Wow, I've had this blog a month and haven't been memed yet. So when I came across Spiceblog's cookbook meme, and already had the pictures on my camera, it seemed like a natural. Without further ado, here's shelf #1.
On to the analysis.
1. Rationale behind what we're seeing?
Not enough space on one shelf? Lemme see, baking books for formulas, others for inspiration, some kitchen science, a number of regional (mostly the Pacific Northwest), and, oddly enough, a few I actually use for recipes. The copy of LaRousse came from a garage sale (two bucks), and somewhere there’s an old Fannie Farmer that made the bookstore guy moan “I missed that? My wife will kill me!” I must note that there are another dozen or two non-recipe food books (Steingarten, Fisher, Jim Harrison, etc) strewn throughout the house and a copy of Candy Freak next to the bathtub—because really, a hot bath and candyPorn is a good thing. And there are food magazines everywhere.
2. Most recommended?
Depends. If you bake bread and want to actually understand what is going on, get The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. If you want to kick your cooking skills up a notch, The Herbfarm Cookbook.
3. Cookbook that made you what you were?
Three books (two bread, one not):
Favorite Breads from Rose Lane Farm was my first cookbook ever; given to me when I was a mere whippersnapper in a town with no decent bakery. I’ve been baking bread since then; “then” being in the early ‘70s. This has had the bonus of making me really, really good at one of those things that scares the yeast out of many a good cook, which spills over into confidence in the rest of my cooking. (Now I need the pastry book that will help me feel that easy confidence about things like laminated doughs...maybe some other bookshelf from this meme will have it...must go look)
Crust and Crumb took me from being a reliably good bread-baker to being able to turn out amazing deeply flavored bread with “holes big enough for the little people to live in”—to quote one of my apprentices.
The Herbfarm Cookbook, combined with a visit to the restaurant, showed me that I can do damn near anything I set my mind to. In addition to recipes, it’s got techniques, philosophy, and an extensive botanical and gardening section. It’s informative, attractive, and seemingly infinitely useful. It also helped instill a sense of fearless confidence in my cooking.
4. Porniest cookbook?
Intended or not? I don’t own any Nigella--I can lick my own damned fingers without needing a picture to show me how. And while I hear Crave is eye-candy for those who are into pretty men, I don’t have it yet. I have a couple of “Beautiful...” books but they are still packed so I guess they are out. How about The Essential Dessert Cookbook? It’s got as much space devoted to pictures as text, maybe more. Lots of rich chocolate, fresh fruit, and other tempting goodies; and while I’ve opened it a few dozen times, I’ve never actually used it as anything other than a way to get all hot and bothered before I return to one of my regular cookbooks. I suppose you could say I thought about it while cooking with another book. Is that cheating?
5. Sophie's Choice cookbook?
What does this mean? Judging by all the other confused entrants, there seems to be an implication of emotional aspects here, so I’ll have to go with the small three-hole notebook tucked between Putting Food By and the NY Times Natural Food Cookbook in the second image. It’s filled with handwritten recipes, each of which is named after the person who gave it to me. Nora’s oatmeal cookies, Jamie’s sugar cookies, Mimi’s carrot cake… I’ve had it for over thirty years…which just makes me feel old.
6. If you were a cookbook, which cookbook would you be?
I have another (originally blank) book, with a purple quilted cover and a wrap-around silk tie; it’s got my newer collection of recipes in progress, random lists of kitchen stuff, tips, tricks, and a lot of blank pages waiting for tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that… It is not pictured here, of course, because I don’t do photos of myself.
7. If your cookbook were extremely valuable, so valuable you might hide it with other valuables, where would that place be?
Perhaps someplace that I wouldn’t disclose on the Internet. Although I can hardly imagine a cookbook that has objective value, and thus, why would anyone steal it? I suppose my most valuable cookbok (meaning the one I would most hate to lose) is an ancient Betty Crocker Cooky Book; it’s missing the first dozen pages, the index consists of a half-page that is so stained that what's there is barely legible, some recipes are so smeared with chocolate they are hard to read, and there are notes in the margins from my grandmother who died two decades ago. It was hers, then my mom’s, then mine. This book is so coveted that when I found a brand new reissued copy recently and offered my daughter a choice between the pristine, and intact, book and the page-shedding heirloom, she picked the shredded one without hesitation. Sigh. (Do I get good mother points for giving away my most valuable cookbook?) grin