When I moved here I was kind of a food and beer snob, at least as far as American cooking and beers were concerned. I thought American cooking consisted of burgers and hod dogs and the beer just tasted shitty. Since then I’ve come to appreciate American microbrews a lot and I have to admit that the cookbooks I use the most are American cookbooks. We own a lot of cookbooks, but the ones I use the most are James Beard’s American Cookery & The New James Beard, and The Joy of Cooking. I also got Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my birthday last year, but so far I’ve been far to intimidated to try any recipe she gives.
Come on, the way she describes making an omelet you feel like you need to be something of a chemist and jongleur to prepare it the correct way.
However, there’s is one more cookbook that I’d love to have: La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange — not the least because it has a recipe for an amazing Chestnut Cake (that I ate in a restaurant in Walla Walla, WA, of all places) in it that is absolutely amazing and from what I saw so far leafing through it at a friend’s place looked promising, too.
And as any self-respecting nerd I’ve also gotten into reading ‘food writing’ and I love it when a cookbook gives you some history with the recipes and explain why things work the way they work, which is why American Cookery is such a great book. So for Christmas, The Wife gave me a great gift, a book by Betty Fussel called Masters of American Cookery.
The first fifth of the book talks about Beard, Fisher, Child, and Claiborne but the prose is so fucking purple that you should just skip it. The rest of the book, however, are recipes. Fussel was a student of Beard’s and the recipes are her modified versions of American classics and every recipe — and category (eggs, salads, meats, etc.) — comes with information about its history in American culture and how each of the four cooks prepared it and what she changed about it. It’s a cookbook, but I read it like a regular book during my Christmas vacation. Full of fun factoids! I did not know, for example, that the American way of making an omelet consists of beating the egg yolks and whites separately and then combining then to make a fluffy omelet. Or that lobster bisque is made by cooking lobster shells!
So I can’t wait to try some of the recipes:
Backed (Fuck, I always make this mistake!) Baked Eggs w/ Smoked Salmon.
It involves ramekins!
Anyway, if you are looking for a swell intro cookbook on American cooking, this one is ★★★★★!