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Twelve Months of Cookbooks: January|”The Way To Cook” by Julia Child


My husband had an interesting and excellent idea recently.  Knowing that people enjoy lists and recommendations, he suggested that I make a list of “must have” cookbooks for the blog, explaining why each book is on the list.

Genius!  And I’m planning on taking it one step further.  Each month this year I’m going to review one of the books in my collection that I think is a “must have,” and at the end of 2012, I’ll have a list of 12 cookbooks that are really stellar.  At least, that’s the hope.

The rules – yes, I’m going to make some rules.  Because I love them but also because I think that benchmarks are helpful in assessing things that other people have evaluated.  So here are the rules:

1. I own the book
2. I cook from it at least somewhat regularly (you’d be astounded by how many cookbooks I own and never cook from – or maybe you wouldn’t!)
3. I’ve made at least three things from them which have come off successfully without modification (I am still always amazed at how many recipes need to be altered)
4. The book is in print or is reasonably easy to find if it’s not (I’m not going to recommend you try to find some obscure title that costs $142 when a perfectly good $20 model will do)

Enough rules!

The first volume I’m going to talk about is The Way To Cook by Julia Child.  I talk about this book a lot and I think about it a lot.  You remember the first boy/girlfriend you had?  Not the one you were just super crushy on, but the first one you had that you loved.  The one that made you think “oh!  I totally get it, this ‘love’ thing!”  If there is a cookbook version of that, this one is it for me.

The Way To Cook is the first book I really cooked with.  Before I owned it, I dabbled in cooking, mostly reading Food and Wine, going gaga over the photos and then trying to recreate what was pictured.  I was having fun*, but I was more just kind of making things than I was cooking.  And I definitely wasn’t thinking about technique or about understanding how or why things worked.

Julia changed all that for me, which is the reason I’ll always love her, no matter how enticing and wonderful future authors and cookbooks may be.  This was the first book I owned that explained how to make things, with photos, clear writing and something called “Master Recipes.”  I discovered if I learned these recipes, I would get a handle on a technique that would in turn allow me to tackle other recipes that were similar and feel like I knew what I was doing. Julia’s teaching began to give me the confidence that is so key to learning anything.  This book was the beginning of the foundation I needed to stop parroting what I saw in pretty food magazines and start to actually cook.

I would recommend any of Julia’s books, without having read them.  The ones I have are that good.  As is her excellent PBS series, The French ChefThe Way To Cook will always be my first-favorite, but I would be willing to gamble that virtually any of her titles would be excellent for any cook at any level.

For more of my waxing on about Julia, here is another post.

Until next month – Bon Appétit!


Twelve Months of Books Quick Recap:

The book: The Way to Cook by Julia Child
How long I’ve owned it: 20 years (approximate)
Three things I’ve made from it  that always turn out, without fail: Pie crust (Pâte Brisée Fine)-page 381*, Mayonnaise-page 363, Anchovy and Onion Tart (Pissaladière)-pg 393 (plus a million other things)

*Which is a must-have element in learning, I think.  The goofing around stage is very important!  Have fun!!
**This has been my go-to pie crust since I’ve owned this book. It’s only now, twenty some-odd years later that I’ve even considered giving other recipes a try. It’s that good.

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