I have no recipe for you today. I tried, I really did. I made meatballs with smoked paprika on Monday night and I nearly convinced myself that they were a success. And looking back, I now see that the flavor of the meatballs hid behind the full skirts of the 2006 Peter Kemmer Pinot Nero that we were drinking that night. The meatballs looked good, but the wine was inherently better in taste. A chorus girl next to an opera singer, that's what we had.
The next day, I ate a few leftover meatballs for lunch and that's when I saw through the stage makeup and frou. They were kind of meh, to be exact.
Plus, you know what? Meatballs do not photograph well at all.
So I'm not going to foist that recipe upon you.
Instead, I want to ask you a question (or two). If you could keep only five of your cookbooks, which ones would you keep and why?
The latest volume of The Art of Eating poses this question. If you are not familiar with AoE, it is a literary, geographical read about food and I have been enjoying its quarterly publications for about a year. Edward Behr, the publisher of AoE and the author of this particular piece, found that his selection of nine skewed toward the cuisines of France and Italy. He writes:
The cooking of Provence is so much home cooking, and the Mediterranean flavors are so much an antidote to the northern place where I live, that this is the everyday food I'd like to eat for most of the rest of my life.Because Mr. Behr presumably hopes to sell as many subscriptions to AoE as possible, I tactfully will refrain from listing his selections, interesting as they are.
Instead, I'll give you mine, a list of five:
1. The Foster's Market Cookbook: Recipes for Morning, Noon and Night, by Sara Foster
2. Christina's Cookbook: Recipes and Stores from a Northwest Island Kitchen, by Christina Orchid
3. The New Basics Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins
4. How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman
5. The Food You Crave, by Ellie Krieger
The first two cookbooks are firmly rooted in geography. Foster's Market is located in Durham, North Carolina and offers excellent New South cooking. Christina's is a restaurant on San Juan Island in the Pacific Northwest offering micro-local food. I like to open a cookbook and feel like I can understand a place better through its dishes and ingredients. When I read these two cookbooks, I feel rooted in their time and their place.
The New Basics and How to Cook Everything are favorites of mine for their breadth. These two have the recipe you need, no matter what you're cooking. The New Basics was published in the mid-eighties and reflects some of the affectations of the time. However, I find that it has aged well and the recipes are reliable. How to Cook Everything is one of the cookbooks that helped me dip a toe into the waters of cooking. I refer to it frequently and compare recipes that I find online with ones in Bittman's book to help me evaluate whether an online find is likely to be a success.
Finally, The Food You Crave might be dismissed by snobs as mere offspring of the Food Network, but let me tell you, I love this cookbook. Ellie Krieger, a registered dietitian, offers low-fat, low-sugar recipes that are utterly satisfying and she does so without using "diet" products such as Splenda. I do not think of her cookbook as a volume of diet food; I think of it as good, hearty eating.
Those are my five. How about you?
* With thanks to Ogden Nash for the title of this post. It comes from "The Clean Plater."
The photographs in this post were taken at the Wilmington, North Carolina Farmer's Market in September.