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We have no contributing diarist this week, so we'll have an open forum instead. Those of you who have read a book that changed your life and would like to contribute a diary, please kosmail me. I have a template that makes it very easy to write a diary!  You need only write three paragraphs and the template tells you exactly what to put in each one. Just think--contribute a diary and you may find yourself on the "Rec" list!

For now, however, we’ll discuss our favorite books about cooking—or as our British cousins call it, “cookery.”

For me, it’s The Cooking of the British Isles by Adrian Bailey.  Don’t laugh, and if you’re thinking of mouthing the well-worn mantra, “But-British-food-is-awful-everyone-knows-that”—don’t. That idea should have been retired long ago.  The truth is, if you’ve ever stayed with someone who lives in Britain and who is a good cook, you’ve experienced food that can only be described as sublime.

 The writing in The Cooking of the British Isles is so excellent it’s like a novel:  you just travel delightedly from one chapter to the next, hardly able to believe your comfort level is rocketing to the highest pitch.  Consider the lyrical qualities of such paragraphs as these:

In the summer, when we had desserts and pies made from the garden fruits, I was sent to the neighboring farm to buy cream to pour over them, so thick and yellow that I was warned not to swing the can on the way home or it would turn to butter.  It was at the farm, in those days before World War II, that we also bought eggs and chickens, milk, and freshly churned butter that was shaped into one-pound bricks and stamped with the image of a friendly cow. The color and taste of the butter changed with the seasons—in winter it was pale, almost white, with the faintest of flavors.  In summer, when the cows were turned out to pasture in meadows carpeted with buttercups, it became yellow and rich as a golden sovereign.  From the introduction by Jose Wilson, foods editor and consultant.
A joint of beef is usually roasted with its attendant circle of potatoes in the roasting pan, for roast potatoes, like Yorkshire pudding, are an integral part of the meal.  So are the other accompaniments—mustard; snow-white and fluffy horseradish sauce; a boat of rich, brown, hot gravy. Green vegetables and perhaps some carrots, add a splash of bright color to the harmony of pinks and browns on the plate.  But few of us pause to admire the view.  A fairly generous amount has been prepared, for second and third helpings are usually expected, in spite of the knowledge that a large and sugary plum pie must surely follow, crowned with thick cream.  How formidable!  How delicious!
The chapter titles alone stimulate my tastebuds:  “Breakfasts to Rouse Sluggards from Sleep”; “Tea:  Sustenance, Beverage and Ritual”: “A Royal Collection of Rural Cheeses”; “Blessed Be He That Invented Pudding”: and “Foods of Feast and Festival.”

Here’s the intro from “Foods of Feast and Festival”:

The winter sun, a disk of pale fire, climbs but a short way up the cold marble arch of our British sky. At sunset the horizon is inflamed, the color tinting the snow that lies on the frozen fields, and the entire landscape is washed in a frigid pink.  Only the evergreen shrubs and trees, the holly and the ivy, and those sacred birds of winter, the robin and the wren, show that life still exists.  The earth lies dormant, and sleeps.
I’ve followed some of the recipes in this book, although my pudding didn’t turn out as well as the beautiful golden-brown steamed pudding, its sides streaming with warm raspberry jam, depicted in the chapter on sweets. But much of the book has stuck with me and to this day I won’t stir my Christmas pudding mixture “widdershins” (counterclockwise), nor permit anyone in the household to stir it that way.

So which is YOUR favorite cookbook, and why?  Do its phrases linger in your memory as those from the aforementioned book linger in mine?  Do the recipes you’ve tried from your favorite cookbook bring back pleasant memories?

Come, take a chair round the table, help yourself to a cup of hot mulled cider—mind you don’t inadvertently swallow one of the whole cloves in it—and help yourself to one of Adrian Bailey’s “hot little mince pies, dusted with sugar,” keeping warm in the chafing dish over there. Tell us about your favorite cookbook.  Our tongues are hanging out, waiting for you to speak!


What is your favorite dish at Christmas dinner?

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Comment Preferences

  •  A favorite series: (9+ / 0-)

    World Community Cookbooks from Mennonite Central Committee.  I grew up with the first one in the series, the More With Less cookbook that came out in 1976.
    My mom contributed the recipe for Formosan Fried Cabbage.  :-)


    Full of recipes and suggestions on how to eat better and consume less, it addresses the concern that North American were doing the opposite — consuming more and more food made up of wasteful calories and unnecessary packaging.

    Next in 1991 came Extending the Table:
    The world on a plate-- Recipes and stories from Argentina to Zambia in the spirit of More-with-Less.
    And most recently in 2005, Simply in Season, with recipes arranged by season according to when the produce-ingredients come into their own.  I just served the Butternut Bisque to my colleagues at work this week, using squash from our winter-share CSA.
    Through stories and simple “whole foods” recipes, Simply in Season explores how the food we put on our tables impacts our local and global neighbors.
    Warm seasonal seasonings to all!

    If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

    by AnnieJo on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:14:06 AM PST

  •  I've got a few favorites (9+ / 0-)

    My very first cookbook, which I still have, was the late 1970s edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook.  I still make the Russian Tea Cakes from that edition.

    The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest are both way cool, even though I'm a confirmed carnivore.

    The Wok, by Gary Lee, makes the idea of cooking fun.

    And Cooks Illustrated Magazine and their various compilations -- especially the Cooking For Two series; Steaks, Chops, Roasts, and Ribs; and Slow Cooker Revolution -- have taught me so much about the science of cooking, and ways to do things easier, that I cannot help but recommend them to anyone who wants to cook, and eat, better.

    Tom Smith Online
    I want a leader who shoots for the moon. The last time we had one, we got to the moon.

    by filkertom on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:19:36 AM PST

  •  I own a collection of cookbooks. 100 maybe. (13+ / 0-)

    This was a brilliant idea.

    My cooking blog is in great part about regional cookbooks (Aunt Lola's Meatloaf) and out of print cookbooks (American Home Cooking). I cannot pick one cookbook that is my favorite.

    I would do another book report. My last one went down well.  And that made me pretty happy.

    I used to be Snow White. And then I drifted. - Mae West

    by CherryTheTart on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:26:13 AM PST

  •  One year... (8+ / 0-)

    I decided that we would totally change up Christmas dinner (although I love turkey, it's not something everyone else seems to love as much as I do - and the complaint is always - we just had turkey for Thanksgiving!)...

    so I made fried chicken.

    Yummy delicious fried chicken with mac n cheese.  also pernil, crackling and all.

    desserts I don't normally make.  But my uncle makes a killing cheesecake that beat out the Junior's cheesecake I got for that dinner. (yes there was a vote)


    All the suffering of this world arises from a wrong attitude.The world is neither good or bad. It is only the relation to our ego that makes it seem the one or the other - Lama Anagorika Govinda

    by kishik on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:29:41 AM PST

    •  My mom went all Swedish (8+ / 0-)

      when I was around 12, and changed our traditional Christmas Eve dinner from delicious BBQ spareribs to a Swedish feast replete with revolting sausages, nasty cucumber salad, sour lingonberries, horrible hash.

      Now that is my favorite meal ever! :-)

    •  Good for you, kishik! We decided the same thing (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aravir, koosah, kishik, Brecht, old wobbly

      Turkey once a year is quite enough for us.  I like it, but not enough to roast two turkeys a month apart.

      We did the roast goose thing for a couple of years, the duckling a l'orange one year, roast crown of pork--and settled on roast beef.  Easy enough decision for my British-born hubby!

      Fried chicken done by a really good cook is delicious.  Everyone in my extended family still thinks longingly of Grandma Esther's fried chicken.  She was an expert in her day.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:51:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  sigh... (6+ / 0-)

        I am the only one who could eat turkey all year round!!  (it was a regular request on my birthday - the middle of the summer - which my mother convinced me to choose other things since she did not want to turn on the oven in the middle of the summer! LOL)

        my fried chicken recipe starts with a good soak in buttermilk.  Then a batter of buttermilk, beer, various seasoning, and flour.  chicken pieces put into batter, then flour dredged then fried.

        One of my nephews is continuing on with this recipe (with some alterations to make it his own...)


        But really important to get the oil temps right.  too hot, the first batch burns.  Too cold, it soaks up the oil and tastes horrible!

        Like all cooking, practice makes perfect.  :)

        All the suffering of this world arises from a wrong attitude.The world is neither good or bad. It is only the relation to our ego that makes it seem the one or the other - Lama Anagorika Govinda

        by kishik on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:55:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Good fried chicken depends on (0+ / 0-)

        having good chicken to start with, and a good frying utensil, and good oil.

        I'm a fan of cast iron and, yes, real Crisco for the frying oil.

        LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

        by BlackSheep1 on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 12:20:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I've never had roast goose *sadface* (0+ / 0-)

        While goose is kosher, for some reason it's ridiculously hard to find at kosher butchers in any neighborhood I've ever lived in, and I never see it at kosher restaurants.  Likewise goat, which I would love to try someday.

        I could probably special-order either one, but it would likely be expensive.

        •  Find somewhere the book: (0+ / 0-)

          Goat: Meat, Milk and Cheese.  

          I believe they have a list of kosher suppliers, though it's been a few months since the last time I poked through my copy.

          Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

          by loggersbrat on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 02:58:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  King Arthur Flour's Baker's Companion (8+ / 0-)

    Aside from the great recipes, I have learned more about the alchemy of flour, water, salt and yeast from this book than any other source.

    As far as a collection of "slap your mama" good recipes in general, chef Paul Prudhomme's first cookbook is chock full of mouth watering, delicious and supremely unhealthy food.  I don't think there's a single bad recipe in it.

    Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:31:46 AM PST

  •  Here's mine: (8+ / 0-)

    The Summer Shack Cookbook
    The Complete Guide to Shore Food
    By Jasper White

    I grew up in the US Midwest and only moved to NYC in 2005. A couple of years ago, NYC Greenmarkets added a Saturday morning location within walking distance of me in Brooklyn. Suddenly every Saturday morning provided the opportunity to indulge not only in fresh veggies, but fresh fish from Long Island.

    A client of mine gifted me the cookbook, and it is the first one that I've ever really read from cover to cover (vs. cherry-picking individual recipes without a broader context).

    Jasper White operates several restaurants under the name Summer Shack, and there is some inevitable "pimping" in the book. That said, it's an excellent guide to a variety of methods of preparing fresh fish, clams, mussels, lobster, etc while also emphasizing fresh seasonal produce.

    Many of the recipes include a "Working Ahead" section that enabled me to get prep done in the morning, allowing for a more relaxed plate-up at dinner time.

    And while recipes like Coney Island Red Clam Chowder turned out to be "eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head" delicious, it's not all about fish. Among the Shore Food side dishes, the stand-out for me was his recipe for "Boardwalk Fries" -- without a doubt the best variation on fried potatoes I've ever made. A bit more time-consuming and messy, but worth it!

    Jasper White's Boardwalk French Fries

    •  Sounds great, CDH! That's what charms me about (6+ / 0-)

      this British cookery book.  I love the language in it.

      And it was news to me that the people who own Stilton cheese-making enterprises can recognize their own product when served it in a London club. Apparently each wrinkled crust on the Stilton is familiar to its maker.

      Bailey writes:  "Two of them (manufacturers) once told me a story about a lunch they had in one of London's most famous restaurants.  After the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding had been washed down with ale, the two men ordered Stilton.  A half Stilton, wrapped in a napkin, was borned to their table by the waiter.  They peered at the crust.

      'Looks like one of yours, John,' said one.

      'Aye, it does,' replied the other.  'But it's not Stilton.'

      The first helped himself to a piece of the cheese on a cracker, and agreed.  "By God, you're right, John.  It's Danish blue."

      Apparently the restaurant people had put the much cheaper Danish blue into a Stilton crust!

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:06:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I grew up with cookbooks: (7+ / 0-)

    the ones for show and the ones that got used.

    For show, my mom had the Time Life series Foods of the world international cookbooks that had gorgeous photos of food, and recipes in them nobody made.

    For real, my mom used Michael Field's Cooking School and Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (which we used for cookies). We also had a bulging recipe box filled with cards that were used for daily meals. I have no idea where those recipes came from except the pie recipes, which came from my Swedish grandmother who was a crappy cook except for pastries at which she excelled.

    For myself, I mostly use either old family recipes copied from the family recipe cards, a few Madhur Jaffrey books (one I've had since 1985), my very own copy of Michael Field's Cooking School (the lesson: it's better with butter!), one vintage Joy of Cooking with recipes for "game" (like opossum) and one contemporary Joy of Cooking, Simple Suppers and a few other Indian/SE Asian cookbooks. Mostly, though, I just make stuff up with the ingredients at hand.

    •  You're very inventive, badscience! (3+ / 0-)
      For show, my mom had the Time Life series Foods of the world international cookbooks that had gorgeous photos of food, and recipes in them nobody made.

      The Cooking of the British Isles
      is in fact a Time-Life book.  I did make Burnt Cream, an English version of creme brulee.  It was terribly rich, though, so I didn't make it again.

      I've made several of the recipes in that book, when I can get the ingredients.  British ingredients aren't necessarily like ours.  Just try finding "mixed spice" in this country!  :)

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:09:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Difficult to choose just one... (8+ / 0-)

    but I guess I'd say La Cuisine en Afrique du Nord. I picked it up from a book-kiosk in Tunisia in 1993(4?), and it sees a lot of use. Of course, you also need both metric weights and a French dictionary in the kitchen, but it's part of the charm of recreating North African dishes with authentic levels of spice.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 05:37:21 AM PST

    •  I bet that's good, angry marmot! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      angry marmot, nzanne, Brecht

      We should do a virtual "recipe exchange" in a different forum one of these days.  North African cooking sounds great to me--I'm all for mint, lemons, bulgur, and whatever else they use.  So healthful!  Not to mention delicious.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:10:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A single recipe that changed my life. (9+ / 0-)

    No-knead Bread. (Lahey/Bittman)

    This recipe has allowed me to make a bread as good as any I've eaten in France, Italy, or New York.  And with hardly any work or time.  But you do have to think about it in advance.  I let it rise overnight and longer.  

    The video clarifies a lot.

    •  Thanks, redcedar, I'm going to save this one (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It looks great!

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:12:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Me too. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10, Brecht

      I made the New York Times recipe when it first came out and many times thereafter.

      Jacques Pepin has a make and bake the bread in the same pot recipe that people seem to like there's video on youtube.

      I just got Nancy Baggett's  Kneadlessly Simple based on some good reviews on chowhound and am going to try her method today.

      I was driven to all this because there is nothing like great bread but I just hate paying 4 bucks a loaf for it when it's actually pretty simple to make.

      “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

      by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:21:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I downloaded this, but never actually made it. (0+ / 0-)

      Thanks for reminding me, and recc'ing the recipe!

      "I can't do it by myself. No president can. Remember: Change doesn't happen from the top. It happens because of you." B Obama, 2008

      by nzanne on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 08:56:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Favorite dish for Christmas dinner? (6+ / 0-)

    Roast duck with sage stuffing made with cornbread.

    Which reminds me - I have to take it out of the freezer when I go to get my coffee.

    Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

    by loggersbrat on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:00:54 AM PST

  •  Simple Cooking by John Thorne (8+ / 0-)

    The following quote will give you a flavor for his philosophy:

    Rice and peas fit into that category of dishes where two ordinary foods, combined together, ignite a pleasure far beyond the capacity of either of its parts alone. Like rhubarb and strawberries, apple pie and cheese, roast pork and sage, the two tastes and textures meld together into the sort of subtle transcendental oneness that we once fantasized would be our experience when we finally found the ideal mate.
    I'm a bit of a cookbook groupie.  Although I haven't bought too many lately, after the trauma of having to move, including cookbooks, over 800 books last year, cookbooks fall into that category, for me, of guilty pleasures, along with such things as old travel books.

    Let me be clear:  I am not an accomplished cook.  Any more than I am a veteran traveler.  But I was raised on a steady diet of Julia Child's the Art of French Cooking on public television.  If you could not catch a spark of enthusiasm for food from Julia, you were barely qualified to consider yourself human.  I have remained a lover of food; all food.  And a bit of a voyeur, enjoying the love of others for cooking.  So, when I find a decent thrift store, I am always on the hunt for something special.  Old cookbooks with household tips in the back, the perfect omelet, nothing but apple pie, remembrances of great meals; you name it.

    This book was actually a gift from a dear friend of mine.  Several years ago, after my wife and I split up, I joined a website called OKCupid.  It was mostly a dating site.  But it also had "games"; members would make up a list of questions, title and score it.  So, you might see something like "What god would you be?".  According to how you answered, maybe you'd be Zeus or Pan (and so on).  I enjoyed playing those games.

    Members also asked questions about personality or opinions.  The more of these you answered, the more likely you could gauge your compatibility with others on the site.  Others were (and are) scored for compatibility with you for match and for friendship, on a scale of 1 to 100.

    To make a long story shorter, every once in a while, I would not filter for geographic location or age, just for fun, to see all my most compatible, if lot realistic, matches.  And I came across this lady who called herself Rubysneakers.  The name appealed to me, as my mother was at the world premiere of the the Wizard of Oz, and it resonated for be because of that.  And she had written her profile in Pig Latin.

    Of course, Rubysneakers was 20 years younger than me, and lived on the other side of the country.  I did not expect a response when I messaged her, but she was too perfect not to.  Funny, smart and beautiful.  So I sent her a message, in Pig Latin of course.  And she responded immediately.  It began a friendship which continues to this day, and which I cherish.

    With our age and geographic disparity (and my status as a single dad of an autistic child), after a very short interval filled with fantasies of me flying to San Diego to woo her (she was as close to perfect as I could imagine), I determined that I would be the best friend to her I could possibly be.  So when she found the perfect man for her, and asked me if she should tell him she loved him, I urged her to go for it.  They're ecstatically married now.

    One of the things we share is a love for food.  And she sent me Simple Food as a gift.  The beauty of the cookbook is not just the writing, but that the recipes are easy to follow and use, even for an amateur like me.  Thorne has a website; here is a link which shows a midnight snack of his, fresh green peas.

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:04:15 AM PST

    •  What a beautiful story, Aravir! Thanks for sharing (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10, aravir, nzanne, Brecht

      Simple Cooking sounds marvelous, and I might have to get that book myself.  I enjoyed the lyrical description you posted in the blockquote.

      I'm all for simplicity nowadays.  After half a century in the kitchen, I don't want to do anything fancy.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:16:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The first one I really used was a (9+ / 0-)

    Better Homes and Garden cookbook when I lived in my first apartment. Revelation - you do what the recipe tells you to do and then suddenly you have -- food!

    I remember the first recipe I made for my new boyfirend who became my husband - Californis Beef Stew which had onions, peas, mushrooms and olives and was flavored with orange zest and thyme. I also learned to make stuffed cabbage rolls from that book.

    After that, I subscribed to Bon Appetit and committed to teaching myself to cook well by picking a couple of recipes every month. The most complicated one involved Hungarian crepes stuffed with a chicken paprikesh and some kind of yogurt sauce which was great but exhausting and then I decided that good food didn't  need to be that laborious.

    I have a lot of Cooks Illustrated cookbooks but a number of their recipes seem overengineered, They discuss the recipe and why they do things a certain way which can be enjoyable but then many recipes end along the lines of - "so I found that if I first poached and then roasted and then finally deep fried the perch I got exactly the moist yet dry yet crisp texture I had been seeking." So now I'm over them for the most part.

    I'm a Mark Bittman fan now. I also really like Sarah Moulton and thinks she's severely underated and overlooked.

    The food writing, not cokbook per se, that I enjoyed the most was Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking, A Writer in the Kitchen.

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:08:49 AM PST

    •  Phoebe, thanks for this--I have heard Laurie (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koosah, Brecht

      Colwyn very highly recommended for her writing--didn't know she cooked too.

      As for laborious, Gods, lady, I hear you!  Once I made a vegetarian stuffed cabbage for St. Patrick's Day.  It was a recipe from Laurel's Kitchen.  It took me two solid hours of standing on my feet without a break.  The result was delicious, but I vowed "Never again."

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:18:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  In the seventies we all had (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brecht, Diana in NoVa, old wobbly, jarbyus

        Laurel's Kitchen. It sat right on the kitchen table next to Diet for a Small Planet and the Whole Earth Catalogue.

        That was a great time. I really thought the country was evolving into a better place. And then Reagan was elected because Jimmy Carter depressed people by wearing a sweater and telling them to turn their thermostats down.

        “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

        by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 08:19:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (9+ / 0-)

    opened my eyes to the gastronomical world in ways that even that wacky lady cooking French Food on PBS hadn't. Whenever I start to lose interest with food & cooking, MFK Fisher always gives it back to me. The Art of Eating is a collection of her earlier,most food focussed titles, Serve It Forth, Consider The Oyster, How To Cook A Wolf, The Gastronomical Me, and An Alphabet For Gourmets. Not really books to cook from,but books that make you want to cook.
    Thanks for the lovely diary. (and the inspiration to re-read some Adrian Bailey)

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:13:47 AM PST

  •  The book I cook from the most (10+ / 0-)

    is Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. We had all of her books (we had all of a LOT of people's books) but this is the one we returned to over and over and over again.

    I suppose for a desert island I'd want one of Mark Bittman's big books, but "most"? No.

    -7.75, -8.10; Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Dave in Northridge on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:17:45 AM PST

  •  Y'all come on and take mah poll (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, koosah, Brecht

    I want to see what people like for Christmas dinner.  I shoulda put another category:  "Other," but it's too late now.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:28:42 AM PST

    •  We always have ham for Christmas dinner. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Diana in NoVa, Brecht

      I think that tradition started because my Mom was sick and tired of turkey by the time Christmas rolled around.  Ham is lots easier to fix.  

      I will vote for Macaroni and Cheese, though, because that is what I usually end up making and bringing to my husband's family dinner.  They have a few vegetarians in that family and I always feel sorry for them.  They can't even eat the mashed potatoes because they use chicken broth to make them.  And the green beans usually have bacon in them.  Without my Mac and Cheese, those poor kids woul have a nice yummy bowl of cranberry sauce and a roll to eat.

      Metaphors be with you.

      by koosah on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:56:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  koosah, I'm glad to hear you're considerate of the (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        koosah, nzanne, Brecht, old wobbly

        vegetarians!  I did a whole additional vegetarian feast for the vegetarian members of the family one year.  However, they took one look at the roast beef and forgot they were vegetarians.  A bit awkward because I'd only cooked enough roast beef for the omnivores.  Then other members of the family sampled the roasted beets with walnut sauce and the whole onions roasted with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and decided they wanted some of that too!  It was one mixed-up meal, I can tell you.  ;)

        A colleague at the office told me of her favorite dish to bring to family dinners.  Her vegetarian grandmother invented it.

        You steam two cabbages, cut up of course, with a little butter, sugar, and salt.  You spread the cabbage in a greased 13" x 9"-inch glass dish. Then you sprinkle a cup or more of grated cheddar cheese on top of the cabbage.  Last of all you spread cornbread mix over the cabbage and cheese (she says a package and a half of Jiffy cornbread mix, made up according to directions, is sufficient).  

        Baked at 350 F. for half an hour or so, the cornbread turns a golden brown, the cheese melts, and it really is a tasty casserole!

        "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

        by Diana in NoVa on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 07:15:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  yummy! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brecht, old wobbly

          My new favorite Christmas dinner? Cajun crab boil.

          Grandkids, you know, who love love love them some crab. Too damned expensive to eat it out, as you know. So we steam a big pot of crab and shrimp, roast potatoes and sausages, cover a table with brown paper, and dump out the whole thing in the middle. Everyone has fun.

          "I can't do it by myself. No president can. Remember: Change doesn't happen from the top. It happens because of you." B Obama, 2008

          by nzanne on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 09:01:53 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Vegetarian? (0+ / 0-)

          Jiffy cornbread mix contains lard.

  •  I have to admit that anymore when I am searching (6+ / 0-)

    for a new recipe I hit the computer more than any one  cookbook.  I have a few favorite internet sites, like this one: allrecipes.  I find it helpful because it compiles several different recipes for the same dish and you can easily compare them.  The reviews following the recipes are very useful.  People who have used the recipe will list why they liked or didn't like the recipe and what modifications they've tried.

    Everyone in my family (except me) has worked in food service, including my father and three brothers who were all chefs.  My mother and sister were bartenders.  I was the "rebel" and became a teacher.  LOL.  But I grew up immersed in the world of cooking.  Going to a restaurant with my family was like an episode of "Top Chef," with everyone critiquing everything, from the cutlery to the service to the food.  It used to make my husband very nervous--he thought we all hated everything!  Then he realized that this was just the language spoken in my family.  Heh.

    I have lots of cookbooks, of course.  Joy of Cooking is probably the one I use the most.  I finally got used to the way it tells a story with each recipe, rather than just list the ingredients and steps.

    Funny fact I learned about cookbooks:  The cookbooks without a lot of glossy pictures actually get used.  Cookbooks with lots of pictures tend to be looked at, but not used.  The speculation is that the mere act of seeing the food all completed and yummy-looking satisfies whatever desire the cook had to make the dish.  So if you ever want to write a cookbook, don't put a lot of pictures in it if you want people to actually use it.  Ironically, the glorious pictures are what sell most cookbooks, though.                

    Metaphors be with you.

    by koosah on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:48:58 AM PST

    •  What an interesting observation, koosah! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koosah, tardis10, nzanne, Brecht

      And I'll bet you're right, that the ones with lots of glossy pix get looked at, but not used.

      Re your family--interesting!  My younger son used to be a chef and when we all went out to dinner, we used to go nuts because he'd order everything, from an appetizer to a dessert.  He even took the chocolate leaves apart on one dessert and told us the chocolate had been molded around a leaf of basil!  We were impressed.

      Good to see you--thanks for coming by!

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 06:55:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Allrecipes is a great resource (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brecht, koosah

      I found a recipe for brining and roasting a turkey there years ago and still use it.  The turkey comes out looking like a magazine cover, and tastes divine.

      Lost my muchness, have I?

      by aepm on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 09:20:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well .. (5+ / 0-)

    all-time go-to favorite .. Joy of Cooking (early edition)
    current favorite .. Cookwise, by  Shirley Corriher

    "Electronic media creates reality" - Meatball Fulton

    by zeke7237 on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 07:09:55 AM PST

  •  I stumbled onto baking by accident... (4+ / 0-)

    and for years the only thing I could make was chocolate-chip cookies.

    Then, I started to expand a little bit and began making cakes.

    "Perfect Cakes," by Nick Malgieri, opened my eyes as to what I could do as an amateur baker.

    The book is instructional and has wonderful pictures. Because of that book I began making complex cakes, and I stopped being intimidated by what at first glance appeared to be difficult recipes.

    When I first started dabbling in baking, I was easily intimidated. For example, when a recipe called for an egg to be separated, I wouldn't do it because I had no idea what that meant. I mean, really, how does one separate an egg? What kind of magic is that?!

    That was about a decade ago. I'm no longer afraid, in no small part because of Mr. Malgieri's book.

    I'll be spending a good part of the next 10 days in my kitchen, and I can't wait. I enjoy cooking, too, but there's something special about baking. I mean, honestly, when's the last time you heard someone say, "Eww, cake? I hate cake"?

    How about I believe in the unlucky ones?

    by BenderRodriguez on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 07:18:10 AM PST

  •  So hard to choose just one! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brecht, old wobbly

    The funny thing is, these days I am as likely to consult the internet as a cookbook when I'm in need of a recipe.  But there are still some favorites on my kitchen shelf.

    Elana Amsterdam's two gluten-free cookbooks -- one gluten-free dishes in general, one nothing but cupcakes and frostings.  I don't have a digestive problem with gluten, but I've been trying to cut way down on simple carbohydrates and I've cut refined sugars entirely, and these books are full of recipes that are excellent for that.

    Susie Fishbein's Kosher By Design is the source of my favorite chicken marinade, the basis for my favorite challah recipe, and a handful of other standby recipes of mine.

    The Gourmet's Best Desserts cookbook is one I scarcely use anymore, on account of the aforementioned needing to cut simple carbs and sugar ... but I am still profoundly fond of it.  The cover illustration is a cake that my mother and I recreated for my sister's engagement party about thirteen-some years ago.  I also can't help loving how pretentious and melodramatic the writing style is.

    And though I use it more for inspiration than for actual recipes, there's Louis P. De Gouy's The Soup Book.

    •  Oh, Batya, I love soup too! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brecht, old wobbly

      My three favorites are Mediterrean Seafood Soup, Honfleur Fish Stew, and Crockpot Chicken Soup.

      Having the latter simmer in the crockpot all day when I'm out running around and then coming home to a simple dinner of soup, hot rolls with butter, and blueberry pie is such a treat.

      I hear you when you say you want to cut down on sugar--that's why most of our desserts are fresh fruit.  Of course, that has fruit sugar, but you know what I mean.  We don't go putting additional sugar on it.  :)

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 08:42:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sooooooup. *_____* (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        old wobbly

        Soups are so wonderful, especially in winter -- although there are some lovely cold soups that work well in the summer.  My favorites are, let me see ... this chicken soup, the Moosewood Cookbook's Hungarian Mushroom soup, and a butternut-squash-and-roasted-chestnut soup that I discovered recently.

        Fresh fruit is nice, but I can't have too much of that either, which is why I've been working on a lot of recipes with sugar substitutes.  Stevia, xylitol, and erythritol are my current favorites; agave nectar and coconut sugar are good too, but I have to treat those like the equivalent of fruit and use them sparingly.

  •  I collect Cookbooks of all types but my latest fav (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SoCaliana, Diana in NoVa, Brecht

    is Modernist Cuisine for the home.
      It is unlike any cookbook you have seen because it is a Scientific approach to cooking.  It's expensive but an excellent book.

  •  Le Guide Culinaire (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, Brecht

    by George Auguste Escoffier is, without doubt, my favorite and most-referenced cookbook. Originally published in 1903, the fourth edition was issued in 1921. I have a fourth edition in French and the 1979 English translation. I couldn't do without it and have relied on it to hone my sauces and stocks.

    MFK Fisher (mentioned up top by Tardis10) is a must for anyone wanting to understand the traditions and techniques of continental (particularly French) cooking. While I enjoy my Prudhomme books, I want to point out for us Southerners Pat Conroy's Recipes from My Life--good stuff.

    As Julia Child once said, "If you're afraid of butter, use cream."

    Thanks again Diana for an inspiring diary.

  •  P Carey, great to see you! (0+ / 0-)

    I LOVE that remark by Julia Child--LOL!

    I've always been intimidated by Escoffier.  Perhaps I should give him a second look, though.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 08:43:44 AM PST

  •  "Field of Greens" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brecht, Diana in NoVa, old wobbly

    by the Greens Restaurant. Absolutely makes me want to eat vegetarian (and I am a carnivore to the max). Beautiful food.

    I need to go find my cookbook!

    "I can't do it by myself. No president can. Remember: Change doesn't happen from the top. It happens because of you." B Obama, 2008

    by nzanne on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 09:04:44 AM PST

  •  French Classics Made Easy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brecht, Diana in NoVa

    By Richard Grausman, for his "high heat" method of roasting chicken, and wonderful descriptions on exactly how to properly trim and roast a rack of lamb.

    Lost my muchness, have I?

    by aepm on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 09:17:51 AM PST

  •  I Can Tell You What My Favorite Cookbook WOULD (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, jarbyus


    The one whose tasty recipes make themselves, with the help of magic kitchen elves.

    Sigh. . . I love to eat and hate to cook.  For that reason I despise all cookbooks and love all chefs.

    Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

    by Limelite on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 12:46:41 PM PST

  •  do I have to pick just one? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa

    From among my three just by Grady Spears,  plus the "Bottles, Boxes and Jars ..." and a dozen or so church or ladies' club or workplace or Junior League collections,
    a copy of the Authorized Texas Rangers Cookbook, -- try the cookies! and the potatoes! --
    Matt Martinez's Mex-Tex, -- just for the ranchero sauce, but don't stop there ... two Betty Crockers, and ...

    Oh, all right. One.  Just one? Then go with the best one.

     This one. Barbecue, Biscuits & Beans
    Chuck Wagon Cooking    
    Bill Cauble and Cliff Teinert
    Photography by Watt Matthews Casey, Jr.
    Foreword by Tommy Lee Jones

    You cannot, I repeat can not, find a better receipt for sourdough biscuits, or a more satisfying treat than these biscuits and a dish of lick to eat with them.

    Chuck wagon cooks Bill Cauble and Cliff Teinert ...share recipes and preparation secrets for their all-time favorite dishes—trail-side to elegant—featuring a bounty of beef and game, vegetables from beans, tomatoes, and squash to hominy, homemade breads, and delectable desserts.

    "Adaptable and inventive, sumptuous and wholesome" is their goal—and achievement—as they use available ingredients and leftovers in developing meals and menus to please all tastes. Photography by Watt Casey, Jr., captures the colors of genuine cowboy life alongside full color displays of the finished dishes—and preparations.

    Author BILL CAUBLE has served as Chairman of the Board of the Ranching Heritage Center Museum and Foundation, is currently Chairman of the Board of the Fort Griffin Fandangle, Albany, Texas, and is a board member of the Old Jail Art Center and Museum in Albany. A caterer and ranching manager, he is renowned as a creative chuck wagon cook and is an artist as well.

    CLIFF TEINERT, who has cooked for three presidents and a queen and founded a catering business in the early 1970s, was the first to take the chuck wagon from a working ranch to parties, conferences, and other events where people enjoy meeting outdoors over traditional Southwestern food. After originating, with the Abilene, Texas, Chamber of Commerce, the first Chuck Wagon Cook-off, he took the wagon—with two cords of mesquite wood—to Japan for a promotional tour for the Texas Beef Council and the USME Federation.

    (Bright Sky Press)

    I was privileged, a few years ago, to attend their chuckwagon cooking school at the Ranching Heritage Center.

    If you follow their recipes  you will discover that very simply prepared, staple-based food can be absolutely heavenly indulgence.

    LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

    by BlackSheep1 on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 01:03:06 PM PST

  •  Joy of cooking (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa

    One of the early ones was the only cookbook in my mom's house.  She was a very inventive cook though, and knew a lot of recipes of her mom's--and also just made delicious things up with out reference to any book.  But I still have that book, and refer to it quite a bit.

    I have a couple of Mediterranean cook books also (can't remember the names).  I often combine features from 2-3 recipes; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

    Did a chick pea and red lentil chili --very spicy; with tzatziki the other day.  But I really made it up and probably could not replicate it (with the same proportions) if I tried.  I added corn and tomatoes to the chick peas; think I used chick peas because we were out of kidney beans.  I'm usually not wild about them but they worked well in the chili and gave it a very robust quality.

    Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

    by barbwires on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 03:08:10 PM PST

  •  Joy of Cooking (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, jarbyus

    I have an older edition that shows you how to skin a squirrel. There is a pretty cool picture involving someone's boot.  The ratatouille recipe is good on ingredients but they have you cook it too long, and some of the stuff about how to do complicated things with birds is a little unclear, but it's so well done and well organized that after a while you can just glance over anything and see where they're going with it. It's not chatty, either. I hate chatty cookbooks.

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