I don't know about you, but when I first learned to cook I had
no idea what to look for in a cookbook. I had my old roommate
Conrad's 365 Ways
to Cook Chicken on permanent loan, and I'd been given The Essentials of Italian Cooking. But
from that point on, it was pure speculation.
I bought Salad, by Amy
Nathan, when I was around 21. It was a lovely summer
afternoon, and I was walking by myself through the Brooklyn Botanic
Garden--one of my favorite places to go on a weekend afternoon.
I had viewed the spectacular roses, and I had walked through
the glass greenhouse with its elegant filigree of cast-iron. In the
gift shop, I found Salad, and I thought its photographs of
perfect, cross-sectioned heirloom fruits and exotic salad greens on
light-box backdrops were about the most sophisticated thing I'd
ever seen. I bought it on the spot. But where could a
girl find yellow pear tomatoes? or purple basil? I never made
the recipes, but I still own and cherish the book.
I'm not sure, but I think I
Pyromaniac's Cookbook at a sidewalk sale. It was the
title that sold me. I wasn't a pyromaniac, but I wanted to be
one. I'd always basically been a good girl, so drugs and/or
actual crime were basically out of the question. Pyromania,
however, seemed just about my speed. A couple of years later,
I bought my first propane torch. I torched bananas in the
morning and crème brûlée at night. But I didn't use the
Pyromaniac's Cookbook, which scared me off with its
flambéd pheasants and frogs' legs. To this day it sits
unmolested on the shelf among my single-subject cookbooks.
It's under "F," as in "Fire."
Around the same time I bought the Silver Palate Cookbook, an old classic among us
EYB'ers, and I was so relieved to find a book I could actually use
that it was soon split-spined and stained with affection. I
still have that one, too.
What cookbooks first led you down the primrose path? And
do you have them still?