Without a sense of history, it's easy to think everything we recognize originated, at most, 100 years ago. It's no different with cooking. So when we find out that one of the earliest known cookbooks was a collection called the Apicius (thought to be compiled in the late 4th century AD), and that it was a gourmet cookbook rather than a list of primitive procedures, we're a bit shocked.
Of course, stuffed sardines and cuttle-fish croquettes aren't typically on the menu anymore. Fortunately, cookbooks have had 1700 years to grow with the cuisine. The best of them aren't just collections of recipes—they offer the philosophy of food, observations and reflections on the art of cooking, the history of favorite dishes, etc.
And great recipes, obviously. Though our selection is limited, we've done our best to bring in books that reflect this diversity while still providing usable and tasty recipes for both everyday meals and highbrow foods for special occasions. Many are suggestions from friends and family members who are avid cooks, bakers and gastrophiles familiar with the best and latest cookbooks. For the newest additions, use the "new books" filter on the right.
Some of the used cookbooks we offer are only on our shelves because they made us hungry—meaning we haven't tested the recipes or had them recommended by others who have. A number are specifically for kids or about specific historical eras. There are novelty cookbooks, like Lobscouse and Spotted Dog which catalogues dishes eaten by sailors in the Royal Navy during the Napoleanic Wars. Others are masterpieces of culinary prose.
We aren't trying to promote a certain diet, denigrate the use of boxed or canned food, or get you wearing homemade clothes while milking goats in the middle of nowhere. While all of those approaches have their benefits, we'd argue a more balanced approach. What we're trying to foster through the cookbooks we carry is a sense of the joy of cooking and the centrality of the table in home life. What that looks like for your family is your family's own business; these are simply suggestions and possible guidelines.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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