In the early-to-mid 20th century, Americans cooked from scratch mostly because there was no other option. They needed solutions: what to make with a brisket and not much else, or how to cope with a half a carton of milk that was smelling suspicious. You probably can't turn to Ottolenghi to use up your sour milk. But you can turn to a book that's seventy-five years old and eat exceedingly well as a result. Here are the ones that belong on your bookshelf.
'cookbook' on Serious Eats
Fuchsia Dunlop is one of our go-to guides for Chinese cooking. We asked her about her cooking idols and the regional Chinese cuisines we should all know more about.
"I'm honestly so bored of the, 'Oh my mother's potato kugel was as hard as a rock,' jokes that people make to sort of dismiss the entire category of Jewish food. That's not because potato kugel is inherently bad, it's because your mom didn't make a good one. Taken from a global perspective, Jewish cuisine—which can mean everything from knishes and brisket to smoky, charred eggplant and fried artichokes—is incredibly vibrant and adaptable," says Leah Koenig, the author of Modern Jewish Cooking.
The author of Bon Appetit, Y'all and Lighten Up, Y'all shares her Southern cookbook essentials, plus what people get wrong about Southern food.
Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen shares her sources of inspiration—the cookbooks she loves, especially those focused on making the most delicious veggie-based dishes.
You may know Cathy Erway from her Taiwanese cooking posts here on Serious Eats, or perhaps from her weekly podcast on the Heritage Radio Network. Most likely, you know her from her blog, Not Eating Out in New York, and the book that followed her two-year experiment avoiding restaurant food.
Helen Rosner has worked as a cookbook reviewer, cookbook editor, and cookbook writer. Before a recent move, she had close to 450 cookbooks on her shelves. Here are her thoughts on what makes a great cookbook, what bugs her about cookbooks, and which under-appreciated volumes you should read now.
Dana Cowin, longtime editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine, has a few cookbooks. In fact, she has four separate collections going at once. I asked Cowin, whose own book, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen, came out in October, to pick some favorites: the best cookbooks for baking, for dinner party inspiration, and more.
It's a great time to be a cookbook collector. In the face of a dwindling print industry, publishers have only stepped up their game, producing more beautiful, innovative, and fun cookbooks with each passing year. 2014 has, in particular, been a year of immense variety. Here are the highlights of the year.
Like many food bloggers, Tim Mazurek of Lottie + Doof has something of a crazy cookbook collection—339 volumes, all stored in his one-bedroom Chicago apartment.
Husk chef Sean Brock is a seed-saver and a book-hoarder, collecting old classics and community cookbooks with the aim, he says, of owning every American cookbook that was printed in 19th century. Here are a few of his favorites.
The year Gabrielle Hamilton opened her restaurant, Prune, on the lower east side of Manhattan, she was approached about doing a cookbook. Finally, after 15 years and the wild success of her acclaimed memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter, Hamilton gives her hungry fans the cookbook they've been waiting for: Prune is a thick anthology of recipes from her restaurant, and it's as autobiographical as her previous literary effort, but in a very different way.
A cookbook changed Kathleen Weber's life. As she writes in Della Fattoria Bread, some friends gave her a copy of The Italian Baker by Carol Field, and Weber "had never seen a baking book like it before." She immediately started making her first biga, a starter commonly used in Italian breads. "From that moment on," she writes, she "baked day and night, reading through The Italian Baker as if it were a novel [she] couldn't put down." Now Weber runs Della Fattoria bakery and café in Sonoma County with her husband and children.
The powerhouse trio behind New York destinations dell'anima, L'Artusi, L'Apicio, and Anfora—beverage director Joe Campanale, chef Gabriel Thompson, and pastry chef Katherine Thompson—have joined forces again to bring their modern take on Italian dining out of lower Manhattan and into your kitchen with their new cookbook. Downtown Italian is filled with recipes that deliver the subtly novel and full-flavored dishes the trio is known for—simple Italian cooking that revels in New York sass.
Perks of Faith Durand's job at The Kitchn include a nonstop flow of new cookbooks to check out—more volumes than most of us can find space for. But how do you cull the keepers from the pack?
Sugar addicts take note: Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Baking Bible, shares her list of favorite cookbooks, sweet and savory.
Running a food blog for more than a decade means that Adam Roberts has quite a cookbook collection: he's edited it down to around 150 titles. Here are a few of his favorites.
What cookbook would you give to a kid in college, or to a new cook to celebrate their first kitchen? Here's our picks for the books we'd give to anyone looking to learn the basics.
Y'all know The Homesick Texan. You love her blog, her pinto bean and Frito salad, her gooey, cheesy braised beef enchiladas, and her easy, delicious buttermilk bacon-fat flour tortillas. Lisa Fain just knows how to do comfort food right. So I wasn't surprised that she has a cookbook collection about 250 volumes strong, heavy on the church compilations, the community cookbooks, and old classics.
We chat with 'The Wednesday Chef' Luisa Weiss, author of My Berlin Kitchen, about her most treasured cookbooks and the new dessert book she's writing.