Thursday, February 11, 2010

Alton Brown's favorite Cookbooks


1. The Joy of Cooking

By Irma S. Rombauer
Bobbs-Merrill, 1936

Maybe it's because I inherited "The Joy of Cooking" from my paternal grandmother, a true witch of the baking world, or because her edition, the sixth, was published in 1962, the year I was born. Or maybe it's because even this 1960s "Joy" was still packed with old-fashioned tips like the carefully laid out instructions for skinning a squirrel. As the diagrams show, the skinning process is easy once you get the tail under your foot. Whatever the reason for my attachment to the particular volume on my shelf, I'm also a "Joy" fan no matter the edition: Every recipe is written in the book's unmistakable style, with ingredients and amounts seamlessly integrated into the instructions. For me this is still the quintessential American cookbook. Try the baked herring and potatoes or sourdough rye. Or perhaps the roast squirrel with walnut ketchup.

2. The Frugal Gourmet

By Jeff Smith
Morrow, 1984

Jeff Smith was the Julia Child of my generation. When his television show, "The Frugal Gourmet," made its debut on PBS in the 1980s, it conveyed such genuine enthusiasm for cooking that I was moved for the first time to slap down cold cash for a collection of recipes. Since it was my only cookbook at the time—I had yet to inherit "The Joy of Cooking" mentioned above—I made every recipe in it, several times. All these years later I still cook the chicken piccata, the pea salad with bacon, and the lamb with beans, not making a single substitution. Unfortunately Smith became embroiled in a sex-abuse scandal in the mid-1990s involving young men who had worked for him. Not only did his career screech to a halt, but his earlier work was also tainted in the process. And that's a real shame, because were it not for Smith, I know of at least one would-be cook who'd still be on the sofa ordering takeout.

See the rest of his list here

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