We 21st-century Americans celebrate our capacity for assimilating new ideas and techniques. We upgrade phones at the drop of a hat, endlessly tweak our Facebook pages, and investigate any number of eco-friendly home improvements. Adaptability, flexibility, innovation–these are our watchwords. Just don’t go switching raspberries for strawberries in Aunt Bertha’s Thanksgiving jello salad, and God forbid you should try to have a festive extended-family meal without (fill in the blank with your clan’s most time-honored dish)!
During the holidays, food signifies fulfillment of two needs–affection and stability. That’s a fact, as is the realization that all those modern technologies encroach on time formerly spent planning and executing the Significant Seasonal Meal. Each approaching Thanksgiving or Christmas finds me a little more desperate for rock-solid yet inspired culinary advice.
So, I turned to my fellow library staffers for recommendations. What, I asked, is your #1 cookbook? The nominees:
- Betty Crocker Cookbook: named multiple times, this classic offers “favorite comfort foods”, instructions for novices: cuts of meat, freezing, etc, convenient looseleaf format, and lots and lots of color illustrations
- Six Spices: A Simple Concept of Indian Cooking by Neeta Saluja: “helps you master the basics”
- Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course: “my cooking bible at home in England”
- America’s Test Kitchen books and DVDs: “everything about cooking from the best appliances and cookware to improving recipes”
- The Joy of Cooking: “I like the older version more than the current one”; also named by more than one respondent
- New Best Recipe: “old favorites that have been tested for taste, texture, dependability”
- Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food by Jessica Seinfeld
- The Food Network website
- The “small holiday recipe brochure–I think from Borden–that I picked up at the grocery checkout several years ago”: “I’ve even preserved each page in a plastic sleeve”.
As in our other pursuits, when it comes to cooking we retain our appreciation for the traditional sources as we test-drive evolving ones. No wonder our celebrative repasts carry so much emotional weight; they are microcosms for the challenge we face in navigating a changing world while preserving our identities.
With apologies to The Serenity Prayer, here’s what guided my choice of menu items for this Thanksgiving: courage to adapt a couple of family favorites to slightly more healthful versions, and wisdom to not monkey around with the buttermilk pie recipe.