50 Books, Day 13

Of course it’s Thanksgiving that gave me the idea for today’s book pick:

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham

My constant companion.  I have never found a cookbook I like better.  It taught me all the basics — how to make pie crust and rolls, stock, gravy, meatballs, muffins, and so on (with suggested variations);  how to carve a chicken, how to tell when eggs and different types of produce are fresh, how to measure various types of food, what to substitute when you’re out of a certain ingredient, how to tell when food is done cooking, how to fix a recipe gone awry, and when you can and cannot get away with cutting corners.   It also has a truly useful index, which not all cookbooks do.

You never get halfway through a recipe and think, “Wait, wait, what do you MEAN?” or “Why didn’t you warn me?” or “Who the hell has one of those in their kitchen?”  Marion Cunningham gives just the right amount of instruction, never springs anything on you, and obviously enjoys eating.   It’s kind of amazing how many cookbooks are written by people who clearly have a problem with food.  But Marion Cunningham is like a patient aunt who likes being in the kitchen and is happy to help, but doesn’t think her skills are the be-all and end-all of life, either.

I still consult this cookbook several times a week.  A great gift for anyone just starting out, or for someone who has a shelf full of fancy, specialized cookbooks, but needs an anchor book.

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