For as long as I have known how to read, I have been obsessed with cookbooks. I read them everywhere, on the plane, in bed, and of course, by the stove. My best cookbooks are dog-eared, splashed with sauce, and broken of spine. They have a scratch-and-sniff quality that I find comforting. Here are a few of the books that inspire and teach me about cooking to this day.
The Time-Life Foods of the World series came out in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and was written by some of the best food writers of the time. It had delicious, full-color photographs and included a spiral-bound recipe book for each cuisine. My mother bought them all. Little did she know that she’d be reading them to me like story books, every night at bedtime. Those books planted the seeds for my international wanderlust and curiosity about world cuisine. I still have all of them and I still read them and cook from them. The writing is still relevant, and the pictures—although dated—still make me very hungry.
Anna Thomas’ The Vegetarian Epicure was also published in the ‘70s. I love it for its whimsical illustrations and wonderful recipes. My mom has never liked eating meat, and got this book to try to mix more vegetables into our lives. This is the first book I ever cooked from. I learned how to make béchamel sauce (with nutmeg and butter!), hollandaise (mainly butter!) and vinaigrette (mainly olive oil!) from this fabulously detailed, yet easy-enough-for-an eight-year-old-to-follow book. This is one that I have had to buy several replacement copies for—I loved it so much it fell apart. Twice.
M.F.K. Fisher wrote some of the most excruciatingly beautiful prose ever, and her subject was food and her unbelievably romantic-sounding experiences. I was older, in college, and dying of love for a French man who treated me terribly when I discovered her. I spent a week in bed wallowing with The Gastronomical Me until I had finally gotten over him enough to get to the stove and cook something.
I could go on and on about cookbooks, and I will. I have more to say about the books that I love and even more to say about books that I don’t. I haven’t even had time to get to Julia Child or James Beard.