I haven’t written a cookbook, and at least for now, I don’t have any plans to write one.
That being said, I am an absolute cookbook addict. At last count, I had 142. That was a while back, so there’s no telling how many I’ve got crammed into every nook and cranny of my small home office at this point. Probably a dozen or so more.
I’m going to end up having to buy another bookshelf pretty soon. My wife thinks I’m nuts.
Below you’ll find a selection of some of my favorites. Cookbooks that have had an impact on my cooking, in no particular order:
The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh – As much of a history book as a cookbook, Walsh traces the history and origins of Tex-Mex Cooking from the 1600s through the emergence and evolution of the Tex-Mex restaurant industry in Texas.
If you want to learn Tex-Mex cooking, this is the first book that should be on your bookshelf.
The Art of Mexican Cooking, by Diana Kennedy – Diana Kennedy is as much a culinary archeologist as she in a cook. She has explored the entire country of Mexico in a lifelong quest to assemble the most complete and authentic library of Mexican dishes available. In this book, along with another one of my favorites of hers, The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, Ms. Kennedy has done an excellent job documenting real Mexican dishes the way they are traditionally cooked in various regions of Mexico.
Victuals, by Ronni Lundy – Victuals is probably my favorite Southern Cookbook of all. It’s the real deal. No frills, just good homestyle Southern Food. Although it’s Appalachian in origin, it truly takes me home to just thumb through the pages. I think maybe the familiarity is from my father’s side of the family originating from the region around Tennessee.
South, by Sean Brock – Sean Brock is a Southern Cooking superhero and this is the best cookbook that I’ve found for exploring new recipes and learning about the hows, whys, and history of Southern Cuisine. His other cookbook, Heritage, is also good, but it isn’t as approachable for a home cook as South is.
The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook has served as a starting point for many recipes that I make. With 2,000 recipes in it, it is an excellent resource for basic recipes for almost anything. I would say that every recipe that they’ve produced is well thought out and approachable for cooks of every skill level. It is, in my mind, the perfect starting cookbook. If you never bought another cookbook, this one would be more than enough.
The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine, by John D. Folse is truly an encyclopedia. It includes over 700 recipes of about anything that you can think of from Cajun and Creole Country. It also includes a substantial section on the history of the region and its cuisine. Knowing how certain cuisines came to be can help you better understand how to cook it if you are looking for authentic flavor.
Real Cajun, by Donald Link – You may be starting to notice a trend in my book list. I have a deep love for Southern cooking, especially including Cajun Food. I grew up on Southern Food. I think cooking it and eating it reminds me of some of the best parts of my childhood. I consider that nostalgia the sixth type of taste, along with sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami. Donald Link’s Real Cajun cookbook elevates a lot of the Cajun Dishes that you might find in the Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine above. Down South is another excellent cookbook by Donald Link.