Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday Cookbook Series-- The Joy of Cooking

There is a theme to my favorite cookbooks so far. If you've read the last two posts in this series, you may have noticed how much I love not only reading recipes, but reading the background information that leads to understanding. I prefer to learn from my cookbooks, not just cook from them.

To continue the theme, for at least another week, I present The Joy of Cooking. There have been many versions of this book, published over many years. The one that I own, as well as the Amazon link above (as far as I can tell) refer to the copyright 1975 version of the text. My book was printed much more recently, but contains the 30-year old text, and is happily absent of microwaves, Splenda, and other more modern ingredients and techniques.

This book is not pretty. There is no full-color glossy food porn. There are no color or glossy pages at all, outside of the rather plain (and photo-less) cover. Instead, each section of the book starts with several pages of expository introduction. If you skipped the recipes and just read the introductory sections, you would improve your cooking skills and knowledge.

And then, there are the recipes. Unlike the America's Test Kitchen book I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, the ingredient lists and instructions are spartan. But there are SO MANY of them. Nearly 5000 of them, according to Amazon's site. There are variations on variations on everything. And so many classics and old-style recipes, the kind our mothers might have made. Waldorf salad, terrines, nary a chipotle or EVOO reference anywhere.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love modern twists on food. But sometimes, you want something tried and true. Or you're tired of Asian fusion, 4-ingredients or less or the cake-mix fix-ups. Or just need inspiration (there must be 30 kinds of frosting alone).

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