I love cookbooks. It started when my kids were tiny, and I discovered that I could pick up and put down cookbooks -say between a bloody nose and a plugged up toilet- and not lose the thread as when reading a novel; a recipe can be read in a fraction of the time it takes to read a chapter of a book. It was then that I started collecting cookbooks. I don't know how many I have and I refuse to count them. My youngest daughter says I have a problem, and she sometimes mounts short lived intervention campaigns. My husband, on the other hand, has never once insinuated I should get rid of any of my cookbooks (many he's given me as gifts), and his most recent comment was that maybe he should get me another set of shelves -one of the many reasons I love this man! Yesterday, under the pretext of Christmas shopping, I was checking out the cookbooks in a bookstore, where I overheard a woman trying (unsuccessfully) to find a cookbook. When the bookstore employee left, I couldn't help myself (this is the sort of thing I do that absolutely mortifies my kids), and asked her what it was she was looking for. She wanted a cookbook on cooking with beans for a gift, a cookbook not to be found on the shelf among this season's new cookbooks -I don't know of any that are out recently on the subject, and apparently the employee didn't either. Just for the record, my oldest daughter worked retail last holiday season (and is again this year), and I hope I don't sound disdainful of these poor souls, as I'm really quite sympathetic to their situation. I told her I did know the names of a couple cookbooks on bean cookery, but my mind is like a sieve, and of course, I couldn't remember the title. I told her if she'd write down her e-mail address for me, I'd send the names of the bean cookbooks to her when I got home later, and that's what I did. This holiday season, frugality and genuineness are at the top of most people's lists (and lists seem to be at the top of my list these days) so for anyone interested in a single topic cookbook for someone (or yourself), that's not necessarily a glossy or just published (or heavily promoted) one, I offer a short, unsolicited list of cookbooks on single subjects I have and recommend.
Beans: The Brilliant Bean by Sally and Martin Stone; Bean Banquets -From Boston to Bombay by Patricia R. Gregory
Fish: The Complete Book of American Fish and Shellfish Cookery by Elizabeth Bjornskov
Cake: Great Cakes by Country Living (this one has colored pictures)
Pickles: Pickles and Relish by Andrea Chesman
Rice: Pilaf, Risotto and Other Ways with Rice by Sada Fretz
Soup: Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette
Curries: From Curries to Kebabs by Madhur Jaffrey (this is glossy and a rather recent)