I have changed favored cookbooks as my life has changed. Long ago as a new wife and mother, I had two all purpose cookbooks. I used the Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, given to me by a dear friend, and The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, given me by my mother. The Better Homes and Gardens is nicely all purpose, but quite generic and just didn’t cover all my needs when I moved to Guatemala at age 20. While living so very far away from my mother, The Joy of Cooking turned out to be my companion and mentor, my go-to for advice.
A good cookbook is so much more than just a compilation of recipes. It tells stories and entertains, gives advice and consolation. Until I was able to speak the language in Guatemala, I read the Joy of Cooking from cover to cover. I felt like each recipe was being told to me by a favorite aunt, or even my mother, using humor throughout. It gave me insight on how to manage cleaning and preparing a just-killed chicken and later on, a rabbit. The book covered many of the fruits and vegetables I had to learn to use in a foreign land.
Those days are now long past. I moved back to the States with a young family of four children, and became interested in Southern Living. At that time, with money tight and little time, I found the Southern Living Annual Cookbooks to be my constant companions. They had everything I needed. They used simple ingredients and there was always a recipe that worked with the ingredients I had on hand. I have at least 10 years of those cookbooks still on my shelf. They served well at that time.
Later on I started becoming interested in more gourmet type cooking. I started getting magazine subscriptions. I got Food and Wine Magazine, and later on Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Saveur, Cuisine at Home and Fine Cooking. Later still, I tried Cook’s Illustrated. I tried them all, yet kept coming back to Food and Wine, which has stayed my favorite throughout the last 20 years. It carries enough of the gourmet to please me, without being outrageous. Everyone has their own taste in magazines and style of cooking, and we all find different ones that fit us best. One of my sisters favors Bon Appetit. At one time I was receiving three different magazines at once and found that they all seemed to have at least two or three main focus items that were the same over all three magazines. I realized it was time to narrow down my scope. Food and Wine Magazine won that contest. I have been reading that magazine for all these years, and at the end of the year I get the annual cookbooks. They have kept me on my toes with interesting new recipes and ideas.
I also discovered Indian foods, and began buying cookbooks to cater to that interest. My favorite and most treasured is The Bombay Palace Cookbook by Stendahl. It is apparently out of print, but I found a copy when I lived in Louisiana. It is full of great information and great recipes and is a real treasure. Another I use for the Indian portion of the book is Charmaine Solomon’s The Complete Asian Cookbook. I use her recipes more than any other as they seem more accessible.
Looking back over my years of cooking, I see the trends as my life changed from a newlywed not knowing how to cook, to somewhat experienced but busy with jobs and family, to letting go of the constrictions of cooking for children and exploring the new and putting all my skills to the test. I continue on this journey to this day and try out new recipes and new books constantly. Yet, there are always those few that stand the test of time. Making my Thanksgiving turkey, I once again pulled out my old favorite Joy of Cooking. While internal cooking temperatures have changed for meats these days, the methods stay the same. The book is a part of my life. It has been with me for 42 years.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope it was informative and helped you along your own culinary journey. You will find many more recipes and helpful tips on my web site. I am on Facebook at A Harmony of Flavors and share a recipe or tip each day to the fans that have liked my site. I hope to see you there soon.