My Top Five Most Used Cookbooks

Aug 2, 2019 | Food and Culture

Normally on Friday’s, I write everything I know about a certain topic, but today in honour of the long weekend I wanted to do something a little different. I am regularly asked about what cookbooks I use and which ones are my favourite. So, today I thought I would put together a shortlist of the cookbooks that I use most often. These aren’t necessarily my all-time favourite books, but they are the ones I return to most.

I should also say that I use cookbooks a little differently than most people. I mostly rely on them as references rather than actual recipe guides. Flipping through them helps me to spawn new ideas, and solve creative issues.

Alright, let’s take a look at…

My Top 5 Most Used Cookbooks


5 – Garde Manger by the Culinary Institute of America

In professional kitchens, the section that mostly serves cold food like salads and charcuterie is called garde manger. This means the keeper of the food or keeper of the pantry. Traditionally, the duty of using leftovers and mitigating waste would largely fall to this section of the kitchen. Today this is generally considered an entry-level position, serving salads and desserts. However, in more traditional and high-end restaurants this position and still considered a highly skilled one and very important.

This book, Garde Manger, celebrates both the highly-skilled and entry-level aspects of this position. It includes recipes and instructions for everything from intricate patés and terrines to the not so intricate club sandwich. It talks in great depth about salad theory and composition as well as numerous other topics all relating to cold food presentation.

The Culinary Institue of America, or the CIA for short, is one of the preeminent culinary schools in the US. And their texts books, which this is one, are often considered some of the best culinary textbooks in the world. Some notable Chefs that attended the CIA include Roi Choi, Richard Blais, Michael Smith, Cat Cora, and Anthony Bourdain.

For everyday home cooks, this probably isn’t a book that you want to rush and buy especially considering the almost $70 price tag. But, for anyone with a deep interest in food, this is a great reference and instruction book.


4 – Heritage by Sean Brock

Sean Brock is the executive chef at Husk in Charleston, South Carolina. He specializes in using heritage breed and heirloom plants and animals to celebrate the culinary traditions of the South. He is a James Beard Award-winning Chef and in 2011 Bon Appétit Magazine named his restaurant the “Best New Restaurant in America”. So, he knows what he’s doing.

This book not only has lots of amazing recipes but is one of the most beautiful cookbooks I own and have ever seen. Its value translates both to professional Chefs and home cooks alike. If you love to cook, love cookbooks, or know someone who does, this book should be on your shopping list.


3 – The Silver Spoon by Cleia D’Onofrio

The Silver Spoon or Il cucchiaio d’argento is an Italian cookbook that has gone through eight editions since its first printing in the 1950s. It contains over 2000 recipes collected from all over Italy. It is organized into one comprehensive cookbook by Italian design and architecture magazine; Domus. This is generally regarded as the most popular cookbook in Italy.

If you love Italian food, like real Italian food then this book is a must-have for your collection. I find myself turning to it again and again for inspiration and find something new every time I open it. A definite must-have.


2 – Mastering The Art Of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle

You are probably already familiar with this book. If you don’t have a copy, your mother probably does. This is the first of two volumes. Having said that, I don’t own the second volume, though I should, but this book stands tall on its own.

You likely already know Julia Child, if you don’t and your reading this you’ve missed a few steps. Stop reading, go to youtube and type her name in. To this day, this book along with her cooking shows are some of the most important culinary works of the 20th century. They helped to introduce a whole continent to culinary concepts and traditions that went on to help shape their culinary identities.

This is one few cookbooks I own which I actually use for recipes. I follow them to the letter and they work out perfectly every time. To the book’s credit, it is laid out in a way that a complete beginner could pick it up and cook something amazing.

This is one of my most prized possessions. Not just cookbooks, but possessions.


1 – The Professional Chef

This is another CIA textbook though unlike Garde Manger, this book covers cooking in a much broader sense. As the main textbook/cookbook for students attending the CIA you can bet it is chockfull of incredibly valuable information.

Where I don’t really recommend Garde Manger for home cooks this one I do. It is designed to take beginner culinary students and teach them the absolute fundamentals of cooking. It covers wide-ranging topics like knife skills to soup and sauce preparation, meat fabrication, baking, and pastry and so much more.

Just to be honest, it isn’t a cheap book coming in around $80. But, having said that, if I had to get rid of all of my cookbooks but one, this is the book I would keep. I mean Paul Bocuse called this “the bible for all chefs”. I understand that if your not a Chef you may not know who Paul Bocuse is. Just to put this into perspective the most prestigious culinary competition in the world is named after him, the Bocuse d’Or.

If you love cooking and want one definitive cookbook, this is the one.


Conclusion

I know that in the digital age that we live in cookbooks are not used as much. I mean you can just ask Google for a recipe and you have it under a second. But, the problem with Google is that you need to know what you’re looking for. With cookbooks, flipping through the pages reveals something new with every turn. You find things you didn’t even know you were looking for. Answers to questions you didn’t know you were asking.

The value of a real honest to god cookbook should not be understated. Having a volume of collected human culinary knowledge accessible with the turn of a page is a profound thing. Also, with a cookbook, you largely know what your getting. You probably trust the author, you trust the recipes. Pulling a recipe off the internet is often a gamble. You don’t know how it is going to turn out.

Anyway, that does it for today. I hope you enjoyed this post, and that you enjoy your long weekend.

Thanks for reading!


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