La Meme Chose

I'm back, my translation finished by the deadline by some miracle. I was also delighted to see I was tagged for my first meme, by Lee, a fellow Madisonian food blogger at Welcome to My Pantry. My cookbook collection is a little pathetic, but it's nice to be thought of, and this is a good way to get back to the blog while my bread rises.

How many cookbooks do you own?

So few it's easy to count them in the photo. There are ten there, but the bilingual Chinese/English one on Dim Sum is something a friend let me borrow after we made some steamed buns from it while she was back in town over spring break. There are quite a few things I'd like to try out, and it's fun practice for my crappy Chinese reading skills.

Usually, I just get cookbooks from the library and read through them, then try to cook in the style presented therein, rather than actually following any recipes. Not that I would mind having more cookbooks -- I'm just cheap and I tend to cook by taste anyway. I use the internet as a recipe source a lot too. Epicurious has a lot of good recipes, and the 'fork ratings' and comments there tend to be fairly accurate.

Which cookbook did you buy most recently?

A couple months ago, I won a trivia contest in the alumni magazine from my alma mater and they sent me a $30 gift certificate to Borders, so I bought Crust & Crumb, which I had had checked out from the library for a couple months. Before that would be the delightfully touristy cookbooks I got in Wales last new year's, though I think all I've made from them so far are bara brith and Welsh rarebit.

Which is the cookbook that you read most recently?

I suppose On Food & Cooking wouldn't count as a cookbook exactly, but I read that recently, and Zingerman's Guide around the same time. I use my wishlist as a reading list for cookbooks so I remember them when I've been recommended one. Right now I'm mostly interested in "the classics" -- giant tomes on basic skills and classical French cuisine, like Escoffier, The Professional Chef, and Larousse Gastronomique.

Name 5 cookbooks that mean a lot to you

1. The Moosewood Cookbook is probably the first cookbook I ever got. I became vegetarian when I was 11 (vegan at 18, omnivore at 19) and had to learn to cook better mostly out of necessity. My family would continue eating meat, of course, so I had to cook special meals for myself most nights, and make vegetarian dinners on my night to cook that would be appealing enough that the rest of the family would eat them. This cookbook helped.

2. The Bread Baker's Apprentice and Crust & Crumb have both been incredibly helpful in learning to bake better bread. The improvement I made just after reading through the introductions was amazing. Most bread recipes don't really explain what you're doing or why, so I was making a lot of stupid mistakes. I still do, of course, but I'm making progress.

3. Vegetarian Recipes, published by Better Homes & Gardens, was another one I received around the same time I got Moosewood and that helped me branch out from my mother's recipes and learn there was more to eat than casseroles. I think I preferred this one to Moosewood because the recipes are a little less dependent on your liking vegetables. There's more cheese and fried stuff.

4. Cuisine Bretonne is something I picked up while I was living in Brittany, France. I had hoped to get something a little nicer, hardcover maybe, with more pictures, but the recipes in this looked more appealing than in other books I saw in stores. I had two reasons for getting it: first, I wanted to know what the heck to do with the unfamiliar seafood and vegetables that were always cheap and readily available at the grocery store and market, and second, I wanted a nice, French cookbook I could take home to remember my time there. I haven't used it much lately because the unusual ingredients that were so easy to find over there tend to be a bit pricey here, and I've already figured out how to cook them without a recipe. I do want to make a traditional dessert from it sometime - kouign amann - it tastes like compressed, sweet croissant.

5. Okazu handbook is the little Japanese book in the picture. My sister got it for me for my 21st birthday when we were both in Japan. I was leaving for home in a few weeks, and she knew I really liked Japanese food and this book has most of the typical side dishes that would be served with a meal. I consult it a lot for Japanese cooking, and I like the guide in the back for all the different ways of cutting vegetables. Consequently, I know more words for ways to cut things in Japanese than I do in English.

So that is everything. The only book that didn't get mentioned yet is the other Japanese one, Oishii ocha, ireyo (Make Delicious Tea) It's not a cookbook, per se, it's a guide to tea and how to brew it well, but it also has loads of recipes of snacks to serve with tea, or to make using tea and it's very nice, since I love tea and tea-flavoured things.

That reminds me, Cam made a post announcing his mother's opening a restaurant called Modern Tea in the San Fransisco bay area. The tea sounds amazing, the food looks amazing, and the decor is beautiful. It's too far for me to make it, but if any readers are in the area and want to stop in for me, I'd be jealous love to hear about it. You can mail any leftovers to The Foppish Baker, c/o ....

For tagging on the meme, I'd love to see Matthew at Everything from Scratch and Cam at The Pastry Chef's Son fill this out.