My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Every cook should have a set of The Gook Cook series which was published by Time Life between 1979 and 1983. They are organized by cooking subject (Fish, Soup, Cookies & Crackers, etc.). They were edited by the brilliant Richard Olney and written by many food writers who went on to become well known.
Each has a brief but comprehensive history of the topic followed by 80 pages of detailed techniques accompanied by detailed photos. The last 80 pages contain around 200 recipes from around the world, spanning 300 years, many of which were translated for the first time for these books.
It is hard to imagine any dish or technique that this series does not cover.
Want to make your own food dye? This is your series.
Want to make a birthday cake? This is your series.
There are 28 volumes (see the list at Wikipedia), all of which I picked up at used book stores fairly cheaply. They are beautifully produced and include two ribbon markers so you can mark both the technique photos and the recipe in the back of the book.
These books are wonderful whether or not you cook from them. I’m rereading my Soup cookbook as inspiration for the many inexpensive, imaginative, and delicious soups that can be made using simple techniques that have worked around the world and over the ages.
It is also a pleasure to see acknowledged the many classic techniques which come to us from a long history of cooking, unlike many magazines or cookbooks these days which act as if they invented them. I try to be charitable and attribute this to ignorance, but that is still not very complimentary to the many writers who should know better.
I cannot recommend these highly enough, whether for the beginning or serious cook.