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Published January 03, 2012, 11:30 PM

Hunter Halgrimson: Cookbooks are better read than downloaded

The headline in a recent New York Times article said, “Are Cookbooks Obsolete?” It went on to talk about something called tablets and apps, whatever the heck they are. And I don’t want to know. One of those babies would be like a stranger in my kitchen.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

The headline in a recent New York Times article said, “Are Cookbooks Obsolete?”

It went on to talk about something called tablets and apps, whatever the heck they are. And I don’t want to know. One of those babies would be like a stranger in my kitchen.

I don’t even have a television set let alone a laptop in my kitchen. But then I don’t have a microwave oven or a crockpot either. And, I drive a car with a manual transmission.

But I read the story.

The piece mentioned some guy in Texas who tried to teach himself to cook by using cookbooks and online recipes and trying to download recipes into his head.

He sounds like an idiot.

I think these gadgets are made for people who want instant gratification. They want to cook just like an experienced chef who has undertaken years of schooling and/or practice as an apprentice. And I think those people don’t have much common sense.

But then I’m just an old broad who was lucky to learn to cook from my mother and grandma in the kitchen of my youth, and I believe there is not only a lot I absorbed by watching and listening but simply by osmosis.

So I’m going to list some books that – with practice and common sense – will keep your kitchen and you from falling in to a pit of technology that may not last. If we’re lucky.

My mom and gram used “The Joy of Cooking” by Irma Rombauer, later co-authored with her daughter, Marion Becker. But if you’re going to consult this gem, use one published before 1997 when it was revised and ruined.

If you start cooking by using the two volumes of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” you won’t need anything else. You say you don’t want to cook French food? Well the techniques and methods in these two books will stand you in good stead for whatever kind of cooking you do. Authors Julia Child and Simone Beck also wrote many other cookbooks that are valuable, too.

British cookery author Elizabeth David’s books are also a fine addition to the kitchen bookshelves. She did for English cooking what Child and Beck did for American cooking.

“Jacques Pépin’s Complete Techniques” is a winner, filled with photographs as well as recipes. I’ve had classes from him and he is wonderful.

And if you want to know the hows and whys of foods, one of the best is “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” by Harold McGee.

Two other books I have learned a great deal from and enjoyed are “Food: An Authoriative and Visual History and Dictionary of the Foods of the World” by Waverly Root and “The Oxford Companion to Food” by Alan Davidson.

Most of the books I’ve mentioned are no longer in print, but they can be found online. I love my computer for that reason, even though I don’t buy any more cookbooks because I already have about 2,000 of them.


Readers can reach Forum food columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson

at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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