Cookin’ the Books

June 22, 2010

I believe some of the most beautiful and interesting books on the market are found in the Cooking section of the bookshop. I’m certainly not much of a chef but some of my most treasured books are my cookbooks. For sentimental reasons, my Blue Ribbon Cook Book for Everyday Use in Canadian Homes published in 1905 will always have prime real estate on my shelf. Mine is the sixteenth edition and has my Grandmother’s handwriting  throughout its splattered, stained and yes, even burnt pages. (Possibly from a cigarette instead of the stove …? Those were the times!) My mother-in-law has her own mother’s edition on her kitchen bookshelf. I wonder how many of you are hanging onto a copy too …

A cook book can be so much more than just recipes. Here are a few I’d love to share with you:

        The Summer Book by Susan Branch

A work of art! Literally … Hand-lettered, watercolour-painted, personal story-filled and yummy recipes on almost every page! All of her books are sweet but this is my favourite.  

      Apples for Jam by Tess Kiros

I have given this as a gift but have yet to treat myself to a copy. It is also a visual delight and weaves a wonderful story of family and the meals that sustain and comfort throughout one’s life.

      The Pioneer Woman Cooks – Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond

Good heavens this woman is a hoot!  I discovered her incredibly successful blog at  and was inspired by her humour and photography skills to seek out her book. She is zany, but in the most charming and talented way.  She photographs and chats her way through every step of each recipe – for instance step 15 of PW’s Potato Skins is: ” Then simply place them on a platter, walk toward your guests and discover what it feels like to be the most popular person in the room. Field marriage proposals as needed.”  Hearty comfort food is the theme (she is feeding cowboys after all!)

     The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher (50th Anniversary Edition)

Not actually a cook book per se, this is a collection of five of Fisher’s books of essays on cooking and life: Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, The Gastronomical Me, and An Alphabet for Gourmets. I discovered Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher in a writing class (having passed away in ’92 she wasn’t in attendance – her writing was being reveredby the instructor) and was intrigued by her persona and the craft of her writing. Like Georgia O’Keefe and Coco Chanel, Fisher was a strong and charismatic woman with an abundance of talent and sharp wit.  Here is a little excerpt from a chapter called Pity the Blind in Palate: “Frederick the Great used to make his own coffee, with much to-do and fuss. For water, he used champagne. Then, to make the flavour stronger, he stirred in powdered mustard. Now to me it seems improbable that Frederick truly liked this brew. I suspect him of bravado. Or perhaps he was taste-blind.”


Feel free to comment on your favourite cooking titles too …

Bon appetit!

5 Responses to “Cookin’ the Books”

  1. cathy Says:

    Lovely treasures Susan! I have had my eye on my great grandmother’s copy, that sits in a position of authority on my mother’s shelf, for years. She will not relinquish it until she takes her last breath which I hope, of course, is not for years to come! My mother did relinquish her copy of “Mrs. Beeton’s All About Cookery”, published in 1907 and previously inscribed in by Florence Edith Fildarse from Nottingham. Especially intriguing is the recipe for Clear Turtle Soup in which you soak the sun dried turtles in water for three days before cooking! I must keep that one in mind for my next dinner party!

  2. eileen moore Says:

    One of my most treasured cookbooks is a 1955 edition of Fanny Farmer’s Cookbook left to me by an older woman friend, Phyllis Norris. I love all the notations in her familiar handwriting. I also like Prairie Cooks by Carrie Young. A book reflecting simpler times on the farms circa 1900’s. Carrie also wrote Nothing To Do But Stay and The Wedding Dress. Amazing short stories of women’s commitment and perserverence.

  3. Jane Says:

    I have no coveted cook books of my mother’s, as she has only perfected the art of heating up Lean Cuisine. However, these are all going on my gift list for a certain someone we both know who does all the (good) cooking in my house! Thanks so much!!

  4. kathy audia Says:

    Being married to a wonderful Italian man (very dark and handsome) who loves to eat, I am always searching for a new twist on Italian. It is delightful to see Apples for Jam on your list. This book was a gift and I must say it is now one of my favorites. The little red shoes on the cover made me smile. My daughter now a young woman wore the same red shoes as a little girl.
    Having cooked countless Italian meals, excluding baking (not a baker)I was thrilled to turn the pages of this book and find new recipes. These are a few of my new favorites. Shrimp and spinach brown rice risotto, very luscious with lots of texture, the perfect meal all in one. Pea and potato mash, sounds a little scary but imagine buttery mashed potatoes with a velvety puree of garlic infused peas folded in. Sauteed broccoli with tomato. If you want to live forever eat this every day! Broccoli cooked till tender then sauteed in a light garlic tomato sauce so delicious. Enjoy

  5. Alison Says:

    I remember receiving “THE SUMMER BOOK” as a beautiful gift from my pal Sue at least 20 years ago and I still bring it out every summer to browse….Thanks again my friend!

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