The Importance of a Good Cookbook
Starting to cook wasn’t easy for me.
Sure, there were those early cooking experiences in my teens and in college, but those don’t really count. For the most part that wasn’t cooking, but rather doctoring. Browning ground beef and adding jarred tomato sauce and seasonings was a good starting place. In high school I made this for a first date one weekend when my parents were out of town. It went over well at the time.
In college I progressed to recreating the flavors of cheddar fondue with only the available shelf stable ingredients at my disposal. It was a good exercise in creating deliciousness, but it was more assembly than cooking.
Cooking didn’t start in earnest until I began reading cookbooks. And even still, a few of those early experiences were disastrous. However, sometimes you need to permit yourself to fail so that you can learn from mistakes and grow as a cook. It also helps to have cookbooks that you trust, and that don’t just give you recipes, but also help you to better understand a cuisine.
Of all my cookbooks, there is one that I consider central to my ideas on food. And I couldn’t be happier to have a brand new copy of it to give away to one of you.
The book is Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Don’t just take my word for it, there was a gushing piece about it on HuffPo. My copy is well worn with the pages naturally opening to the recipes for pesto, polenta, risotto, Bolognese meat sauce, frittate, and panzanella. These are the staples.
The book has no glossy photographs. It’s not about food styling. It’s about teaching you the fundamentals to make incredibly delicious Italian food. Marcella’s techniques can be fastidious. Some of the recipes are quite involved. And honestly, they aren’t all winners (deboned chicken with beef stuffing is elaborate and tastes exactly like a roast chicken wrapped meatloaf).
But besides that one notable exception, I’ve never been let down.
Unfortunately, it has ruined most Italian restaurant food for me. Once you read her description of risotto and make one properly, almost anything at any restaurant that bears this dish’s name will be a disappointment. ADS said that it’s not even fair to hold a restaurant’s food up to this standard. And he’s probably right. But I just can’t help it.
My good fortune at placing second in the Bellini’s recipe contest resulted in an All Clad stainless roasting pan. Officially it’s a lasagna pan, but it’s effectively the same thing. Anyway, included with this amazing piece of cookware was a brand new copy of my beloved cookbook.
Naturally, I’m compelled to give it to one of you.
Now part of this is on the honor system, because I’d prefer that this book goes to an actual reader. So if you already own a copy of this cookbook, congratulations. You are respectfully asked to sit this one out. I know that it would make a great gift for your mother/cousin/brother, but this giveaway isn’t about regifting. It’s about me sharing something special with one of you.
I’m also going to inscribe a personal note to the winner inside the cover of the book. So if you give it to your Father, he’s going to ask, “Who is this Daniel B. guy and why is he so happy I’ve got this book?” And no, if you win, I won’t inscribe it to someone else. This is for you and you alone.
That said, just like always, the winner will be chosen from the qualifying comments below by Random.org. Just leave a comment by 11p on Saturday, December 8 that answers the following question, “Which cookbook has been most fundamental to your understanding about food and cooking?”
Remember, The Omnivore’s Dilemma isn’t a cookbook. It’s not. And anyone who says, How To Serve Man will get a spanking. I’m serious. I want to know. No judgements. Good luck.
Oh, and also to win you will have to comment using a valid email address so I can get in contact privately after the drawing. The book will be mailed, so the winner will need to give me some kind of mailing address. All information will be kept private, not sold, leased, lent, yadda yadda yadda. But I sincerely hope you all would have figured that out on your own.