Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Food Shelf…Installment #1…

I have a lot of books. I have an Art History section, a Religion section, a Fiction section, and more. I have, at times, received some ribbing about this. (One guy picked me up for our first date and said, “Wow, so did you like read all these or are they just here for decoration.”) I even have a food section. For the most part this section is made up of cookbooks, but there are a couple other food-related books that similarly inspire me. I thought I might list all the books that live on that food shelf, but Mom, I'm not sure I'm listing this bibliography by the strict standards of Chicago Elements of Style...please forgive me.

My Food Shelf:
  • On Cooking: a Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals (Third Edition), Sarah R. Labensky & Alan M. Hause. This was my text book at the cooking class I took at Cornell's School of Hotel Administration while there getting my MBA. This book is riddled with post-its, many of which stick out of the side with labels for things like clarified butter, popovers, mayonnaise, roulade, etc. I've only made two of those four things, but the banana bread recipe on a post-it on the inside cover I've made a ton of times. All in all, this book is not only a great cookbook, but a fantastic textbook to follow along for basic techniques, or those not so basic.
  • A Taste of an Arbuckle Mountain County Christmas: A Special Collection of Holiday Recipes and Ideas, Rainbow Family Community Education Club, Sulphur, Oklahoma. Yup, you read that right, Sulphur, Oklahoma. I got this (it's actually two years' worth of recipes in one) from my great aunt in that same state. This is a pretty country cookbook - it's a binder ostensibly to add in pages for years to come. There are the typical tabs for "Appetizers & Beverages" and "Breads & Rolls," but my favorite tab is at the back called "This and That." What, you might ask, would be in a section called "This and That?" Well, there's Friendship Tea, Susie's Sausage Roll(??), Cold Lye Soap (uhhh...isn't this a cookbook??), and of course the ever-popular Edible Play Dough.
  • The South Beach Diet Good Fats Good Carbs Guide: The Complete and Easy Reference for All Your Favorite Foods, Arthur Agatston, MD. This is one of the two South Beach books I have in my collection. This book, however, is not a cookbook but as the title suggests, it's a reference guide. I have not taken the time to really use this (I think it came bundled with my other SB book, but the basic concept is that you can look up a food and it lists the portion size, the total carbs, total sugar, and total fat. It follows up that food's listing with the recommendation (good, very limited, avoid, limited, etc.). I suppose since it's small and paperback one is supposed to carry it around in one's bag, but seriously, I think it's a little crazy to be that obsessed with food. Ok...that sounds weird coming from someone who has a food blog, but I mean, if you're preparing food, you know what you're putting in it and you can use common sense as to whether it's good for you or not. If you're out to dinner, it's not like you're going to know what's in every sauce and every dish, so there would likely be hidden "costs," and you can probably also use your common sense again. And heck, if you're out eating, enjoy it! (Of course, knowing the right thing to do doesn't mean you have the will power or desire to do the right thing, but that's a Dr. Phil show, I guess.)
  • The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss, Arthur Agatston, MD. This is that book that everyone was talking about for a couple years. There was a bit of a backlash against it when the Atkins diet was found to cause some problems, but I really think there are a lot of sensible recommendations in here, not to mention, some seriously tasty recipes. The first 110 or so pages tell you about the philosophy behind the multi-phased approach, the medical support, and so on. Honestly, I don't know if I ever read more than 20 pages of that stuff. The recipes for each of the phases take up 175 or so pages, and it's really rather easy to understand. It literally goes through each phase day by day. And while phase 1 does "deprive" you of most carbs, it's a pretty reasonable list of items. The daily lists sometimes make reference to recipes that are later in the book, and most of them are super easy to create. Without belaboring the point, I remember a recipe with chicken breasts and pistachio nuts. It was excellent....especially since the dressing was made of avocado. Seriously tasty.....just picture smothering a chicken breast in guacamole and then encrusting it in chopped pistachios.....delightful.
  • Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House, Cheryl Mendelson. While this book doesn’t focus solely on food, the food section covers topics such as “The Whys and Wherefores of Home Cooking,” “Stimulating Beverages,” and “Serving Meals.” I haven’t made it through the whole book yet, but so far there are some good discussions around hosting and the larger food-related topics.
  • Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2007: An Entire Year of Recipes, Food & Wine Magazine. I got this book last year at the Texas Conference for Women. The Editor in Chief of the magazine, Dana Cowin, was one of the speakers on a culinary culture panel. I went up to her after the panel dispersed and told her about my restaurant idea, and she was really excited and quite encouraging. Of course, I might be missing my timing, but I still dream of opening the restaurant. Oh well. But I digress...the pictures, as you might imagine are mouth-watering. Everything looks glossy and succulent (I need to remind myself that they’re probably sprayed multiple times with shellac so they’ll stay as perky as they were at the beginning of the day. There are the typical sections of poultry, pasta, fish, grains, etc. , but I will say that many of these recipes are likely not things that I would make with any regularity.
  • Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook, Sponsored by the American Heart Association. The pages of this “classic” (note the sarcasm) have yellowed. This was printed in 1989, so needless to say, I’m quite sure many of the recommendations are somewhat out of date. I suspect, though, that many of them are probably still quite useful.

Ok. That's it for Installment #1. Stay tuned for Installment #2. Yes, there are more. :-)

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