Books for Cooks

Sunday 20 November 2022


books for cooks

I have been collecting recipes and cookbooks since I was a very young girl. I have a recipe treasure in my Big Blue Binder which has travelled all over the world with me. This blue vinyl binder is filled with loads of recipe clippings, handwritten recipes shared with me from family and friends, recipes copied out of books taken out of the library (years ago before the internet), etc.  

I had a huge recipe book collection when I was in the UK.  I had so many favorites there that I couldn't begin to count them. Unfortunately, when I had to move back to Canada, I was forced leave almost all of them behind. My Big Blue Binder came with me, but that's about all.

Over the past two years, since my return, I have slowly been trying to gather up some of my old favorites, searching for them online and buying them whenever I can find them. It's a long and slow process, and, of course, there are some that I will never ever be able to replace.  It is what it is.  There is no use crying over spilt milk.

Today we are really spoilt by the wealth of information that is out there on the internet, especially as far as cooking goes.  We needn't ever really own a cookbook really. It's all there at our fingertips.  I'm from the old school, however, and there is just something really special to me about being able to sit down at my kitchen table and go through a cookbook by hand, picking out my favorites and "want to cook" recipes.

I thought it would be fun today to share with you some of my favorite cookbooks, ones that I have managed to be able to replace and just why they are my favorite books.  These books are my old friends. 

You never know, there might be a new friend for you to discover as well! You might even find a book that you can gift to your favorite cook this Christmas.  I guarantee any one of them would make a fabulous gift for a loved one. I am happy to say as well, that it is still possible to get some of the older books online on used book sites.

The Fanny Farmer Cookbook 

The Fanny Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham is probably one of the first books I bought for myself while I was still in Highschool.  I cut many of my cooking teeth on older versions of this book and have worn out no less than three copies through the years.  

I would almost guarantee that if you are a cook of a certain age and have been cooking for a while, this is also a cherished part of your cookbook library.  It is filled with sound recipes for cooking everything and anything you might want to cook, from soup to nuts.

Madame Benoit Cooks at Home 

Madame Benoit Cooks at Home, by Madame Benoit.  Madame Benoit was one of the very first television chef's I used to watch, even before I graduated from school and left home. She was very much a Canadian institution at one time and had a half hour program every afternoon. She was Canada's Julia Child in many ways.

This book is another one that I purchased when I was very young and one that I managed to squirrel back to Canada in my suitcase. It is a treasure and has a lot of tried and true's and fabulous recipes in it. As you can see from its tattered and torn appearance it is very much beloved.

Purity Cookbook 

As you can see, this is another much beloved cookbook of mine and one that I managed to squirrel away in my suitcase.  The good old Purity All Purpose Cookbook, by the people at Purity Flour. This was a book I managed to purchase very early on in my cooking journey as a young bride living in Manitoba. My sister-in-law had this book and very generously gave me one of the coupons at the back of the book so I could write away and purchase a copy for myself.

I doubt that it cost very much in those days, but it was/is worth its weight in gold, filled with plenty of old stand by's and favorites. Not just baked goods, but also some main dishes, salads, and preserves as well.

Mary Berry's Cake Book 

Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book, by Mary Berry.  This was one of the first baking books I bought for myself when I moved to the UK, over 22 years ago.  It is a fabulous cake book, but that is exactly what you would expect from the doyenne of British Baking.  

It runs the whole gamut of British cake baking from the very basic and simple to the more extravagant and complicated. Plain cakes, fruited cakes, cupcakes, etc. It is a very valuable resource, and I was very happy to have been able to procure for myself another copy.

Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course 

Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course, Classic Edition by Delia Smith.  Delia is one of Great Britain's most beloved cooks having had numerous television series through the years. Her recipes are great classics, and this is one of the first books I received when I moved to the UK.  It was a standard in my kitchen and how I learned to cook many British things that I had not heard of or experienced prior to moving over there, such as steamed suet puddings, etc. Her pastry is phenomenal.

If you are looking for a great British Cookbook, you cannot go wrong with this. I will suggest as well, do buy yourself a set of good kitchen scales if you are going to try to use any British cookery book. They will become a valuable part of your kitchen equipment.

Tamasin's Kitchen Bible

Tamasin's Kitchen Bible, by Tamasin Day Lewis.  Another television cook, this book is filled with many of Tamasin Day Lewis's best recipes. You are probably more familiar with her brother Daniel Day Lewis, the actor.  Tamasin is a very accomplished cook. Her food is non-pretentious and delicious, without artifice.

I would go so far as to consider her to be the Elizabeth David of our day.

Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook 

The Better Homes and Garden's New Cookbook, by Better Homes and Gardens.  I was quite unable to buy a copy of the one that I had owned and left behind, but this is a close second.  It's a newer version and not quite like the old one, but it will do.

Another old standby of a cookbook filled with lots of great basic recipes for everything from soup to nuts.  Trustworthy with a capital "T." I will forever mourn the loss of my original copy.

Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook 

Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, by Betty Crocker.  This is a replica of the original cookbook published in the 1950's by the Betty Crocker kitchens.  Originally published in 1950, it is filled with practical tips, useful hints and practically every recipe your mother or grandmother every cooked. 

Cakes, cookies, pies, roasts, vegetables, soups, etc.  There is everything in this book.  Its a most valuable member of my cookbook collection. Having left my original in the UK, it was one I just knew I had to replace.

Just like Mother Used to Make 

Just Like Mother Used to Make, by Tom Norrington Davies.  Another one of my UK favorites. This contains a wealth of everyday family type of recipes to cook.  School dinner favorites.  There is a wealth of nostalgia on its pages. I loved this book when I was in the UK and had to get myself another copy. The Lemon Curd recipe is to die for.

Good basic recipes, well presented. 

Pie Academy 

Pie Academy by Ken Haedrich.  Ken Haedrich is one of my favorite North American cookbook writers. He is an expert in the art of baking. I had previously owned a Christmas Baking Book of his that I have been unable to replace. He uses a lot of whole grains and natural ingredients in his baking which I love.

His pie recipes are exceptional.  Everything I have cooked from this book has been tip top. I highly recommend. If you have a pie baker in the family, they are sure to love this book.

The All-Purpose Bakers Companion 

The All Purpose Bakers Companion, by the King Arthur Baking Company. I had a copy of this book in the UK and sought to replace it upon my return. This copy was a gift from a friend.  This is a book that should be on every baker's cookbook shelf.  There are not a lot of photographs, but every recipe is sound and reliable. Great for beginner bakers, or well-seasoned ones.

Simple ingredients done well. 


Plenty, by Diana Henry. If you are a cook that is interested in cooking food from around the world, this is the book for you. I actually have several of Diana's books and this one is one of my favorites.  How to cook well, eat deliciously and produce plenty all whilst doing so in a very economical manner.  There is a whole section on using some of the cheaper cuts of meat in the most delicious way.  There are also great ideas on using up your leftovers.

If you are looking for interesting, down to earth recipes that do not disappoint, then this book is for you.

Tender by Nigel Slater 

Tender, volumes 1 and 2 by Nigel Slater.  Nigel Slater is my most favorite of all the UK cooks.  He's not a Chef, just a really great cook.  A newspaper columnist who has always written and presented recipes for food in a way I want to eat food.  IN the UK I had all of his books and DVD's of all his cooking shows.

These two books are recipes using up his garden produce/etc. from vegetables in the green volume to fruits in the pink volume.  I love these books. His Kitchen Diaries are also favorites of mine.

Apples for Jam 

Apples for Jam, by Tessa Kiros.  Of all the cookbooks I have ever owned, this is my all-time favorite cookbook.  The chapters are based on colors.  Every recipe is very family friendly and delicious. There is nothing pretentious here. Good basic, delicious cooking. I have literally cooked everything that I could from this book and then some.  There is a photograph of every recipe.

If you are looking for a book with recipes for easy and highly edible food, this is one you won't want to miss out on.

Every Day Food


Everyday by Bill Granger.  I had quite a few of Bill's books in the UK. He is an Australian Chef/restaurant owner, and again, someone who cooks the way I want to eat, and the food I want to eat.  I couldn't afford to replace all of his books but when I decided to pick a favorite and replace that one, this was the one I chose.

This is family food of the utmost enjoyable kind.

Lost Recipes 

Lost Recipes, by Marion Cunningham.   I also have The Breakfast Book by her as well as The Supper Book.  These are filled, all three of them, with fabulous recipes for great basic dishes that you will love to cook and serve for yourself, your family and your friends. Non-pretentious, good, solid, great eating.  Many of these recipes are some that your grandmother probably cooked. I love these books. LOVE.  

I remember taking copies of them out of my local library years ago and I do believe that I have a few of the recipes copied into my Big Blue Binder.

Martha Logan's Meat Cookbook 

Martha Logan's Meat Cookbook, by Beth Baily McLean and Thora Hegstead Campbell.  This is a copy of one of my mother's cookbooks. She did not have many cookbooks. There was this one and an old red covered Co-op cookbook put out by her hometown village that was a gift to her when she got married. This is a book I devoured every time I came home to visit, laboriously copying out recipes to take home and try. Of course, many of those got left behind, and I don't have any idea of what happened to my mother's copy. I was so pleased to have been able to buy a second hand used copy online.  

One thing I have learned about these old recipes and methods through the years is that many of them are not dated, and whilst there are some things which we no longer have to cook as long as they used to think we had to cook them, that doesn't mean that the recipes are not valuable.  You simply need to adjust to modern cook times and methods. Its easy!

This is by no means all of the cookbooks that I love and enjoy, but merely the tip of the iceberg.  As a longtime cook, I have been loving cooking and cookbooks for many years.  I am sure many of you have your favorites as well.  Why not share with us what they are. I really want to know!  What are your favorite cookbooks and why!  Let's share!  It's never too late to make a new cookbook friend, and in my opinion, you can never have too many cookbooks. But then again I am addicted.)

This was fun. I hope it was fun for you too!

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  1. Hi Marie, I'm familiar with quite a few of the same recipe books you've listed here. One series I'm really fond of is Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa". I just purchased her newest one, "Go-To Dinners". Lots of basic recipes, beautifully photographed. Another series I liked were the small spiral bound ones church groups used to publish. All the recipes were the type you might pass down to a sister or a friend. They were people's favourite recipes, all tried and true. I like Anna Olsen's cookbooks for baking. Other favourites are the Canadian Living series especially the one on muffins and a Chatelaine one my mom had in the sixties. I've forgotten the title. Love and hugs, Elaine

    1. Oh, yes Elaine! I have some of Ina's as well. Slowly building up my collection of hers again. They are great! I also like Pioneer Woman. I love LOVE those spiral bound ones you get from church groups, etc. I had to leave all of mine in the UK. Sad, but true. Also love Junior League books Anna Olson is a favorite of mine as are the Canadian Living ones. I am still gathering those as they come to my mind. One of my greatest losses was a Chatelaine Cookbook that I received for subscribing to the magazine in the 1980's. I will always mourn its loss! Love and hugs, xoxo

  2. Marie thanks for the article I love cookbooks. I don't know if you are aware of it or not. But there is a website. that has tons of cookbooks that you can borrow...usually the newer books. Or you can download the whole cookbook on thousands of the older ones. I have found some great recipes that way and it is very interesting to see some of the old recipes. Some mention just a coffee cup or flour etc. We sure couldn't do that today since the cups are so many different sizes. LOL

    1. I will be sure to check that out! Thank you! You are right when you say cups today come in many different sizes! lol xoxo

  3. How I loved this post ! Oh dear ! My kitchen book shelf is stuffed to overflowing .They fall off the end if I am not careful ! I need to have a big sort out . It is so hard to part with any of them . Funny how they hold precious memories like they do .

    1. Food is one of the love languages. I have always loved to cook for the ones I love. Its no surprise that recipes speak the same language! Mine all held precious memories, that is why I am working to replace the ones that I can! Your book shelf sounds like what mine used to be! xo

  4. Sorry Marie ,that last comment was from me Daisy Debs, about the cookery books holding so many memories . Google sends the messages as from "anonymous" if we forget to click the box . This seems to be a new thing . I will try and remember next time .

    1. No problem I have the same problem commenting on my own blog and others! xo

  5. The bero cookbooks we have here in Scotland are just invaluable and is how our generation learned to bake. I’ve still got my mums, tattered and torn, but also bought newer ones too, all bought by sending away for them through an address on bags of bero flour. Happy memories, and I also bought my grandson his first one, as he is a keen cook too. Loved this read today x

    1. I have a Bero cookbook and it is my pride and joy! I just love it. You are right, what a treasure it is! What a great grandmother you are! xo


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