I love libraries for many, many reasons and one of those reasons is the cookbook section.
I’ve never had much luck buying cookbooks. I almost always pick out a book that has gorgeous pictures of seemingly delectable dishes and either find that the writing is bad, the recipes are hard to follow, there are far fewer recipes that I’d actually try than I thought, or the recipes just don’t taste as good as those pictures looked.
There are a few exceptions to my bad luck. The copy of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that I bought when I first moved out on my own has proven to be spectacularly useful and Alton Brown’s books are all impeccably done, but it’s very difficult to judge the usefulness of a cookbook without actually using it first–which is why I try to do all my cookbook “shopping” at the library.
A few of my favorite library finds have been Dough by Richard Bertinet, All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray, and Get Cooking: 150 Simple Recipes to Get You Started in the Kitchen by Mollie Katzen.
Dough was a book that I kept having to make trips to the library to get, so I finally ordered a copy for myself. It’s one that I use on a fairly regular basis, although I have yet to make everything in it. Beautiful pictures, easy to follow instructions, comes with an instructional DVD, and everything I’ve made from it is heavenly. I never end up using quite so much water as he suggests–either because I’m impatient or there’s some reason why my flour or environment isn’t the same as his. I like to think it’s the second reason. I highly recommend this book and realized, in writing this post, that I need to check out Richard Bertinet’s other work too!
All Cakes Considered is a unique book written by a producer of the popular NPR show All Things Considered. I suspect Melissa Gray is pretty popular herself because the book is structured around her habit of bringing a cake to work every week.
I’ve only tried one recipe from this book (so far), but it turned out perfect. The writing is fun and the book includes everything you need to know about baking a cake–from different pans for different cakes to how to transport cake in the city. I don’t yet own this cookbook, but it’s on my list to buy. Until then, I’m going to keep checking it out from the library.
Mollie Katzen, founder of Moosewood Restaurant, is well-known for her Moosewood Cookbook. Published the year before I was born, it is a vegetarian bible and Get Cooking: 150 Simple Recipes to Get You Started in the Kitchen is a beginner’s cookbook for our times. It’s a perfect start for anyone who wants to cook themselves healthy food from scratch. The recipes are easy to follow and basic skills, like how to dice, are introduced. It offers vegan and vegetarian recipes in addition to recipes with meat and covers all the basics to cooking simple, everyday food. Many of the recipes that contain meat offer substitutions to make them vegan or vegetarian.
For some reason I see this as the perfect gift for college kids who are just starting to find their way around their own kitchens and learning to feed themselves. I can see it as part of housewarming gift, you know, with some cute kitchen towels and a decent pan. Of course, learning to cook should come long before the first apartment, so this is probably better as a gift for someone in middle school.
Those are a few of my favorite library finds. I also check out food magazines and pick up old cookbooks from the library used book sale–where the price is right for a little bit of gambling on content.
Yes, I love the library.