The Spirit of Cooking

So Lisa, who is getting married in June 18th, sent such a sweet email. She wants to find a good, solid cookbook that will teach her to cook.
I’m wondering if you could recommend a cookbook for me. I’m looking for a standard, all purpose Bible. I’m very inexperienced in the kitchen. How did you learn to cook? Is there a book that taught you?”
So I do what I always do. I come to my Farmgirl Sisters! What do you think? I’m at a loss for an answer to Lisa’s question.
Her email has made me think a lot about how I learned to cook and how both my cooking and my attitude about cooking have evolved throughout the years.
But truly, I’m not sure how exactly I learned to cook.

I remember in high school I took a class called “Gourmet Cooking.” Not that it really was….gourmet, I mean. But it did something important for me: it put me in the kitchen. It did something else: it began my recipe collection. One of the projects for that class was to create a recipe file. So I went around and collected tried-and-true recipes. I got favorites from my mom, my sister, my many aunts, and friend’s moms.
I still have that box. It is an old 3×5 index medal cardbox. My collection, however, has changed. Instead of using index cards, I’d just copy–with a copy machine–my favorites from magazines, friends, recipe books, and keep them in a binder with those plastic page protectors. The notebook became my new cardbox. I’m wondering now if I should get with it and go “computer”? At heart,I’m a paper person, so I don’t know. (But I never say “never.”)
So back to Lisa’s question: is there a book that taught me to cook?
After much consideration, I’d have to say, “not so much.”
I stood in my kitchen and looked for a book like that. I gazed at my shelves and shelves of cookbooks. Nope, no “Bible” here, no reference, no one go-to. I remember my Mom using the old red and white checked-y Betty Crocker recipe book. You know the one? But, I don’t have anything like that on my shelf. In fact, when I think of my Mom in the kitchen, I think of that particular cookbook. And I see her making biscuits and humming an old hymn, like The Old Rugged Cross. She’s probably doing just that right now as I write this. Are you, Mom? When she comes to see us, she always brings her biscuits.
But as I gazed at my cookbooks and thought about Lisa’s question, I realized that not only my cooking, but also the SPIRIT of my cooking, has evolved. Since 1980 when I started that recipe collection in the old medal file-box, my cooking attitude has changed.
Cooking used to be a chore, a task, a job that had to be done when I got home from a long day at work. Now, it’s an experience; an experiment; an excitement. I married my (fantastic) Italian husband and immediately saw that in his culture, food equals love. His mom has showed me this over and over throughout the years. She is a gifted cook, who loves to serve a delicious meal to her family. She enjoys surprising us with her special desserts. (Just yesterday it was an amazing chocolate cheesecake.) This is one of the many ways she nurtures her family. She naturally embodies the SLOW FOOD movement. Her cooking is love.
But I didn’t truly understand that philosophy until I SLOWED down long enough to get it. Yes, I had to slow down in the kitchen and in life. Then, the spirit of my cooking changed. It now has my own special ingredient in it (LOVE); and only I can add it. I get it now: the way my own Mom bakes her biscuits for us with LOVE. My time in the kitchen is no longer a chore, an imposition. It’s a gift, an experience, a nurturing.
I have became a cookbook person. I love to read cookbooks, picking out new recipes to try. Picking out ones with spices I don’t know or unfamiliar ingredients. In fact, I’ve got a stack of cookbooks beside my bed.
But this morning, my stack is on my kitchen table. Beside a vase of my Daddy’s beautiful roses. (My Daddy, who grows his roses with that special ingredient too~LOVE.)

These are my current favorites.
Oh, about that cute book you see on the right there. That contains special recipes I get from the Farmgirl Connection. It’s the Farmgirl Journal from the website. I started it several years ago (how many has it been now?) when I discovered the wonderful MaryJane Butters and this website. Have I mentioned lately how much I love it here? Never have I seen a place filled with such wonderful, helpful, caring people. Isn’t the book cover adorable? It’s MaryJane as a young girl.
Now about that stack of cookbooks.
These are special cookbooks that don’t just list out the ingredients and directions. They have stories, beautiful photographs, homey quotes. These cookbooks make me feel good. I mean, by just reading them. There’s another round of feeling good as I cook from them. And then another round when I eat and share what I made. It’s a “feel-good” kinda thing.
Yes, that is the spirit of my cooking these days.
Stories, beauty, homey, cozy, feel good.
So what’s in my stack?

Tupelo Honey Café Cookbook, Elizabeth Sims and Chef Brian Sonoskus, 2011.
Tupelo Honey Café is a restaurant in Asheville, NC. (I heart me some Asheville!!) Here’s a quote from that book; you’ll see why I like it so much.
“These days people worry so much about their hearts that they don’t eat heavy. The way folks were meant to eat is the way my family ate when I was growing up…We ate till we got tired. Then we went ‘Whoo!’ and leaned back and wholeheartedly expressed how much we regretted that we couldn’t summon up the strength, right then, to eat some more.” Roy Blount Jr.
I’m going to try: Garlic Ranch Dressing on Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese (page 29 and page 90)
Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow, Hans Rueffert, 2009
This is a self-published cookbook filled with beautiful photos, great recipes, and lots of wisdom for our various journeys. A quote:
“So before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s sort out this ‘Never Trust a Skinny Chef’ business. I hear questions: ‘Why is he so skinny?’ and ‘Doesn’t he eat his own cooking?’ all the time. The short answer: cancer. ..I ended up losing half my stomach, half of my esophagus, and about 70 pounds. My cancer experience forever changed the way I look at eating and the way that food makes us feel…”
I’m going to try: French Onion Soup (page 49)
From the Cook’s Garden, Ellen Ecker Ogden, 2003
A quote from this book: “It is ironic that the hottest peppers are the most innocent looking. My daughter, Molly, learned this at an early age, when she popped a tiny Thai chile into her mouth-and has been wary of chiles ever since.”
I’m going to try: Maple-Carrot Cake with Maple Frosting (page 209)
Rome, at Home, Suzanne Dunaway, 2004
The description for Vitello Tonnato, which I’d never try because it is veal, but the description is intriguing, to say the least: “When I make this very easy summer dish, I think of sexy underwear.”
(Now, tell me, has a recipe ever made you think of underwear? Sexy or matronly or otherwise? Me neither. Or at least not yet…)
I’m going to try: Spaghetti al Pesto (page 113)
Simple Food for the Good Life, Helen Nearing, 1980
This cookbook is straight, to the point, almost preachy, but what we all need to hear.
“There are three kinds of foodstuffs: those raw, vital and fresh, as found in nature; those cooked, with the vitality largely killed by high temperatures; and those manufactured, processed, deadened or poisoned.”
Tell it like it is, Sister.
I’m going to try: Simple Baked Cereal (page 92)
Oh my, I forgot Susan Branch! How did one of her many books not wind up in my stack this morning?
I enjoy reading her cookbooks, though I don’t think I’ve ever tried a recipe. Her voice is perky and pleasant; her colorful drawings are beautiful; in short, I like the way looking at her cookbooks make me feel.

Heart of the Home, Susan Branch, 1986
 “ ’Tis merry, merry in the spring,
And merry in the summer time,
And merry when the great winds sing
Through autumn’s woodlands brown
And min the winter, wild and cold,
‘Tis merry, merry too.”
 William Howitt
I’m going to try: Chicken Enchiladas (page 94)
Oh, no, no. I also forgot The Blackberry Farm Cookbook, Sam Beall, 2009, which I adore.

This is a big, expensive, gorgeous, coffee table cookbook. If I were a rich woman, with lots of money and time, I would go to Blackberry Farm ( Probably in autumn.
“Just about the time we’ve gotten used to the wild pace of the forest and garden in the spring, the explosion settles into a steady rhythm. Cooking from the earth will never be perfectly predictable, but during patches, such as late spring and early summer, a pattern asserts itself….”
I’m going to try Smoky Mountain Ramp Risotto with Jack Daniel’s (page 230)
I hope soon! I hope real soon! I hope that soon I’ll be heading up to our Smoky Mountain Farm and getting my eager hands and lips on some ramps.)
So that’s my current stack. How about yours?
I forgot to tell you something else! I’m going to go to the Blogher Food Conference in Atlanta in a couple of weeks. Not that I’m really a food blogger. It’s just that it is so close, I have to go. I’ll tell you all about it and start posting my experiences with the recipes I’ve picked out from my stack. Maybe I’ll finally learn how to photograph a dish of brownies so they look like something you want to eat instead of something you’d scrap off the bottom of your shoe…
So leave a comment and tell us which cookbooks are your go-to, your all time favorites. What is your spirit of cooking these days?
(Oh…about the coffee maker. Thanks for all your great advice and input! There of many of us out here who have been on the fence! Here’s where I am…I’m using my husband’s old “pre-me” Faberware Percolator while I try to decide for sure. I wish I could try out all the suggestions. I’m thinking a French press for the weekends, you all make it sound truly divine~possibly even sexy…but during the week, I just don’t think it would work for my schedule. I watched a video showing how to use a French press because I knew nothing about it. Probably too time consuming for me right now in the mornings. I make a large pot in the mornings for Hubs and I to drink here and take with us. I need to be able to just press the button and be done with it? So, you know what? I’m thinking about ordering another Krups. Or a Cuisinart…oh, still deciding…)
Until next time, Friends, savor the flavor of life!
Lots of love, The City Farmgirl, Rebekah

  1. Mary Rauch says:

    In this day of computers, all you have to do is pick a recipe, like "French Onion SOUP". Type in your browser and ask for picture guide or video guide, and instantly on your computer you can watch pictures OR video of the recipes being made (as though you were standing at their shoulder).

  2. Linda says:

    For someone just learning how to cook I highly recommend Jamie Oliver’s books: Cook With Jamie and Jamie’s Food Revolution. Simple, basic, healthy recipes that everyone can master. Another good cookbook for beginners, or those looking to rediscover some old favorites: The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Love her step-by-step photos. I have a huge cookbook collection and I love to try new recipes and consider myself a veteran in the kitchen. However these are 3 books I return to often just because of the simplicity and deliciousness! My oldest daughter will be going off to college next year and has already asked to take these cookbooks with her. Hmmm, I’ll probably have to get her a set of her own, I won’t part with them. 🙂

  3. I am blessed to have a husband that loves to cook and he is very good at it. When it comes to throwing ingredients in a pan he knows just what to choose, no cookbooks needed. My passion is baking and I consider myself a successful baker. I have turned my passion into a business with baking wholesome organic treats for our canine companions. However, when I do venture into the kitchen to cook on top of the stove I use the ‘America’s Test Kitchen’ TV Show Cookbook. These are recipes that they have perfected by repeating them many many times until the outcome is just perfect. So, you know if you follow the directions you can rest assured the outcome will be a success. They cover everything from the basics to the perfect French omelet. As a bonus, there is information on tools of the trade to make cooking simpler. I highly recommend it and wish you the best.

  4. Diana Henretty says:

    When we moved from Phoenix Arizona to the mountains of Montana, most all the women cooked from scratch in our new
    little town. I bought Amish and Mennonite cookbooks to learn
    to cook from scratch, they are basic, simple and down to
    earth! Everything from gardening, canning, soups and sauces are written beautifully, with stories of their lives!

  5. I had very little experience in the kitchen and our cleaning lady gave me Better Homes and Gardens binder style cookbook and another person gave me Betty Crocker, they are terrific for the beginner and have all the info you need to start. From that point I have collected nearly 1,000 cookbooks and now with the computer I am reducing the load!!!! I read cookbooks like novels and the vintage ones are the BEST!!!

  6. Gaynell Tooley-Dye says:

    When I was learning to cook several decades ago, what I didn’t learn from my Meemaw mostly came out of "Meta Given’s Encyclopedia of Cooking", my Mother’s copy from the 1950’s. Once I was on my own, I relied on what was then the current version (circa 1968) of the same book, by then 2 fat volumes. I don’t know if there is still a version of this in print or not, but Amazon or a used book service could possibly locate a copy. It pretty much covers everything, and sometimes just browsing helped me come up with ideas. These days, most of my "entertaining" is cooking for extended family, and meal planning is largely ruled by requests. Funny, but the recipes I learned from Meemaw many years ago top this list! Ah, comfort food!

  7. Shawn says:

    Just learning to cook? If you want to start cooking right away, I’d start with the Jamie Oliver suggestions but add "The America’s Test Kitchen" cookbook and "The Joy of Cooking". Both give you references to herbs, spices, grains and various other things you might not find in a basic cookbook. These two will explain the difference between long grain and short grain rice and which is better in what recipe!

  8. Mary Jane (from FL not Idaho) says:

    I think everyone should own "The Joy of Cooking" for how it explains the technique of cooking so many different things.

  9. Julie Wemken says:

    Betty Crocker has been my go to cookbook since I married 31 years ago. It’s the best for actual cooking instructions. Now, if you just want great recipes I would go with any of Paula Deen’s cookbooks. Her recipes are fantastic. Good luck to the bride! Blessings!

  10. Kristy says:

    I know what you mean about not knowing when you knew how to cook. I do remember being a pro at scrambled eggs and pasta before I got married. Then,trying to impress my young husband,it was Lobster and homemade cream puffs. Now I love slow cooking. I know when I wake up on a chilly,overcast day,it’s gonna be soup. The kind that you start in the morning and is just ready at dinner. I love the smells that come from taking time to "take your time" in the kitchen. I know time is always hard to come by, but it’s worth it. I have a lot of cook books, but my go to bible of "how" is the red and white checkered Betty book! I also LOVE the old church cook books you can find at yard sales and such. They always seem to have the local favorites that everyone loves, but seems to forget that one ingredient for. The biggest piece of advice to that wonderful young bride,would be to be determined and brave in her cooking! Don’t be afraid to go for it,and be bold! You will mess up sometimes, but that’s what your local pizza shop is for. Happy cooking!

  11. Reba says:

    Mrs. Wilkes’ Boardinghouse Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections from Her Savannah Table [Hardcover] by Sema Wilkes—I bought this for a friend from Michigan for a Christmas gift because of her dream of coming to see Savannah, GA. The locals in Savannah say this is the place one needs to go when visiting historic Savannah. But the book…once I received it…I checked it out before sending the gift to our friend and I fell in love with it!!! I so wished I had this book when I first married 30 years before. My hubby would not have had to suffer through my dislike of cooking or trial and error cooking. The book is basic cooking, but you can use "organic" in the place of some suggested ingredients. (You can use olive oil in the place of some of her suggested ingredients and the recipes still taste great, even better to me since I prefer organic.) I just wished I had this cookbook when I was young since my Mom passed away when I was very young. This business woman from Savannah could probably cook almost as good as my Mom. It also costs less than $20.00 which is rare for a cookbook!

  12. Denise says:

    I have to agree with Linda. The Pioneer Woman Cooks is a patient and down to earth teacher.I think I started with lessons from family members.Mom teaching me the basics like peeling,memere taught me canning and auntie a great Italian sauce. I guess what I’m saying is your best cookbook is family and friends. As you break bread with them your cookbook will grow and be filled with love and memories and that’s what makes it great.

  13. cate tuten says:

    Love your blog, Rebeka!! And your daddy’s roses! When I got married 35 years ago I got the most wonderful present and cook book entitled, "Brides Eye-View Of Cooking" by Elise Maclay. I don’t even know if you can get it any more. But I still remember how much I loved it and used it and studied it as a young and so-in-love bride. I still pull it out today and use some of the tried and true receipts. Just looking at the cover makes me smile and remember…..Whether it’s still published or not is not really important, but what is, is I hope this soon to be bride finds a cook book that will fill her with just as much excitement and hope for cooking and making a new life with the man she loves as this book did me. And I’m so grateful that all these years later, I’m still loving and cooking for my husband, grown children and grand kids!! Blessings to you and her, Cate Tuten

  14. I love my Better Homes and Gardens cook book. It is my go to book for all the basics. I love the Pioneer Woman book also and even bought a copy for my step-dad.

  15. Maureen says:

    My all time favorite cookbooks are Favorite Recipes From Quilters by Louise Stoltfuz (It’s like being at a church social with everyone’s tried and true recipes!) and the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, for general information about everything. I also enjoy the Christmas Recipies From Quilters too. Of course, having a husband that was raised in the restaurant business and loves to cook doesn’t hurt either!

  16. Cindy says:

    When I was of high school age there was something called "Home Ec." I know most of the younger crowd has probably not heard of it, but we learned to cook and sew there. (Just kidding!!!) When I went to college I bought the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It has everything in it. I think it has great descriptions and pictures on how to do things for the beginner. Once you learn the basics you can always branch out into your areas of interest. The most important part is to have fun and experiment.

  17. I had that red and white cookbook when my kids were small! They all still talk about it today, and they’re in their twenties and thirties. In fact, I think I gave the whole book to one of my daughters, at her request.

    These days, I get a lot of recipes online. I use a lot of Cooking Light recipes. I have an entire shelf of cookbooks, and I use all of them. No favorites really, but the books that get the most use are The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison, and that great Italian cookbook, Silver Spoon. And I LOVE Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking. It’s not really a cookbook, but it’s a wealth of knowledge on food, and it’s fun to read, too!

    I really wonder if one can learn to cook from a book. It can only be learned by doing. Yes, use a recipe and follow it, but be prepared for a little uncertainty, and perhaps some iffy results until you get the hang of it.

    The best way to learn to cook? In the kitchen, with someone who knows how, preferably someone you love. Know someone who gets giddy at the opportunity to cook something? Get in there with them! Watch and imitate. Improvise. Have fun.

  18. Denise says:

    I used Fanny Farmer cookbook for many years. Still refer to it often for some standby recipes (chicken curry, fruit pies). But recently I bought Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Great descriptions and illustrations. I learned to cook from my mom, some classes, an occasional television show, experimentation and friends. And probably just as much, from my cookbooks. Look to all sorts of resources. Compliment good cooks by asking them to teach you a technique you don’t yet know. Many will love to show you how they make a perfect pie crust or cut up a whole chicken. Experiment, don’t be a perfectionist, have a sense of humor coupled with a sense of adventure and have fun!

  19. Sheryl says:

    I love Southernplate by Christy Jordan. I have many cookbooks. I collect them. I have used recipes here and there. I mostly cook a little of this and that. But Christy Jordan’s cookbook is full of southern homestyle recipes from family and friends and stories to go with each. The recipes are yummy as well as making you feel a part of the tradition of southern family. : )

  20. Marji says:

    This is a tough one. I learned to cook from watching the women in my family then branched out to collecting cookbooks. I really don’t have a favorite, just favorite foods. But the one question that always came up when reading those favorite recipes was what cooking utensil do I use. I think a book on how to use the tools would be a great value for a new cook then the recipes will make themselves. Tell her to keep it simple and something she and her new husband love. Have fun!!

  21. Barbara says:

    Ree Drummond’s cook bokk THE PIONEER WOMAN. It has great recipes and great pictures in it. Highly recommended.

  22. Cathy Pyatt says:

    The "Joy of Cooking" is a great all-purpose cookbook. I have compiled my own small one over the years of recipes that I get from family etc. ASk around about recipes that you like of others that you know and family. Church ladies are always good for a covered-dish recipe or two. I would be glad to share my little book with anyone who is interested as well.

  23. Lynda says:

    I probably have over 100 cookbooks which I love looking through for special recipes or a good read. But I have to say that for my fall back book, I always reach for my Betty Crocker cookbook which is coming out of it’s binding, has had liquids spilled over it and is hanging together by a thead.

  24. Tina says:

    The Blackberry Farm Cookbook is amazing and beautiful. But as a beginner I would go with a few of my favorites….
    Martha Stewarts Baking Handbook
    Any Barefoot Contessa Cookbook .
    Tyler Florence Family Meal
    Those are great cookbooks. I find I do better with cookbooks that have great photographs of the foods. Southern Living cookbooks are also great. I learn best by watching the foodnetwork or any tv cooking show. Good luck. Take your time and enjoy the learning process:)

  25. Michele says:

    I recommend Americas Test Kitchen family cookbook. It explains why you need to do certain things while cooking, and what happens if you don’t. I have given it as a gift to all of my friends when the get engaged and they all love it. I also love Ree Drumonds The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Very simple easy to follow steps. Out of my entire collection of cookbooks (and there are a lot) These are the ones I always turn to. Plus Ree has a wonderful website that she is always updating. Her whiskey cream sauce you want to eat plain. Enjoy!

  26. Diana says:

    My first cookbook is one I still refer to today. I got it shortly after I got married in 1968. Haven’t poisoned my husband in 41 years so guess it’s all okay.

    Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 14th edition, is the latest one I have, although I still use my original most often. The book has been published since 1930. It’s full of good, basic recipes. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. They are also easy to adapt once you are familiar with your family’s likes and dislikes. The book also includes a list of equivalents, emergency substitutions and a chapter on cooking basics. It’s a great, all-around reference and I have given a number of them for shower and wedding gifts.

    Best wishes on your recent wedding. Peace and God Bless, Diana L.

  27. Brenda says:

    I had one cookbook when I moved out on my own. It was a Betty Crocker Cookbook. I had all the simple everyday recipes that I could use and then I depended on recipes given to me by friends after a sampling of something they had made. And of coarse any info I would need to make it happen right. I would agree with some of the other commenters here that the Pioneer Women’s Cookbook is a good one. Even at 50-something it is great to have the step by step pictures of something you have never made before or something you have made but has always flopped. To this day I cannot make a decent batch of fried chicken. My mother always made great fried chicken for picnics but she never wanted anyone hanging around in the kitchen so I do not know how she made it. I bought a new iron skillet and hubs says he is going to try his hand at it himself. Thanks for all the new cookbook ideas!

  28. Rebecca says:

    How to Cook Without a Book by Pamela Anderson allowed me to learn to look in my garden, pantry, and fridge and "see" meals without having to make menu plans and follow traditional recipes.
    I’d also recommend the "Pie Birds and Muddy Puddles" blog at for a new bride. Her recipes are geared towards younger palates and have step by step tutorials.

  29. I am loving The Pioneer Woamn Cooks. Easy recipes to follow, great food and wonderful pictures to help you out. Also, I have 4 sons and a husband and this food will make any man and woman very happy!!!!!!!

  30. Debbie Ricardo says:

    I grew up the 2nd of 4 daughters with a stay at home mom. I would help in the kitchen and watch her and ask questions. Later I took classes in Jr high and high school.I was lucky to spend a lot of summers with my Aunt Margaret who cooked everything from scratch. And my all time go to cook book has been "Better homes and Garden New Cook Book" Not only does it have great receipes but it as very handy and often used substitution and conversion charts. Over the years I have given it often as a bridal shower gift.

  31. carl says:

    I have always loved cookbooks, read many while learning what we liked to eat. We still experiment in the kitchen. Since our children are raised and on their own, it is usually okay if dinner takes a bit of time to get on the table. We can linger over our meal, visit, talk about our day and discuss tomorrow.
    The best advice I can give a new bride, is try. Try the recipe that sounds good, if you like the ingredients it amy turn out wonderful. Time, take time to read the recipe, ask questions if you don’t know the ingredients or term. Experiment with the seasonings. Make notes, about the recipe and food in the margins, Likes and Dislikes, too much of sage, we like more pepper. Relax and have fun!
    If she is as lucky as I was her new husband will eat what she has cooked, and not choke too much. He is still eating when I cook some 35 years later. We laugh about my first attempt at baking powder biscuits, fried chicken, and a few other items that have been disasters over the years. AND we will try a new recipe any day of the year.

  32. Theresa says:

    Betty Crocker & Better homes and Gardens are the 2 I usually reach for first. And I have a lot of cookbooks. one whole room with bookshelves full. They are my favorite read also.

  33. Nicole says:


    My 12 year old son loves to cook. He wanted his own cookbook so he could make dinner without any help. I searched and found "Better Homes and Garden Anyone Can Cook, step by step recipes just for you". It is great with clear pictures and recipes categorized by difficulty. Not sure the difference between minced and diced, it shows you. This is a great cookbook to learn the terminology and basics before moving onto classics such as "Joy of Cooking" and even the "Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book" which assume you know basic cooking terms and techniques.

    Tonight my son made Blackberry glazed pork for dinner.

    Congratulations and happy cooking.

  34. kathy schild says:

    I have collected many cookbooks over the years because, I think, I enjoy reading much more than I enjoy being in the kitchen. 🙂 🙂 🙂 However, the cookbook that actually helped me understand how to enjoy being in the kitchen is Robert Arbor’s Joie de Vie. He is a Frenchman and a professional chef, but his book is about his family life with his wife and two young sons. He focuses on the rhythm of life, beautifully and easily placing the kitchen at the center of it. He strives to educate Americans in the French way of slowing down and consciously enjoying meals and, most importantly, keeping it simple. His book is not loaded with recipes, rather he has carefully selected some of his family’s favorites. I have tried several, and they are all keepers. His "Sunday Leg of Lamb" has become our Sunday comfort food – a dish my husband and I enjoy making together, and then relaxing with a cup of tea as our home fills with an aroma that calls our family to the kitchen. He also gives advice on kitchen tools that are essential and ones that are not. I love that his book is authentic – an extension of himself and his family.

  35. KimberlyD says:

    My most cherished cookbook it my great grandma’s 1940 red checked Better Homes and Garden cookbook. I use it still. It has some great recipes.

    I learned to cook from my mother, she taught me how to cook a whole Thanksgiving meal, I cooked my first Thanksgiving meal all by myself, only asking for advice if I got stumped, at the age of 16. Oh sure I took home ec, but only thing I really remembering making is tomato soup spice cake and catching a frozen loaf of bread on fire in a microwave for I forgot to take off the bead tie! Hey it was 1983 and I never used a microwave till than…haha!

    I save recipes all the time I fine online, I am kind of obsessed with saving recipes! I also have my grandma’s metal card box, it has great hand written recipes in her hand writing, and since she passed away I love to just look at her hand writing. And my oldest cookbook is Watkins Cook Book, published in 1938.

  36. Monique says:

    Joy of Cooking for foundational concepts.

    Experimentation is OK! Spend time with another cook. Study Julia Child’s life. All very inspiring.

  37. kass says:

    Congratulations of getting married. Its a GOOD thing, marriage that is. You need to get the book SOUTHERN PLATE or go to the website. The southern girl that wrote this book could teach anyone to cook. She is pratical, funny, and shows step by step. Look her up. Christy is her name, I subscribe to her newsletter.

  38. Sandy says:

    I too love Susan Branch cookbooks,she has my favorite sugar cookie recipe it never fails to bring great reviews but I use Betty Crocker, Better Homes & Garden, Gooseberry Patch cookbooks. I am ver lucky to have had a Mother how was a Great cook and learned at a very early age to cook. I would love to get some of the cookbooks everyone metioned. I also read them like a novel. God Bless the new couple and just enjoy the trial and error with the cooking. It will come with time.

  39. Rhonda says:

    Although I’ve become quite the collector of cookbooks over the years, I didn’t learn how to cook from one. And though I have a family full of great cooks, the most important lessons came from my grandmother. Her recipes seem to forever be missing an ingredient, or a measurement, or a detail (such as oven temp). But by spending a little time in the kitchen with her, I learned that the missing elements become obvious once you learn to trust your instincts and to cook with…you got it!..LOVE! Most of my cooking these days is simply an experiment. I see what I’ve got, and throw it together. An exact replica of each meal I make is nearly impossible to recreate, because I don’t remember how much of something I used. I just added more until it smelled and tasted good. And I can’t seem to leave a recipe alone. I’m forever adding something or tweaking something to my liking.

    As for my go-to cookbooks…I have an antique store find that I grab when I’m in doubt about the basics. It’s called For the Bride, and sadly it’s out of print. (I’ve tried finding copies for gifts, to no avail) I also fall back on my Gooseberry Patch collection, local organization fund-raiser books, and recipes from The Fence Post publication. The reason for this is that they have simple ingredients, simple directions, and they’ve been tried and proven by women through the generations. They’re generally the recipes that are quick and easy to make at the end of a long day, they seldom require an ingredient that isn’t a staple in the kitchen, and if a woman has shared the recipe because their family loves it then mine is likely to love it too.

  40. Mckee says:

    I love Asheville and I love me some Tupelo Honey also!! I live about 20 min. from Asheville, I lived in downtown for about 5 yrs and I worked at Mission Hospital for over 5 yrs. Now that I have moved I miss it so! But I go back every chance I get since I am only a half hours drive away! I go to eat, and for the shindig on the green where a dear friend of mine plays with his blue grass band every weekend! I love to just sit and watch and soak in the atmosphere! I grew up in Madison County about 30 min. north of Asheville. I wouldn’t live anywhere else, except maybe east TN. You know a good cook book would be dolly partons cook book, I bought it a fews years ago, its good down home easy recipes!

  41. Carol in NC says:

    Luckily for my husband I had an old Betty Crocker cookbook that was my go- to book for years. Near the top of my favorites list now, (besides Edna Lewis of course), is The Cook and Gardener by Amanda Hesser. A delightful read!

  42. Nancy says:

    During my Wedding Shower, more than 36 yars ago, my Mom gave me a Fannie Farmer Cookbook, just like the one she had. The new ones are good, just some info is different. Then we nweed to practice….practice…practice. try things, anything that sound s good…keep track of the good one, how you might do things different next time you make the receipe. And there will be one that are NO WAY…or NEVER AGAIN..then someday you will look at yourself & think.."Great job..that’s was easier than I thought"….have fun…

  43. I didn’t start cooking until I was about 35 and into my second marriage. My husband taught me the basics. A friend introduced me to Sundays at Moosewood and that book really got me interested and I have loved cooking since. Another favorite is Chocolate and Zucchini, a lovely little book with lots of great recipes and great taste hits. I love reading and cooking from Julia Child’s books, too. My French Kitchen by Joanne Harris is another favorite. I have a couple of bookshelves of cookbooks now and really enjoy reading and experimenting in the kitchen.

  44. Heidi says:

    Another vote for "America’s Test Kitchen" and anything from Cook’s Illustrated. I have loved to cook for years but these publications and shows have made me understand "why" and have made me a much better cook. Love anything with a story to go along. Anything written by Julia Child, she loved good food so much. I also love the "Artisan Bread in 5" books, so easy, so simple and people will think you are professional! Warm bread with butter, life doesn’t get much better than that!
    I just made dinner for a dear friend whose mother passed away and they all commented that I should go into catering, problem is I agree with the "food is love" and that is why I cook.

    Love your blog, always makes me smile (or cry but a good cry!).

  45. Kimberly says:

    I have been married for almost 25 years and I am still using my Betty Crocker cook book! It is sitting on my counter and is used often just for ingredients! (I usually don’t measure!) My other favorite is a book that was made for me and it included all the favorite receipes from all my favorite people! It is priceless!!
    Good luck and just enjoy your kitchen!!

  46. Deborah says:

    I collect cookbooks, I have hundreds—and have read even more! So it kind of depends on the type of cooking she wants to do. An old vegetarian classic is Laurel’s Kitchen—it’s still the first vegetarian cookbook I recommend. One that I’ve treasured the most is a cookbook put out by the church where I grew up—I remember "dinner on the grounds" and many of the recipes in the cookbook are ones I remember from childhood.

  47. Penny says:

    I work in a library. When folks ask about cookbooks for someone who knows "nothing" about cooking I suggest they visit the Children/Young Adult floor. There they will find many basic recipes for everything to making scrambled eggs to spaghetti. There are also books with recipes from different cultures for those who want to try couscous, hummus etc.
    I always tell new cooks "If you can read you can cook!"

  48. Sharon says:

    While other cookbooks have come and gone over the years I still rely on my Good Housekeeping CookBook which has basic information on cooking for all types of meats, measurements etc. I too love to look through cookbooks and I have to recommend you check out your local library. I know I had never thought about it until last year I moved to a new town and started using tjhe local library and found they had a whole room of cookbooks. My library is always getting a copy of the newest and hottest in cookbooks so I’ve been able to check out a few I was thinking of buying to see if it would be worth the money. I love the Hungry Girl cookbooks, Alton Brown’s Good Eat’s based on his show, and The Mitford Cookbook (all the Mitford books always left me hankering for an Orange Marmalade cake and now I can make them). Have fun reading and finding your own culinary voice.

  49. Alice says:

    I would reccommend she go to youtube and check out the cooking video tutorials which anyone can learn to cook by. There are some excellent videos that show step by step what to do and how to prepare a meal or just one dish.

  50. Raynita says:

    I love cookbooks, well, they are a weakness actually. This past year I have purchased Ree’s Pioneer Woman Cooks and Christy Jordan’s Southernplate ….my daughter and I agree that we could use these two cookbooks for the rest of our lives and our lives would be full of awesome food. These books are great for seasoned cooks as well as newbies. I am so proud of these two ladies. Glad to see their books recommended by others on here…………Raynita

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