The internet has made it easy to forget about purchasing cookbooks. Recipes online are free and use less space than books, plus they can be found in multiple variations, which is both fun and convenient. Nevertheless, there is something special about a great cookbook. I look for the following:
- I will use the recipes. A common mistake in purchasing cookbooks, particularly when the buyer is comfortable in the kitchen, is that the recipes are something you’d love to eat, but not necessarily cook or bake. When I see a book full of challenges, I often feel a wave of confidence and excitement to make every one of the two-hour-long recipes. I never make more than three or four dishes, which leads me to…
- Realistic ingredients. This can mean many things, including cost, availability (geographically and/or seasonally), and amount of ingredients used. Start locally and become familiar with ingredients in your area. If you’re a college student or living in a small apartment, consider space to store items as well.
- Beautiful and helpful pictures. I will rarely purchase a cookbook without pictures or illustrations and, typically, I look for a picture with every recipe. If you’re buying something that you’ll probably have for years, shouldn’t it be visually appealing?
- Something beyond the recipes. It’s easy to find most recipes online. What you can’t find online are the extra stories are tips provided in what I think are the best cookbooks. Nigella Lawson is great at this: she offers introductions to sections of her books as well as adding stories about the recipes and comments about her experiences with them. If someone writes a book, I hope there is a bit of personality in it!
So I’m curious, what are your favorite cookbooks and why?