Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Age Epicure Must-Have Cookbooks

I can;t believe it's been a month since my last post. Time flies when you're preparing another trip overseas and spending lots of time with an Aga ( of which more soon). Just had to let you know about the shop's (small) mention in Melbourne's The Age Epicure section today: http://www.theage.com.au/news/entertainment/epicure/the-best-taste-in-cookbooks/2009/08/17/1250362033780.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1
The writer Richard Cornish contacted me about a book that they needed for the photos - Chez Panisse's Menu Cookbook - and then very kindly gave us a mention. Every time one of these 'Best cookbooks' articles comes out, my regulars get offended on my behalf that the shop doesn't appear, so this was a treat.

It's an interesting article and I agree with most of the 10 'must-haves' - Certainly many of them are best-sellers here:

1. The Cook's Companion, Stephanie Alexander: I'm not surprised that this is no.1, it really is the 'Bible' in Australian kitchens. Mine gets a workout several times a week. A lot of people ask for the first edition with the orange spine. Apparently there were some errors in it that were fixed up for the latest edition, but there's something charming about the earlier editions that I think is lost in the 'stripey one' as it's sometimes referred to in my shop!

2.French Provincial Cooking, Elizabeth David: Always a perennial favourite in the shop, although I sell as many of Mediterranean Food and French Country Cooking. Currently I'm lucky enough to have a scarce first edition of French Provincial Cooking in stock ( as well as of The Book of Mediterranean Food).

3. Essentials of Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan: I'm so glad this made the list - Marcella is relatively unknown in Australia - but her books are classic, truly authentic and unapologetic in their use of traditional methods and ingredients. According to a recent article I read in the New York Times, while Marcella is the brains behind the cookbook, because of her difficulty with English, in fact her husband wrote the books themselves. She would go through the recipe and explain the steps and he would translate them and put them into recipe form. Fascinating woman and a great great couple of cookbooks. (Essentials is an amalgamation of The Classic Italian and The Second Classic Italian Cookbooks)

4. A New Book of Middle Eastern Food, Claudia Roden: Walks out the door! If Stephanie's is the bible of Australian kitchens, this is the bible of Middle Eastern cooking. I sell as many of the original as I do the 'New'. Great, great book!

5. The Complete Asian Cookbook, Charmaine Solomon: Would walk out the door if I could get enough copies!! As with many of these titles, it is often the original that people seek out, not newer, updated versions.

6. Good Things, Jane Grigson: While Elizabeth David is widely read, Jane Grigson is a bit of a dark horse in food writing terms. She is greatly admired and collected and is as good a writer as Elizabeth David, but just not as widely known. I was thrilled to see her make this list, because she frequently misses out. I would however have thought that Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book
would have been up there ahead of Good Things as a classic must-have.

7. Thai Food, David Thompson: Not one I know a lot about, except that it was featured on ABC's The Cook and The Chef a couple of months ago. The Thai book I sell most of is Mogens Bay Esbensen's Thai Cuisine.

8. Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, Alice Waters: Now anyone who has read my blog or heard me rave about Chez Panisse knows how thrilled I was that this book was in the top 10. I think the books are underrated and certainly not as widely known as I think they deserve to be in Australia. I sell more of these overseas, but hopefully this will change and more people will be introduced to the Alice Waters ethos.

9. White Slave, Marco Pierre White: Now the article shows White Slave, but mentions White Heat, which I think is meant to be the No. 9. White Slave is White's 2006 ghost-written biography. As Richard mentions in the article, White Heat makes no claims to be a cookbook, but is inspiring nonetheless. He's also famous as being the man who made Gordon Ramsay cry (when Ramsay was an apprentice) - all power to him I say, although maybe he is the reason Ramsay is such a pig!

10. Roast Chicken and Other Stories, Simon Hopkinson: Another one I'm not all that familiar with, but that's the beauty of these kinds of articles - they inspire me to keep reading and learning!!

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