Friday, January 29, 2016

On my bookshelf

I don't know why I haven't talked about this subject before! You would think this would be one of the first things I've ever blogged about. I am an avid reader. Love books.....LOVE books. I love the library, I love book stores. I love lots of different kind of books. I love reading text books of subjects I am interested in. I love silly Danielle Steele romances, Stephen King horror novels and biographies of all kinds of interesting people. I love reading about World War II, history, and I am hopelessly addicted to the "Prey" series of novels by John Sanford. My dad, also an avid reader, calls me regularly to ask what I'm reading, talk about what he is reading, and he sends me home with books he has finished with. My dad has always been the biggest influence in the things I study and am interested in, ever since I was a kid. You see, like me, my father is a cookbook collector.

The Chef says I am a cookbook hoarder and with the internet there is no longer a need for buying actual books. That may be, and my concession there was to stop buying cooking magazines every month (but I still buy one occasionally....shhhhh). My daughter and son-in-law gave me a Nook for Christmas last year- a wonderful and very thoughtful gift, as my kids know me oh so well and knew that I'd always wanted one, and would use it all the time (and I do). But when it comes to cookbooks I still need the feel of the paper, the weight of the book in my hand, the smell of the pages. I need an actual book. 

I have cookbooks of all sorts. I have many many many of the "thin" Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks. They aren't much bigger than magazines but are hard-covered and single subject, such as Meals in Minutes, Barbeque and Salads. I have three of the classic red-checked-covered Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. I have old church cookbooks. Ladies' Auxiliary cookbooks. Celebrity chefs, some autographed and some not, and the classics like The Joy of Cooking and Julia Child's most famous book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I have cookbooks you might never have heard of. I have cookbooks many of you probably own. Some are worn from years of reading and reference. Some are taped back together and the dust covers long gone. I even have a cookbook compiled by Mary Kay consultants- their favorite recipes.

But why cookbooks? Well, to me, as a young woman years ago, I had no earthly idea what to do with food. I never cooked until I was on my own. I never had to. Never took home ec or any of those life skills classes in high school, preferring to take French and art and sciences instead. Back in those days Meredith Publishing used to have an annual book sale. Cookbooks were dirt cheap and I just started getting a few every year, and reading. Meredith Publishing, for those who may not know, is the company that publishes Better Homes and Gardens and happens to be headquartered in Des Moines- how awesome is that? Reading the recipes, seeing all the beautiful pictures, and growing tired of pizza, burgers and those boil in bag frozen meals (before microwaves were common), I began to experiment with cooking. 

At first it wasn't pretty. Those early meals were not often successful but I never gave up. Moving to England for several years and raising a family in a tiny English town with no drive thrus meant Mommy had to figure it all out, and I did. Quite successfully! I won my first recipe contest in 1983 at the ripe old age of 21, thanks to all those cookbooks.

These days my style of cooking is very diverse. Home cooking to nouvelle cuisine. Home canning to a luxe gourmet dinner for two. I still look to my cookbooks for inspiration. Of the 400plus I own I do have some definite favorites. Let's talk about some of them.

Chez Bonne Femme Cookbook- One of my very favorites is also one of my newest. The Chez Bonne Femme Cookbook by Wini Moranville has landed a spot on the top ten list immediately. I will definitely wear this one out, undoubtedly. Getting to meet Wini in person was a real delight- and if you follow either of my blogs you have seen at least a couple posts about Wini or the cookbook or a recipe of hers. Unlike Julia Child all those years ago, Wini brings French cooking into the American kitchen with some recipes that are incredibly easy and delicious, no obscure ingredients and techniques most of us are already accustomed to. If you don't own this book, you simply must get it.

Anything by Ina Garten- How can you NOT love Ina and her beautiful kitchen, the big glass "Ina Jars" on the counter (yes I have Ina Jars of my very own), and her outstanding recipes? Seriously, besides this incredible life story she has, she lives in the Hamptons and owned that gorgeous little shop The Barefoot Contessa. Ina's recipes are simply amazing. She makes everything look so easy and perfect. Her Perfect Roast Chicken is something everyone should master. Pot pie goes gourmet when it is Seafood Pot Pie. Her Lemon Loaf Cake is the perfect picnic dessert. She masters everything from bechamel sauce to roasted potato wedges, and you can too.

The Quarterback Killer's Cookbook- Of course I would own this one. I can't say for sure if I bought it as a Viking fan or a cookbook collector but regardless, it's turned out to be one of my favorites. Former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen is much more than a sports figure. He is a hunter, supporter of veterans, restaurateur, and surprisingly, a pretty amazing cook. His book is FUN- stories and pictures from his childhood, his father and grandfather- his idols- and recipes from ducks and pheasant to fish to bears, elk and deer. How about some Ostrich Steaks with Piperade? Venison with Blackberry and Horseradish may be more up your alley? I'm big into braising.....wonder if I can track down some bear meat for Braised Bear Steaks?  Even if I don't get to cook too many of the recipes, this cookbook has been a fun addition to my collection and is very treasured, If only it were autographed........

Nadia G's Bitchin' Kitchen Cookbook- Speaking of autographs.....If you don't know who Nadia Giosia is, you need to get out more. The Cooking Channel's star of Bitchin' Kitchen is a ball of fun- she reminds me so much of myself as a younger woman- all high heels and heavy metal attitude. Pepper Crusted Teriyaki Tuna with Wasabi Smashed Potatoes is just one of the recipes in her cookbook that YES !!! sports an autograph *insert happy face* Her cookbook is arranged as complete meals, rather than chapters on meats, vegetables, appetizers, etc., and have silly titles such as Break-up Bonanza, consisting of Splitsville Salad with Caramelized Figs, Reverse BLT, Mascarpone Honey Toast; The Single Life, which is Crispy Salmon with Leek Sauce, Mac & Cheese and Perfect Spinach Salad with Grilled Pears. Fun stuff, great recipes and lots of useful information laid out in a wacky rock girl style this is one awesome cookbook, or as Nadia G might say "Bitchin!!"

The 150 Best American Recipes- Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens did a fantastic job compiling recipes from all kinds of sources- cookbooks, magazines, newspapers, and so on. The Appetizers section contains some truly delightful tidbits. Vodka-spiked Cherry Tomatoes with Pepper Salt sounds like a bite-sized Bloody Mary. Lots of delicious soups and interesting salads made the cut, and entrees from Black Bean Burgers to Shrimp and Grits to Braised Short Ribs make me want to cook everything!! The cookbook includes breakfast and brunch recipes, breads, and an awesome selection of desserts. Lots of gorgeous photos fill the pages of this fantastic collection of recipes. I think this cookbook was actually a gift, and couldn't have been a more perfect gift for me.

I really have way too many books to really pin down the absolute favorites, and what I am loving changes from season to season, year to year, as I learn more techniques and discover new foods and ingredients. You could say........I've never met a cookbook I didn't like!

Note: Almost all of the above books are available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble- except for the vintage and community cookbooks. Those I have collected over the years from book sales, garage sales, thrift shops and even a few on Ebay. 


  1. Great post! I, too, have a ton of cookbooks and I love to look at them time and time again. There is just something so soothing about a worn cookbook, isn't there? Thanks for sharing your shelves!

    1. Thanks !!! I love my oldest cookbooks the best. I also love scouting for vintage cookbooks- ones with handwritten notes in the margins, old recipes tucked in between the pages. So much fun to daydream about who the prior owner was. I love reading these books- like other peopleread best sellers :)

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