Last evening I was in the kitchen making waffles and gravy, sausage, and eggs for our Sunday family dinner, and my five-year-old grandson came into the kitchen, climbed onto a stool by the island, took one look at my cookbook, and exclaimed, “Grandma, this must be an old cookbook!” I wonder if the brown pages, the duct tape on the spine, or the fact that some pages are no longer attached to the binding brought him to that conclusion….
It did get me thinking, though, about my love affair with cookbooks. It is something approaching an addiction. (I read them like novels. There is so much to learn, and anything that involves food is a good thing in my book!) As I gazed at the 70+ volumes on the cookbook shelves, I began to reflect on my favorites. Which ones do I really love? Here are some of I turn to again and again:
America’s Test Kitchen’s “Healthy Family Cookbook”, and their “Family Baking Book” are great general information books. Actually, just about anything that comes with America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Illustrated on the label is an automatic winner! (I just use a bit less vinegar, fresh herbs, or bittersweet chocolate than they do. Wimpy palate, I guess.) I also love the books by Debbie G. Harman for general ideas. Her “Family Dinner Cookbook” is looking worn and well-loved.
“The Cooking Chameleon” by Rhonda Hair is great for skeleton recipes, and understanding how things interact when you cook. Other books that teach about the process of cooking are “Brilliant” by David Joachim, and one of the latest from Cook’s Illustrated, “The Science of Good Cooking.” I would rather create something from the basic rules of cooking than from a recipe.
“Set for Life” by Jane P. Merrill and Karen M. Sunderland has great recipes for whole-grain, lower-fat cooking. Their “feather rolls” are yummy! And my great-grandmother’s “Community Cookbook” is a fascinating read for scratch cooking at the beginning of the last century.
And then there are the books that focus on thrift in the kitchen. “Dining on a Dime” by Tawra Kellem, and the set “Make Your Own Groceries” and “More Make Your Own Groceries” by Daphne Metaxas Hartwig have inexpensive, do-it-yourself ideas.
Because we cook so much from scratch- for both health and financial benefits- there are a myriad of books focused on food preservation and storage. Some of the best-loved are “Ball Blue Book” by Altrista Consumer Products and “Putting Food By” by Greene, Hertzberg, and Vaughn. “The Dehydrator Bible” by MacKenzie, Nutt, and Mercer was an unexpected delight! My Excaliber dehydrator gets a workout now. And books like “I Can’t Believe It’s Food Storage” by Crystal Godfrey helps me use so much of what I have stored for tasty meals and treats.
And then there are the books that are just delightful to read through. Goose Berry Patch has a whole line of cookbooks that are fun to read, and are sprinkled with memories and ideas for making your house more of a home. And then there is one of my absolute favorites-“Betty Groff’s Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook”. My father’s family line comes through the Pennsylvania Dutch (his grandmother was a Groff) and I grew up eating shoofly pie, chicken pot pie, pepper cabbage, and real sauerkraut. Reading it takes me back.
What about the cookbook that started this walk through the books on the shelf? It is “Let’s Start to Cook” by Nell B. Nichols. Each of my four children have learned to cook from its pages, and it is still the one I reach for if I want the recipe for apple crisp, or whipping cream. It not only have easy, basic, scrumptious food, but it is annotated with information regarding foods, equipments, and methods of cooking complete with illustrations that are straight out of the ’60s. I love this book!I received it for my 12th birthday from my mom and dad, and have just loved it to pieces- literally! I wonder if my mother had any inkling what she was starting as she wrapped it?