Most cookbooks focus on what's new, but not all of them. And there are definitely some advantages to looking back. These books are all about American cooking, but each takes a closer look at our culinary history and regional differences.
Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years That Changed Our Culinary Consciousness is an amazing book that details the "thirty years that changed our culinary consciousness." It WAS a revolution that took place in California, but truly the effects were felt all across the country. Joyce Goldstein was there, a successful restaurateur and chef as well as food writer and so her connections and knowledge of the time make this book really stand out. She tells the stories of the people who shaped what and how we eat in the crucial era from 1970 until 2000. Her admiration for the pioneers of the time comes through and her engaging style make this a must read. No recipes are in the book, but a number of menus that help document the time.
A Century of Restaurants: Stories and Recipes from 100 of America's Most Historic and Successful Restaurants is another definite "keeper" because it combines food, history and travel. It must have been a very enjoyable book to research and write, because it catalogues stories and recipes from one hundred of America's most historic and successful restaurants. It's just good fun to look up iconic restaurants and read about them and see a recipe. For California the book includes Philippe the Original in Los Angeles, Duarte's Tavern in Pescadero. The Tadich Grill in San Francisco and Fenton's Creamery in Oakland. If you are planning a trip, it's a perfect book to reference before you go. Some of my favorite old time places are here such as Durgin Park and The Union Oyster House in Boston, Commander's Palace in New Orleans and Ferrara in New York. It's wonderfully researched and well written.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking was my first cookbook, a gift from a friend. This happened many years ago, but I remember how it happened in great detail.
At the time, I was friendly with a woman I was too intimidated to ask out. To get over my nervousness, I offered to cook her dinner, thinking I’d grill a steak and make a tossed green salad, but she loved Julia Child and wondered if I could cook something French. Figuring I would be a good sport, I agreed.
I had watched Julia on PBS and loved her idiosyncratic character. Her passion for cooking and food was infectious. French food seemed too complicated, something eaten in a restaurant, not at home.
Not having a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she loaned me hers. I decided on chicken with mustard (“Poulet grillé à la diable”). Why that one? I don’t know, it sounded good.
I had never heard of M.F.K. Fisher until I started working at One for the Table. She was/is apparently one of the most famous food writers of the last century. I rarely read about food, only branching out occasionally to pick up Gourmet, Food & Wine or Cooking Light depending on what recipe was featured on the cover.
In recent months I
discovered I was one of the only ones not familiar with her work,
because her name kept popping up in various pieces on this site as one
of THE people everyone consulted when it came to enjoying good
food. Finally, intrigued by her reputation and tired of reading murder
mysteries, I decided to see what all the fuss was about...and found a
For most of my life, I was never really INTO food, eating mostly what was put in front of me without much consideration. Up until about 5 years ago, I was a very picky eater and though I still don't like the various foods on my plate to touch, I am proud to say I have overcome many culinary hurdles and will now try just about anything once.
The Essential New York Times Cookbook
Proving that a cookbook does NOT need photographs to be successful, this is about tried and true recipes from a familiar source and very familiar names--contributors like Mark Bittman, Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, David Chang, Nigella Lawson. Good stuff!
Bookmarked recipes: Marinated flank steak with asian slaw, Roasted carrot and red lentil ragout, Cranberry upside-down cake
Hat's off to Amanda Hesser for compiling a fantastic set of reader approved recipes and creating new notes that will ensure success with each recipe.
Anyone who has loved reading the New York Times food section and is looking for solid recipes to rely on.
Disclaimer: I know Michael and Kim McCarty. I've eaten at the New York City restaurant, and the one in Santa Monica. I love them (the restaurants, and the people). If you're not familiar with either restaurant, it might help to know that the New York restaurant is the center of the media universe (in terms of eating, anyway). And the Santa Monica restaurant is the West coast equivalent.
To quote Harper Collins editor David Hershey (from the book): "Every generation has its literary feeding trough. In the twenties and the thirties, it was the Algonquin; in the forties and fifties, it was Toots Shor's; in the sixties, it was the Lion's Head; in the seventies and the eighties, it was Elaine's; and since the nineties, Michael's has been the place for media and publishing types to eat."
James Beard's American Cookery
Don't you just love the word cookery? It's so old-fashioned. Sometimes old-fashioned is a good thing, especially when it means solid, classic, regional American recipes.
Bookmarked recipes: Watermelon rind pickles, Wilted dandelion salad, Blueberry cake with bourbon cream
Some recipes should not be lost. They are part of our heritage and more importantly, delectable! I have also NEVER failed with a James Beard recipe.
Anyone who appreciates the diversity of American cuisine.
This year, in our house, we're cooking our version of Suzanne Goin's succotash. Of course Suzanne Goin doesn't call it succotash; in her book Sunday Suppers at Luques, she calls it sweet corn, green cabbage and bacon. We call it succotash because we throw in some lima beans and way more butter.
As Recommended by Nora Ephron
The cookbook that made people think even dimwits were excellent cooks and 25 years later, it’s still moderne. Decadent Chocolate Cake, Marbella chicken, it’s that little extra something they always add, whether it’s raisins to the stuffing or olives to the chicken, that just makes things seems a little extra-ordinary and all you have to do is follow the incredibly easy to read and prepare recipes.