Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cookbook Confidential

If you're into cooking and cookbooks, my favorite blogger, Heidi at, recently reviewed a number of new books out this season (that would be on her October 16th entry).

This week I read one the most exciting non-fiction books I have read in a long time. The United States of Arugula, by David Kamp, explores the rise of gourmet food in America and traces the history of American food over the course of the last century. Following the rise of French cookery, star chefs from Julia Child to Emeril Lagasse, and the roots of the organic food movement, the author engagingly describes how our national palate has changed. Every chapter was a marvel to me and I found myself discussing each new thing I learned with anyone who would listen. I even find myself contemplating raising my own organic approved cows!!! Maybe this book was especially fascinating to me because while I enjoy cooking and trying new foods, I am certainly not a "foodie" - yet. Sometimes I even want to learn French just so I will know how to pronounce chef terms.

Enough with the confessions! If you're interested in how it seems like there has been a sudden explosion of chain gourment restaurants or how the Food Network got so popular, this is the book for you!

Since I'm discussing food books, let me mention a few things I've been using regularly...

I was already a big fan of Cook's Illustrated magazine, but this summer I started subscribing to Cook's Country, their more down-home version. While Cook's Illustrated was fascinating and informative, I actually try cooking most of the recipes in Cook's Country! I especially love the column where people write in looking for a lost recipe they remember from the past and want to re-create. Then other readers write in with their suggestions, and the editors weigh in with a recipe they create. It's great and unlike with some magazines, the recipes have always turned out.

My husband and I try lots of recipes from James McNair's New Pizza cookbook. We love his cornmeal crust and even experiment with different types of flours as we use his basic crust recipe. We try to make a regular activity of making pizza at home.

I was recently at a bookstore and saw the mammoth Professional Chef by the Culinary Institute of America and Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame (his restaurant has a cookbook too). It looks amazing and is so detailed. Definitely one for the Christmas list!

Are there any cookbooks you find invaluable?

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