Have I mentioned I am obsessed with cookbooks? I love to read them, especially old ones, because they give you a glimpse into the lifestyle of that era in much the same way as fashions of the times do. But new ones can make my heart go pitter patter just as well.
I guess you could say I am something of a cookbook connoisseur.
I have my preferences and my dislikes. I love cookbooks that are ethnic, regional, or favorites in other countries that have been translated into English and include a cultural context. I adore love stories to a particular cuisine of one’s heritage. I love chef-centric cookbooks that are written without pretension and have a point of view. I enjoy cookbooks that explore one food in all it’s glories…whether it’s a book about risotto, soups, or an ode to zucchini.
I am not a fan of overly complicated cookbooks, where each recipe has 20 or more ingredients, and an equal number of steps. Save me from compendiums, with generic recipes that can be found in dozens of others.
I prefer ingredients listed in the order they are referred to in the recipe instructions. I like it when nutrition values are given, and when suggested accompaniments appear. Photos are nice, but not so many that it turns the cookbook into a coffee table book.
I want the index to list recipes by ingredients, and not (as in one book I own) by cute recipe titles. If it’s important to use a certain size or type of pan, pot or baking dish–tell me so. I want the layout of the book to make sense. I prefer it by course, rather than by season or menu. And I admit to a fondness for sidebars with tips, tricks and substitutions.
When I read through a cookbook, I am looking for inspiration, new ideas, unique use of common ingredients, or simple use of ingredients that are new to me.
Most of all, I want a cookbook to be user-friendly. I want the recipes to be accurate, easy to follow, and for the most part, not take all day to make (although cooking all day without the need for my intervention, as in a crockpot, is fine with me.) Yes, I am perfectly capable of making a Beef Wellington from scratch (pastry, pate, duxelles and all…) but I prefer dishes that I can prepare after a busy day and put on the table at a reasonable hour.
People often ask me why I don’t write a cookbook. It’s on my bucket list. But for now, I’ll share some of my favorite recipes and cookbooks with you here.