Follow us:

All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

April 10, 2008 at 4:15 PM

My name is Nancy, and I am a Cookbook Junkie

The sky might be falling in the cookbook industry (see last post), but you couldn’t tell that from looking around my house. I’ve got a cookbook collection that’s getting competely out of hand — and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I had to venture a guesstimate, I’d say I own more than 500 cookbooks.

If you add all the food memoirs. . .

and the food reference books. . .

. . .you can up that number by another 100, easy. And though many came over the transom as review copies, I bought the great majority of them. I’ve got a practiced eye when I hit library sales, garage sales and discount book stores and have snagged myself some collectibles in the process.

Here’s a Julia Child classic from Half Price Books that cost me $9.98 — less a 20%-off coupon:

And here’s the best part: It was signed, and nobody noticed but me, or it would have been locked in the “collectibles” shelf with a much pricier price-tag. Dan, whoever you are, what were you thinking, giving this up?:

And check this out! Not one, but two first editions of “A Treasury of Great Recipes,” by Mary and Vincent Price. Yes, that Vincent Price:

I paid $20 for the first copy, found at the Goodwill on Dearborn nearly 20 years ago. The second cost less than $10 at a library book sale, and I almost had a heart attack when I saw it, it’s such a find, and in pristine condition, no less. These books are worth a (relative) fortune, not that I’d sell them or anything.

I actually once spent real money on a book, back when I was still waiting tables, and Wessel & Lieberman Booksellers was just a tiny Eastlake operation:

M.F.K.Fisher! My literary hero! This, too, is a collectible first edition, though the price hasn’t risen much since I bought my copy. Whatever. Collecting books is my guilty pleasure — so sue me:

I read cookbooks the way other people read novels (for entertainment and intrigue). Or travel guides (to widen my cultural horizons). Or textbooks (for clarification and edification). Or the bible (for spiritual enlightenment). And of course I also cook from them.

I love the Culinaria series from the German publisher, Konemann. The photos are gorgeous and they’re helpful when I’m writing about regional cookery in a country I’m not as familiar with as I’d like to be. These are hardbacks, but they’ve recently been released in paperback, so you can get a good deal on the hard-cover at used book stores. At Christmas, Costco’s usually moving them at a pretty good price. And you can always order one from my favorite bookstore, Edmonds Bookshop (and yes, I said that because as much as I love Costco, I love my local bookstore even more):

I’m also incredibly impressed with anything written and photographed by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, who’ve schlepped all over the world to bring us their very personal take on food culture:

And Anne Willan’s Look & Cook series. . .

. . . with step-by-step photographs, is often marked-down at bookstores, cause it’s been out a while. I keep adding to my collection (I’ve got to keep a Post-It note in my wallet, with all the titles I own because I can never remember which I have and which I need.) I make her osso buco recipe from “Meat Classics” fairly frequently. It’s as good as any I’ve had at fancy Italian restaurants.

Of course, I’ve got a whole shelf devoted to the Silver Palate:

And several filled with cookbooks from here in Seattle, and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest:

If someone were to force me to put together a shelf of “favorites” it would be tough, but just for grins — and the sake of this post — I did it:

Not too long ago, I asked some Seattle chefs about their favorite cookbooks. And now I’m dying to know: Which cookbooks do you love?


Posted by Chris

12:29 AM, Apr 11, 2008

My favorites are

“Seattle Kitchen”

“Barbeque Bible”

My wife’s family Lebanese cookbook

“Bread bakers apprentice”

Watching Food network taught me how to cook and not be afraid in the kitchen. Now I really have the Joy of Cooking. (the emotion not the book) for that I am grateful. But I am sick of Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart.

Posted by B.D.

4:45 AM, Apr 11, 2008

“Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” by Deborah Madison is probably the most commonly referenced book in my house.

“Passionate Vegetarian” by Crescent Dragonwagon

Peter Reinhart’s bread baking books.

“Lord Krishna’s Cuisine”

Jerry Traunfeld’s books

It’s hard for me to pick favorites as I consult them regularly. I own several books by James Peterson, Madhur Jaffrey, Julia Childs, Jaques Pepin, Mollie Katzen (and Deborah Madison, for that matter). Not to mention the literary ones…

Posted by lh

6:59 AM, Apr 11, 2008

This is tough indeed. Right now, the short list is:

Vij’s Elegant and Inspired Indian Cooking (from the Vancouver, BC restaurant)

Aglaia Kremezi’s Foods of the Greek Islands

Annissa Helou’s Mediterranean Street Food

Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours

Posted by Mark

10:35 AM, Apr 11, 2008

Wow, hard to decide, but my current favorites are:

* “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” – One of my all-time favorites. I am constantly amazed at the recipes and how fool-proof they are.

* “The Joy of Cooking” – The classic. A great reference manual, as well, IMO.

* “The Herbfarm Cookbook” – Every recipe I’ve made from this book has always been fantastic.

* “Baking with Julia” – Ok, so I’m a huge Julia fan. (Julia, Jeff Smith and my Dad are the major reasons I love to cook)

Posted by MKS

11:02 AM, Apr 11, 2008

Brand new from Seattle based Sasquatch is The Farm to Table Cookbook: The Art of Eating Locally by Ivy Manning.

And yes, you guessed correctly, this IS your local bookseller trying to entice you down the hill. I get much less work done in the morning thanks to your very entertaining blog.

Posted by foozy

11:13 AM, Apr 11, 2008

I am SO not a collector! I have five feet of shelf for my cookbooks: if I haven’t opened one in more than a year, it and its colleagues go straight to Magus Books in the U District, where they pay good cash money for cookbooks, more than for regular books, because, well, there ARE so many collectors. Books that make the cut year after year?

Ruth Reichl’s “The Gourmet Cookbook” — well written, well-tested, lots of variety

Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone”. We’re not vegetarian, but this is a great all-around cookbook, because she has such great technique — check out her method of making risotto!

Huntley Dent’s “The Feast of Santa Fe” — delicious, authentic, well-researched. Best chili and the best ribs on earth.

James Oseland’s “Cradle of Flavor”, which finally unlocks the secrets of Indonesian flavor pastes, in meticulous detail. The Padang fish curry is insanely good.

I also use James Beard’s books quite a bit: Mr. Reliable in the meat department, especially. And I’m very fond of his compendium “American Cookery” which has the best possible recipes for traditonal American foods and yet dutifully, hilariously, records the worst as well. Worth it for his comments on muffins alone.

Does anyone else find the Chez Panisse cookbooks beautiful but weirdly uncookable? Does anyone else think that Julia Child’s recipes are a bit bland and timid?

Posted by Nancy Leson

11:39 AM, Apr 11, 2008

And speaking of favorite cookbooks:

Phil Mihalski, of Nell’s Restaurant, would like you to know that he’s paying tribute to another great chef next week as part of his third annual “Chef Tribute” series. I like Phil, and I think he’s one of Seattle’s unsung chefs — even if I do have waitmare flashbacks every time I’m in his restaurant, having worked there for five years in its earlier incarnation. Anyway, here’s what he’s peddling, via a press release that just popped into my in-box:

Chef Philip Mihalski of Nell’s Restaurant continues to honor great chefs of the past with his third annual “Chef Tribute Series. Next up: featuring the legendary recipes of Elizabeth David on Wednesday, April 23rd.

[(Posthumous) Note from James Beard: “Elizabeth David is probably the greatest food writer we have.”]

[Secondary Note from Nance: In case you don’t know from Elizabeth David, whose Folio Series version of “Italian Food” is one of my latest cookbook buys (Half Price Books, $30 less a 50%-off coupon, finally snagged this month after staring at it on the shelf at the Lynnwood store since October.), here’s what the press-release says]:

Elizabeth David [1913-1992] was a prolific English cookbook author, whose adventurous life and travels provided the background for her writing. She is remembered for awakening Anglo tastes to the cuisines of Italy, France and beyond; always offering context for the food in addition to superb recipes.

Back to the release: Join us at Nell’s Wednesday, April 23rd as Chef Philip recreates her recipes – paired with great wines – while we share stories and background that will bring her to life. Dinner begins with passed hors d’oeuvres at 6:15 p.m. Cost is $80 per person excluding tax and gratuity. Reservations available by calling (206) 524-4044 or at:


Cheese and Dill Sticks

Les Escargot


(Long Shadows Poet’s Leap, Columbia Valley, WA 2005)

White Bean and Sorel Soup

(Domaine Dagueneau – Les Pentes, Pouilly Fumé, 2006)

Grilled Herring with Mustard Sauce

(Savennieres-Roche aux Moines, Laroche, Cuvee des Nonnes, 1999)

Guinea Hen Robert

(Hautes Cotes de Nuits, Thevenot Le Brun, Renardes, 2005)

Oxtails with Black Olives and L’Aligot Potatoes

(Fall Line Winery Cabernet Sauvignon ∙ Columbia Valley, WA 2005)

Lemon Brown Sugar Cake with Brown Bread Ice Cream

(Lustau East India Solera Sherry)

Can’t make this Chef Tribute dinner? You might want to check out these:

Marie-Antoine Careme: June 26

Simone Beck and Julia Child: August 28

Alain Chapel: October 30

Posted by Elizabeth Davis

1:23 PM, Apr 11, 2008

Looking over my collection of 300+ cookbooks, these are some I can’t live without:

1. Russo and Lukins’ Silver Palate (Books 1 & 2) – great for helping you think about the meal as a whole

2. NY Times Passover Cookbook – not just Passover – I served the roasted salmon with romesco at my wedding and the rhubarb chutney year round

3. Bert Greene’s Greene on Greens and Greene on Grains – well written, under appreciated and everything turns out great

4. Copeland Marks’ The Book of Couscous – an entire region in a little book (his other books are terrific, too)

5. Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone – and the cauliflower gratin is the best!

6. Madhur Jaffrey’s Invitation to Indian Cooking – the gold standard

7. Claudia Roden’s Book of Jewish Food – great as a cookbook and bedside table reading book 8. Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts (actually they’re all tremendous – can’t narrow it to just one – maybe the chocolate one)

9. Diane Kochilas’ The Greek Vegetarian – worth it for the eggplant recipes alone

10. Crescent Dragonwagon’s Soup and Bread – the artichoke avegolemno is always a hit and everything else is as well

11. Anne Willian’s La Varenne Practique – when you need to look up something or for reference

12. Evan Kleiman’s La Cuicina Rustica – because everything tastes better at room temperature and I served the ricotta basil tart at my wedding

13. My 1950s era Betty Crocker – classic 14.

Spice and Spirit Lubavitch Women’s Cookbook – it’s easy, the directions are clear and the challah always turn out well

15. Penelope Casas’ Food and Wine of Spain – cheaper than a plane ticket

Posted by Barby

4:56 PM, Apr 11, 2008

I have Vincent Price’s book, too. Got it when it came out, I think. I read cookbooks like novels, too. Do you actually cook recipes from them? I find I use them for “research” and then do my own thing . . but I love having them and would never give most of them up.

Posted by CJ

8:56 AM, Apr 12, 2008

I have over 500 cookbooks myself. It’s a good thing we have built-in bookshelves in our house, because we’ve run out of bookcase space. The current workhorses in our kitchen:

The Barbecue Bible

Joy of Cooking (mid-1970’s and late 1990’s edition, although I have a 1943 edition signed by Irma herself that I got for $1 at my church’s used book sale)

Bernard Clayton’s Complete Book of Breads, 2nd ed.

Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table

The Elephant Walk Cookbook (Cambodian food)

The Silver Spoon

Posted by Mitchell

9:02 AM, Apr 12, 2008

My very first cook book for reference, The James Beard Cookbook. It taught me how to cook.

Posted by Teri

11:02 PM, Apr 12, 2008

My “Silver Palate New Basics” is so used and abused, all the pages are falling out. Luckily, I scored a virgin one recently at Half-Priced books, but I am afraid to use it.

All the Julia’s are great, but I mostly use her “Julia Child and Company” and “Julia Child and More Company” for complete dinners

Too many cookbooks to pick more.

Oh, and there’s what I call my “Snooty Cooking Magazine” — Cooks Illustrated. I read it cover to cover 6 times per year.

Posted by Patty Moe

9:41 AM, Apr 13, 2008


Posted by Christine

3:46 PM, Apr 13, 2008

I too am a cookbook junkie, but the three I keep coming back to are:

* Jacques Pepin’s Simple and Healthy Cooking

* Guiliano Hazan’s Every Night Italian

* Great Food without Fuss, edited by Frances McCullough and Barbara Witt

Posted by sh

4:43 PM, Apr 13, 2008

I’ve got a growing collection of Hollywood Cookbooks, and one of my favorites is “What Actors Eat–When They Eat,” a collection from the 1930s. Also, “What Cooks in Hollywood,” which includes William Holden’s favorite jello recipe (w/cocktail olives and peanuts) and Joan Crawford’s Hot Buttered Bread (cut *all* the crusts from a loaf of white bread and pour on a stick of melted butter).

But for everyday cooking, my favorites are

Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,

Molly Stevens’ All About Braising, and Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking.

Posted by Patty Moe

10:19 PM, Apr 13, 2008


Posted by Nicola

2:25 PM, Apr 14, 2008

My favorites are:

Artusi, Pellegrino – La scienza in cucina e l’ arte di mangiar bene”( The kitchen science and the art of well eating)

Boni, Ada – Il talismano della felicita’ (The talisman)

Vari – Il cucchiao d’argento (The silver spoon)

I prefer the original Italian versions of these books because the English translations and adaptations of these books are not so good.

Posted by Lisa

11:31 AM, Apr 15, 2008

A good cookbook is just as hard to put down as any good novel, and like any good novel, you can pick it up again anytime and just open it to any page and get pulled into the pages.

“The Daily Soup Cookbook”, a collection of soup recipes from the NY restaurant that inspired the Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” episode. My copy is absolutely covered in tomato-sauce spatters, oily thumb prints, green shmeers.

“The Herbfarm Cookbook”- the recipes are easy and totally workable for a home cook with delightfully complex results and everytime I open it I am convinced I am totally going to plant an herb garden.

“James McNair’s Favorites”- One of the first cookbooks given to me as a young and tentative home cook with no skills whatsoever. The recipes cover the globe and I still pick it up 10 years later and find new things to make that I’ve missed. His chicken and dumpling recipe is unbeatable.

“Bobby Flay’s Boy Gets Grill”- absolutely the best summer time cookbook. Period. From drinks to dessert, Bobby Flay has great recipes, they are all rock-solid and foolproof, and best of all, they’re crowd pleasers. Perfect for lazy summer parties because they are simple with complex flavors using the best summer has to offer.

“The Last Course” by Claudia Fleming- If I could live on all desserts all the time this book would be my Bible.

And my current favorite, “Cook with Jamie” by Jamie Oliver. The pictures are slobbery-delicious food porn, he gives precise step-by-step how-to directions on everything from making your own pasta to how to pick a potato. The recipes are written in a casual language that soothes even the most timid cook, (pour a glug of oil in a pan, blob some aioli on, pull off beardy bits).

Then there are the food memoirs- Ruth Reichl has some fantastic recipes that I use over and over, Kathleen Flinn, “The Sharper your Knife the Less you Cry”- same. Madeleine Kamman, “When French Women Cook”. Makes me sob for the lack of French women in my life even while I’m making their recipes.

Posted by sailcocktail

7:45 AM, Apr 16, 2008

I, too, have more than 500 cookbooks and cooking references. Favorites? Hard to say but a few include:

“Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco,” Paula Wolfort

“The Way to Cook,” Julia Child

“Fast Food My Way,” Jaques Pepin

“Feast of Santa Fe,” Huntley Dent

Have you ever shopped at I got a great copy of “The Boston Cooking School Cook Book” from the 1930’s. My prized book is an 1899 version of “The White House Cookbook” — because you never know when you might need to cook a calves head or make an Irish moss flan for an invalid.

Posted by slavetowasabi

10:15 AM, Apr 16, 2008

The ones I use most often are:

“Six Ingredients Or Less” – Rachel Ray could learn from this one. It has quick and easy recipes, using ingredients that may actually be in your pantry or fridge!

“Simply Classic” from the Seattle Junior League – Everything I’ve made from this book has been outstanding.

“Weber’s Big Book of Grilling” – Use it as much for getting ideas on spice and marinade combinations, and the sidebars on meat prep and grilling techniques as I do for the recipes.

“Fannie Farmer Cookbook” – I refer to this book whenever I need a basic, time-honored recipe.

Posted by Toddie

12:59 PM, Apr 16, 2008

Oh my God, we could probably start a support group. Hello, my name is Toddie and I have a big honkin’ cookbook collection.

My favorites:

Old Standbys:

“Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook”

“Southern Living Cookbook”

“The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook” – This one I LOVE. These guys are the ones who put out Cook’s Illustrated and so you know every darn recipe has been tweaked to within an inch of its life.

The Science of Cooking:

“Cookwise” by Shirley Corriher

“I’m Just Here for the Food” by Alton Brown

Cook’s Illustrated magazine

World Cuisine

“Glorious French Food” by James Peterson

“Patricia Wells at Home in Provence” by Patricia Wells

“Simply French” by Patricia Wells/Joel Robuchon – I made the Beef Tenderloin in Herb-Encrusted Salt Crust for Christmas dinner this year – to die for. Seriously.

Culinaria series – France and Greece

“Chinese Feasts and Festivals” – S.C. Moey

“Swallowing Clouds” – A. Zee – more a fascinating linguistic exploration into the Chinese characters used in a Chinese menu, but it also has recipes.


All of Tom Douglas – The first time I came to Seattle I ate at his Palace Kitchen, and wanted to weep with joy. My life dream is to be invited to eat at his house.

“The Pike Place Market Cookbook” – Braiden Rex-Johnson

And many many more.

Posted by Bob

1:17 PM, Apr 16, 2008

My Faves:

“Paul Prudhomme’s Seasoned America”

“Top Secret Recipes” (clone recipes of favorite fast foods!)

“Mealtime in Mayberry” (recipes inspired by the show “Mayberry RFD”)

“Joy of Cooking”

I agree with your column in today’s Times. I’m pretty sick of ‘trophy wife’ cooking show hosts, and I can’t stand Rachel Ray. That bitch is everywhere!!! You can’t get away from her!

Posted by Kyle

2:44 PM, Apr 16, 2008

Hi Nancy… favorite food writer to the stars…

Just finished lunch time when I usually get a chance to “skim” the Times… and Wednesday is always a fav… the food section comes. My favorite cookbooks are the “theme” ones from the KCTS fund drives. They’re really fantastic and filled with recipes from the people that watch our own channel 9. They also have a yearly one for the Seattle restaurants where recipes will be “nominated” by the TV watchers/Restaurant goers….

Anyway… I’m sure you’re aware of them too… if you’re not, go check them out at the KCTS store…. (yes, I’ve been published in them several times)

Posted by James

5:32 PM, Apr 16, 2008

I couldn’t help but feel a sympathetic twinge at your column about celebrity cooks. While our cookbook collection has a number of books by well-known restaurant chefs, we have always eschewed the “celebrity chef” fascination. You were curious about other people’s favorite books. Here’s a short list of ours:

Broad-spectrum cookbooks which have useful recipes:

“James McNair’s Favorites”, James McNair – possibly our single most versatile, reliable, and useful cookbook.

/”The Classic Cookbook”, Christopher Kimball – when in doubt, he has a great core recipe for just about anything.

“The Making of a Cook”, Madeleine Kamman – possibly every chef’s technique known.

“1000 Vegetarian Recipes”, Carol Gelles – not the most inspired, but filled with great ideas to modify.

Cuisine-specific/Restaurant cookbooks we adore:

“Les Halles Cookbook”, Anthony Bourdain – okay, he’s kind of a celebrity, but his writing is hysterical and his recipes are good. His stock recipe totally changed our cooking.

“Le Bernardin Cookbook”, Maguy Le Coze/Eric Ripert – exotic recipes which can actually be cooked by mere mortals.

“Keep It Seasonal”, Annie Wayte – We ate at 202 in NYC a year ago and have been fixated with her ever since. Marcella Hazan cookbooks. She’s fabulous.

Julie Sahni cookbooks. Equally fabulous for all things Indian.

Golden Turkey award for most completely useless eye-candy cookbooks:

Charlie Trotter. The ideas may be stellar and the presentation gorgeous, but apparently you need to be a professionally-trained chef with connections in the shadowy grocery underground to get the ingredients and then actually make the dish come out properly.

Posted by Jenni

5:46 PM, Apr 16, 2008

I enjoyed your informative article today. My mother has been urging me to write and publish a cookbook and I keep telling her that it would not sell because I am not a celebrity. She said maybe I should sell my recipes to the celebs for them to publish so that I could at least get something from all my delicious creativity, even if they take the credit.

I am also writing because I like to collect cookbooks as well and enjoy reading them for fun. I will share my favorite with you. I found it at the Thorpe Fruit Market on Interstate 90 in Ellensburg a few years ago in the antique mall above the fruit area. When I saw it for sale in one of the booths I knew I had to have it. It is the Seafair Cook Book, copy write 1951. It is bound in a red plastic spiral and is 400+ pages with 17 different sections. The special thing about it is that at the beginning of each section, like Entrees and Meats, etc, there is a current photo of an area of Seattle, like the Lake Washington Floating Bridge, and Ruby Chows Chinese, etc. with trivia and information on something about the goings on in Seattle. I am a Seattle history buff so I love it! To give you a sampling of some of the sections in the Table of Contents, there is a Foreign Favorites (with a picture of the Government Locks in Ballard). And one called Historical Favorites with a photo of Roland Denny viewing the Birthplace of Seattle Monument on Alki at the beginning of that section. Another one is called From Men Only, with a picture of a tall fir tree being topped by the West Coast Lumbermen’s Assoc. And even a special section on the back called: Favorite Recipes from the Executive Mansions of the United States and Territories. In this section each state is listed with it’s specialty recipe from the house.

It is truly a treasure. I have tried a couple recipes and have enjoyed them. I also find recipes in it that I cannot find anywhere else and didn’t know existed!

I have other fun books as well, like old James Beard, Jacques Pepin, and Crabtree and Evelyn, etc.

Posted by Karen

10:32 PM, Apr 16, 2008

I’ve got a cookbook collection also (chalk part of that up to a girlfriend who works at a publisher’s showroom and gives me boxes of them!), but my favorite cookbook remains La Technique by Jacques Pepin. In 1976, I was a teenager in South Dakota and found this nice fat cookbook for only 5 bucks on the sale table. I had been watching Julia Child on PBS for a couple of years, but this book really opened up a whole new world beyond my little town of 850. It had these amazing step-by-step photos of how do all of these things that I’d never imagined you could do to food. There were foods I’d never heard of….sea urchins? People eat those? I remember the first time I followed the directions for roast beef. My dad sliced into it, looked in surprise, and said, “How did you get it to come out all pink like that?!” We were used to our Sunday roast done “a la shoe leather”. I also combined the recipe for pate sucre and a butterscotch peach pie recipe from my Mom’s Betty Crocker cookbook and came up with Peach Pizza. A girlfriend of mine in South Dakota still makes it thirty years later. It’s one of her kids’ favorite!

Posted by ffredd

8:41 AM, Apr 17, 2008

Who could possibly have a favorite cookbook, It’s a mood thing.. What am I hungry for? What’s that taste in the back of my mouth that I can’t identify?

I guess the celeb wives and girlfriends have a right to write too. Might be Smoors with pickles, but if thats what they like.. Who cares.

I use cookbooks as a reference.. If i see something that turns my crank.. I slam the book closed and head for the kitchen to create my own version. I never have been one fo follow exact instruction.

Anyway… I have too many likes to name one book that has it all. Guess that’s why you have 500.

Posted by Lora

3:33 PM, Apr 17, 2008

My two favs…NOT by celebs (although they are celebs to me):

“Classic Stars Desserts”, by Emily Luchetti

Every recipe actually works, is delicious and impresses the heck out of guests. The cover has a photo of the Silk Pie and when you make it, it really looks like the picture! I heard Ms. Luchetti is hilarious and deserves her own TV show.

“Seriously simple”, by Diane Rossen Worthington

Just like the title suggests, the recipes in here are so simple and yet all turn out so nicely. Every recipe I’ve tried has a rich and yummy flavor and I have learned to make dulce de leche from this author. Boy it is easy. Whenever I am planning a dinner party, I go to this cookbook first.

Love your blog!

Lora Poepping

Seattle, WA

Posted by Kevin

4:02 AM, Apr 18, 2008

Since many of my favorites have already been mentioned here, I’ll just submit a few. For pizza, check out “American Pie” by Peter Rhinehart (all of his bread books are great). For breakfast (my favorite meal of the day) I like Margaret Fox’s books: Morning Food and Cafe Boujulais. Don’t overlook the local flavor of Macrina Bakery – Leslie’s book “The Macrina Bakery” Her brownie recipe is great.

Posted by Sharon

8:40 AM, Apr 18, 2008

Just read your article and wondered if I had to just name one favorite. Impossible. . .

Anything MFK Fisher ever put to paper I have collected: recipes or otherwise.

Julia Child: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, because Paul and Julia used to sit across from me at my favorite French bistro in Harvard Square when I lunched infrequently on Saturday afternoons during the height of the buzz of her live cooking show.

St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church: A Taste For It, published in 1964 as a spiral bound book that has more foodstuffs on every page than any

book I own. Recommended to me by a member of the church who translated for my parents “foster” daughter they adopted from Athens after I left home

in Kirkland in 1964.

Diana Kennedy: The Cuisines of Mexico

Barbara Tropp: The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, recommended as the best book for what I was looking for by the original owner of Sur La

Table when the store first opened… and I concur as evidenced on the tabbed pages, notes and foodstuffs.

Marcella Hazan: both books of The Classic Italian Cook Book. I have given these two books as gifts to friends who love to cook Italian food.

Roy Andries de Groot: Feasts for All Seasons, a much loved book passed on to me by my best Boston friend and neighbor. Interestingly it was

listed recently in a Seattle Times review of favorite cookbooks by a local chef and here I thought no one had ever heard of it but me!

I love your column and look forward to it every week…Thank you, Sharon


Posted by Denis

12:13 PM, Apr 18, 2008

After I read Nancy’s column about favorite cookbooks, I immediately tried to make a mental list. I have about 130 or cookbooks, many ordered through The Good Cook book-club. (Evil hint: After you have fulfilled your requirement to buy two cookbooks, cancel your membership. Then, in about two months, they’ll send you a “special offer” asking you to re-join. Shazaam! Four more cookbooks for a dollar each!)

Okay, on to my ten favorites:

1. Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything. This is my go-to book for the basics on everything.

2. Marion Cunningham, Fannie Farmer cookbook. This was my go-to until I got Bittmann’s book, but I still consult it a lot, especially for “classic” recipes.

3. Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. This book has so many Post-it notes in it you can hardly turn the pages.

4. Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I always have trouble thinking up something to do with vegetables beyond a simple saute or blanching. This book has given me hundreds of ideas over the years. Her book Local Flavors is also great. Inching up on these though books is Patricia Wells’ Vegetable Harvest.

5. Simple French Food. Pretty much a perfect cookbook. I consult it all the time and love to read it.

6. Anything by Jacques Pepin, but probably Fast Food My Way (along with the TV series!) is such a great source of great, easy recipes. But, from Mssr. Pepin, I also love the two cooking with Claudine books, Celebrate, and his most recent Chez Jacques. And for anyone who has not read The Apprentice, DO IT!!!!! Then read Julia’s My Life in Paris, followed by The Tenth Muse, by Judith Jones.

7. Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. The best pot roast recipe. Ever. And probably the best cooking show ever.

8. The Silver Palate Cookbook. Still great after all these years. So many great recipes. And the 25th anniversary edition is a real winner.

7. The U.S.A. Cookbook, Sheila Lukins. Sheila went on (after Silver Palate) to write some great cookbooks, all of which I like a lot. But this one is my favorite.

8. The Dean and Deluca Cookbook. David Rosengarten is really great, and under-appreciated, I think. His It’s All American Food, is a great cookbook on classic American and ethnic dishes. In the D&D cookbook, some of the recipes iare a little too fashionista. But this is a great reference book on ingredients and preparation techniques.

9. Marcella Rosene, Pasta & Company, By Request, and Encore. Two fabulous cookbooks I’ve had and loved forever.

10. And for my final spot, it is just too hard to decide, so I’ll stick up for one current celeb-chef who I like a lot, Jamie Oliver. His 3rd and 4th cookbooks are sort of lame, but his first is a classic I think. Simple recipes, strong flavors, easy preparation. I still make his recipe for spicy lamb shanks all the time. And it was his recipe that I followed the first time I made risotto. His description of how to do it, along with his suggestion to drink wine while doing it, is about as good as cooking instructions get.

So that’s my top-ten list.

Posted by Kimberly Brangwin

10:28 AM, Apr 19, 2008

Dear Nancy:

By way of introduction, I’m a Seattle native and a child of the 50’s from a family where everyone cooked. Mom made it all from scratch and we all loved food. Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cook book was my first tome, but as a young bride, I used Betty Crocker’s Dinners for Two quite a bit. I still like cookbooks with pictures of what the end result ought to be.

Among the cookbooks I turn to again and again are the ones from the Junior League. I have four—Simply Classic and Celebrate the Rain from Seattle, and Private Collection 1 & 2 from Palo Alto. These cookbooks are full of tried and true recipes that always please. The measurements are accurate, the directions clear, and the results impressive. I use them more for entertaining that everyday cooking, but what could be better than reliable results when impressing friends? They offer useful suggestions to round out a menu. My cookbooks are now full of notations and evidence of use, confirming my high approbation.


Posted by Sheila

3:58 AM, Jul 03, 2008

I live in Tennessee and two of my favorite cookbooks are from the Junior League of Seattle –

Simply Classic has been around for years and has terrific recipes, perfect for a busy family and their newer book Celebrate the Rain is a more modern flair with recipes that are more upscale, yet unlike the ‘celebrity chefs or chefs cookbooks in general’ these recipes are tested and tasted by regular cooks in their home kitchens. Anyone who believes that Martha, Rachael, Katie (Joel) actually have anything to do with the recipes in their books, is being fooled once again by the marketing efforts of the publisher – in this day of commercial lets get back to the real cooks – who actually have prepared the recipes for their families and friends.

Posted by Bob A

3:20 PM, Jul 10, 2008

My favorites in order of most stained copy – all are somewhat stained.

1. Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook (1976)

2. Betty Crocker (1974)

3. Julia Child – Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol 1

4. Morrison Wood – Cooking with Wine (1949)

5. Giuliano Bugialli – Classic Techniques of Italian Cooking

6. The New James Beard (1981)

7. James Peterson – Fish & Shellfish

8. Cook’s Illustrated Italian Classics

9. Faith Wilinger – Red, White and Greens

10. Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook

11. Lidia Bastianich – Lidia’s Italy

12. Morrison Wood –Through Europe wit a Jug of Wine (1964)

13. James Peterson – Glorious French Food

14. Paul Prudhomme – Fork in the Road

15. Julia Child – Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol 2

16. Madhur Jaffrey – Indian Cooking

Posted by Robin in Seattle

2:00 PM, Aug 01, 2008

Nancy, I have perused your photos with a magnifying glass to see your secrets..ha ha. Because, hello my name is Robin, and, I, too, am a cook book junkie. But last night, this is what I was doing….

11:20 PM, Jul 31, 2008

I am browsing through some of my own 400+ cookbooks. Oh, arent’ they wonderful?

How to reduce a collection is so difficult. A new set of cabinets and book shelves call for a bit of a reduction….but they are all so special…collected over the years on trips here and there…or because I admire the chef, or a particular recipe.

You asked which are our favorites…I have often wondered that, myself. I have even thought, if I could only keep 10, which would they be?? Would they be part of my Time Life World of Foods? Those definately are my pride and joy since I had to roust around through second hand stores to complete my collection.

No, I know which book would be my favorite: Spokane Cooks! Northwest, 1988. Why? Because several people I have worked with or for are on the cover, plus some recipes from favorite restaurants are inside.

It’s the strong memories of working with friends in restaurants for so many years, and eating the good food we produced that makes me love this book. Favorite recipe in the book: Wild Rice and Shrimp Soup, from Jeanne’s Cuisine!

Posted by Teri

11:51 AM, Aug 18, 2008

Haile i maile General Store Cookbook

Silver Palate cookbooks

China Moon

The Barefoot Contessa

Any cookbook by a Junior League

Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks

The New Alaskan Coobook

Comments | More in Cooking | Topics: Reading about eating


No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.

The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►