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What are the best cookbooks of all time? [Updated]

Cover Delia Smith is better than Julia Child. No, really. At least, that’s according to the food staff at Britain’s Observer newspaper. They came up with a list of the 50 best cookbooks of all time and “Delia’s Complete How to Cook” ranked No. 12 while Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” merited no better than No. 21. Here's the list of the Observer's Top 10.

Lists like this are specious, of course, but they do provide a good opportunity for argument, which, really, is their whole purpose in the first place. For example, might it not be a little early to include last year’s David Chang’s “Momofuku” on an all-time list? On the other hand, it seems to me that including Scappi’s “Opera dell’Arte della Cucina” (published in 1570) seems little more than blatant intellectual chest-pounding. Has anyone actually cooked from it since, say, 1575?

 There were points on which I agreed. I was pleased by the inclusion of Colman Andrews’ “Catalan Cuisine,” which is too often overlooked these days, as well as books by other L.A. Times contributors Deborah Madison and Janet Mendel. And I was glad to see some of my other personal favorites included: “French Cooking in 10 Minutes” by Edouard de Pomiane and “Plats du Jour” by Patience Gray and Primrose Boyd).

And there are authors  I’m going to have to look into: Margaret Costa, Florence White, Yan-Kit So and Jeremy Round are writers whose reputations haven’t quite crossed the Atlantic yet.

What would your choices be?

[Updated at 12:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said the Top 10 list would be released Sunday. It has already been released.]

-- Russ Parsons

 
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My favorite Cook Book of all time is: THE AMERICAN EVERYDAY COOKBOOKm by Agnes Murphy. Food Editor, New York Post. Random House, New York. First printing, 1955, by Random House, Inc. I have a first edition. This book is extraordinary in every way. i.e., Basic Definitions, Basic Everyday Recipes, Special Cookery. Menus and Recipes for Special Occasions. Children's Parties, Dishes from Foreign Lands, National Holidays, Regional Dishes of the United States, and Religious Festivals. I can't begin to tell you how much this book means to me. Detailed in every way about anything and everything. I cherish it, as my son was born 5/5/55. He just turned 55 years of age 2010.

I totally trust the America's Test Kitchen books as resources... I think it's because I'm hooked on knowing and using the science to support my creativity... but I love nearly ALL cookbooks, as my bulging bookcases and voluminous files will attest! Miss the test kitchen already and it hasn't been a whole week...

This is such a flawed list, even if it was titled "Best English Language Books of the last century", that it shouldn't be getting this much attention. By including Scappi,they then skipped a few centuries, leaving out such important authors as John Evelyn, Robert May, Hannah Glasse, and Isabella Beeton, to name a few British writers. Clearly the compilers were unclear on their assignment.

Since this is America,I suggest the Jim Smith books or Farm Journal Cookbook

In reading through this list, many of which I am familiar with, I cannot agree. It seems to me there is a bias in favour of books by Brits or at least those with a British connection. However, if the list were being compiled by a major U.S. newspaper, it would probably have a bias in favour of Americans. It is interesting, but not to be taken to seriously.

For actual books, I could easily get by with only Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cook Book and Diana Kennedy's The Cuisines of Mexico, but these days, I'd have to say: The Internet.

The Fannie Farmer cookbook.


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