My passion for cookbooks - Jen's Kitchen

My passion for cookbooks

As an avid reader of cookbooks, with a self confessed addiction, it is with GREAT excitement that I am volunteering at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Litfest this week.  And I get to see Alice Waters.  How exciting is that??? Alice is classed as being one of the most influential food writers of the last 50 years.  Mega. I would love to replicate her model for education on food with children here. #wishlist

I know many people who collect cookbooks, some simply just to salivate over the pictures.  Yet some of the most famous have few pictures, if any at all.  Some of mine are serious- Michael Pollan for example, some are very light, and some are very precious- family heirlooms in fact.

The Family "Manuscript"
The Family “Manuscript” belonging to my husbands grandmother

The Silver Spoon, for example is classed as one of the greatest Italian cook books of all time, even if the timings are a little vague, and there is absolutely no pictorial help.  But it is encyclopaedic in it’s amount of recipes for every class and cut of ingredient.”  Alongside “The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating” by Marcella Hazan, they are my go to books for Italian cookery.

The Silver Spoon
The Silver Spoon

My mum in law gave me a Christmas present of the book “How to Eat”, by Nigella Lawson years ago.  I didn’t even open it for about about a year as I was convinced it was a diet book! But as a book to teach people how to cook basic recipes in a very relaxed manner, it succeeds.  Any book that utters “Before you even take off your coat put the chocolate on to melt” is a winner for me!

Some of my cookbooks
Some of my cookbooks

Even before I attended the Ballymaloe Course, I used both the Forbidden and Ballymaloe Cookery Course Books quite extensively, so they are on the frequent flyers list also.

Well used favourites
Well used favourites

I do have some cookbooks that I simply use for stroking and drooling over.  Pure coffee table books.  Mind you anyone goes near them with coffee is dead to me.

And I try and cook at least one or two recipes from each book, and most get a good few airings, some even end up on the favourite list.

Some I really want to cook from, but need about 3 days, an unlimited larder full of exotics, and an unlimited amount of equipment.  (The days I made Heston Blumenthals Mushroom mousse recipe will go down in the annals of longest cooking time to a pâte that lasted 30 seconds.)

"technically" in alphabetical order
“technically” in alphabetical order

The main collection lies in wait on both sides of the stairs.

Then the most recent- but awaiting a re-read section.

The "waiting to be read" section in my room
The “waiting to be read” section in my room

And then the section beside my bed.  I think when I get my ankle re done and I’m “resting”, I might rest and read, and maybe cook a little….

The "beside my bed" pile
The “beside my bed” pile

And as for my wishlist, there are some heavy hitters;

Elizabeth David, French Provincial Cooking, (1960)

Jane Grigson, Good Things

M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating (Vintage, 1976)

Richard Olney, Simple French Food

Anthony Bourdain, Typhoid Mary

Larry Zuckerman, The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World

Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Cooking 

Eliza Acton, Modern Cookery for Private Families, (1845)

Isabella Beeton, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management

Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, (1747)


Not necessarily in order of preference. Please. Pretty Please.  And for this weekend at least I’ll be happy as the proverbial pig.




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