Darlene Foster's Blog

My Favourite Cookbooks

Posted on: May 22, 2020

I enjoy cooking and baking, and I especially love trying new recipes. During the nine weeks of lockdown here in Spain, I’ve had plenty of time to go through my cookbooks and try recipes I haven’t made before. Needless to say, we’ve been eating very well. I’ve collected cookbooks since I was very young and have a wonderful assortment. Some have been gifts and others I have bought myself. I managed a chain of kitchen stores in the 1980s where we sold cookbooks, so I was privy to some of the best. I was thinking about my special cookbooks and why I like them so much. So I decided to share my favourite six with you.

Why do I keep going back to these six?

Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East & North Africa by Habeeb Salloum is my go-to cookbook. I use this one most of all. I visited the United Arab Emirates twenty years ago and fell in love with the food. When I returned from my trip, I looked for recipes from that part of the world. A friend worked in a bookstore and recommended this one. In fact, she bought it with her employee discount so it didn’t cost me as much. She has since passed away, so every time I use it I think of her and my amazing trip. The recipes are easy to follow and each one has a short explanation or story attached, which I love. As an aside, a few years ago one of my short stories was included in an anthology in which Habeeb Salloum was also featured. How cool is that!

The Vegetable Market Cookbook, Classic Recipes From Around the World by Robert Budwig, was given to me as a gift from a special cousin who knew I was a vegetarian and that I liked international recipes. The book is divided into Italian, French, Moroccan, Thai, Indian, Mexican & Guatemalan, and Californian recipes. The dishes are made from fresh fruits and vegetables you would buy at the market. Everything I’ve made from this book has been delicious and the drawings inside are delightful. This recipe book is a pleasure to sit and read over and over.

The Lighthearted Cookbook, by Anne Lindsay, is endorsed by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation. This was a book we sold in the kitchen stores. The recipes are low fat and heart-healthy, and also delicious. My hubby’s favourite stew comes from this book, which has a great assortment of meat, vegetable, dessert, and baked goods recipes. This one is used a lot in our house and has the stains to prove it!

New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, by The Moosewood Collective is another cookbook we sold in the kitchen stores and was very popular. In the early 1980s, vegetarianism was just starting to get popular and many people didn´t know how to make a veggie meal interesting. This cookbook proves that vegetables do not have to be boring. It has been updated many times since I bought this one. I love the whimsical photographs interspersed throughout. I have often given this book as a gift. It makes a perfect bridal shower or housewarming gift.

Company´s Coming series of cookbooks by Jean Paré were best sellers in my kitchen stores. I couldn’t keep them on the shelves. And no wonder; they are filled with simple, easy to make recipes using ingredients readily available. I have a number of these cookbooks, but the one I use the most is Muffins and More. So much so it is almost falling apart. When we feel a need for a snack, I whip up a batch of muffins, a loaf, or a coffee cake from this gem of a recipe book. It never disappoints. Because I sold her books in the stores I managed, I was invited to a reception celebrating the sale of 1 million books, where I got to meet this lovely lady who turned her down-home recipes into an empire! She has since sold over 30 million copies and she is as down to earth as her cookbooks!

The George Bernard Shaw Vegetarian Cookbook by Alice Laden & R. J. Minney was a gift from a dear friend who picked it up for me when she visited The Shaw Festival in Stratford, Ontario. I love this little book compiled by GBS’s cook/housekeeper who ensured the great playwright always had tasty vegetarian meals. GBS became a vegetarian at age twenty-five and remained extremely healthy until he passed away at age ninety-four. I often make the Nut and Rice Roast from this book for my Christmas dinner.

There is no love sincerer than the love of good food. – George Bernard Shaw

Of course, I have many other cookbooks, recipes clipped out of magazines and newspapers, some from my mother, and others scribbled on bits of paper.

I would love to hear about your favourite cookbooks.

70 Responses to "My Favourite Cookbooks"

I love hearing about your favourite cookbooks

Thanks. Pleased you enjoyed it.

What a fab collection of cookery books, Darlene. I have 2 old favourites – an early Delia Smith and one from the Good Housekeeping magazine people. I also have a folder full of handwritten recipes ( by me and/or my late mum) and ones torn from magazines – and they have so much sentimental value.

I find looking through recipe books very relaxing and enjoyable. They contain many good memories. Good Housekeeping put out some great recipe collections.

Thanks for sharing your collection of cookbooks with us!

You’re welcome, John. I’m sure you have an impressive collection yourself!

What a collection! No one in my family is vegetarian but I’m keeping this in case I need to cook for someone who is. Some of these look great, Darlene.

Thanks, Jacqui. The Lighthearted Cookbook has meat dishes in it as well. My hubby is not a vegetarian and neither are my children. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat interesting vegetable dishes!

Hi, Darlene – Try as a I may, I have never been much of a cookbook user….and haven’t been faithful to just a handful of cookbooks. I admire those who are. That being said, I do like the ‘How Not to Die Cookbook’. Lots of great information there — although it definitely could use some more main courses dishes.

I love the title, How Not to Die Cookbook! I realize not everyone is a cookbook user, some of the best cooks never use a cookbook!

Hi Darlene, It’s interesting you collected vegetarian cookbooks at your early ages. Are you from a vegetarian family? My daughter and son-in-law became vegetarians more than ten years ago (separately). I eat mostly vegetables even though I’m not a vegetarian. I see you reviewed The Vegetable Market Cookbook and I’ll head over to read your review. I may get it for my daughter and one for myself also!

I am the only vegetarian in my family and have been a vegetarian for the past 32 years, (I will occasionally eat fish) But I have always loved vegetables and enjoyed cooking them in interesting ways. The Vegetable Market cookbook is wonderful, great ideas for vegetable side dishes.

Growing up in Hong Kong, my mom cooked more vegetables and fish every day. I didn’t appreciate that as a young kid, but I know now how valuable the eating habit I have developed. I’ll check out that book. Thanks, Darlene.

I have always felt Asian cooking to be much more healthy than North American cuisine. I grew up on a ranch, so we consumed a lot of meat, which even as a child, I didn´t enjoy. Perhaps because I saw first hand what happened to the cute little calves, chicks and piglets later. It is a personal choice of course and everyone should eat what feels right to them.

I enjoyed reading about your cookbooks.

My go-to cookbook is a spineless wonder. It was a wedding gift 56 years ago. I cooked my first meal two weeks after we married, and I couldn’t have done it without this general Betty Crocker cookbook. It has all the basics, so I often started there. A person looking at my one shelf of cookbooks could immediately spot the most-used one, because its spine fell off years ago.

We sold the Betty Crocker Cookbook in my kitchen stores and it was very popular. Another great bridal shower gift! I have a Five Roses Flour Cookbook I won about 55 years ago which is in the same state as your Betty Crocker Cookbook! It has all the basics and more. It´s like an old friend. xo

Yes! An old friend! I lost five of my favorite cookbooks when we moved. Four years later, I opened the box that I had mislabeled. We had a passionate reunion.

What a wonderful reunion! I couldn´t bring all my cookbooks with me to Spain but brought most of the old favorites. I did leave some with my daughter so they are still in the family. xo

Love the sound of the one with classic cooking from the Middle East. I have a copy of the Lighthearted Cookbook somewhere. I have dozens of cook books and really must have a clear out as I tend to go back to the same favourites – Rose Elliot (though I’m not a vegetarian, I do like a lot of her recipes) and Delia. Then, there are the folders with written out, printed out and torn out recipes, which I keep saying I’ll put into some kind of order one day.

I have those same folders!! Organizing them might have been a good project during the lockdown. You don´t need to be a vegetarian to enjoy good vegetable dishes!

My go-to recipes are those I’ve clipped from newspapers and magazines. The cookbook I use the most is the one my mother used the most: Parents’ Magazine Family Cookbook, 1953 edition. The pages have yellowed and there are food spatters and holes throughout, but I refuse to get rid of it. It has the best Spanish rice recipe ever.

Those old standby cookbooks are like old friends and should never be thrown away. The stains and spatters show how well-loved they are. I have so many clippings and really must organize them as I send a lot of time looking for the right recipe that I know I have somewhere!

I started organizing the clipped recipes using self-stick photo album pages (bad for photographs but great for recipes).

I admire your colorful array of cookbooks. Sadly, I cannot brag of cooking or baking new recipes, except the basics. I make one substantial meal a day.

During this strange season, we treated ourselves to take-out every so often. Now, my city is allowing in-restaurant dining with wide spacing and limited numbers.

It is nice to get out for a meal someone else cooked from time to time. We had one take out these last 2 months and it was fish and chips as hubby loves them. Our restaurants aren´t open yet except for outdoor seating. So we will wait a bit longer. xo

Well, we still have a battered general cookbook from thr milkman back in 1980

Sorry clicked too soon!. And Jamie Olliver’s 30 minute cookbook is great

I have a Jamie Oliver cookbook too which is very good, His vegetable soup recipe is the best one I have ever made! Those battered old general cookbooks are always the best!

I know. Just the basics but also tried and tested

Very interesting post, Darlene. Thanks for sharing your favourite books with us.

Thanks, Robbie. I am one of those people who read cookbooks. What are some of your favourite cookbooks?

Darlene I have the whole series of the Company’s coming cookbooks. My Muffins and more is filled with comments and splashes of baking over decades. The pages have changed colour over the years but I still go to that one so often. During this time of being at home I too have been doing more in the kitchen. perhaps a bit of comfort in returning to days gone by.

Company’s Coming books are all so good. I also like the fact that Jean Pare had a rough time and started to write these books as a single mom to support her family. Who would have thought they would become so popular – and still are? I love success stories like that! xo

I couldn’t take the hundreds of cookbooks I had collected over the years when we moved to Florida but I did keep about 20. The oldest one is a paperback version of House & Garden Cookbook printed in 1977. It has recipes from famous chefs such as James Beard, Julia Child and Craig Claiborne. I also have one called A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price. Besides recipes, it is filled with photographs of famous restaurants and their menus. They make you realize how formal cooking used to be…they are both a wonderful part of cooking history.

I could only take about 30 along with me to Spain, which meant I gave about 60 away. You have a couple of good ones there. I love it when there are drawings, photographs (especially old ones) or stories along with the recipes.

What a lovely assortment of cookbooks, Darlene. Vegetarian cooking is challenging. The muffins and more was a bridal shower gift I received back in 1987. I think I made every muffin recipe in there plus my favorite was the jiffy cinnamon rolls! I have several cookbooks as well but the one I always go to is my Best of Bridge which is also stained and falling apart. 🙂

Oh my! I forgot about Best of Bridge. We sold tons of them in the kitchen store. For some reason I don’t have one of my own though. There were great recipes in it. I’m sure I’ve made every muffin in the Muffins and More cookbook too and some many times over.

Christmas morning wife saver 😀 Made that a few times!! What kitchen store did you manage, Darlene? I wonder if I shopped there…

It was called Junor´s The KItchen Collection. We had stores in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. None in BC though. I managed the 10 stores in the Prairie provinces. A great job!

What a wonderful collection of cookbooks Darlene. I familiar with the Moosewood one but not with the others. My favorite cookbooks are Alice Water’s Chez Panisse Vegetable and Fruit book. I have made many recipes from those two books and they are always delicious. Another one is the Green cookbook from Deborah Madison. I have far too many cookbooks and old cooking magazines. From some of the books I use only one recipe. I did organize my magazines during this COVID-19 crisis.

I imagine you have a vast collection of recipes as I have used some you have posted. I´ll check out Alice Water´s books. I too only use one or two recipes from some books. Good for you for getting the magazines organized. You have used your time wisely. xo

What a delightful collection! You must have had fun revisiting recipes.

Thanks, Jennie. I enjoy using the old standbys but I also enjoy trying new recipes from these books.

New recipes from the old standby cookbooks- great idea!

We are not vegetarians but eat mostly veggies and pastas. Meat is a special treat because it is hard to find grass fed or organically fed cows. Once or twice a month we eat meat. Love your display of cookbooks. I have a full shelf of old cookbooks. 😊

You certainly don’t have to be a vegetarian to appreciate great veggie recipes. I cook meat for my hubby and guests. A shelf of old cookbooks is a treasure.

I have two Moosewood cookbooks, Darlene, and love them, though they do require some unique ingredients (my old ones do anyway). A George Bernard Shaw cookbook!?! How fun. Thanks for the reviews and recommendations. 🙂

I’m pleased you enjoyed the post about cookbooks. Everyone who owns a Moosewood cookbook loves it. I find it is easy to substitute some of the harder to obtain ingredients. The GBS Cookbook is fun!

What an interesting selection. I had no idea there would be a GBS cookbook, fascinating.
Incidentally, as I write this, I’m waiting for a batch of bread to finish its second proving – it’s lovely having the time, even if, for the wrong reasons.

I agree it is great to have the time now to do some baking, always so much better than store-bought. I made pan bread the other day which we enjoyed. There is always something good out of every situation. Enjoy your fresh baked bread!

Yes, so much more baking, that it’s lucky we’re also able to do more walking!

How lucky for you to have managed a chain of kitchen stores that exposed you to cookbooks. Your Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East and North Africa sounds intriguing. 🙂

It is so good. So many interesting rice dishes and a lentil stew that is simple and good for you. Managing the chain of kitchen stores was a lot of work but I loved it. xo

Thank you, Darlene, for sharing your favourite six cookbooks. I have the Muffins and More book by Jean Paré and it’s my go-to book for baking. I’ll check out the vegetarian ones on your list. #senisal

Thanks, Natalie. It was hard to narrow it down to six as I have about 30 that I love! But I use these 6 the most. The Lighthearted Cookbook has meat, veggie and baking recipes in it. You can’t go wrong with Muffins and More.

What a great collection of cookbooks….thanks for sharing. Ironically my wife has been taking this time to kind of do the same thing….more recipes from relatives dating way back along with resurrecting forgotten cook books!!

I´m not surprised. Thus has been a good time to review recipes and try some new ones. There are gems in those forgotten cookbooks!

You have wonderful cookbooks. I think my favorite is Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef. I’m no gourmet cook, so his non-fussy recipes are accessible to my kitchen skills.:-)

I have some Jamie Oliver recipes and I agree, they are easy and tasty! Thanks for visiting and commenting. Priscilla.

Those cookbooks look gorgeous, Darlene. Such a lovely post. Toni x

Thanks, Toni. These are not just cookbooks but old friends!

Hi Darlene! I love my slimming world cookbooks, because, all of the recipes are healthy!

That´s great. I have a Weight Watchers cookbook that I often use too. xo

There’s no way to quantify how much I’ve learned from collecting cookbooks over the years. I read them like novels. I’ve rotated many out of the collection over the years, to give to others. But I still have at least 100 to inspire me. One that I didn’t keep was the original Moosewood, but it found a good home. They’re like old friends.

You are certainly a woman after my own heart. I also read my cookbooks like novels. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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