Too Many Cooks: Oldest, Newest, and Most Worn Cookbooks

Cookbook on the table of the bakery.

You’ll be hearing from the staff at FOOD52 every week in Too Many Cooks, our group column in which we pool our answers to questions about food, cooking, life, and more.

Here at Food52, we all have cookbook collections — and we are not talking about those dainty stacks that our New York apartments were designed to hold. If you are anything like us, there are books toppling out of the shelves, placed sneakily under the toaster, and covering the coffee table. And even with no space left, you’re still eyeing those Piglet contenders

While these extensive libraries are packed with beloved books, even an equal-opportunist cookbook lover has favorites. Which is exactly why we asked the staff here at Food52:

Which books have you been holding onto, cooking from, and buying up?

Do you still make recipes from the first cookbook you received for Christmas 25 years ago? Are you scrambling to find room for all the Piglet nominees? Share with us in the comments below?

My oldest cookbook is probably Mouse Cookies, a childhood classic of mine from back when I had a mouse obsession. And I am glad to say I no longer cook from it.
My newest cookbook is (surprise!) Plenty More and I’m in love with it.  
My most loved one is a binder full of magazine and newspaper recipes that my mom and I compiled when I was a kid. While I don’t cook much from it anymore, it contains gems like a misspelled “Apitizers” section and this insanely rich lemon linguine. There is also an entire dessert binder because I have my priorities.

Amanda S
My oldest is The Pear Tree, a spiral-bound cult-classic from 1984, published by the Junior League of Knoxville, Tennessee. I think it was the first one they ever published, and my copy (gifted to me by my mom only when I proved to be a half-decent cook) is splattered, dog-eared, and much beloved. You don’t want to know what’s in these dishes when you eat them (from mayo to Crisco to margarine), but they are always crowd-pleasers. 


Japanese Farm FoodMy newest, which I’m still obsessed with, is
Kate Aitken’s Canadian Cookbook for so many reasons. Especially the inscription from my grandfather below. My grandmother was an admittedly terrible cook and on this birthday thought she was getting a new necklace. My oldest and most loved is my grandmother’s copy of
Lauren L:

Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune, and I have been steadily cooking my way through it, one extremely large batch of vinaigrette at a time.My most loved, right now, is
My oldest cookbook is one my grandmother gave me before I could even read, let alone cook — a “self-published,” carefully-bound collection of her own recipe cards that included classics like Deep-Fried Love Knots and a lot of Crisco. 

“…with best wishes, hopes, some fear and lots of love” 

My oldest is The California Heritage Cookbook produced by The Junior League of Pasadena in the 70s. My mother-in-law was so excited to send me a battered copy she came across in a used bookstore. It’s in this cookbook that she found the recipe for “Tahoe Brunch,” an insanely rich breakfast casserole of white bread (which my M.I.L. calls “rubber bread”), pounds of spicy Italian sausage, and enough butter to make Julia Child blush. It is a holiday tradition that no one is allowed to question. In fact, I’m fairly certain if her sons didn’t wake up to the smell on Christmas morning it would cause a riot.
My newest is Prune!
My weeknight standby is Jeanne Kelley’s Salad for Dinner.

My oldest is Better Homes & Gardens Salad Book from 1958.
My newest is Nigel Slater’s Tender.
My most loved is Vegetable Literacy.
(Clearly I have a thing for vegetables.)


Hannah P:
My oldest is Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. I had always coveted my mom’s set, so when I found a pair at a vintage store I snapped them up. I have been using the amazing pie crust recipe ever since.  
My newest is North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland; let’s just say I have a thing for Scandinavian food.
My most worn is Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, which I have been using since I moved away to college and became a vegan. I no longer abstain from meat, but I still turn to this cookbook for easy-to-make cakes that don’t require a mixer — only now I use dairy.

I’m answering in honor of my father, Food52 lover and impart-er of endless food wisdom that he is. 
My most loved is Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, as we eat from it far more than any family probably should. The cover has always made me uncomfortable (a laughing man surrounded by piles of indistinguishable brown meats?), but, man, NO ONE does Cajun/Creole cooking like PP. Runner up goes to The Thrill of the Grill. It is the Davisson family’s essential summer cooking bible. 


My oldest is a book I found in a stack of books on a library cart next to the dumpster when I was in school — it was chock-full of gems, but my favorite was The Grocer’s Encyclopedia, published in 1911. It has some great information, which is, surprisingly, not horribly outdated. Best of all, it has these crazy detailed drawings of all kinds of meat, fish, produce, nuts, etc.
My most loved is a really tattered old copy of Stocking Up, my mom and grandma’s favorite canning book. Also Great Pies and Tarts by Carole Walter. It was my first bible when it came to fruits nestled in flaky crusts and is completely spattered with strawberry juice.

My newest is Flour + Water, a cookbook about making your own pasta that I got for Christmas. I’m still waiting for the day I feel gutsy enough to tackle the recipes and the pasta maker that came with it.
My most loved cookbook, the one I will treasure, the way my mother treasures The Joy of Cooking, is Amy Chaplin’s book, At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen. Everything from her nourishing and delicious recipes to the way she tells her story resonated with me so much. If I’m not cooking with it, I’m reading it! 

My oldest and most worn is Klutz’s Kids Cooking. It came with teaspoons and Santa brought it to me in kindergarten. I’ve talked about it before, but my mom let me make anything I wanted from that book and it’s led to a lifetime of weird kitchen experiments. It’s also my most-worn book. I don’t use the recipes much anymore, but it’s been through a lot. The recipe for playdough is covered in dried playdough bits.
My newest is Toronto Cooks. It’s way cooler than I thought it would be. (And just between us, it avoids some of Toronto’s most annoying showboating when people try to pretend we’re as good as NYC. We’re not.)

What are your oldest, most worn, and newest cookbooks? Share with us in the comments below!

This article was written by Hannah Petertil from Food52 and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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