ones that explain the techniques I don’t yet know, rather than the ones that give me a specific ingredient list. I strive to not need a specific ingredient list with measurements in order to make dinner. I usually want to look at a recipe, get a feeling for the ingredients and what the final product should be, and then just dive in from there. If I understand the method, and have a good feeling for the target, then I know what to do.

  • JB in San Diego

    OK, I just posted a home-made recipe for stir-fry to another blog (Rochelle Bilow’s) and realized that I wanted to add commentary to every step. I use frozen minced ginger – how exactly do I prepare and freeze minced ginger ahead of time? I use random ingredients that I have on hand – but which ones take longer to cook (onions, carrots, celery, bell peppers) and which ones take less time (bok choy, etc.)? I like to play with the finishing sauce (soy, oyster, fish, corn starch, mirin, whatever), but how do I translate the fact that one should experiment in a recipe… with a footnote?

    I find it extremely heartening that battle-tested cookbook authors are soliciting advice from their readers. Getting feedback on your published works in real time is a 21st century phenomenon that wouldn’t be possible without the (so-called) blog.

  • CookingSchoolConfidential.com

    My ideal cookbook: Recipes that are tested. No, really tested. Repeatedly. By people who have nothing to do with the book. And really work. Really.

    Pictures. The more the better. But, at least, one per recipe.

    Very clear instructions on technique. No, I mean VERY clear. And why.

    What I don’t need are super specific ingredient lists. It’s okay to say a cup of two of mangoes, diced. I like mangoes; I’ll add more. I do it now, anyway.

    And if the recipes are stupid fast and simple with
    accessible and not too expensive ingredients and if it delivers the sort of taste you remember a week later, then sign me up.

    I go through recipes like candy at culinary school and that’s what I look for.

    Now, is that too much to ask?

  • Tags

    It’s sad that I have to preface my choice with

    “in the USA, you are innocent until proven guilty”

    but there it is, Jeff Smith and the forgotten but brilliant Frugal Gourmet series.

    It was him that taught me “chi fan le meiyou,” Chinese for “have you eaten yet?” which led to the circumstances in which I met my wife.

    Also, Eugene Walter’s “hints & pinches” is ostensibly a compendium of ingredients, but is lush with anecdotes about food and show business. Anybody Fellini would let occupy his precious time would have to be an interesting fellow indeed, and Eugene does not disappoint. Recipes are great, too.

  • Melissa

    Michael, I just wanted to let you know that Pioneer Woman plugged Ratio in her latest post, so people are surely hearing about your book. 🙂

    As for books on how to cook, I don’t think I’ve ever used one like that. I learned to cook from my mom, she learned to cook from her mom, etc. My mother’s most favourite cookbook is Fanny Farmer, which DOES have some instructional stuff in it.

  • Jonathan

    Anything from Christopher Kimball (Cook’s Illustrated, America’s Test Kitchen).

    I really took to their descriptions of what did and did not work for each recipe that they develop.

    And, as a result, their recipes are really tested.

    That got me started on cooking. From there, I’m still looking for more fundamental technique descriptions: What do you mean, “braise” ?

    In the long run, I’d like to get more improvisational in my cooking. More fundamental technique descriptions plus something like your “Ratio” (which is sitting on my nightstand, about to be opened) will hopefully get me along that path.

  • Tags

    I’d be remiss if I were to omit Shizuo Tsuji’s “Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art.”

  • Patonthis

    Linda Carucci’s book “Cooking School Secrets For Real-World Cooks” includes lots of tips and is a good book for both a beginner and someone with more experience.

  • Pat

    I have to +1 the “French Laundry” book + Blymire FL@H blog combination, as the blog drew me in to buying and then cooking from the book, and gave lots of battle-tested information about how.

    As a lesser parallel, I find it useful to read the recipe reviews, when a website makes them available, in order to see the flops, workarounds and amendments that people have made in their kitchens in order to apply them in mine.

    Natalie Sztern wrote:
    > I actually wish I could open a cookbook and press a button and watch the cook doing the video of the printed recipe in front of my eyes….
    I love this idea, and think someone must be working on it now.

    My own dream is to have an iPhone or Kindle or application (something that I can keep handy in the kitchen) that ‘coaches’ the recipe/meal… from ingredients and mise-en-place to timers for each step to pictures of what things should look like at each step. I know it’s out there, just waiting to happen.

  • Arturo

    Zuni Cafe cookbook, Judy Rodgers
    Elements of Taste, Gray Kunz
    Sauces; Cooking;EoC; James Peterson
    A Mediterrainian Feast, Clifford Wright
    Dean and Deluca, David Rosengarten

    There are lots of great ones out there, but these are exceptional.

  • HankShaw

    Honestly, Harold McGee is probably the best book out there for serious learning. But I also love Bertolli’s “Cooking by Hand,” as well as the CIA books. And not to blow sunshine up your ass, but “Charcuterie” is a pretty damn good book…

  • Bob Y

    And let us not forget the original two “Silver Palate” cookbooks. They had a voice, obvious passion for food and they’re books to this day I use often. Based on all the commenters above, I’ve been tracing my own arc: from Claiborne and Julia to Silver Palate(s) to Marcella Hazan to Richard Olney and the blessed Alice to what is now my food. Today however, I must admit that much of my food is from Epicurious, Cooksillustrated,com, and several blogs. A new paradigm as I watch a friend cook dinner with a small laptop perched on the counter. 🙂

  • lisadelrio

    The first book I cooked from was my Dad’s 1962 edition of “Joy of Cooking.” In the 80s, I read Linda West Eckhardt’s “The Only Texas Cookbook” – which is filled with humor and entertaining stories. I’m not sure how much cooking I learned from Linda, but I sure developed a love of cookbooks. I’ve been collecting them ever since. Recently, I learned some useful things from Elements, and while I’m sucking up, Ratio. 🙂

  • Cindy Corbett

    One of my first cookbooks was Elizabeth David’s Italian Cooking. Also remember learning a lot from the Time-Life Cooking of the World series.

  • Robin

    Pam Anderson’s “How to Cook Without a Book” is very practical, I still even remember some of those silly rhymes at the start of each chapter.
    Robb Walsh’s books are fun, because he gives some great background on why or where the recipe came from.
    Lots of good suggestions here…

  • Matt

    Culinary Artistry showed me there could be more to it than picking out a recipe from Joy of Cooking and trying not to burn it. It really sparked my imagination.

    Now that they’ve expanded it into The Flavor Bible and I’ve got Ratio; I feel like there’s a whole world out there for me to overmix/undercook/drop on the floor on the way to the sink.

  • tyronebcookin

    I like Alton, I have read all Michael Ruhlman’s Chef books, and then Ratio, & Elements. Loved those. Liked the Einsteins Cook…series 1&2. Got plenty of quick useful knowledge out of The New Kitchen Science…own the Professional Chef and Larousse Gastronomique…But one day I found ‘The Creative Cooking Course’ and it’s edited by Charlotte Turgeon (no author-and at one point she was an editor on Larousse I believe) found it for a few dollars at the Books Warehouse in Dallas.(I think that was the name of the place) I loved it not because it was a cook/recipe book of sorts but because it was ‘old school’ great pictures, diagrams, and techniques…foods that use to be ‘The Food’ to have or cook, gave catering and party tips, sections on sauces, drinks, desserts..etc. I was intrigued by it. Currently I don’t have any recipe books, don’t buy them…I think people nowadays want technique, instructions, simple ways to create great flavor and WOW people…stories, some history, anecdotes, lots of humor and maybe a few recipes along the way to illustrate their point. AND of course they need lots of EXCELLENT photos from Donna Ruhlman!

    Micheal you should come up with some ‘limited prints’ involving technique, elements, and ratios (besides the one you did pdf) combined with Donna’s photography…those would sell…make them to be beautiful and inspiring hanging in the kithen or over the hearth in the ‘great room’.

    People are looking for experiences…just throw a few recipes in for guidance along the way!

  • Connie

    Just to name a few: Le Guide Culinaire, Auguste Escoffier. Baking With Julia, Julia Child. On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee. The Art of Eating, MFK Fisher.

    What I look for in cookbooks: Jennifer McLagan’s Fat book is great. It has good recipes, plentiful information, and its pleasing to the eye just to look at.

    Cookbooks I avoid like the plague: what I refer to as “coffee table cookbooks,” all fluff, no substance, or worse yet, recipes that don’t work.

  • Sharon

    I agree with the comment that the best teaching book is one that gets you cooking. So many cookbooks are fun to read but never used for their actual purpose. Tops on my list: The Silver Palate series, Molly Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook, The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper, Sunset Magazine’s Favorite Recipes, The Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Herrmann Loomis.

  • amy

    The books I use are
    Herbs and Spices Jill Norman
    The Flavor bible Karen Page and Andrew
    Knife Skills Charlie Trotter
    The New Foodlovers Companion
    The new Food lover’s tiptionary
    My first “official” cookbook was Fanny Farmer…
    I don’t really use any of the recipes in my cookbooks…Only have them for inspiration and influence….

  • Tammi

    Joy of Cooking…everything I made from that cookbook worked…everything.

  • Steve O.

    I find that my favorite cookbooks are more reference books than anything else. I use Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything,” the “Joy Of Cooking” and Pepin’s “Complete Techniques” as my go-to references. If I’ve never made something or never worked with certain ingredients, I take a look at these books, then I hit the internet to find out how (infinitely) more people do it. I then take what I like, leave what I don’t, and if it doesn’t work out in the end, I regroup and read some more.

    I was fortunate enough to grow up without cable and watched PBS almost exclusively. The cooking shows on PBS have been invaluable, now just as much as always. The Food Network cannot hold a candle to the shows on PBS. I’ve learned more essential techniques from these shows than I have from my mother and grandmother combined (just don’t let them know!).

  • casacaudill

    I love anything with a narrative – tells you about the food, why it matters, how to get it fresh, etc – and photos. MUST HAVE PHOTOS. In that regard, I love Mario’s cookbooks. I could read them probably if I wasn’t wanting to make everything in those pages.

  • Canice

    I was hoping to see a word about David Tanis’ “A Platter of Figs” from the sometime chef at Chez Panisse. I haven’t spent enough time with it yet, but was hoping it would turn out to be the non-cookbook for the seasonal home cook. If that makes sense. In other words, the philosophical, regional, professional perspective that should replace the “Recipe Book” in today’s home kitchen.

  • Greg Turner

    I’m surprised no one mentioned McGee’s On Food and Cooking. It’s an amazing book given the information it contains, and is even more amazing given its tone, humor and readability.

    I also have gained much from the CIA’s Professional Chef, Alton’s book (and television series) and Ruhlman’s own Elements of Cooking (plug, plug).

    Two ideas for cookbooks that would be infinitely valuable for novice and seasoned cooks alike: The first, a cookbook that talked about flavor profiles by region. Native spices, methods, etc. Essentially, a book that provided you tools to cook a chicken as if you were in a province in China, the American south, Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, etc. The second would be a book that details ways to think about food. Where it comes from, how things go together. The difference in thought behind vegetarian cooking and cooking with meat. This idea for me is less crystallized than the former, but as someone whose daughter recently converted to vegetarianism, I’ve found myself having to think about dinner in a different way than before.

  • ntsc

    My first choice on teaching cookbooks is Joy. We have two different editions prior to 1980 and the most recent one.

    The two Time-Life Series, The Good Cook – one of which is in your photo and Foods of the World are excellent secondary texts.

    My wife would go with Julia and Mastering the Art Vol I, we are on our second copy. Her next choice would be anything by Child or Pepin.

    I don’t know Ratio well enough to offer a firm opinon yet. As you point out the CIA texts are texts, and we have most of them.

    I’m less concerned with photos than illustration but I do want a cooking primer to read as a book, not a recipe collection.

  • robin

    I’m certainly looking for a narrative. The best cookbooks seem to explain not just the how, but the why, the meaning of what you are about to cook. I imagine people who put a good deal of their time and effort into food and cooking want something more, or at least I do.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Even with blogs and sites like Epicurious, I’m constantly drawn to my cookbooks. I trust them. And somehow it seems more intimate to cook from a book’s recipe rather than one found online, however silly that seems. I was actually a little bummed the other day to see the strawberry sorbet recipe in Paul Bertolli’s Cooking by Hand up on Epicurious. That recipe was such a personal one for me. I made it with the book on my table and later ate the sorbet while reading it. I was so happy to have bought the book and to be able to read it front to back. You can’t get that online. (Though you can get something else, just as good: a look into someone’s kitchen diary. And while that’s just as (more) intimate, it’s less polished, more real but less dramatic I guess.)

    But I’ll stop rambling and get down to brass tacks, a few favorites:

    Cooking by Hand
    Zuni Cafe Cookbook
    Charcuterie 🙂
    The French Menu Cookbok (Richard Olney’s)
    Falling Cloudberries
    Everyone Eats Well in Belgium (a great cookbook, even if I’m biased because it was co-authored by my aunt Maria)
    River Cottage Meat Book

  • Michele

    Inspired by Carol Blymire of French Laundry at Home Blog, I’ve been cooking my way through The French Laundry cookbook and find it one of the best at teaching the home cook restaurant secrets and how to get everything prepared ahead so that it’s just a few minutes when the guests are there.

  • sara

    James Peterson’s ‘Vegetables’ is a practical and hands-on approach to learning what to do with various veggies, without making the would-be cook go hunting for obscure ingredients, jump through weird procedural hoops, or otherwise feel like an ass.

    Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘World Vegetarian’ is good, too.

    For all-around cooking advice I still look to the Fannie Farmer Cookbook (the Joy of Cooking was never used in my household growing up, for whatever reason), and Bittman’s ‘How to Cook Everything’ is great, too.

    If I have a procedural/technique question I’ll usually go to ‘The Professional Chef’.

    Nick Malgieri is good for baking advice and trouble-shooting.

  • MikeV

    I heartily agree with the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, Cook’s Illustrated “Best Recipe”, and Alton Brown cookbooks.

    But the cookbook that made all the difference for me was Pam Anderson’s “How to Cook Without a Book”. It changed my mental map of cooking. I went from knowing a collection of recipes to knowing a collection of basic techniques and Ratios. (Pun intended – I love your new book).

    Each chapter in the book is a basic technique (say, sautéing, with a deglazed pan sauce) with a lot of variations. The book opened my eyes to how those techniques are used in ALL the recipes of that type. That was when the top list of books started to help me – they did the best job of explaining when, why and how you would use certain techniques and ratios.

  • luis

    Recipes, can’t live with them and can’t live without them.
    It’s important that book writers get with the lastest information regarding how food affects us.
    Case in point is kesller’s book and research. Don’t have it in my grubbies yet but its at the UPS.
    After becoming food and technique aware I think I know who to go for what.
    Lots and Lots of great books out there like Ratio, The elements and Charcuterie.
    I need recipe books for a NEW TYPE OF COOKING. Same dishes Same custards and Ice creams etc… but non addictive. The sugar, fat, salt addiction that cuisine and modern restaurants and prepared foods thrusts on us Americans needs to be clearly seen as a danger to the population and there is room for a new movement sympatico with the grow local and natural and eat organic fresh…movement.
    I am talking food textbooks for THE CHILDREEN. THE CHILDREEN writer folks is the future. Nobody gives a darn about them.
    You take organic fresh and marry it to Kellers sousvide without much fanfare and fancy shit… Sousvide for the CHILDREEN.
    And you find a way to turn it into a movement and gain acceptance and you will change the fate of all Americans forever.
    You can kiss degenerative diseases goodbye..heart attacks….Lower the cost of MEDICAL and grow the most wholesome and healthiest population in the entire world.

  • Laura

    The River Cafe Cookbook…the recipes are so simple you can do them without the cookbook in no time.

  • Harry

    My response is long but I hope you stick with it because I put a lot of thought into the whys of what I like.

    You asked two questions. One, how did one learn to cook. Two, what does one look for in a cookbook.

    1) How I Learned
    I taught myself to cook in the pre-internet age, from books and TV shows. From the 1970’s edition of JOY OF COOKING I learned about foods, ingredients, techniques, cooking methods. (To this day the only way I can really know how to appropriately cook beef is to know where the cut is on the cow.)

    From 365 WAYS TO COOK CHICKEN I got recipes and learned how to follow them. I like the 365 Ways series as beginner’s cookbooks. The ingredient list is short and has only common inputs, the instructions are simple and to the point. They use a lot of shortcuts, such as canned cream soup. As one learns to cook it’s easy to substitute the real thing, such as roux or white sauce.

    From Jacqueline Heriteau’s recently reissued (yay) A FEAST OF SOUPS I got recipes and learned how to cook soup. Since I was on a very tight budget at the time, soup was a big part of my diet. It remains an important element of my repertoire.

    Had I learned to cook a couple decades later, I would have also used Julia’s THE WAY TO COOK, Cook’s Illustrated THE BEST RECIPE, and Shirley Corriher’s COOKISE in addition to JOY. All three go into the whys and wherefores, teach you how to substitute and change, and show similarities across methods and dishes. The Way To Cook has well-chosen illustrative photos as well.

    2) What I Look For In a Cookbook
    Not recipes, that’s for sure. I have about 100 cookbooks, each marked with several dozen recipes I want to try someday. (IOW, I’m only an advanced beginner in the cookbook game.) I want one that teaches me what lies behind the recipes. I also want to know what distinguishes this version of roast chicken from that one. I like how CI describes exactly what sort of, say, brownie, is the goal, and the descriptions of the variations to get there. Even if I don’t want, say, chewy brownies, I know not to try their recipe and I learn what variations might lead to my cake-like outcome. I will grant that this level of detail is not for everyone but some description of the desired outcome is always in order.

    I generally do not buy for the pretty pictures, unless they’re illustrating a new technique for me.

    I look for good layout: are the recipes on one page? Awesome! I will – and do – pay extra for that. If not, is the recipe at least broken up in a way that makes it usable, or will I be forever leafing back and forth while I’m cooking? That’s a strong disincentive for me, because I put my cookbook behind a bookstand. To turn a page I have to move whatever is in front of the stand, drop down the stand cover, turn the page, and undo the disorganization. The book gets dirtier faster, too. Is the print and layout readable? Another plus is a covered spiral binding that allows the reader to open the book flat without breaking the binding *and* still has the book title on the spine.

    Is the index thorough or is it just an alphabetical listing of recipe titles? I want an index that, for example, lists all the recipes with bok choy or sesame paste, even if those aren’t the main ingredients. I am passionately fond of Joy’s index, with the major subject header in bold. Why isn’t that more common? I am passionately unfond of The Way To Cook’s index, which doesn’t have bolded subject headers and is printed in gray and doesn’t indent enough.

    For a small, short cookbook, stapled pages (like a magazine) are better than a narrow glued binding. The latter breaks far too easily while the former has staying power.

    365 WAYS TO COOK CHICKEN is an excellent model to follow for readability, layout, and binding. The print is a strong black, on a slightly off-white background. Title, story, ingredient list, and instructions are easy to distinguish visually. All recipes are on one page or facing pages. It has a covered spiral binding. It has a good index.

    Kenneth H. Lo’s TOP 100 CHINESE DISHES does very well on almost all my points. All recipes are on one page or facing pages. (The publisher clearly could have made the book more compact, to the detriment of usability. I paid extra to get the usability.) The index is great. The layout of ingredients and instructions is easy to follow. The dish descriptions distinguish one dish from another. The only thing it lacks is a covered spiral binding.

    Are the instructions easy to follow or do I have to rewrite them in order for them to be usable? Barbara Tropp’s otherwise excellent Modern Art of Chinese Cooking stays unused on my shelf because I got tired of rewriting each and every recipe.

    I do not recommend Harold McGee’s ON FOOD AND COOKING to many cooks. It’s only for people who want to know the science of food and ingredients. For most beginners its intimidating and overkill. I do recommend it to scientists learning to cook and to geeks.

    Given all this, what cookbooks do I like/use now, as a seasoned cook? They tend to be either specific cuisines or books of fundamentals, from which I devise my own recipe.
    – JOY, although I don’t need to refer to it much
    – THE BEST RECIPE
    – Julia’s THE WAY TO COOK
    – 365 WAYS TO COOK CHICKEN is still tops for layout and usability
    – Claudia Rodin’s BOOK OF JEWISH FOOD, for the recipes and the stories. I’ve given it to noncooks because they’ll enjoy the history.
    – any bread book by BERNARD CLAYTON, although there are better ways to lay out the different kneading methods (hand, standing mixer, food processor). His descriptions of bread and technique can’t be beat and his indexes are good.

    There are two books I’m afraid to buy, given how little time I have to delve into the heart of a new cookbook, learn what it has to offer, and experiment. But someday:
    1. Corriher’s BAKEWISE.
    2. Ruhlman’s CHARCUTERIE. I want to break down a half a pig so bad I can taste it. But I have neither the time nor the freezer space for that job right now.