DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Apr 6 2011

Desert Island Cookbooks

by Dea Anne M

As anyone who follows this blog might gather, I am an avid cook and so it might stand to reason that I am also a lover of cookbooks. Through the years, I have built up what I consider a nice collection but there are a few cookbooks that I return to again and again and many of them are available at DCPL.

I sometimes enjoy considering the old question that usually starts “If you were a castaway on a desert island…” and wondering which of my cookbooks I would find essential to have with me. Of course, all of this begs the question of  where my ingredients would come from and how I would cook them. So let’s just pretend that eggs, heavy cream, and a variety of spices are readily available along with convenient sources of heat and chilling.

One of my absolute favorite cookbooks is America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook by the editors of  America’s Test Kitchens. I have cooked dozens of recipes from every section of this book and have yet to be disappointed. Cooking tips and equipment ratings are authoritative and the three-ring binder format makes this cookbook extremely easy to use. I consider this volume a must for kitchen novices and experienced cooks alike.

Another front runner is the The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser. Hesser is long-time a food columnist for the New York Times and here she has compiled the “best of the best” recipes published by the paper from 1850 on up to the present. Hesser is a witty writer and along with being a wonderful cookbook this volume is also just really fun to read. I have cooked the Chicken Paprikash, Carrots with Cumin, Pork Loin Braised in Milk and Cream, and the Chocolate Dump-It Cake (known as “The Cake” among my friends). All have been delicious. Highly recommended!

I think that few serious cooks would argue that one of the classic essential cookbooks is  Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer. Time after time, I have turned to my splattered, dog-eared copy in order to find the “standard” recipe for whatever I might want to cook. Precisely written and reliable recipes and an approachable, down-to-earth tone makes this a more than worthy addition to your kitchen library.

What is your desert island cookbook? Here are a few that you might consider.

The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated. Thoroughly tested recipes and (very) in depth instructions make this a perfect reference for the detail-oriented cook who prefers a scientific approach.

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Incredibly comprehensive, this cookbook is everything that the title would lead you to believe.

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. A beautiful book that you will use again and again, even if you aren’t a vegetarian.

Happy cooking, and don’t get sand in the soup!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Shantrice W April 10, 2011 at 5:32 PM

Fast Fixes with Mixes is a cookbook that can be checked out that has very simple recipes. I’m not much good in the kitchen (unless I’m making sandwiches :-} ) but I own a copy of this book and the few recipes I’ve tried so far were stress free and easy to figure out. I suggest the Can’t-Leave-Alone Bars. They have been a hit with friends and family each time I’ve baked them.

Ken April 10, 2011 at 7:21 PM

My favorite cookbook is one my mom began handwriting for me almost 20 years ago in a journal, and gave to me as a Christmas gift one year. She progressed to mailed recipes, and e-mail once that became so prevalent, and a few of those are tucked inside too. I treasure this one so much because she lovingly wrote by hand some of my favorite recipes at the time.

On a related cooking note, I just finished reading “The Art of Eating In” by Cathy Erway. I enjoyed it very much, and recommend it to other foodies who read this blog.

Dea Anne M. April 12, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Shantrice, I love the name of those Can’t -Leave -Alone bars. Ken, I really liked Cathy Erway’s book too!

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