To the home chef a cookbook is a road map and a challenge to create something that hasn't been done before.
Cookbooks can be categorised into four groups.
- indispensable and basic instructions that describe standard techniques which can be used 365 days of the year
- slender volumes which specialise in narrow fields such as cheesecake cookery, 30 minute meals and vegan cookery
- regional recipes, in which local recipes are collected and explained, so as to introduce the would-be chef to ethic cuisine, in (sometimes) a travelogue format
- standard works by great gourmets and celebrity chefs - both amateur and professional - who present recipes expertly and lovingly described
Beaumont's Kitchen suggests "The most famous book is not a cook book at all. "The Physiology of Taste, or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy" was written 1820, by the French epicure Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.
The book entirely personal and presents a philosophy called "gourmandise" - a term for the pleasures of the table and the gastronomical well-being of people. Gourmandise, Brillat-Savarin says, is "an impassioned, rational and habitual preference for all objects which flatter the sense of taste."
When Brillat-Savarin visited America, just after the American Revolution, he discovered, the turkey, which he calls "one of the most beautiful presents which the New World has made to the Old."
The book is full of odd ideas ... truffles "increase the attraction between the sexes" ... "for exhaustion there is nothing finer than a cup of hot chocolate in which powdered ambergris (secretion from the intestines of whales) has been dissolved" ... "the obese should not eat anything from underground" ...
His pithy observations sums up his philosophy. Here are some examples:
"A man who gives a dinner for a group of friends and takes no trouble over what they are to eat is not fit to have friends"
"Tell me what a man eats and I'll tell you the kind of man he is"
YPRL doesn't have a copy of The Physiology of Taste, or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy, but we do have many other great cookbooks to borrow. Even if you don't have the time to slow down and cook a meal in the loving manner of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, sometimes just reading a cookbook can create a sense of cosy-comfort and well-being.
Great Cookbooks to borrow: