Me and my cookbooks - Helen Rosner

Helen RosnerHelen Rosner is Features Editor at Eater, but she is also an avid cookbook collector, at one point having close to 450 cookbooks on her shelves. Serious Eats asked Rosner, also a former cookbook editor, to discuss her favorite cookbooks.

Rosner began her career as an assistant to Suzanne Rafer at Workman Publishing. Rafer was responsible for bringing us The Silver Palate Cookbook along with other classics. After a stint at New York Magazine, Rosner founded Eat Me Daily, where she started doing hard-hitting cookbook reviews. She felt that most reviewers were not critically assessing cookbooks, so she "established a style that applied really fundamental principles of cultural criticism to cookbooks." From Eat Me Daily, Rosner moved to Saveur, where she worked on The New Classics Cookbook before landing at Eater. 

So what does a cookbook critic look for in a book? For Rosner, the internet has changed what she finds valuable. She no longer seeks out basic, weeknight cooking-type books, but instead she looks for "a story, a point of view, a thread that ties all the recipes together. Often that means a sense of time or place, a coherent gastronomic philosophy."

She's not shy about saying what she doesn't like, either: "Two things bug the hell out of me in a cookbook: Too-brief headnotes when there's plenty of empty space on the page, and photos that haven't been color corrected properly and look green and sickly. I'd rather have no photo at all than a bad one."

When asked which cookbooks she'd save from a fire, she listed three books:  her 1965 Betty Crocker Boys & Girls Cookbook, a family heirloom; the 1979 two-volume edition of The Gourmet Cookbook a college graduation present; and a signed copy of The German Cookbook by Mimi Sheraton. Says Rosner, "that book is an absolute classic. Everyone should own it."

Photo of Helen Rosner by James Basili (via Serious Eats)

2 Comments

  • sir_ken_g  on  1/14/2015 at 11:19 AM

    I agree about The German Cookbook. Shertaton's other books are dated....that one will live forever as an ode to classic German cooking.

  • hillsboroks  on  1/14/2015 at 12:30 PM

    I love that she lists her 1965 Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls. I still have mine too. It was the book that launched me into cooking at an early age and just paging through it brings so many fond memories. My grandmother saved coupons from the packages of General Mills products until she had enough to order one for me and one for my sister.

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