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Chapter 29 - Kitchen Confidential


As you know I enjoy reading lots of different books but there is one genre I absolutely love, salivate over, and otherwise savor. It is the well written cookbook. I'm not talking about the standard run of the mill recipe-laden cookbook (although the original Gourmet cookbook edited by the incomparable Ruth Reichl is still one of my go-tos). I'm talking about cookbooks which have beautiful prose and maybe full color pictures along with the recipes. I read some, I reflect, and I put sticky notes on recipes I want to try.


I have been a cookbook aficionda since I was a child and received my first Betty Crocker Junior Cookbook as a gift at age 5. I was always trying recipes and reading cookbooks cover to cover. The souped up (pun intended) cookbooks which I described above didn't become known to me until 10th grade when I took International Cooking as an elective. We used the Time Life series Foods of the World (pictured above). This was a group of hardback books which detailed the culture and food of 27 countries and had a small spiral bound recipe book of each country as a supplement. I was enthralled by the information, pictures, and recipes in each book. Since we were using them in class, I was not intimidated by the work involved in making a dish.


I am still a fan of those books and while I've never been lucky enough to get the set I have found other books to whet my appetite. Here are some of my favorites and include a few recent finds.


Tasting History: Explore the Past through 4,000 Years of Recipes by Max Miller with Ann Volkwein - I don't even know how I found this book and Miller's YouTube channel. In 2020 Max Miller was furloughed from his job at Disney and found he had time on his hands so started making his Tasting History videos on YouTube. The channel and the book are fascinating to me as a lover of both cooking and history. This book was published in April, 2023. I just got this book but am excited to try some of the recipes.


The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes and Stories of My Life by Pat Conroy with Suzanne Williamson Pollak - If you have read any Pat Conroy you know he is not one to shy away from descriptions. His interest in cooking started with a purchase of The Escoffier Cookbook and Conroy was off to learn the basics of French cooking. The recipes are basic but each chapter opens with a story about something he learned or a place he had been. This is a great book of recipes and a wonderful food journey. Although written in 2009, you can still find copies of it around.


The Viennese Kitchen: 10th Anniversary Edition: Tante Hertha's Book of Family Recipes Paperback by Monica Meehan, et. al. - This beautiful cookbook captivated me initially with its cover and as I dug deeper I was charmed by it's story as it was derived from an original notebook and recipe journal of a 1900's baroness. The reader is transported back to Viennese high society at the turn of the 19th century with beautiful photos of Vienna throughout. This was published in 2021.


The Food of France by Maria Villegas and Sarah Randell - This is the book which started me thinking about this blog. This beautiful and brilliant cookbook tells about the food of France in pictures, prose, and in recipes. It is a big, delightful coffee table book but one which can definitely be used by the home cook. I initially grabbed it off my cookbook shelf to look for a recipe for Vichyssoise (potato and leek soup) but then found myself crawling into the pages. It was published in 2008 and is still available.


The Book Lover's Cookbook: Recipes Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature by Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen - Before I got this cookbook, I didn't realize how many works of literature have components of food in them. It makes sense, of course, because as humans we enjoy eating. Authors from Washington Irving to Charles Dickens and Louisa May Alcott to more recent authors like Elizabeth Berg and Chris Bohjalian feature food in their books and this cookbook covers a lot of them. While there are no pictures, the recipes and literary references abound. The book was published in 2005 and is still available.


Do you have any splendid cookbooks to suggest to me? Please let me know!


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