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The Cookbook and
Food Book Must-Have List

We get countless requests for recipes at foodies – we wish we had the time to satisfy them all, but the best we can do is recommend a good cookbook. Over the years, we find ourselves pulling the same ones off the shelf, time and time again.

Maida's done it again! See our list below for Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts!

Now that is associated with, it’s time to share with you our list of "indispensables." I asked foodies producer Cindy Blandino and guest writer Jen McAllister to contribute. Each of us has our own style of cooking and our books reflect these styles. I’ve even included a book brought to my attention by a frequent foodie with a passion for Margaret Fox’s recipes. Nothing like food to bring out an opinion!

To round out the list, I’ve added foodie fiction for adults and children. What FUN I had with this! Many suggestions are classics, but I’ve tucked a few newbies in, too.

Please do your book shopping with us by following our links. The "trickle income" from Amazon helps us help you be a better cook and a better eater.
– Joy Rotondi, Director, foodies®

Cookbooks for Foodies
Books for Full-Fledged Foodies
Books for Fledgling Foodies (KIDS!)

Cookbooks for Foodies
A preface from Joy:
Here are the indispensable book lists – one from me, one from Cindy, one from Jen. If available, I recommend hardcover for cookbooks. They lay flat on the counter or in the cookbook stand and last years longer than paperbacks. The print is often larger, and the better grade of paper will stand up to your notes (you DO take notes, don’t you!?). Hardcovers can sport the spills and spatters of the happy cook.

If you’re looking for out-of-print or hard to find cookbooks, Amazon will help you with that, too. Alternately, Jen recommends contacting the devoted folks at Kitchen Arts & Letters, a store specializing in cookbooks – old and new – in NYC. Kitchen Arts will also do book searches free of charge and the customer is under no obligation to buy the book once it’s been found. They never give up on a search, but some searches are lengthier than others. Jen once ordered a book that was found in under a week; another took 2 1/2 years. The longest search Kitchen Arts ever conducted took 6 years! (And the customer bought the book.)

Kitchen Arts & Letters
1435 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10128
Phone: (212) 876-5550
Fax: (212) 876-3584

Joy’s List
These are my bibles for everyday cooking and for looking up recipes and methods for frustrated foodies. - Joy

Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts
by Maida Heatter


Score another one for Maida! Her mouth-watering chocolate dessert book was reissued March 2006. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! 

Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook: The Original 1950 Classic
by Betty Crocker

Ring bound

This Betty Crocker satisfies nostalgia and necessity. I learned to cook the basics from this book. Popovers, roast beef, baked potatoes. My parents’ version disintegrated under a crust of pancake and waffle batter, gravy and cranberry sauce. It has been held together by rubber bands for the last 15 years. Buy it for your children, your grandchildren, for yourself.

The New York Times Cookbook
by Craig Claiborne


The original Harper & Row edition is out of print – this is the 1990 revised edition with the same title and additional recipes. This classic teamed up with Gourmet Magazine and Betty Crocker and taught me how to cook. - Joy

Simple presentation, clear direction (and a readable font, too!), Craig takes up where my favorite all-purpose, the Joy of Cooking, leaves off. I could eat his Shrimp Pierre every day. – Cindy

The Fannie Farmer Baking Cookbook
by Marion Cunningham


An essential book for the novice or experienced baker. Anadama to zucchini bread, peach cobbler to pfeffernusse, chiffon pie to shortbread, dumplings to dog biscuits, pies from Boston Cream to the Florida Key Lime, and the best chocolate chocolate chip cookies in the world (Chewy Chocolate Cookies, page 206!).

Beard on Bread
by James Beard


Before bread machines, before designer loaves, before anybody. This is the classic bread recipe book from an American culinary original, James Beard.

The Silver Palate Cookbooks
From New York City and the Roaring 80s, these books survive because of their unusual and refreshing method of organizing recipes by food type or theme.

The Silver Palate Cookbook
by Julee Rosso, Shelia Lukins, Michael McLaughlin (Contributor)


Got a surplus of eggplant? There’s a section devoted to the purple plant. Must make some mousse? Turn to the chapter called "Mousse Magic" for six recipes and a cookie cup to eat them from. And you’ll appreciate the basic recipes for say, Béchamel or a good Bloody Mary.

The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook
by Julee Rosso, Sheila Lukins


You’ll have a good time with this one with recipe collections such as "Rising to the Top: Soufflés and New York," "Opening Night Openers," "New Year’s Eve," and "New Year’s Day."

Authentic Mexican : Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico
by Rick Bayless, Deann Groen Bayless (Contributor)


Chef Rick Bayless, of Chicago’s Frontera Grill fame, may be catching up with Martha Stewart in the Annoying Fame Department, but ay carrumba he (and his wife Deann) wrote a great cookbook! It’s such a salivating read you may forget to do the cooking.

Cafe Beaujolais
by Margaret S. Fox, John Bear (Contributor)


"When I first received Cafe Beaujolais I had just graduated from culinary school. I was voraciously making every recipe I could get my hands on. The cookbook was great. I made every dish in it! And the informative introductions to the recipes were insightful to who Margaret is… For awhile people thought Margaret was a friend of mine as they all thought I was making her food just as a favor to her. No, that just is not the case - I love her food!" - From a frequent foodie


Cindy’s List
I categorize my cookbooks into two major sections; those that are falling apart, and those that aren't. This year's list is comprised mostly of the former, for obvious reasons, with the exception of a winner to arrive this past year. CookWise is still intact, at least for now. - Cindy

CookWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking
by Shirley O. Corriher


Shirley, oh Shirley! What that I could perch a tiny copy of you on my shoulder? Instead, I have a 10 pound lug of a book on my shelf. Shirley Corriher was born to be a scientist. Or an educator. Or a comedian. Maybe a chef? She's managed to pull them all together in this witty, infectious book that explains why food does what it does. Why cookies spread when made with butter or puff when made with shortening. Why a certain flour is better for biscuits. How to keep strawberries red, green beans green and pastry crust flaky. If you've ever wondered why things don't work in your recipes (or why they do!), this is the book.

Joy of Cooking
By Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker

[Ever wonder what’s the best all purpose, all around, basic cookbook and resource? The Joy of Cooking? The Fannie Farmer Cookbook? Better Homes & Gardens? Betty Crocker’s? The New Basics? I asked Cindy, the foodies producer and most opinionated foodie West of the Mississippi. – Joy]

Hands down the Joy of Cooking, even though I own both the 11th and 12th editions of Fannie Farmer. Not that I actually cook out of the Joy that often, but when there's something I need to know, and I can’t find it anywhere else, I'll find it there. Great equivalents and substitutions chapter. - Cindy

The Vegetarian Epicure
by Anna Thomas


The Vegetarian Epicure: Book Two
by Anna Thomas


Available in paperback only, I learned the value of contact paper with these two tomes. Wrapping the covers in the clear, textured plastic has enabled the books to sit relatively intact on my shelf all these years although the pages have long since departed the bindings. I've written my life story and culinary history among these spattered pages. Witness my first crack in '78 at a pastry sucrée with the now infamous summer fruit tart (that one got five stars, my top rating); a (four star!) dinner served in 1979 centered around a chestnut soufflé. The quick bread stollen (Book One) has endured through children and marriages as a keeper for Christmas morning. One Christmas, life got the better of me and I forgot to add the fruit; in spite of heavy teasing from the kids, it was still delicious. I'm getting up the courage to make the eggnog. Twelve eggs, a quart of heavy cream, fresh lemon and orange rinds, and a cup each of dark rum and cognac. I've been drinking it vicariously for over twenty years.

Recently, I saw a piece on Anna Thomas. I always imagined her as a young, vaguely hippie character as I cooked from her book. Seems she's grown up. I guess I have, too.

The Victory Garden Cookbook
by Marian Morash


I just love this book. Arranged alphabetically by vegetable, it is encyclopedic in theme and delicious and inspiring in tone. No need to plan your menu ahead of time and hope they'll have everything you need. Go to the market, choose the very best there is to offer that day and settle in with this book; your dinner menu recipes will jump from the pages. Along with gorgeous and informative photos, practical cooking and storage information is included for each veggie.


Jen’s List
Anna Quindlen writes in How Reading Changed My Life that book lists are arbitrary, but she likes them anyway. So do I. This is not a "desert-island" list. I go through phases, and this week's entertaining read is next week's indispensable kitchen assistant. Nonetheless, these seven are consistently by my side. - Jen

Home Cooking
by Laurie Colwin


More Home Cooking : A Writer Returns to the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin


I bought Home Cooking the year after I graduated from college. I had moved to New York and began seriously cooking for myself for the first time. In addition to cooking from them, I have read them in the bathtub. I have read them in the throes of depression and while recovering from migraines, just well enough to read but not well enough to do anything else.

It is hard to encapsulate the wonders of these books. Colwin's style is pithy, not sparse or minimalist but warm, generous and unassuming. The recipes are clear to understand and easy to prepare; the resulting dishes are soulful and delicious. There are two essays devoted to gingerbread, my favorite dessert. There are tales of cream teas in England, picnics on Minorca, triumphant meals cooked on two-burner stoves in a 7'x 20" Greenwich Village apartment, revolting meals in London and Connecticut. Every word is a charm. – Jen

I must agree with Jen's placing of Laurie Colwin at the top of her list. When I read of her death in the pages of Gourmet several years ago, I felt I had lost a good friend. Fortunately, for those of us who remain, her books live on. - Cindy

Real Cooking
by Nigel Slater.
(Limited availability – contact Kitchen Arts & Letters in NYC or purchase in the UK)


I am over the moon about this book. Nigel Slater is the food correspondent at The Observer and the author of five other cookbooks. I hate to use the overworked phrase "comfort food," but this is the most comforting book I know. Even a task as simple as sautéeing chicken thighs in a cast-iron skillet, or chopping garlic, or braising lamb and cannelini beans becomes a cozy, sensual treat. I can't say that I look forward to bad weather, but I can say that a cold, sleety night is made better by the prospect of coming home and opening this book.

Curries without Worries
by Sudha Koul


I learned about this book via the late, much-missed food zine Cooking on the Edge.This is a sweet, chatty, calming introduction to Indian home cooking. As Koul says in the introduction, none of the recipes are difficult and no hard-to-find ingredients are required. Among my favorites are the garlic cabbage which I would eat every day of my life if I could get away with it; rogan josh , a fiery red lamb stew; and kulfi, a kind of pistachio ice milk.

Blue Jelly: Lovc Lost and the Lessons of Canning
by Debby Bull.

(Also available in paperback and audio cassette)

Some people are daunted by the thought of making jam or pickles at home. The measuring! The boiling! The waiting around! It is my belief that if everyone had a copy of Debby Bull's book, fear of canning would be a thing of the past. Bull posits that the studied, absorptive nature of canning helps to cure whatever ails you; she took it up as a way to cure a broken heart. I think it was the green bean dill pickles.

Maida Heatter's Brand-New Book of Great Cookies
by Maida Heatter


If you have never baked but you would like to learn, Maida Heatter is the perfect teacher. If you are an experienced baker, you will still be impressed by the glorious flavors and textures of these desserts. Every book she has ever written has been a winner, but I have a special place in my heart for this one. Try the cardamom cookies, the lemon-date bars, the subtle raisin sandwich cookies or the decidedly unsubtle Palm Beach Brownies with Chocolate-covered Mints.

Learn more about Maida Heatter, a foodies Culinary Patriot, in her own words.


Books for Full-Fledged Foodies
Two book recommendations, one available on cassette as well, for bonifide food fanatics. Don’t give these to amateurs. They just won’t get it. - Joy

The Art of Eating
by Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher


Okay. This is it. The collection of M.F.K. Fisher’s most wonderful essays, every one a witty signature dish. She made it possible for Americans to develop a palate and to do so with a sense of humor. Fisher is the grande dame of American food writing, may she rest in peace (and in a bed of oysters).

The Debt to Pleasure: A Novel
by John Lanchester


A wickedly funny and twisted novel about an effete gourmand.

The Debt to Pleasure
by John Lanchester, Nick Ullett (Reader)

Cassette Tape: Abridged

For the dedicated foodie in your life who prefers to listen.


Books for Fledgling Foodies (KIDS!)
I’ve taken the age recommendations from Amazon. However, I believe that books in the ages 4 – 8 category are appropriate for three year olds and almost three year olds as the pictures and the text enchant and sooth. – Joy

Blueberries for Sal
by Robert McCloskey

School and Library Binding
Ages Baby-Preschool

The stuff of childhood memories. A classic from the man who brought us Make Way for Ducklings.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle

Board book
Baby to Preschool

This colorful story helps a child associate eating with growing and maturing.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
(with Plush Caterpillar)
by Eric Carle

When you need more of a gift than just the book.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
by Judi Barrett, Judith Barrett, Ron Barrett (Illustrator)

Ages 4-8

"That night, touched off by the pancake incident at breakfast, Granpa told us the best tall-tale bedtime story he’d ever told. ‘Across an ocean, over lots of huge bumpy mountains, across three hot deserts, and one smaller ocean…there lay the tiny town of Chewandswallow." Watch out for falling broccoli!

Chicken Soup With Rice
by Maurice Sendak

Library Binding
Ages 4-8

From the author of Where the Wild Things Are, a deliciously funny book of months in poem.
Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory
by Margret Rey, H. A. Rey


How to get the message through to your child that too much candy will give you a belly ache. Beware the banana creams!

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
by Laura Joffe Numeroff, Felicia Bond (Illustrator)

Ages 4-8

The original and the best in the series of delightful "cause and effect" stories.

Strega Nona : An Old Tale
by Tomie De Paola

Ages 4-8

Big Anthony doesn’t obey Grandma Witch and the magic pasta pot threatens the village. Manga!

Merry Christmas, Strega Nona
by Tomie De Paola

School and Library Binding
Ages 4-8

If you can’t get your fill of Strega Nona and Big Anthony.

The Twenty-One Balloons
by William Pene du Bois

Ages 9-12

Written in 1947, but still as fresh as a lava flow. When Professor Sherman asks a resident of Krakatoa, the island on which his balloon has crashed, what form of government rules, the answer is "a Restaurant Government."

Homer Price
by Robert McCloskey

Ages 9 – 12

If you didn’t grow up mesmerized by the story of the rich lady’s bracelet lost in the interminable batter of the doughnut machine, buy this book for yourself (but read it to the kids). Six classic small town America stories.


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