Friday, April 17, 2009

Weekly Geeks--What's Cooking?

I just had to participate in this week's Weekly Geeks, because the assignment is let's talk cookbooks!

I have a fairly large cookbook collection. I've been inspired by two people in this. First of all, my late mother-in-law, who not only had a huge collection of cookbooks, but who would actually read them. She might take one up to bed and read it there, just like it was a novel. And she made notes in the margins, about things she might like to try, or things she'd tried and modified. I love to run across these notes, "needs more sugar!", when I'm reading her old cookbooks.

I'm also inspired by a very good friend who is the author of several really great cookbooks. Her Dinner Parties: Simple Recipes for Easy Entertaining is one of my go-to cookbooks when I'm planning a party. Knowing her over the years, I've become familiar with the process of writing a cookbook, from coming up with a concept, menu planning, recipe writing and best of all, recipe testing. I've helped her test recipes many times, and it's always a yummy experience. Also, my family and I have been the beneficiaries of her recipe-testing jags, when she might bring over, say, a summer fruit tart, and say, "here, what do you think?" I think I'm in heaven!

One of the best things about cookbooks is reading them. I love a well-written cookbook. For funny cookbooks, I go to the Beat This! Cookbook series by Ann Hodgman, who used to write for Spy Magazine. She is absolutely hilarious. She also wrote a cookbook entitled One Bite Won't Kill You--so you see what I mean. It's next on my list to buy.

I also read cookbooks because they are beautiful. One such beautiful cookbook I received as a gift is Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table. Lucques is a local restaurant that is just wonderful--I've eaten celebratory meals there for years. Goin is a famous local chef, with several great restaurants in Los Angeles.

I also love Nigella Lawson's cookbooks, which are very readable (and her website is great). She's also quite watchable on TV. And my favorite book on baking, which contains my favorite easy chocolate frosting recipe, is The Baker's Dozen Cookbook: Become a Better Baker with 135 Foolproof Recipes and Tried-and-True Techniques.

And, last but not least, as a cook I've turned to the internet for recipes quite a bit lately. There are some great cooking blogs I check regularly. These are wonderful because they usually post great pictures of the food (which is another hallmark of a good cookbook). My favorites are, of course, Books and Cooks (which combines two of my passions), and also Smitten Kitchen, Joy the Baker, and the Paris-based Chocolate and Zucchini--all of whom have lovely writing styles.

Check these sites out, they're great!


BookWormz said...

looove your friend's cookbook! Its stunning! I may just have to buy one! :) I'm a newlywed, so most of my cookbooks are very recent. I love the Cooking Light cookbooks and magazines. I feel like I can eat mighty-sized portions and not feel guilty. :) I also really like the new bon apetite cookbooks. My fav is actually featured in the pics for my cookbook bookmark! It's here is you're interested in taking a look - I think it's adorable. :)

By the way, I LOVE the Mother-In-Law cookbooks - thats so sweet that you still get to read her notes!!!

Gentle Reader said...

BookWormz--Glad you like my friend's cookbooks, I'll pass along your compliment! I like the Cooking Light magazine, too, but haven't yet tried their cookbooks. And your cookbook bookmark is adorable--and a great idea, for cookbooks or textbooks, or anything where you might need multiple markings--very clever :)

litlove said...

Your friend's book looks wonderful - alas, the systems of measurement and the names of ingredients are so different between the US and the UK! But I do love Nigella Lawson, too.

Gentle Reader said...

Litlove--I know, isn't it insane that we share a language but not a system of measurement? If you like to cook, though, you could check out the website Chocolate and Zucchini here:
She uses European measurements :)
P.S. Isn't Nigella great?

Tara said...

I adore Nigella! What is so great about her, in my opinion is that she is a fantastic writer, so her books are amazing to read as well as cook from.

Gentle Reader said...

Tara--I couldn't agree more. Nigella's a great writer, and her books are very cozy, just like her recipes!

latebloomingmom said...

So glad JS is publishing and writing more cookbooks.
BTW I am a big fan of Barefoot Contessa's show but find I make more Giada recipes (even though I don't like her show as much) ... and those early Jamie Oliver books get used and used and used, whereas our Batali and Emeril books get dusy. Ah well. I keep 'em cause I got them autographed (and Jamie's too -- he's darling in person).