So, in the spirit of the previous post, here are my recommendations for books for cookbook lovers:
The Art of Eating, by MFK Fisher.
This book collects four of Fisher’s essay collections. There are a few recipes, but the book is more about the author’s love of everything and how it ties into food than it is about cooking per se. You won’t learn how to cook from this book. It’s a book for people who already like to cook (and read)–they get to spend time with someone entertaining, warm, and human nattering on about the things they love.
Outlaw Cook, by John Thorne and Matt Lewis Thorne.
How to pull the notion of following recipes apart and actually cook. Again, a collection of short essays. –This is the kind of cooking that Stephen Brust would like, I think. Not the recipes so much as the general approach, that of a kind of witchcraft ritual (in which food has the primary focus) in which one must abandon what one has been told in order to get the job done right.
On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee.
The way food works, down to a chemical level. Awesome. If you’ve ever seen sixteen different recipes for the same thing, all giving different advice, and wondered why nobody could agree on anything, this is the book for you (or your cookbook lover*).
Glorious French Food, by James Peterson.
If every cook has one cookbook they daydream about cooking all the way through, this is mine. All the stuffy French food you see in classical cookbooks? This is not that. He will try to lead you through everything from aioli (“for heaven’s sake, don’t think of the calories”) to crepes suzette (“Crepes suzette…inhabited a celestial realm in which even teachers and parents were vague and inexperienced. Best of all, crepes suzette involved fire.”), but he won’t tell you you’re blaspheming if you switch out salted cod for barbecued chicken, fer gosh sakes. He doesn’t mess around more than he needs to, but he doesn’t play down to you, either. Every recipe I’ve tried from here, I’ve come out from it going, “Ahhhhhh, now I get it.” I also have his sauce, vegetable, and soup books, which are also awesome.
These all combine great recipes and entertaining writing…
The Commander’s Kitchen, by Ti Adelaide Martin and Jamie Shannon. Recipes from a New Orleans tradition, with well-told stories.
Cook What You Love, by Robert Blanchard and Melinda Blanchard. The dream of all cooks…start a successful restaurant in the Carribean and make enough money to write cookbooks and spend half the year in the U.S. Great recipes.
The Olive & The Caper, by Susanna Hoffman. My favorite Greek cookbook, it captures the flavors of Greek food without getting staid. I don’t know how, but a lot of Greek cookbooks manage to be BOOOOOORING. Not so here.
*Not that I’m implying you actually sleep with cookbooks.