Well, for those of us who like to eat and avoid dieting if we can help it, a cookbook is a kitchen staple and the recipes inside a foreshadowing of many homemade meals to come. Of course, for many of us, the dish never quite looks like its counterpart in the cookbook, but the fun of using it is learning the techniques and allowing ingredient substitutions to give it your own personal touch. (Clearly, this is being written by a cooking enthusiast).
Judith Jones, vice president and senior editor at Alfred A. Knopf, has made editing cookbooks and guiding their authors (do names like Julia Child, Marcella Hazan and Edna Lewis ring a bell?) her life’s work. She was the first to espouse the kind of cookbook that taught the pleasures of cooking by defining culinary terms, demonstrating techniques and providing explicit directions and detailed explanations. She also asked cookbook authors to provide clues to the texture, feel, smell and appearance of the dish as the recipe progresses.
Words of wisdom from Jones: “Recipes should never include the unnecessary instruction ‘set aside.’ Cooks must not be scared off by long recipes but instead appreciate the detailed information they convey. How string beans are cooked is probably more important than how they are farmed. When your husband is enjoying himself in the kitchen, keep your mouth shut even if you could do better.”
In celebration of her memoir “The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food,” Jones presented a talk at the Library in November 2007. The lecture was sponsored by the Science, Technology and Business Division, which holds some 35,000 cookbooks in its collection.
The division offers many food-related resources, including Science Tracer Bullets on topics like food history and kitchen gardens, as well as Science Reference Guides on topics such as barbecue history and food writing.