February 10th, 2006

Feast

Basic Food Texts

I grew up with The Joy of Cooking as the staple cookbook in my family, and bought myself a copy once I was living in dorms and needed to start learning to cook properly for myself. I've tried one other basic cookbook - How to Cook Everything and never found it filled as many basic information needs about food as the Joy did. But lots of people swear by it, and that's fine. There are other all-purple staple cookbooks of American cooking too - Better Homes and Gardens issued one which other families I know use. But much as I'm curious as to what other basic, all-purpose cookbooks people rely on in the US - and Canada and all sorts of other countries - what I realized today, when responding to a question which was posed to me by paul_skevington, was that I don't know what the equivalent staple cookbooks are for Brits.

Food more than anything shows up cultural and geographic differences. Why should the Joy have much to saw on the subject of cooking celeriac when it's a rare import food on that side of the ocean? Peanut butter is a staple comfort for many North Americans in a way alien to Brits. Cookbooks more than anything reflect this difference. Also, I grew up cooking with cup measures and sticks of butter, cooking by volume, not by weight. I only recently acquired a kitchen scale, for a while. Really recently - this past Christmas, six weeks or so ago.

So Brits (and anyone else who wants to answer this about their own childhood and their own country) - what are the all-purpose, exhaustive-to-whatever-degree cookbooks you turn to when you need to learn or refresh a cooking basic (how many minutes to boil broccoli, how to truss a chicken)? Did you grow up with it, or find something else, something which better suited your cooking interests, along the way?