Her experience has given her a wealth of insights about cook books. She receives boxes of them for her reviewing work on Good Morning America, and for other commenting. And, she buys new cook books. She also throws them out or donates them to the NYU Fales Collection.
It's an enjoyable read, here's a slice.
You mentioned you have an intense organizational system?
They're very organized. I have them via country. I have them via category, so usually it's by ingredient or technique. So I have a whole bunch of grilling books, I have a whole bunch of meat books, I have a couple chicken books, so I have them like that. And then I have sort of random single subject, you know, like prunes. Actually I don't have a book about prunes and they're called dried plums now anyway. But I have a whole section where it's just one topic. And then I have a whole Americana section which is community cookbooks. That breaks my rule too because those all have a hundred recipes, but they're charming little regional cookbooks and I find those fascinating. And then I have big technique tomes, and then I have books that are written by chefs, and then I have a whole baking section. I have a how-to section and a writing with recipes section, the Calvin Trillin kind of thing.
I don't have them indexed but I know where they are by section. They're in different rooms, they're not all in the same place. I don't just have one room big enough. So they're in the living room, they're in my bedroom, I'm sitting in my son's room which I've been trying to take over as an office and I've got a ton of new ones in here, and also Gourmet going back to 1970. All the way to the day it tanked. So I know that in here, I have all the baking books, and I have the Latin books. I have all the books that I'm in, which is an odd category? [laughs] Sometimes you get into compendiums where they ask a whole bunch of chefs to come up with recipes. I have some of my larger chef books in here, like I have Thomas Keller's books. Then I have my French, my Italian, most of the countries with the exception of Latin books are in my living room. The single subject books are around the corner heading toward the bedroom. And then I have another section in the kitchen which are either books I always want to have handy or they're newer and I want to play with them. Right now I'm on a making bread kick, so I've got like six of those artisanal bread books.
What are the books in your kitchen that you always want on hand?
Jean Anderson's Doubleday Cookbook. That's one that's just a really good reference book. So say, I don't cook a standing rib roast very often. So I could go to all my meat books and see what they all say? I might do that. Or I could just reach for the Doubleday Cookbook . Or if I want a basic recipe for pancakes, I don't just have something in my head, I know it's all in there. Or to figure out a substitution, or figure out why my cake fell, I will go to that book. I think that's the main one. I have favorite authors almost more than favorite cookbooks.
Okay, who are they?
Marcella Hazan in the Italian category. Madhur Jaffrey for the Indian books. Rick Bayless I love for Mexican books. The Union Square cookbook, the Al Forno cookbook, I use those.
So when you're considering books for the GMA end of year list, what qualities are you looking for?
Either something that's a serious tome, meaning that it has tons of research, it's a definitive book, it's extensive. It's a great reference book as well as a good recipe book. That's one. And then the other one is something that's really different, that hasn't been done before. I don't mean it has to be wild and crazy, just I don't want to see the same old recipes over and over and over again. And that happens a lot because people just want to redo the classic Caesar salad or the classic, I don't know, whatever recipe
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