When Maggie from EatBoutique moved to France, she asked readers which cookbooks she should take along. Thinking I could live without them, I didn’t bring any with me on my current five city tour, but I keep calling home to have things scanned!
For many cooks, recipe books are a indispensable resource. The only problem is when the library gets out of hand. “I’m doing a little late spring cleaning and realized I have over forty cookbooks, some still stored in boxes from a move and other in my pantry. Since I keep my go to recipes in a binder and don’t use a majority these cookbooks very much, I’ve decided to donate many with the idea of keeping only five.” wrote Chowhound user dave_c last week.
Although I am a little afraid to count, I probably have thirty to forty cookbooks myself. And between sites like Epicurious and food blogs, there are so many recipes online now that I am more likely to head to my computer for new recipes than my cookbook collection. While I can’t quite bring myself to cull my cookbook collection yet, another Chowhound used replied that after donating an impressive cookbook collection to a local library, the circulation for that section more than doubled. Perhaps more of us should share the wealth!
If I had to move across the world with only one or two suitcases, I think the cookbooks worth keeping would be the ones that are most enjoyable to own, whether for the photography and layout, voice of the writer, or additional stories. If I were really going to scrap my collection, I would keep:
1. A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes by David Tanis
I only just recently picked up A Platter of Figs, but is absolutely delightful to just sit and read David Tanis’ storytelling. It always gives me writing and menu ideas, even if I am more inspired by one of Tanis’ stories of combing through markets in New York or Venice or a 8am “late nite snack” in Barcelona than an actual recipe.
2. Small Plates by Jennifer Joyce
A constant source of inspiration, this book lists is organized around international menus. Who knew what goes into a norwegian small plate spread or that it was so easy to create an arabesque feast? Best of all, each menu provides options for dishes that can be quickly thrown together, purchased, or homemade to create a dinner for a group or any size.
3. Fragrant Rice: A Taste of Passion, Marriage and Food by Janet De Neffe
I have heard this compared to Under the Tuscan Sun, but that completely undervalues this book. It is a rare window into an under-appreciated cuisine which is both delicious and incredibly healthful. Instead of just interspersing recipes throughout De Neffe’s story of integrating into a Balinese family and all of the brilliantly colored festivals that go with it, De Neffe illustrates why jamu, a turmeric juice drink, is perfect on a sweltering afternoon and the ancient uses of various herbs for healing.
4. The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery by Rose Carrarini
With six perfect scone recipes, a definitive guide on making tartlets, and even a no fail recipe for pancakes from scratch, the Rose Bakery cookbook has long held an unchallenged position as my favorite source of baking recipes. But apart from that, this cookbook is drop dead gorgeous. If there weren’t recipes on the backsides of the photo pages, I would cut them out and have them framed. Hmmm . . . maybe that is how I should decorate my new apartment.
5. Handwritten Italian recipes from my first cooking class
While not a cookbook per se, these are so precious that I don’t know what I would do if they were lost. They chronicle essential cooking techniques like the proper way to make gnocchi, tiramisu, and mousse as well as some of my most popular dinner recipes.