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Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.
OMG...I can't imagine having only one cookbook. Will you have Internet access? I think if I could only have one, it would be one I made myself with all my and my family's favorite recipes (knowing that I could look up just about anything on the Internet).
Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything--and a broadband connection to access Epicurious.com.
Something more-with-less. When I lived abroad, the recipes in the Mennonite Central Committee's Extending the Table were the reasonable ones that used more available ingredients. I really appreciated that the collection was drawn from around the world, so despite a lack of resources I could still be inspired to make a variety of foods. There are some nice anecdotes about food's cultural importance, plus it's not so hefty. It of course is not as comprehensive as Joy or HTCE, but assuming you have some basic techniques and kitchen sense, I'd go with one of this series: http://www.worldcommunitycookbook...
Growing up we had pretty much one cookbook - Joy of Cooking. It served me very well in teaching myself how to cook as a teenager and now my own copy is usually the first cookbook I go to as a point of departure. It has penciled in notes everywhere and many loose papers with recipes stored within the front and back covers. I have other favorites and I use the internet for new recipes, but Joy would be my recommendation!
A New Way to Cook. It's a great resource for improvisation, so I think it would be great in a place where ingredients may be different from your standard American cupboard.
How to cook everything by Mark Bittman, and I would bring Jaques Pepin's DVD from PBS.
Interesting question - depends on which ME country - Israel, Lebanon, SA, Jordan, UAE,? etc. or what used to be an Aramco facility which is like an outpost of Omaha. You are likely to have someone to cook for you - time to be adventurous. But if you are going to do it for yourself, try to get something vegetarian - like Bittman's Veg Cooking - very adaptable. Time to expand your horizons and those of your kids; enjoy it for the great experience it could be - and was for us.
How old are your kids? Why not take them to the bookstore and have each one pick their own cookbook? Then have special time with each child to prepare a dish of their choice - even if it's mac 'n cheese or PB&J. There are a lot of fun kid's cookbooks, such as those from Williams-Sonoma and one that Alice Waters did for her daughter. But if they want to get a cookie cookbook - let 'em. When kids make foods, or even just participate in the process, they tend to be willing to try them. As they prepare more foods, they start to understand how each of the items contributes to the flavor. I did this with my daughter and now, as an adult, she's an adventurous eater and cook.
An older edition of Joy of Cooking!
Spent six years in Cairo, feel free to PM me if I can be of help.
Joy of Cooking, and then buy an english language cookbook when you arrive - that way you'll learn how to work with what's locally available.
I'd definitely take the old NY Tiimes Cookbook by James Beard. So much tasty offers, easy, and fmily friendly. Second, would be Pierre Franey's 30 minute Cookbook. Two reliable classics!
I'd take the Joy of Cooking, too, and like other posters have said, I use it as a starting point/a reference. I use the recipes as a guide, and then alter them based on our own tastes, what we have available, what's in the house, etc. What an adventure!
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