Looking around my office and home, I know I am always within arm’s reach of a cookbook or culinary reference of some kind. I have amassed quite a few books over the years, from first editions of the chefs of today to copies of books from a different time, of which I find particularly of interest. There are plenty of other ways to find information. I know all of you have looked on the internet for a recipe or fact about something. This process of looking at the “now” has one flaw-it is now, and you have no reference regarding its strength as a source. That internet search will last for a moment, and in the blink of an eye, the search engines finding you those tidbits of information have changed their results. Thanks to the end of net neutrality, they are certainly driven by other priorities.
That is why I collect and seek out cookbooks both old and new-to build a better picture of food and its place in the culinary world. I have mentioned Le Guide de Culinarie many times in the past. It is a reference, not just of recipes, but of how chefs were approaching the craft of cooking in a commercial kitchen in the early part of last century. There are many celebrity chefs out there writing cookbooks with the intention of selling books, not documenting where we are as a professional culinary community. For them, it is an alternative revenue stream, and they probably don’t even write the recipes.
I spend many hours looking at books to understand their potential value for me to include them in my “collection.” I do realize that at some point, I won’t be able to take these books with me, and they may end up in an estate sale. However, for me in the now, they provide me joy, a tool to better my knowledge, and an on-call source to find the answers I need when researching a certain list of dishes that are required learning for the “test.”
In my opinion, a good cookbook needs to have three good elements.
- An extensive focus on the hows and whys of the dish or cuisine being discussed
- Imagery that is accurate to the dish and the technique being discussed
- Written by someone or some entity who has been involved in or deeply passionate about the topic
The age of cookbooks is slowly fading, and the quality of good books such as those I am referring to is declining rapidly. I can give a list of new and classic books to find; however, I am not doing you any justice and am taking away the joy of looking through of what’s on the shelf. I want you to know that I do read them. I go through them cover to cover. You will see all of the Post-It tabs if you have seen my collection in person.
Don’t ignore the book store or local library-there is good stuff out there, you just need to know where to look.
Classical and Contemporary Italian Cooking
Here is one of those books that might be of interest to some of my culinary friends. This is one of those books that goes into depth on Italian cooking in a restaurant environment. It is a great source for some very particular recipes.
What to drink while doing some reading?
It is starting to get colder out, and hopefully a fire will be lit with something to sip. I have attached a link to a list of the top 250 beers. There are few sippers on this list to try, but a few stand out for my friends in ChiTown. Look at 1, 2, 11 and 13.
Toppling Goliath is in Iowa but making amazing beers. If anybody is heading through the state, think of me this Christmas!