I used to be a cookbook hoarder. Celebrity cookbooks, famous chefs, and niche cookbooks (101 Chocolate Recipes!). Glossy photos were my jam. My foodie porn.
In general, I don’t follow recipes exactly unless I’m baking. The first time I bake a new recipe, I follow it exactly before tweaking it. I mostly use cookbooks as a starting point for my own creations or to find inspiration.
A couple of years ago, I realized that my two sagging shelves of cookbooks were mostly dust collectors. I only referred to a handful of cookbooks from my shelves. As challenging as it was to say goodbye to my beautifully styled and well-light photographed cookbooks, I scaled them down to one shelf.
The purged cookbooks went to new, loving homes. I don’t regret letting them go at all. But the ones on this list I will never get rid of.
5 Cookbooks I Can’t Live Without
Better Homes and Gardens: New Cook Book is my go to cookbook for all things American. Pancakes, cornbread, apple pie, lasagna (technically Italian, but the American version), casseroles. You get the idea. I hardly ever follow these exactly, but the recipes give me a base that I can (wildly) alter.
Speaking of baking, I adore Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. I made her chocolate chip cookies recipe this weekend and they came out beautifully. Crispy on the edges and chewy-soft in the middle. I even tossed in some candied ginger before I baked the last sheet of cookies. Not a ton of photos in this cookbook, but the well-written recipes more than make up for it.
For all things Vietnamese, I refer to Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors by Andrea Nguyen. My mother never measures her ingredients so I combine my mother’s verbal directions and Nguyen’s recipes to recreate my childhood memories. Though I do try to simplify the steps and cooking methods to fit my busy mom life.
Perhaps the newest of my cookbooks is Cooking Up A Storm: Recipes Lost and found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. After flipping through my sister’s copy, I knew I needed one of my own. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans in 2005, many residents lost their recipe clippings from the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper. Those who still had their copies shared it with those who had lost their clippings due to flood. The story of how a city came together to preserve their food has become this cookbook. There’s hardly any photos in this book, but you can feel the love and history. It’s my go to for an Louisiana dish.
If you’re looking for a food porn cookbook, then Cooking Light Global Kitchen: The World’s Most Delicious Food Made Easy is the one for you. Recipes are two page spreads filled with gorgeous, mouthwatering photos. Cooking Light always does a great job of creating healthier versions of our favorite foods. This cookbook is organized by geography so you can travel around the world with your tastebuds. (See my full review of the cookbook.)
I have others, but these are the 5 most used cookbooks on my shelf.
What is the one cookbook you can’t live without?
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