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Although she was only 17, and had no homemaking skills when she married, my mother was young, in love and had a willingness to learn. One of the things she learned to do well was to cook for her family and friends. Along with the many cookbooks she read, she learned to improve her cooking through watching the Food Network Show. She had her favorites, like Rachel Ray and Ina Gartner, and never missed a show-even during her weeks of chemotherapy treatment.
At the time of her death in 2003, she had a reputation among her friends for re-creating the dishes she found through either the televised food network series, or the multitude of cookbooks she collected through the years. In fact, her food was so popular it won her a write up in the local newspaper one year.
Being Italian, food was as important to her as her religion and her family. Like many novices her cooking skills evolved through the years. She became less stressed and more patient at the stove, which is an important factor in cooking well. She was a courageous cook-one who was willing to try new recipes and make note of their successes or failures.
My Passion for Cooking
My children will attest that the gene that makes a good cook jumped a generation when it comes to my cooking. As a single mother who was also a full-time nursing student, I was not creative when it came to our family meals. The moments I impressed them came from recipes handed down from my mother. And, when I began working full time my interest was not in cooking.
Therefore, I find it a curious phenomenon that I have acquired some of my mother’s cooking spirit as I have aged. One way is that I have become much more attuned with the process of preparation. Staying in the moment with an undivided attention to what I am cooking has opened a path of patience, love and presence. I find myself now delighting in trying new recipes and being as brave as I imagine my mother had been, experimenting with different spices, flavor combinations, and unfamiliar ingredients.
Another way is that I now have a similar affinity to cookbooks that I witnessed with my mother. I love to look through cookbooks and have a small collection growing in my own home. Nothing in comparison to my mother’s volumes of books, splattered with sauces and notes written in the margins, but a collection to be proud all the same.
Perhaps it is my love for food that has resulted in this new passion. When a dish is made with a blend of ingredients that transform it from ordinary to extraordinary it is a sure hit with me. Not having a broad knowledge of which ingredients work well together, I still enjoy the way flavors develop as the dish is completed.
This passion has led to a secret I will share today: one of my long range goals is to take classes at a culinary school-the date is set for sometime in the next several years. Having announced that I will also share with you what I look for when selecting a cookbook.
How many cookbooks do you own?
What I look for when selecting a cookbook
Photography: For overall appearance the photography is an essential part of the appeal of a ‘good’ cookbook for me. Even if I would never attempt a particular dish featured, I could never tire of imagining consuming the dish.
Title: A good title is another aspect of what I look for in a cook book. As in selecting a particular book on any subject, a book’s title can be a very personal preference that triggers memories, both good and bad. When I saw this title recently, Cabin Cooking I picked the book off of the library shelf to browse through because the title had evoked memories of family time at my father’s cabin.
Purpose: Making a decision to borrow or buy a particular cookbook has, on occasion, been based on purpose alone. Whether for basic cooking instructions, entertaining, or trying new ethnic foods, there is a wide source of selections available online, in bookstores and libraries.
Readability: Even though my cooking skills have improved, there is much I still need to learn. If I read a recipe that appears too complicated, too many steps, or filled with unattainable ingredients, I will not consider trying it. I like cookbooks that are written in an easy to understand manner, but not so simplified to hold a condescending tone.
The All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook by the editors of Southern Living Magazine. It is filled with wonderful recipes, beautiful photography and helpful cooking tips that are easy to follow.
Farmers Market Cookbook also by Southern Living Magazine. This is all about using your local farmers’ market produce. There are several things that I like about this book. First, its support for the local farmer; second, the engaging photography; third, the ‘tips’ it offers throughout the book; and last, the simple division of the book by seasons. This is a book I would consider adding to my collection.
Savannah Celebrations by Martha Nesbit is a hit. As the subtitle indicates, this is a book filled with ‘Simple Southern party menus’. The themes include typical holiday celebrations filled with traditional foods along with menus for a St. Patrick’s Day Buffet; a wild game dinner; a seafood supper; a tailgate party, and much more.
Read it and Eat by Sarah Gardner includes information about why she chose the particular month’s theme, as well as a brief summary of each book selection. For example, her picks for January were four books that portrayed the resilience of the human spirit, meant to inspire the reader at the beginning of the year. It is a cookbook I bought for a gift and kept for myself.
Cooking Light Annual Recipes for 2011 has so much to offer regarding nutritional information; recipe ratings such as ‘kid friendly’ or ‘easy’; and appealing menus that it is hard to pass by. My one criticism is that it has few photographs.
The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker is worth adding to a cook’s collection. It is an ‘all purpose’ cookbook laying out basic information, menu planning, recipes and a wealth of other information.
The Healthy College Cookbook by Alexandra Nimetz and Jason Stanley is a wonderful first cookbook for a student living on his own for the first time. Appealing and familiar recipes; a how to for equipment selection and stocking the pantry; and a section on using herbs and spices were three of the things I found helpful in this book.
30 Minute Thai is a collection of fifty recipes that include a seafood soup; cucumber salad; Pad Thai and Green Chicken Curry. This was a gift to me because my daughter knows how much I love Thai food. The recipes are familiar, simple and easy to follow. The photographs are enticing.
Here are cookbook suggestions from lemonkerdz
- My Favorite Cook Books
Cook books are everywhere, but which ones are any good? Check out some of my favorite cook books to help you choose for yourself or as a gift that will not dissapoint.