Favorite cookbooks are one of those things that capture your heart. Once you fall in love with one or two, they become your go-to source for beloved recipes.
Truth be told, it’s less the recipes and more the photography that turns me on in InterCourses: an aphrodisiac cookbook.
First introduced in 1997 to rave reviews and now an international bestseller from the United States to Australia, it is organized by foods that have been considered aphrodisiac ingredients throughout history — chocolate, asparagus, chiles, coffee, basil, grapes, strawberries, honey, artichokes, black beans, oysters, rosemary, edible flowers, pine nuts, avocados, libations/alcohol, and figs.
Each chapter begins with a photograph of food on the body — an asparagus skirt, a maillot of pine nuts, a tribal necklace of figs. The images bring the food to life in a fresh light, transforming ordinary meals into exciting aphrodisiacs.
The first cookbook I ever bought — Mollie Katzen’s 1982 illustrated cookbook, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. — was the one that helped me start my first small business.
I turned recipes for her Grape Nut Muffins, Honey-Bran Muffins, and Blueberry Muffins into the Morning Muffin Woman when I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Several local coffee shops and groceries in West Philadelphia bought my tiny treats, and I earned enough to pay the rent on an apartment my first year as a cub reporter at The Dominion Post, in Morgantown, WV.
Not only did I learn a ton about being an entrepreneur, I realized I had no business being in the food business. That was a very valuable lesson!
It also taught me how truly magical chefs are — especially the brilliant Katzen, who began her career as an artist and musician before opening the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY. Her 1972 illustrated and hand lettered “Moosewood Cookbook” earned a spot in the Cookbook Hall of Fame at the James Beard Foundation.
So what do real chefs have on their bookshelves? What are their go-to cookbooks, and why? Scroll down for the top picks from a few of Be Inkandescent’s favorite foodies.
Amour Wine Bistro Chef Paul Heinz loves:
“My Life in France,” by Julia Child
Here’s why: “It’s not a cookbook, per se, but it’s the explanation of how to embrace cooking the right way with the right ingredients. I didn’t know Julia Child before I came to the USA. All the people around me were telling me how I should watch her show. So I did and saw her passion to share what she loves doing — cooking! I got her cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and loved the detail of the classic french dishes. It’s a good cooking bible.
“A few years later Julia Child passed away. When “My Life in France” was released, full of information about how she became interested in cooking and writing a cooking book, I understood the passion she had for cooking. It included choosing the right ingredients, working with seasonings, using the right techniques, having fun, and pleasure. I love the passion she had for the ingredients, the proper way of doing things, and sharing that passion with others. This is a book for every person who has an interest in good food. It gives readers a great vision of good food and what it takes to make it.”
Edible Education Owner and Chef Ann Butler loves three cookbooks:
“The Frog Commissary Cookbook,” by Steven Poses, Anne Clark, and Becky Roller
Here’s why: “The Frog is a very fancy restaurant in Philadelphia, and the Commissary was truly one of the first innovative bistros on the East Coast. They were doing grilled goat cheese, pickled vegetables, and their famous Oriental chicken salad in the early 80s — long before any one else was thinking rice vinegars or sriraja. They had a very innovative recipe for brussel sprouts, bacon, and shallots, which was a very trendy dish last year. Great food indeed repeats itself over the years. I used to work a few blocks from The Commissary and would stop in for decadent, but very healthy dishes.
“My very favorite recipe is the Chocolate Chip Cookies. I have that recipe memorized as the basis of our master-mix cookie recipe. When you first look at the butter content — whoa — but add oatmeal and finely chopped nuts and it’s genius — best cookies of all time. Or wait, it could be the Carrot Cake — a two-day recipe and totally worth the fuss! Good luck finding a hard copy — there is one on Amazon, but the cookbook was released on kindle in 2013. This is a fun, innovative (for its time), great food cookbook with tips from setting up bar for 50 to sidebars with quirky pictures and definitions of ingredients.”
“The Way to Cook,” by Julia Child
Here’s why: “It’s my favorite because the great Julia Child signed it when I met her in New York at the Fancy Food Show in 1994. It was so humbling to meet her, and she was so interested in what I was doing at the time — teaching my kids to cook. The cookbook is full of instructional pictures and is a great book for those who are slightly confident in their abilities in the kitchen. My favorite recipe was the Caramel Apple Mountain, but we added a spun caramel veil to create a glossy web around the mountain — it was great fun and a spectacular looking dessert.”
Any of the cookbooks for kids from DK Publishing
Here’s why: “DK books are from the UK and have a picture for every single ingredient and procedure. The recipes are delicious and easily duplicated, though sometimes they miss the mark on what kids in America might find as a favorite — like fish cakes or mushy peas, but one never knows! The “Grow It, Cook It” book is our favorite, with Blueberry Trifle as the winning dessert and the Tomato Stack as an awesome appetizer.”
Edible Education assistant Charlotte Christensen loves:
“Good and Cheap,” a free cookbook by Leanne Brown
Here’s why: “Good and Cheap” is a gorgeous cookbook written by Leanne Brown, the food studies scholar from NYU. It aims to help readers prepare delicious, wholesome, simple recipes for under $4 a day, the typical budget for recipients of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. What I love is that Brown has spearheaded a major campaign to get her book into the hands of low-income families who could benefit from it. So far the free PDF has been downloaded more than 800,000 times, and 40,000 more have been sold to nonprofits that support the cause at a massive discount. She started a Kickstarter campaign for the distribution of the book and it was wildly successful, exceeding her goal tenfold. Her more than 5,000 supporters enabled her to print 14,500 copies to distribute to thousands of low-income families throughout the United States and Canada.
“Brown’s second edition of ‘Good and Cheap’ is now available for purchase. Like the first edition, it is also available to download free, but for every bound copy purchased, a second copy is given to a family who could use the cookbook, but may not have regular access to a computer to access the free PDF. It is no wonder that the book was greeted with such enthusiasm, for it is a stunning product. The recipes are incredibly easy to follow, with ingredients that are inexpensive, nutritious, and accessible. Every recipe provides an approximate cost per serving, and are all showcased by rich, beautiful photography and personal anecdotes and tips by Brown.”
“The Nourished Kitchen: Farm to Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle,” by Jennifer McGruther
Here’s why: “Once upon a time, all food was healthy, organic, and seasonal. The latest trend for foodies and non-foodies alike actually isn’t trendy at all. In fact we are looking toward our past to create our future. What is it we are gazing at in the rearview mirror? Traditional foods. Foods our grandmothers and our grandmothers’ grandmothers ate. Real food. Food with substance that emphasizes nutrient density, quality, the environment, and culture. Traditional foods are whole foods with minimal processing.
“‘The Nourished Kitchen’ is a gateway to a lifestyle that celebrates life and community, and that teaches the simple everyday pleasures of yesteryear. Before our reliance on supplements and vitamins, we got everything we needed form breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Learn how and why traditional foods are the building blocks to healthy diet and lifestyle. The book is packed with fad-free, down-home information on diet as well as stunning photos. As a nutritionist and an ayurvedic practitioner, I am excited to see a user-friendly guide that offer a ‘food as medicine’ lifestyle.
“There is something here for everyone — from the novice to the seasoned chef, and even some recipes your kids will love. Have you ever wondered how to infuse olive oil or vinegars? They are easy-to-make, great gifts for the holidays. Learn how to make delicious nutrient-dense bone broths, probiotic-rich pickles, and sauerkrauts. For dessert, how about a warm honey-drizzled feta with pine nuts, orange, and mint?”
Where Women Create Publisher, Cookbook Author Jo Packham loves:
Here’s why: “I have authored/packaged more than 1,000 book titles in my career, and this one is my personal favorite. We all have such wonderful memories of ‘food,’ whether it be of our grandmother making our favorite dish, our mom baking cookies for a class party, our dad barbecuing on a summer afternoon, or us trying to learn to cook just like all of them!
“The stories in ‘PIE-OGRAPHY’ are memory-provoking, and the pie recipes are simply delicious! This book is best for someone who loves to cook. Beginners may be challenged by some of the steps, and experts can add their own memorable touches.”
Author, quilter, fiber artist, lover of food and gardens Michele Muska, Marketing Communications Manager for Simplicity Creative Group, chose two cookbooks:
“Moosewood Cookbook,” by Mollie Katzen
Here’s why: “It’s such a comforting cookbook with hand-done illustrations (a labor of love, it feels like). I have been using it for 35 years, and it is still my go-to cookbook for vegetarian meals!
“I was honored to be the cover recipe for Jo Packham’s “Pie-ography,” (for my Midsummer Night’s Dream Pie), but I really have to say that Mollie Katzen has the best Pumpkin Pie recipe ever — with or without the crust. It’s just a great cookbook for all levels of cooks to use, and best of all, the all-natural ingredients she recommends are not too hard to find, thanks to the expansion of the organic movement in the last decade.”
“Joy of Cooking,” by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker
“This is my first basic cookbook, which I am on my second copy of from overuse. It’s great for the beginner since it explains methods and measurements. It’s full of good, solid recipes for the everyday stuff, and of course it has fancy holiday recipes as well for more experienced cooks.”