Cookbook Tips

The plan is to offer examples and show the diversity, scope, and quality of cooking-related books. And, thus create an interest in the topics. Any of the local libraries can provide hundred of these types of books, usually for free.

Most of my cookbooks are used and older; I seldom buy new cookbooks, except at big discounts. If you need the newest, most correct information you will need to find the newest sources. The newer bookstores like Borders even offer chairs and encourage you to read their books.

"Kitchen Science," by Howard Hillman, from Houghton Miffin Co., dated 1981, revised 1989, medium paperback, 322 pages with index and 'further reading' list, was $8.95 new. Why freezing ruins the texture of meat, why new potatoes are best for salad, why onions make you cry, and more. But there are a few mistakes, like on page 20 he says microwaves cook from within, a mistake several have made. It's in a question and answer format and covers cookware, methods, the food groups, storage, health, diets, etc. Worth reading, but slightly dated.

Buying and Storing Food - "Keeping Food Fresh," by Janet Baily, from The Dial Press. I paid about $3.00 for this used, 1985 paperback edition of 391 pages. This book tell you how to select and store about every item you eat and how long it should keep. This could save a family hundreds of dollars a year. I might check it before I shop for tips on selection and again when I return for tips on storage. Chapters cover Vegetables; Fruits and nuts; Milk, cheese, and eggs; Meats, poultry, and fish; Grains and grain products; Staples; Snacks and sweets; Kitchen systems; and Kitchen crises. Kitchen systems includes What makes food spoil, What keeps food fresh, Your kitchen as a warehouse, and more. Kitchen crises includes Food poisoning, Controlling household pests, and Power failure. There's a detailed index at the back.

General Cookbook and Information - "Joy of Cooking," by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, from The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. I paid about $3 for this used, 1985 (1975 edition) hardcover of 915 pages. I don't really care for the 4500 recipes, but for an idea, technique, or general information this is often the first book I grab. Lots of general food information and some drawings. I won't even try to list the 37 chapters plus index, but if you can eat or cook it, it's probably in here. For this book I would avoid the paperback edition cause it has been one generation older than the hardcover in the past. One problem with these older books is they don't cover the newest techniques or food. But, like for the microwave, you'll want its own specialty book anyway. Other options include the "Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book" and dozens of others.

Buying and Cooking Meat and Poultry - "Cutting-up in the Kitchen," by Merle Ellis, from Chronicle Books. I paid about a $1 for this 1975 paperback of 216 pages. He's a butcher, and he tells you many of the tips, techniques, and tools you need to work and cook with meat and poultry. Plus he covers many cuts and names of meat. Just for beef, there were 610 names for beef parts. What's the best cut of round: top, bottom, or eye? How do you get the expensive Flatiron out of a cheap blade-cut chuck roast? What's the difference between how meat is cut in the West, the East, the Midwest, and Europe? This book doesn't have many photographs, but it has lots of drawings which may be better anyway. I have a few other books like this, at least one with photos, but I haven't found the ultimate book, so the search goes on. Some recipes.

Food Identification - "Cook's Ingredients, RD Home Handbooks," contributing editor Adrian Bailey, from The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. I paid $5.99 for this $16 new, paperback, dated 1990, with 240 pages. This is one of the better books that tries to give a color photograph and some explanation of about everything you can eat, certainly at that price. The book was released in the USA and Great Britain, but it does contain some exotic stuff. There are 26 chapters and an index. There're about 30 pages for vegetables, 14 for herbs, spices, and seeds, 20 for fruit, 15 for pasta, noodles, and dumplings, and 34 pages for fish and seafood. Meats and poultry cover 42 pages, but the weakest coverage was the major cuts of meat. This was the only area using drawings, they weren't clear enough, and they need more text details. My book measures about eight by six inches, but it may exist in a larger format. Book says there are over 22,000 species of fish in the seas, only about a dozen different fish regularly appear in the marketplace, Portuguese and Japanese are exceptions, and a Tokyo market would have over 60 species. For a comprehensive list see "Multilingual Dictionary of Fish and Fish Products" (United Nations). PS - If you cook ethnic cuisines, you may want books for those also. I have a few just for Oriental, French, Italian, etc. items.

Cookware Information - "Cook's Store, The," by the editors of Consumer Guide, by Simon and Schuster. This is an ex-library book. I might have paid 10¢ or 25¢ for this 1978, used hardcover of 192 pages. This book cover how to buy, use, and identify gourmet and other cooking gadgets. It's in 16 chapters, plus four indexes. If you plan to buy new cookware, knives, food processor, etc., check the newest version of a book like this. Otherwise, even an old book is fun to help identify the stuff you'll see in thrift and cookware shops. The book provides many recipes and photos. Techniques like pastry, baking, roasting, etc. are introduced, but you may also want a specialty book on those topics. There are also chapters for French, Italian, Oriental, and other world gadgets. Ever wonder what to do with some of the strange, cast-iron cookware?

I also have a better book in storage that tries to lists the all-time best cooking and food books. It's "The Cooks' Catalogue," edited by James Beard/Glaser/Wolf, etc. from Avon, 1977. This is a reprint of the Harper & Row, Publishers, an oversized hardcover of 565 pages, dated 1975. It covers 4000 items, 200 recipes, 1700 illustrations, and has seven pages of the 'best' in food-related books.

Old Recipes - "Original Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, The," by Fannie Merritt Farmer, from Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, Inc. This is a reprint of the original 1896 book, done for the 100th anniversary. Price is given as $18.96, but I got it new at $7.98 for this 567-plus page hardcover. Want to cook in 1896 -- find clean water and build a fire. Topics include water, fire, ice box, cereals, force-meats, sweetbreads, pickling, recipes for the sick, and lots of regular stuff. It's organized into 39 chapters with a glossary, school schedule, cooking utensils for the class, and index. Twelve cooking lessons each of three and a half hours total between $12 and $18 plus between $3 and $6 for materials. And, some lesson cooked a complete meal with as many as nine courses. Demonstration lectures were between 25 and 50¢. Special lessons in cooking, laundry, and sick-room cooking were available. The table of contents alone is 27 pages, and there are more unnumbered pages of food ads in the back. Most of the recipes are rather simple and should be easy for today's cook. Some pages were corrected by hand. Many recipes are in the modern format, first a list of ingredients, then a paragraph of procedures.

More Old Recipes - "Frugal Gourmet's Culinary Handbook, The," by Jeff Smith (Frugal Gourmet) and Craig Wollam, from William Morrow and Company, Inc. This is partly new and partly old recipes from "The Culinary Handbook," by Charles Fellows, from 1904. The current authors say "If ever there was an American equivalent of Escoffier, this [Fellows] was it. I got this new, hardcover book of 497 pages, marked $23, for $5.98. The 1904 text is in brown, not a good color, and the new text is black. The text is arranged alphabetically with a table of contents, an index, and other stuff. For example, there are 23 pages of sauces. There's a Delmonico's menu from 1920 with no prices. Also, a Fellow's menu from 1910 with a la carte prices. Many items have two prices: prime ribs and a ham are "75-40", and broiled chicken and lobster are "1.10-60." The prices must be in cents, and the price difference could be for dinner or lunch, for two or one people, or for big and small, whatever. Does anyone know? Now I think it indicates a suggested price range, like between 40 to 75 cents.

Older Recipes - "The First American Cookbook" from Dover Publications. This is a facsimile of "American Cookery," by Amelia Simmons, from 1796. It was released in 1958 for $3.50 in paperback, and I might have paid a $1 for it. The original book was 47-plus pages, but Dover added several pages of introduction, a glossary, and catalog information. The introduction is 24 pages of cookbook history and might be better than the cookbook. In the cookbook, the print is hard to read, and many lower-case "s" look more like an "f." Like "Garlicks, tho' ufed by the French, are better adapted to the ufes of medicine than cookery." The recipes are in the old style, all in one paragraph. Some words are unknown, and you'll be in the glossary. There's no table of contents or index, and the last page is a list of corrections to the previous text. I made a crude table of contents: first a preface about herself, then stuff on the basic food groups, and last the recipes. Pies are meat, syllabub is a dairy soup, and rusk is a bread dish. The recipes can be hard to use because of confused ingredients and/or the directions aren't clear or complete. For example, time or temperature is almost never given. The recipes are more of a reminder for experienced cooks, rather than a road map for new cooks, as was the trend.

Ingredients - There's probably a cookbook for every food group and every item in the food groups. Most people won't need many, but if you're into some specific ingredients, check out the books. I've seen them for almost all the meats, seafood, poultry, vegetables, starches, fruits, herbs and spices, etc.

Techniques - Every cooking technique has a cookbook. To keep it short, all the stove top, oven, broiler, small appliance, and out-door techniques have a book. Again, many people won't need a book, but as you learn or use a new technique, it's handy to have a specialty book. Look for books that only do dishes well with that technique. Like, who needs recipes to do french fries in a slow cooker. I bought "Microwave Gourmet," by Barbara Kafka, William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1987, used, paperback for that reason. I hoped she'd only cover dishes that worked in a microwave, and skip the ones that didn't. However, some techniques such as candy, canning, pastry, baking, and others do require some extra knowledge or safety. If you can't get someone to show you, or get a class or video, you might want to read a book.

Ethnic - If your into ethnic cuisines, you might want a few cookbooks. Try to find books written in that country, or at least by people who lived or grew up there or a descendent. There are exceptions. Most important, get cookbooks that use authentic native ingredients and techniques. That's the hard part. I suggest you read library books, rather than buy books, till you can spot the more genuine recipes. For example, Indians would never use curry powder, but Chinese and Japanese would. Thais and Vietnamese tend to use fish sauce where Japanese and Chinese use soy sauce. Japanese tend to avoid garlic where Koreans use it. Also, be looking around for markets where you can find the native ingredients, which is getting easier. They might even be able to suggest where they find recipes or get ingredients. Also see Collection Ethnic Cookbooks below.

Food History - Three suggestions - (1) "Food in History," by Reay Tannahill, from Stein and Day, 1973, used hardcover of 448 pages. Covers the world from pre-10,000 B.C. to now with pictures and maps. Bibliography, sources, and index. Best of the three?

(2) "Food," by Waverley Root. I have a reprint from Smithmark Publishers, 1996, new oversize hardcover of 602 pages for $6.99. Original was from W.S. Konecky Associates, Inc./Simon and Schuster, Inc./whatever, 1980. A huge work, but I don't care for the format. It's alphabetical, but the headings are mostly the first two or three letters of words. For example, the "AA" paragraph describes three items that start with aa. Lots of pictures, bibliography, but needs an index - like I never have found pasta, macaroni, or spaghetti. You'd expect to find one of them in here - all three words plus noodles are in the "Food in History" index.

(3) "Foodbook," by James Trager, from Grossman Publishers, 1970. I got this used, hardcover book of 578 pages for $2. Few pictures, more info and trivia than "Food in History, but maybe not as well organized. Has appendix on food additives, bibliography, and an index of 37 pages. Of the four noodle words, pasta is in the index.

Cooking/Food Terms - There are dozens of these, but I'll just list four. All four are used books.

(1) "Cook's and Diner's Dictionary," intro by M.F.K. Fisher, from Funk & Wagnalls, 1968, hardcover of 274 pages for about $3. Alphabetical with only a few drawings. "A lexicon of food, wine, and culinary terms."

(2) "A Dictionary of Gastronomy," compiled by Andre' L. Simon, from Farrar, Straus and Company, 1949, hardcover of 264 pages, for about $3. Alphabetical by the President of the Wine and Food Society, London. Interesting for the foreign terms and his culinary take on many exotic animals from rat to camel.

(3) "Cassell's Cooking Dictionary," compiled by Nell Heaton, from Cassell and Company Limited (London, New York, etc.), 1953, hardcover of 529 pages, for about $3. Alphabetical, with a few drawings. It covers the buying, preparation, cooking, serving, carving, and wine from all over the British Isles and some from abroad with about 1800 recipes.

(4) "The Cook's Companion," by Frieda Arkin, from Doubleday & Company, Inc, 1968. I have the 1970 paperback reprint from Avon of 160 pages for about 50¢. Part 1 is culinary hints, part 2 is cooking and menu terms, and both parts are alphabetical. For example, in part 1, for lobster, it lists how to buy, boil, and eat. No formal recipes, just cooking tips, and only two non-related drawings.

Authors - Here are a few interesting authors and their approximate cuisine and writing period. They've all written several books which I won't list.

James Beard - American food - he may have lived into the 1980's. I especially enjoy his 16/17th cookbook, "Beard on Food," from Alfred A. Knopf, 1974, hardcover of 318+ pages. It does contain recipes and two indexes, but it's mostly his slant on food and cooking. "Long recognized as the dean of American cooking." He did one of the first prime-time cooking shows on TV in 1947??

M.F.K. Fisher - American food - 1937-1970??'s. More gastronomer than chef, but some books have recipes. Known for her good writing and knowledge of food.

Elizabeth David - English trained European - 1950-1970??'s. Lots of info on ingredients, tools, techniques, recipes, with lots of background information.

Julia Child - American trained French - 1961-now (2000). She taught America to cook French with her TV shows and cookbooks in the 1960's and 1970's and is still going strong.

Collecting Ethnic Cookbooks - If you want to try collecting ethnic cookbooks from around the world, try the "Foods of the World" series. These were published by Time-Life Books from the 1960's into the 1980's. For each of the 27 countries or regions there is a coffee-table book with picture, text, and some recipes and a smaller booklet with all the recipes for the kitchen. There are also four related booklets. I have seen a set missing one of the four booklets in a used-book store for about $250. Only in one of the four booklets do they list all the books and booklets in the series, and that was probably the last item printed. I got most of mine at thrift stores for about 50¢ each (total of about $29). PS - I'm guessing at the total number of books; if you need a complete list, leave a message.

Anyway, before you start collecting check them out at the used-book stores, thrift shops, or you may find a few in the libraries. PS - It took me two to three years to build my set, and I was hitting the stores almost every weekend. PS - Since I completed my set, I've seen a set (complete??) in the Daily Breeze, and the seller listed it with an incorrect title. I think he wanted about $40. I've also seen an incomplete set at a library sale for about $20.

1/22/99 - Also, two or more packages were available: one was a sleeve which held the pair of books, and the other was a folder with slots which held the covers of both books.