I’ve never been much of a joiner, but when it comes to talking cookbooks, no arm-twisting is necessary. And anyway, I’ve been tagged—not once, not twice, but three times—to answer a few questions about my cookbook collection. The peer pressure is overwhelming. Everyone else is doing it, so I will too.
1. Total number of cookbooks I own:
Thirty-five. That actually seems a bit measly, given how much I love the things. I need to improve my average.
2. Last (cook)book(s) I bought:
I was recently in a bookstore that had an extensive used-cookbook section, and for a grand total of sixteen dollars, I walked away with the following three hardcover steals:
Saveur Cooks Authentic American: I’d been wanting this one for a long time. Sister to Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian and Saveur Cooks Authentic French (both of which I’m still lusting after), this big, solid beauty is nothing short of drool-worthy, full of luscious photos and transportive stories, not to mention wonderful-sounding recipes. This is one to sit down and read.
Diana Kennedy’s The Tortilla Cookbook: The doyenne of Mexican cooking speaks on the simplest of staples. And dear reader, I love a good tortilla.
Martha Stewart’s Menus for Entertaining: Say what you will, but I can’t knock Martha. She may be a bit stiff and stuffy, but she does a damn fine party. I’m especially interested in the menu for her spicy Thai lunch.
[And if I have a say in it, my next acquisitions will be one of Bill Granger’s cookbooks—his recipes feel so clean and inviting—and something Nigella. I find her style a bit heavy on the flirting and finger-licking, but her dishes are straight-up sexy for their honesty and simplicity.]
3. Last (food) book I read:
Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires: I was given a proofreader’s copy of this by a friend who’d gotten it from another friend at Penguin, and it was a perfect few-pages-before-bedtime read. Reichl’s prose, as always, is a pleasure; it just feels so effortless. And the recipes are enticing—not simply something to be skimmed over on the way to the next chapter. I have to admit, however, to feeling iffy about her blunt barbs at her New York Times colleagues; on the one hand, I found myself inspired by her courage in “telling it like it is,” and on the other, I also found her unappealingly catty.
4. Five (cook)books that mean a lot to me:
-Julia Child’s The Way to Cook: It should already be clear from the subtitle of this site, but I adore this woman. Not only was she a tremendous cook, but her lust for life was contagious. Plus, the soufflé recipe in this book made me feel like I could conquer the world. [Thanks to Mom and Burg for letting me steal one of their two copies.]
-Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse Vegetables: One of my favorite resource books, conveniently organized by vegetable. True to classic Chez Panisse style, it suggests graceful, simple, seasonal treatments with a French-Italian bent. [Thanks to my half-sister Lisa for putting this, some fresh fava beans, and some fresh shell peas into my hands one summer afternoon.]
-Janet Fletcher’s Fresh from the Farmers’ Market: A pretty little book, and another great resource. Organized by season, it offers hints for buying and storing fruits and vegetables, and its recipes are simple, fresh, and hunger-inducing. [Thanks to Carey for this and other Chronicle Books Christmas presents.]
-Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets: Two words: “Paris” and “sweets.” I’ve been to many of the boulangeries and pâtisseries that Greenspan features, so for me, this book is like a travel journal in recipes. Plus, her descriptions are always evocative and whimsical, yet straightforward. And oh, that pain de Gênes! [Thanks again to Lisa, who clearly has impeccable taste in cookbooks.]
-And finally, my accordion file folder. It’s not technically a cookbook, but rather a bulging collection of recipe clippings and scribbled ingredients lists, from entire Gourmet holiday menus to James Beard’s pesto recipe on a dog-eared index card. I reach for it more than any single cookbook, and that must count for something.
5. Which 5 people would you most like to see answer these questions?
I’ll be nice. No peer pressure. But everyone else is doing it, you know.