Letting go of old friends- the dreaded cookbook purge

We just moved yesterday (to a home with an AMAZING kitchen, more on that later!) and while the rest of the house is in disarray, my cookbooks are on their way to being perfectly placed and ordered on their dedicated bookcase. Talk about priorities, right?

Even though I don’t cook from cookbooks for everyday meals, I absolutely adore cookbooks. I love the big, luscious photos in David Tanis’ A Platter of Figs, even if I’ve not yet made a single thing from it; I love the yellowed, spiral-bound pages of the Cooking with Mickey Around Disneyworld cookbook that my mother gave me in 1985 (I was three years old then!). Flipping through my favorite cookbooks, searching for the perfect recipe hidden within is one of my favorite lazy-day pastimes, which are few and far between these days, sadly. In short, I couldn’t live without them.

As I unpack the third box of cookbooks, however, I am faced with the reality of the situation: that I have far too many cookbooks as it is, with a ‘bucket list’ of so many more, and quite a few duds in between. It’s so hard to part with them, even my little used, not-loved Rachael Ray cookbook from my college years. How can I let them go? But let some go I must, and fast (our garage sale is tomorrow).

How do you, all two readers of mine,  weed through your cookbook collection? Obviously there are some cookbooks that I just don’t use on any regular basis, but sometimes those cookbooks have one great, can’t-live-without recipe (I’m looking at you, risotto in Tyler Florence’s Real Kitchen). What do I do with those- photocopy and forget? Help this girl get rid of her excess cookbooks!

So this post isn’t too depressing, here’s a short list of cookbooks that you’ll never see me part with, the ones that, in a pinch, have never done me wrong:


Jacques Pepin’s Fast Food My Way: the man’s a genius, and the food is fast, tasty, and great for making fancy food for unexpected company.

Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan’s Memories of Philippine Kitchens: not an everyday kind of book, but a beautifully shot compendium of Philippine cooking from two of my favorite US-based Filipino chefs.

Talk About Good! by the Junior League of Lafayette Louisiana: real Cajun and Creole recipes (and some downright quirky ones, too) from the ladies of Louisiana. The recipes are so bad for you but oh so good.

Staff Meals from Chanterelle by David Waltuck: the beloved, now gone New York institution’s lighter side. Not the fancy French fare from the restaurant (the mister took me here for a memorable, but insanely pricey, birthday dinner one year), but the recipes from the meals cooked together by the staff. A surprisingly diverse, always tasty collection of recipes. Don’t get me started on their mac and cheese.

Recipes of the Philippines by Enriqueta David-Perez: it’s not the most well-known, or even the best, but my mother’s copy from the National bookstore helps me channel home.

What essential books are in your kitchen arsenal?

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Posted on September 11, 2010, in cookbook review. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I don’t have quite as many, so I haven’t had to purge yet. But I’d say I’ll keep the Bittman around and I’ll never part with “Modern Cookery” by Thangam Philip, a catering school textbook from India that my mom gave me.

  2. A.- ooh, which Bittman? His book The Best Recipes in the World is on my must-keep list too! Kind of Americanized versions (no surprise) but I love how easy he makes everything.

  3. I was just searching for info on Enriqueta’s “Recipes of the Philippines” and your blog came up. Blast from the past! Although there’s other Filipino cookbooks I reference over it any day, I’ll always have a place for it on my shelf. That battered book is one of the few items my mom brought during her immigration. Thanks for sharing!

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