It’s just too hot to turn the stove on, it’s even too hot to crank up the grill. So, just what can you do to indulge your culinary desires? What about picking up a new cookbook or two? As you might guess, I have a good collection of cookbooks, but there is just a handful that is my favorites. These run the gamut from simple country cooking to some pretty sophisticated studies, but I enjoy perusing them when I have a little extra time on my hands.
The book I am having fun with now is Steven Jenkin’s Cheese Primer. No, it isn’t a cookbook, but it does contain a world of knowledge on the world’s cheeses. The king of all cheeses is, of course, Parmigiana Reggiano. It is not only the most popular of Italy’s hundreds of cheeses, most experts agree it is the finest in the world. Do you know what Italy’s number two cheese is? It’s a cow’s milk cheese from Lombardy called Taleggio. In the not too distant past, you would be hard-pressed to find it anywhere, but you can today find it Rouses.
Times are changing, and even in smaller towns, you can fund cheese shops or grocery stores that have good cheese selections. But overall, we American’s known very little about cheese. How many French cheeses can you name? Their AOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) list more than three hundred and fifty. See what I mean?
Another book I love to look at for ideas is the Lafayette Junior League’s Talk About Good. It has been around for many years, with a new edition out every year, and sells tens of thousands of copies a year. The recipes are taken from Leagues members and friends. The pages are full of recipes for gumbo and soups to seafood and seafood sauces. This is Cajun and Creole home cooking at its best.
If you are interested in French cooking at all, then you should have a copy of Larousse Gastromique. It is THE encyclopedia of French cooking with detailed information on technique, great chefs, and a lot more. It is quite expensive, but it is reprinted every year, so a copy of a few years old is quite affordable. Want to know who Curnonsky was or how to make fillets of sole humardine? Then get this cookbook.
A cookbook that holds a special place in my heart is Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. No other event shook the culinary world like the death of Bourdain, and he will be missed by cook great and unknown for ages to come. This is a cookbook for Americans that want to learn the basics of French cooking, and have an entertaining read at the same time. Buy it and cherish it.
Eudora Welty once suggested that to really enjoy your favorite books, you should take them off the shelves, place them on the floor, and sit amongst them, like good friends. It is some of the best advice I have ever read.