Something in your kitchen may have been passed down through the generations, and I don’t mean a re-gifted fruit cake. I’m speaking of cookbooks. Certain cookbooks have become classics, reprinted several times and remaining popular even with the abundance of cooking websites. The library is a great place to peruse both old and new cookbooks. From the iconic to the trendy, the Manatee County Public Library has something for you.
When Irma S. Rombauer self-published “The Joy of Cooking” in 1931 she probably did not imagine it would sell millions of copies and still be in print today. After her husband’s death in 1930, Rombauer assembled, at her own expense, a collection of her favorite recipes and sold copies out of her home. The book was picked up by the Bobbs-Merrill Co. in 1936, making this the 80th anniversary of the timeless cookbook. Six subsequent editions were printed, and now there’s even an app.
Another classic cookbook with a long history is “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook” by Fannie Merritt Farmer. Farmer suffered a stroke when she was teenager and could not continue to attend school. She developed an interest in cooking to pass the time and it grew into a passion. In her 30s she enrolled in the Boston Cooking School and within a few years became the principal of the school. Originally published as “The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book” in 1896, her first cookbook was not expected to sell well and only 3,000 copies were printed. But the “Fannie Farmer Cookbook” book went on to sell millions of copies. Farmer is credited for popularizing standardized measurements in recipes — the ¼ tablespoons and leveled half cups that we’re accustomed to today.
Renowned cookbook author and columnist James Beard had originally planned on a career in the theater. When that did not work out, he began a catering business and in 1937 opened a shop called “Hors d’Oeuvre, Inc.” Beard became a pioneer in the outdoor cooking genre of cookbooks, beginning with his “Cook it Outdoors” book published in 1942. Beard authored dozens of cookbooks, among them the classic “James Beard’s American Cookery.” The library owns three of Beard’s cookbooks, as well as a biography by Robert Clark.
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No discussion of classic cookbooks is complete without the name: Julia Child. Her legendary “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” book is credited with bringing French cuisine into the American kitchen. Written with Simone Beck and published in 1961, this celebrated cookbook remains a popular selection today. The library owns several of Child’s titles including “As Always, Julia: The Letters Of Julia Child And Avis Devoto: Food, Friendship, And The Making Of A Masterpiece.”
In addition to our classic cookbooks, the library has a large assortment of specialized cookbooks to complement particular diets. Included in our collection are Paleo-Diet, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and diabetic cookbooks, just to name a few. If you prefer eBooks, the library’s OverDrive and Hoopla databases offer a wide variety of cookbooks for your e-reader or tablet.
The library offers monthly e-mail newsletters, called NextReads, with a selection of genres to choose from. Both the “Home & Garden” Newsletter and the “Mind & Body Fitness” Newsletter have cookbook recommendations. You can sign up for NextReads from www.mymanatee.org/library
Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. Mary Lysaght is the assistant supervisor at the Rocky Bluff Library in Ellenton.