Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Perusing Cookbooks Like Laura...

Oh, look, here's a photo of some of my cookbooks. I thought I had one in my files of all of my cookbooks, but I don't want to take the time to search for it (lazy!). And there are some of our Saturday scones and my French press and sunflowers from the market and the cake stand that I was tempted to give to Aimee-not-my-daughter.

Here I am posting when I should be packing, but, on the other hand, one needs to take breaks, and since Laura brought up the topic of cookbooks on her blog today, I couldn't resist doing this. Go on over and tell Laura what cookbooks you're enjoying.

Some of my favorite cookbooks are still at my mom's house, but the following are the ones I'm currently reading, perusing, and using. I say "currently" because the cookbooks I have in my reading stacks are constantly changing.

I mostly buy and use cookbooks that are prosey, educational, and kitchen-philosophical (I've said this all before). I don't have many books that are simply collections of recipes. There are some good ones out there for sure, but I want to spend most of my cookbook reading time really learning about food and cooking from the great chefs and cooks who write these books.

Laura mentioned in an email to me that, of the 1/8 of my books I'm packing to take with me, she's guessing there are a good number of cookbooks. Well, Laura, you are absolutely right! Exactly half of the books I'm taking with me are cookbooks. These are my comfort books. I love to read them, browse them, glean ideas from them, and find inspiration in their pages. I make up most of the things I cook, but the cookbooks help me pull my ideas together. And sometimes I follow recipes verbatim. That, too, though, is a way of learning to cook food your own way. It's like doing copywork to learn to write!

Here's my list of the cookbooks I'm currently enjoying. As always, I have made this much longer and more complicated than it needs to be, but that makes this a whole lot more fun. Sorry I'm not adding links to the books (lazy again!), and sorry I use the word "love" so much in this post, but I can't help myself:

1. The Unplugged Kitchen and Verdura by Viana LaPlace. There's no need to make things complex with you're working with outstanding ingredients. When you have that, you're almost home. Simple, fresh, hands-on, and to the point-- my kind of kitchen philosophy!

2. Any Deborah Madison book. Judging by the five cookbooks I own by Deborah Madison, you might say I like her food. Yep. In fact, in the oven for dinner right now is her Olive Oil Bread (foccacia) from her Greens cookbook.

3. Lindsey Shere desserts. I haven't been cooking from this lately, but I read it a lot, and I will make something from it before too long. Everything I've cooked from this book has been excellent. Lindsey Shere is my kind of pastry chef.

4. Nigel Slater, always. The Kitchen Diaries and Real Fast Food. That's just a start. I guarantee I will buy more of his books in the future. I love his writing, and I love his simple food.

5. Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I have four of their books (not including the latest one on China), and I love them. Love them. They're right at the top of my list of favorite cookbooks. I read them, look at them, and cook from them often. The photography is gorgeous, the stories are interesting, the cooking instructions and information is excellent, and the food is delicious (if you like various world cuisines).

6. Rick Bayless. Mexican Everyday, in particular. Bayless won the James Beard award for Best Chef in America last year (I'm pretty sure I've got that right... should check on it... nah!), and in this book, he shows his skill. Einstein's book on relativity is really, really short because he is a master of the subject. Likewise, the recipes in this cookbook are easy and to the point, and they're also really tasty. I guess I'm saying I think Rick Bayless is something of a master at what he does, and I'm sure he'd consider that high praise coming from an ordinary housewife in very rural Oregon!

7. Claudia Roden. Lately, I'm once again perusing Arabesque. I love the look of this book, it reads wonderfully, and the food is good, too!

8. Alice Waters. The Art of Simple Food. At first I thought of this as simply another good book on the basics of cooking, but the longer I have it around, the more useful I find it, especially as a resource and general guide. The simplicity of this book can be deceptive. It's really quite good.

9. How to Eat Supper. I've been packing this book around with me, reading through it again, and enjoying it just as much the second time through as the first. For dessert tonight, we'll be having the rustic jam tart from this book. I topped the almond shortbread crust with Bonne Maman cherry preserves, and-- yum!-- this super-easy-to-make tart is really good (Michelle and I were compelled to test it this afternoon).

10. Shall I say Tessa Kiros and her Apples for Jam or Donna Hay's The Instant Cook or Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques? All are good books that I've been perusing, but I'll go with Kiros because her book always makes me smile and want to bake a chocolate cake and decorate it and celebrate whatever is happening, or not happening, today. I've cooked very few recipes from this book, but I like reading it. Tessa has some nice essays and stories woven throughout her recipes.

By the way, yes, I'm still posting. I'm going through a little flurry of it right now, aren't I? But it will come in spurts because I won't be here all the time, and, yes, the computer will be packed away soon, and I'm still going to close the blog. :-)