Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Lunchtime Poll About... Lunch

Wanting to beef up my culinary arsenal, I checked out a few Food Network books from the library today. Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking either. Page after page of recipes like Seared Scallops with Bacon, Tarragon, and Lemon, Panini with Bresaola, Endive, and Provolone, and Pork Rib Roast with Cranberry-Apricot Stuffing.

As a rule of thumb, if you can't describe it in less than five words, it's going to taste like something you get at one of those mediocre, blandly hip bistros you wander into when you and your sweetie can't agree where you want to go out, and then you wind up spending too much money on wine and wishing you'd stayed home and gotten corn dogs instead. The more different the recipe names sound, the more they taste alike.

Really, everything I know about cooking I learned from about five really good cookbooks.

New York Cookbook by Molly O'Neill
Why It's Aces: High-brow and low-brow cooking co-exist in perfect harmony; pre-recipe notes that contain both interesting stories and helpful tips; charming photos
Stand-out Recipes: Katherine Hepburn's Brownies; Lee's Cold Sesame Noodles; Angela Palladino's Meatballs

Bay Tables
Cooking with the Junior League of Mobile, AL, you can have your lunch and drink it, too. Not only do southern women know how to cook, they know how to have fun doing it. Simple, elegant recipes that you can throw together in about two seconds.
Stand-out Recipes: Mixed Berry French Toast; Jambalaya; Banana Cake

The Ethnic Vegetarian by Angela Shelf Medearis
Why It's Aces: Ahem, can you say low-fat, flavorful soul food? Also includes great African, Cajun, and Caribbean recipes.
Stand-out Recipes: Hoppin' John; Muffaletta

My other favorites that you can't actually buy anymore include Outer Banks Recipes from the Blue Point Bar and Grill, otherwise known as the cookbook that single-handedly introduced recreational bread-baking to the Potts/McCoy household. Rosemary Foccacia to die for, not to mention a fine New Brunswick stew. And then there's the Madison Public Library staff cookbook. Leave it to a bunch of hippie librarians to put together a cookbook that makes Moosewood look like McDonald's.

But who am I kidding? Without the red and white checked Betty Crocker cookbook in my mom's kitchen, I never would have baked my first snickerdoodle.

What are the cookbooks you're lost without?


the divine chulius said...

Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, no question.

dorotha said...

The Joy of Cooking. i amost never make recipes from it, but i find the references about various ingredients to be invaluable. how do you know if eggs that have been sitting in the fridge for months have gone bad? if they float in a bowl of water, toss 'em! need a cup of milk, but you are out? subsitute a cup of water and 1 and half teaspons of butter. plus, there are instructions on skinning a squirrel.

mary_m said...

I've never read The Joy of Cooking, but if it's full of tips like that, I'd be a fool not to. Will definitely be trying that egg thing... it takes me forever to get through a carton. And while I'm sure that eggs are good long past the expiration date, I'm not sure how long past that applies.

Ang said...

The Joy of Cooking is awesome.

I love the New York Cookbook, too. I'm constantly trying to steal it from my mom.

My favorite to look at is Betty Crocker's "Cooky" Book. It has awesomely technicolor pictures of a bunch of delicious cookies. As a kid I would stare at it for hours. Now, it's my go-to every Christmas season.

But the best cookbook by far is Shirley Corriher's Cookwise. If you're into building your own recipes, she gives the science behind the dishes (though in a really accessible style), so you can feel confident tweaking even the fussiest baking recipes. Awesome. Plus, she's this cute woman with a buzz cut.

mary_m said...

Ang! I miss your blog so much!

sally said...

Joe and I were just talking about how we have to finally unpack our cook books and get them out of the basement. We've been coasting for too long on memory alone.

Joan Nathan's Jewish Cooking in America is a favorite of mine. I like to read even when I'm not cooking. It has yummy recipes (the savory Three Cheese Kugel is one of my all-time faves) plus great historical photos and family stories.

A special note to Dorothea -- one of the funniest moments I ever recorded on videotape is my friend Rachel paraphrasing the Joy of Cooking's squirrel skinning instructions. She starts with "Ya take 2 squirrels (they're small)..." and just typing that line is giving me giggle fits.

Ang said...

Oh, thanks. I miss writin' it...

Anonymous said...

Best of the Best From Louisiana (a collection from 50 LA cookbooks), from whence came my adaptation of crawfish pie, and River Road Recipes (Junior League of Baton Rouge). I love Betty Crocker also, but my favorite Betty Crocker is one published by Golden Press in 1969 and 1978 (shows my age, doesn't it?). That's where I found recipes for all the dishes Tom and Brady ate when they were in high school (including the ones Tom sold to the highest bidder in the yearbook room). Love to you and Brady...

mary_m said...

We have the River Road Cookbook, too! One of our very favorites - it's the cookbook that taught a Yankee girl like me to bake good biscuits.

Need to track down the Louisiana recipes, although I leave most of the Cajun cooking to Brady. Next time we're in town, you'll have to try his gumbo... it's better than Galatoire's.

I kid you not.