And why am I keeping them, anyway, because most recipes I need are out on the Internet along with endlessly entertaining reader reviews (about how this person left out the salt or sugar or cilantro, that person substituted kale for onions, or used organic almond milk instead of cream, and it came out great.)
I decided it was time to cull. These are some of what I kept, and you can see from their battered state they have been well used, their pages spattered and margins scribbled in:
- The Joy of Cooking (so well used that half of the index is missing and I had to re-cover it)
- Three cookbooks by Michael Fields, including The Michael Fields Cooking school which has a grilled, butterflied leg of lamb with egg lemon sauce to die for
- Several of Mollie Katzen's, including Moosewoods and Enchanted Broccolli Forest
- My mother's 2-volume massive set of Gourmet Cookbooks, not because I use them but because they were hers
- Several New York Times cookbooks by Craig Claiborne
- Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
- My booklet of Bisquick recipes that I sent away for in '75
I lugged two big bags of cookbooks to the library, and then posted the question to Facebook: What are your keeper cookbooks? Among the 70+ comments, here titles that rose to the top...
- #1: The Joy of Cooking (some mentioned the 70s edition specifically)
- Runner up: The Betty Crocker Cookbook ("that my mother/grandmother gave me when I was 18"... )
- Assorted cookbooks by Julia Child, especially Mastering the Art and Baking with Julia
- Assorted New York Times cookbooks by Craig Claiborne
- Fanny Farmer, of course
- Better Homes and Gardens ("with the red plaid cover," "for the chili, old-time beef stew, and shortbread cookie recipes")
- The Good Housekeeping Cookbook
- The Silver Palate
- Jeff Smith's The Frugal Gourmet
- Barefoot Contessa/Ina Garten cookbooks
- Nigella Lawson cookbooks
- Cooks Illustrated
- The Mystery Chef's Own Cookbook
- Old West Baking Book by Lon Walters, 1996 ("interesting comments on chuck wagon cooking")
- The Star Wars Cook Books I & II ("simple recipes with a new twist, great for getting boys to help with cooking")
- New Karo [syrup] All American Cook Book," "The Special Collection" featuring Post cereal
- Weight Watchers
- The Hungry Girl cookbooks
- The Elvis cookbook "Are You Hungry Tonight?"
- The LooneySpoon Collection by Janet and Greta Podleski
Plus a there were some priceless comments from authors (including Lucy Burdette saying she's not giving up a single cookbook and I can't make her):
Tasha Alexander chimed in with: "I don't think anything could make me cull cookbooks. Favorites: Julia Child Mastering the Art v.1, The Pasta Book (Williams Sonoma), A Mediterranean Feast, David Lebovitz's Perfect Scoop and his Ready for Dessert, Joy of Cooking, Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday, Betty Crocker, Classical Turkish Cooking, Memories of a Cuban Kitchen, The Flavor of France, A Taste of Madras... I'm completely out of control."
Tasha adds, on cookbooks with Mom's notes in the margins: "Cookbook marginalia is essential!"
And this list of cookbooks and a tasty memory comes from author William Martin: "Silver Palate. Definitely. Craig Claiborne's NYTimes cookbook. And The Grand Central Oyster Bar Cookbook, published in 1977, the year of my first trip to NYC to talk to an editor, who gave me a copy of the book as I was leaving. I still have the book and use it whenever I buy a piece of fish. An easy and excellent recipe for bouillabaise. Oh... and he published my first novel."
So, gentle Reds, what are your keeper cookbooks? New ones? Old ones? Which have earned their keep on your shelf??