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"Give a man a fish, you have fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime."

I don't need no deserted island cookbooks, just a damn fishing pole.


The Kama Sutra.


I'm going to have MY desert island retrofitted with the internets (and a lifelong subscription to cooksillustrated.com). That should about cover it.


I'm not a big user of cookbooks (I can't seem to get through a recipe straight -- I'm prone to improvisation), but since baking is not something easily improvised (relying as it does on chemistry), I have been known to bring along favorite cookie and quick-bread recipes when I travel. Everything else can be improvised, half-remembered, or -- last resort -- found (in some version) online.
Why not decide now what you want to cook, and jot down recipes for the stuff that's too complicated to remember?
(Oh, and the cookbooks I use the most? "Fannie Farmer" and "Greek Meze Cooking." Not quite the helpful information you were looking for, I know.)


I'm choosing to interpret this as "cookbooks I actually use as opposed to all the others.  I mean, the James Peterson might look good on my desert island coffee table and makes a good read, but I'm not any more likely to use it there than at home.  And I hate to be obvious but number one has to be Joy.  I grew up in a Fannie Farmer household; it was a sad day when I learned my parents had raised me on an inferior general purpose cookbook.

The rest:

The Complete Meat Cookbook.  Too many "charming" anecdotes scattered throughout, but lots of great information.  If my desert island has a steady supply of port tenderloin, I shall not want.

King Arthur Flour's Baker's Companion.  Like I said, the books I use.  Within its purview, as good as Joy.

All About Braising.  A cookbook following culinary fashion that is actually worthwhile.  Sure, there are a number of recipes I'll never try, but less than one would expect in a book of this kind.  And the vegetable dishes are quite good.

Sicilian Vegetarian Cooking.  A modest book, but one I return to over and over.  Especially useful if the island does not have a ready supply of pork tenderloin.

Honarable mention: We Called It Macaroni, by my homegirl Nancy Verde Barr.  I don't really need a general Italian cookbook at this point, but I'd want this one around for the pictures of Providence back in the day.

la depressionada

i pack for a 2 month as I would for a 2 day, so i would take no cookbooks. my philosophy is anything i need i can buy and if i can't i probably don't need it. i do bring my own pillow however.

since i never go anywhere where one could not wear high heels i avail myself of the local availabilities: looking up recipes in barnes and noble, the library, the bookstore -- i am fond of the local juniour league or ladies' auxiliary cookbooks, i also like to go to fundraisers, quilt sales, church picnics, county fairs and parades and chat with the ladies. which ladies? the ladies who will be talking about jam, pie and chowder.

funnily enough this method not only crosses state lines but international lines as well. i've copied down many a recipe in bookstores in the alpes-maritimes and engaged in a spirited discussion about pissalidiere with the hotelier's wife, par example.

i rely on the internets only very circumspectly because for every 15 recipes, maybe 1 will be good (and sometimes the substitutions will be downright scary -- don't have creme fraiche? -- use cool whip and sour cream in equal parts, like that).

la depressionada

i just have to say . . .

the fannie farmer cookbook is in no way inferior to any. the cakes, beans and meatloaf are still among the best out there.

for the greater part of my cooking life, i, too used joy almost exclusively, but frankly now, (after finding a copy about 10 years ago at the strand)for the most part i use what's in my head and larousse gastonomique almost exclusively. (although for italian i am partial to marcella hazan for nothern.) the only time i even consider buying a cookbook these days is if it's regional or somewhat esoteric -- ie cucina ebraica.


I'll agree with you on the cake recipes in Fannie - there are a few that I continue to use to this day. And I don't mean to imply there's nothing good in it, just that I've found Joy to be superior. Its layout is far clearer, I find it more reliable on any kind of ethnic cooking (although one shouldn't expect too much in this line from any of the big general American cookbooks) and it simply has more information. Since most of the time I don't cook from a recipe either, having the general information and resources that Joy has so much of is useful and informative (the King Arthur is the same way, as well as Aidell's meat cookbook.)

I will agree with you on the hazards of relying on the internet for recipes, though. Scary stuff indeed. Hazan is very good and nearly made my list as well.


Warms me to the fins to see all the chatter.
It makes a big difference which Joy you have. The latter-day ones have nothing about squirrels, frinstance, which suggests they are intended for yuppies.
The internet thing is a true issue. It was usenet cookbooks that made me reconsider my commitment to supporting freedom of the press. (Why would I want cookies that look like cat shit?)
Viz Sac's idea, have long been tempted to give Joy of Cooking and Joy of Sex together as wedding gift. First girlfriend evs is marrying a food blogger this month, but it does not seem like the right time.


The latter-day ones have nothing about squirrels, frinstance, which suggests they are intended for yuppies.

I nearly mentioned this at the outset, as a friend disdains my newish copy of it for precisely this reason. I say: collect them all.


Food and sex. Food and sex.

Rose's Lime

What, no Joy of Yiddish?

Cod may feel free to avail himself of our Joy. Note, though, that we have the aforementioned Yuppie version which is no good for the squirrel, possum, and yes, skunk one may find in our terroir. HTTLOTSP&YS?

As for YT, I too travel naked and rely on memory, improvisation, and happy accidents. I rarely bake anything more complicated than pie crust, pancakes or pizza dough (and, recently scones) which are easy enough to remember. If you're expecting Chocolate Mousse, I expect you to have your own Joy.


While I'm very wary internet recipes (and users' reviews), there is plenty of good stuff out there (epicurious.com, marthastewart.com, molliekatzen.com, etc., plus the major newspapers and food blogs). but mostly i've gotten hooked on cooksillustrated.com, thanks to a certain someone who's been kind enough to let me steal off of her year-long subscription...


p.s.: i've also been doing lots of recipe-copying from Barnes and Noble, a la La D, lately, though I doubt my desert island would have a local branch. tonight I made Thomas Keller's dark chocolate mousse (w/farmers' market duck eggs--yeeah boy!) that I copied out of his "Bouchon" cookbook, which was way too expensive and heavy to actually purchase.


Somehow we've managed to hang on to the free subscription from the days when I freelanced for Kimball and Co. but haven't delved into the online realm. Is it good?

I still have fond memories of that one day when I got to the office and was asked to taste-test high-end steak....


Thanks for the tip about the King Arthur's Flour cookbook -- looks like a good one.
(And Cod, let us know when you want to talk about cookbooks that are annoying as hell. I nominate The New Basics Cookbook -- though I did resort to it tonight 'cause I needed a good braised rabbit recipe and, miracle of miracles, it happened to have one -- though for some unexplained reason the recipe called for about 10 lbs of rabbit -- which represents like three whole rabbits -- which required some complicated and imprecise scaling down on my part.)

Rose's Lime

Have to agree with Skeen on New Basics. My copy was deacquisitioned from Lime Pere and joined my SO's copy of Silver Palate on the shelf. In retrospect, I'm glad I survived to enjoy cooking despite using the two almost exclusively for several years. I may retire them to the attic or local independent book store where future gourmets may chuckle over their excessive use of sun dried tomatoes as some currently do over the use of rum and bacon grease in JLNO cookbooks from before the wars.

I too have been intrigued by King Arthur and will have to look into it. For baking, I love "Baking with Julia" not because of the recipes which are eclectic at best, but because of the attention to technique. You'll find a nice dissection of how to best make piecrust with each fork, cuisinart, and mixmaster.


trixie, the cook's illustrated website (w/subscription) is excellent because they archive all of their old stuff there. i could spend hours a day reading that site--it's really quite dangerous, actually.

la depressionada

jl, you are absolutely right. the joy of cooking is without a doubt the best all around cookbook ever published i think. i certainly learned american cooking by reading it, and if i were relegated to only a single cookbook it would be JOC (plus who doesn't love those little epigraphs). i've had mine since the mid 70s, and i know they've made revisions to it, however i disdain those. whenever the new cookbooks update (like acting asian food e.g.) the results are laughable.

i don't buy cookbooks any more for several reasons, one of which is alluded to by the sainted Regina Schrambling. in the day, julia child's for instance, recipes were painstakingly tested. these days not so much, and i got sick of blowing 30 bucks on a cookbooks with a couple of good recipes many of which were rife with errors. the art of french cooking, for example, took 10 years to produce. god knows how long it takes a mario batali, bobby flay or (is he even a He anymore) rocco di spirito to spit one out (so to speak).

moreover, in new american cookbooks, people will fall for just about any dumb adjustment in a recipe that that the writer deems a new recipe. i am hard put to buy a cookbook with absurd variations on classical recipes. i think m. cod's nigella is particularly guilty of this, but she has, ah, other significant talents (and all would be forgiven if she does just one show topless). for some reason, at this juncture i compelled to mention the utterly talentless tyler florence. he is utterly talentless. and i guess remember everyone's favorite pervert jeff smith. i don't know how well he s*cked d*ck, but he could wrote a pretty good cookbook. the same cannot be said for ms. lawson. (je suis mechant. tres tres mechant.)

la depresssionada

please excuse the poor grammar, misspellings, lack of agreement and other literary infelicities in the above. apparently i become literally retarded when i become impassioned.

also the last line should read: i don't know if the same can be said for ms. lawson.


I'm a little late to this party, but for the record I made some suggestions here.

And Nigella does too know how to suck a duck.


Achewood cookbook.

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