Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Santa’s Wish List: Cookbooks

You might think I love to cook. You would be very wrong.

I had a great friend for many years, one of those Southern gals with a last name first name, and when one day I told her of my secret guilt – that cooking wasn’t FUN for me, she said “what we do, every day, is SURVIVAL cooking. We just meet the expectation of getting a meal on the table. That doesn’t have to be fun, it just has to be done.”

That’s pretty much what I do, and why I have been giving you all these great recipes. The truth about the recipes I am giving you is that most of them are EASY and they taste good. A few require special equipment and mastering a new skill, but it’s like swimming – once you’ve done it, it’s easy. There is nothing complicated about the recipes I am sharing with you – they are ones I use, too!

Books About Food and Eating
First I will share with you two books available through third party vendors at Amazon. The first is Food Lover’s Companion (A Comprehensive Definition of Over 4000 Food, Wine and Culinary Terms) by Sharon Tyler Herbst, which is available starting at $14.93, and the second is M.F.K Fisher’s The Art of Eating, also available through Amazon at $11.53. The Companion is invaluable when someone uses a term for a cooking technique or ingredient you don’t know; it has words for everything! My husband reads this book sometimes just for fun and is always sharing new information he has learned. The MFK Fisher book is just plain fun reading about food, full of information and anecdotes and stories, written in an enormously readable way.


Beginner Cookbooks
The first cookbook I used was the McCalls Cookbook – no longer in print. It had photos of how do do the things I found so intimidating, and that is where I got my earliers Christmas cookie recipes – the Russian Tea Cakes and the Candy Cane Cookies. The second was The Joy of Cooking, which I mentioned in an earlier blog entry. What is good about these books is that they keep it really simple. In Joy, they give you a long theoretical section, which you can read if you have the time, and which helps, but at the beginning it isn’t always easy to even understand the basics. That takes time. Then you can go back and read later and go “Aha! Now I understand!”

Cookbook Secrets
Actually, I love reading cookbooks. I have a huge collection. And almost all of them are Junior League Cookbooks. So here’s the secret – when you are looking for cookbooks, look for ones where women who contribute have to put their names. If their name is on the recipe, you can trust that the recipe will work, and that it will be one of their best recipes – they don’t want to be embarrassed!

The majority my cookbooks are from the South. And narrowing it down even further, most of my favorites come from Louisiana or Georgia.

The first one I ever bought was Talk About Good! And oh, it WAS good!


These recipes use ingredients like real cream and real butter and lots of salt. Southern people have some of the lowest life-expectancy rates in the United States – I suspect their eating habits have a lot to do with it. But if it isn’t a habit to eat so richly, every now and then it just tastes SO GOOD to use these ingredients. You will also notice that it has what they call a “plastic comb” binding. That means when you open it up to follow a recipe, it will lie flat. That’s a really good thing!

My second favorite is Quail Country, by the Junior League of Albany, Georgia. You would really have to scour the book stores to find this out-of-print classic, because so few people would ever want to part with it. Another gem is The Fort Leavenworth Collection, if you can get your hands on it – again, yard sales, used book stores would be your best bet.

There is a wonderful group of stores in the USA called Half Price Books. If books are not being bought as gifts, if you plan to just read a book and pass it along, or if you like to have a few on hand to pass along because you think they are so great, Half Price Books is a great place. They have the most obscure books, books you never thought you would see again. Many of their books are new, but remaindered (left over from book stores that couldn’t sell the, or from publishers who published too many copies) so they are sold at half price. They will also buy used books from you, but to me, they offer so little that I would just as soon give them away. (No, I don’t own stock in Half Price Books.)

There are some other fabulous Junior League cookbooks – the California Heritage Cookbook, the Seattle Classics, and there are other cookbooks produced by churches and charities that also have “real people” recipes that are drop-dead good. I remember once sharing a recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake from Seattle Classics. My friend told me she made it for Christmas dinner, but everyone was too full to eat dessert. But she said all night she heard doors opening and closing, as people snuck down to the kitchen to slice a little of the cheesecake and eat it, and in the morning, only a fragment was left!

Seeking out the best cookbooks can make every vacation an adventure. I have cookbooks from Kenya and Tunisia, Qatar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia . . . all full of great recipes, recipes with names attatched. I wish you a grand adventure seeking out cookbooks that will thrill your heart. Happy Hunting!

December 9, 2006 - Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Books, Christmas, Cooking, Kenya, Middle East, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Shopping, Travel, Tunisia


  1. I hope you know who that is? 😉 Or maybe not! 🙂

    I think of you as a high class Lady with such modesty. & a Lady; always knows what’s best.

    Comment by Your Old Friend | December 11, 2006 | Reply

  2. Old Friend – complete mystery. My college girlfriend? Fan of my husband?

    Comment by intlxpatr | December 12, 2006 | Reply

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