Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Sunday Question

Which cookbook is your favorite?

Brought my mom to Sherry Brooks Vinton’s event promoting her new canning and preserving book, Put ‘Em Up! last week. Mom, having grown up during the Depression, learned nothing much new, but I was inspired. As I am by any new cookbook. I’ve gone and made two kinds of salsa from the book, and am planning more forays into jam and pickle making before the end of the harvest. This is my favorite time of year, with all abundance before us, and I inevitably begin hunkering down with my (many) cookbooks, planning for fall and winter cooking extravaganzas. And this year, I’m moving as well, but unlike Emily Russo, I’m finally able to bring all my books and range them round me again, after storing most of them for a few years. I find myself gravitating first to the cookbooks, going through boxes and greeting them like the old friends they are.

I actually cried over my cracked, stained and spattered old Moosewood Cookbook, which I thought I’d lost.

I’ve been distressed lately about the strange trend of looking up recipes on the Internet. I actually know people who’ve ditched all their cookbooks because they can find anything they might need online! But cookbooks are sacred to me, a source of comfort and entertainment like no other. So I thought I’d ask everyone else who is passionate about their cookbooks this week which are their favorites.

It turns out we have a passel of vegetarians at the Odyssey. John’s favorite cookbook is Simple Vegetarian Pleasures, an oldie but goodie by Jeanne Lemlin.

He also favors The Winter Vegetarian by Darra Goldstein.

Joan likes Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison.

And Marika’s fave is Crescent Dragonwagon’s The Passionate Vegetarian, which I own but haven’t used because the cover scares me. I’ll have to give it up and get over myself, I guess. And you have to love her name.

Trust Nieves to shake things up. She is enamored (as I am) with Amy Sedaris’s quirky, funky I Like You: Hospitality Under The Influence.Entertaining etiquette, rabbit care tips, craft projects and recipes are all rolled up in one hilarious package. I’ve tried the recipes, too, (mostly Greek) and they’re really good. Nieves also likes I Know How To Cook, by Ginette Mathiot, the bible of French home cooking.

I am having a hard time choosing. Like all cooks, I have many favorites. I own so many cherished vegetarian cookbooks I can’t possibly choose one of them over another. I adore Jane and Michael Stern’s Square Meals, a compendium of American comfort food, with a fantastic teatime section, and the best recipe for Cincinnati Five-Way Chili ever. I have quite a few collections from theBon Appetit, Gourmet, and Cook’s folks. But I think the best magazine cookbook is Saveur Cooks Authentic American.Saveur has won a gazillion James Beard Awards, and no wonder. When I use any of their recipes, whatever it happens to be always unfailingly not only comes out tasting amazing, but also looks just like the picture!!!! I never have that kind of luck with any other recipes.

If I had to choose a desert island cookbook, it would have to be Joy of Cooking, though. I don’t think I could live without "American Fruit Desserts." Make that dessert island!

The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook would be a close second, for the entertainment factor rather than the Hashish Fudge. I don’t care who knows it, I think Alice was a finer writer than Gertrude ever thought of being. Clear and precise and funny. Her cookbook combines really fantastic food writing (and anecdotes about everyone from Picasso to Hemingway) with funky, fancy recipes. Violet souffle. Mmmm.

Speaking of food lit, look for our table at the Anthony Bourdain event on September 24th at Symphony Hall in Springfield, part of the Springfield Public Forum Lectures. I asked to work this event because I was blown away by Mr. Bourdain's exploits in Kitchen Confidential, and have been a big fan ever since. His new book is Medium Raw, which I assume he'll be reading from (although you never know). In any case, a fine time should be had by all foodies.

And let us know about your favorite cookbooks!


1 comment:

Emily Crowe said...

you didn't include the cookbook I emailed you about
See if I let you work the Anthony Bourdain event with me now!

Here's m favorite cookbook:

The Caribbean Central & South American Cookbook
by Jenni Fleetwood

It's the best, most authentic Caribbean cookbook I've encountered in my travels. We own probably 30 or so Caribbean cookbooks and this one is tops! Whether you need to make curried goat, oxtail soup, ackee & saltfish, or just want a rip-roarin' recipe for rum punch. (NB: all rum punches must have at least 4 ingredients to qualify as punch. The singsong chant for making one is One of Sour, Two of Sweet, Three of Strong, Four of Weak, where sour is lime juice, sweet is cane syrup, strong is rum, and weak is water. Freshly grated nutmeg on top completes it!)