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Your 10 Essential Cookbooks, and Why They Still Matter

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Food52's Editorial Assistant (and college student) Brette Warshaw is curating her very own first kitchen -- and she needs your help. Last time, you helped her start a knife collection. Today: The cookbooks every First Kitchen needs, and why.

Ideal Bookshelf

I’m the first of that generation: the generation that grew up with computer class in grade school, that got cell phones for their thirteenth birthdays, that played video games after school and ate Cookie Crisp for breakfast. You thought we were spoiled, ruined -- that our brains would turn to mush. You were worried we’d lost all values, that we were glued to our laptops, that things like pens and paper and books were irrelevant, useless, and tired.

So why, after asking you about cast iron pans and knives, did I ask you for your 10 essential cookbooks?

I asked you because to me and my generation -- the Twittering, Facebooking, Youtubing, Pinteresting, brain-turned-to-mush generation -- cookbooks still matter.

They, like a seasoned cast iron skillet or the sharpest Santoku, are things I will covet even past the days of my Second or Third or Fourth Kitchen, when my shelves are lined with egg cups and porridge bowls and vintage salt shakers. I will continue to page through them and to grin, to stare at them in the aisles of bookstores, to run my hands along their covers and feel their weight in my hands.

The question is: why? Why, when there are dozens of gorgeous cooking ebooks and apps, countless blogs, and when a website like FOOD52 exists, are cookbooks still essential?

Written-in cookbook

They, of course, are reminders of the past; they capture what one person, or group of people, was cooking in a certain place and time. Yeah, that’s cool. But as much as they’re about what they did -- those accomplished chefs, bakers, and home cooks -- they’re tanglble proof of what I can do.

I can. I can. In a world where the future is uncertain, where definitions are changing and lines are blurring, where the forks and spoons and knives of life are present and unavoidable, the words “I can” are powerful. If I follow these steps, I can make Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon. I can make Dorie Greenspan’s chocolate éclairs. I can make Yotam Ottolenghi’s tempura. With some kitchen twine and courage, I can even make The New York Times' turducken. 

And now, thanks to you, I know which cookbooks will line my First Kitchen -- at first, maybe only on this printing, but soon, for real. Some are classic, some are new, but all are about the future: you’ve shown me what I can do, and now, when I get the right tools for my First Kitchen, what I will do.

So, below, I present to you the final list of The FOOD52 10 Essential Cookbooks – and the opportunity to get a printing of all of them from Ideal Bookshelf. If you do own any of these, spend some time today paging through them, bookmarking them, even writing in them. They’re proof of what you’ve done -- and what you can do, and will do. 

Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer 
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
The Silver Palate by Sheila Lukins and Julee Russo
The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser
Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi
Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

Why do cookbooks still matter to you?

As usual, I'll be pinning everything I'm coveting to my First Kitchen Pinterest board, so check it out!

Next time, I'll be covering cutting boards, and I could use your help! Email me at [email protected] with your First Kitchen recommendations -- your favorite tools, your favorite cookware. All wisdom is appreciated.

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Books, Cookbooks, First Kitchen