From Too Many Chefs -

July 13, 2005
Better Late Than Never: the Cookbook Meme

Over a month ago, we were tapped by Kate of the Accidental Hedonist in the cookbook meme that was making the rounds of food blogs. At the time, we seemed to be running a lot of non-recipe posts and so our response got put aside. Big mistake. That is how we forget things for weeks and weeks. And it's especially unfortunate as this meme combines my two favourite things: cooking and books. So, better late than never, here is my response:

1. Total number of (cook) books Iíve owned: 27 (I think - there may be one or two kicking around the bedroom, living room, baby's room...)

2. Last (cook) book I bought:
Well, the last one I bought personally was Sauces Sweet and Savoury, Classic and New by Michel Roux but my sister recently gave me two Silver Palate books.

3. Last (food) book I read:
Long ago in France by MFK Fisher. I finished it this morning and its loving descriptions of Dijon in the 1930s had my mouth watering. I have long known that Burgundian cuisine is wonderful, but this book brought it home even more. Snails, sauces, creamy dishes...all described in exquisite salivating detail...

4. Five (cook) books that mean a lot to me:

The Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School cookbook (1950s edition) has to come first. My mother's old tattered copy was my first reference book in the world of cooking and even as a child I loved just paging through it reading about how to make jam or pick fruit. I now have a 1980s edition and the Critic bought me a reproduction of the first, 1896, edition. Reading the first edition has made me realize why it is such a good reference work; it was originally a textbook for a cooking school and so has great basic information in addition to the recipes.

Nigel Slater's Appetite. This is his best book, a big compendium of recipes and food philosophy. Nigel is a wonderfully readable food writer. Not only does he describe the food lovingly but he makes you feel like he's a good friend telling you about this great dish he just discovered. It's the first cookbook I ever sat down and read from cover to cover.

American Woman's Cookbook. I found this cookbook in my grandmother's kitchen when we were clearing the house after she died. As she was an Austriam immigrant I imagine her buying this book as a young wife, so that she could prepare American dishes for her American son. She was the best cook I have ever known and happily she didn't adopt much from this book as it is full of typical early 20th century American dishes: elaborate, bland and uninteresting for the most part. On the other hand, as a piece of cultural history it's fascinating.

Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking. My sister gave me this cookbook one year for Christmas and it's been one of my favourites ever since. Prior to reading this book, my knowledge of Italian food was very limited and it has opened my eyes to the wonderful variety of Italian dishes in the world. It also gave me the courage to try my hand at pasta-making, which is a hoot!

Larousse Gastronomique. The classic reference book. I love my Larousse: it is the food equivalent of the Encyclopaedia Britannica with the added bonus of classic French recipes.

5. Which 3 people would you most like to see fill this out in their blog?

The Food Whore - I have become addicted to her blog recently and though I don't imagine she'll have the time to answer you never know!

David Lebovitz - He's a great pastry chef and a new friend and I'm curious to see which books (besides his own) have influenced his cooking.

Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini has recently entered a period of life when her schedule is more relaxed so perhaps she'll have the time to respond? I'm curious to see what she is reading!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at July 13, 2005 7:37 AM | TrackBack

Embarrassingly I have around 200 cookbooks. I do not count because an actual number may be frightening. If I had to pick ones I go back into repeatedly, it would be Lidia Bastianich's Italian Kitchen and Labensky's On Cooking (culinary school text). Todd English's The Olives Table is sitting out awaiting summer tomatoes for this fantastic tart and Mario Batali's new book is also on deck.

I've never owned more cookbooks, yet I am at a point where I am trying to develop my own recipes. Ironic.

Food Lit, recent favorites include Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour, and both the Steingarten books. I love his books, but he is kind of an ass on Iron Chef.

Posted by ExpatriatChef on July 13, 2005 at 9:41 AM

Meg Meg Meg! The last time I tagged some friends, I never heard back from them again. Nothing! Does this mean it's soon-to-be over between us? But before we part, we still need to do the Mexican-food-thing, except all my Mexican cookbooks are socked away in the US. We'll improvise. Who needs cookbooks? (except dessert cookbooks, which we all need....)

Posted by David L on July 13, 2005 at 11:53 AM

David, I certainly hope not! Is this like the French superstition about offering knives as gifts? If so, we will beat this system!

Mexican food would be great, and SOON!

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 13, 2005 at 2:20 PM

So glad you kept reading MFK!
So sad I have not!
Perhaps it is just what I need for my summer reading.

As for the mexican food night - I am rounding up the usual suspects.

Posted by Alisa on July 16, 2005 at 7:48 AM

Speaking of recipes... in Dijon about fifteen years ago we were served a first course that I've never seen again. My hope is that it's in the Fisher book or in your memory. My description far from does it justice - a poached egg in a red tomato sauce - sounds pedestrian, but it was heavenly.


Posted by Marianne on July 19, 2005 at 12:03 PM

Marianne - sorry, due to technical difficulties your comment disappeared into thin air for a while there. (Should I say is apparated? )

In answer to your question, I have never seen poached eggs in a tomato sauce but it sounds lovely! I love poached eggs in just about any dish and especially when the yolk has something to run into and there is bread handy to sop it up. Obviously this merits more research - I'll ask a friend of mine who is from Dijon the next time I see her!

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 19, 2005 at 12:06 PM