Emma's 5 Essential Cookbooks

Cookbooks are really like companions. They stick with us through thick and thin, through beautiful roasts and burnt pies, through miraculous successes and confusing failures. We learn their deepest secrets: which recipes never fail, which ones make us pull our hair, which ones just need a touch more seasoning. And we end up loving them. These five have been with me from the start and have become my most faithful companions.

1. How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman - Roughly 98% of the time when I cook at home, I am making something simple and basic. This cookbook is my co-pilot for everything from a good kebab marinade to buttermilk pancakes on Saturday morning.

2. Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero - I am not vegan or even vegetarian, but this cookbook captivated me from first glance. It's full of truly interesting and inspiring recipes, some healthy, some quick, some not so much. I love just skimming the pages and seeing what catches my eye.

3. A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider - The dust jacket for this book is long gone. Now I just reach for the book with the stripey spine by instinct. Which is fitting, since cooking by instinct and improvising as you go is what this book is all about. Reading this book was the first time that I consciously realized that you didn't have to follow a recipe verbatim, and I owe a lot of my confidence in the kitchen to this one.

4. Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker's Atlas by Jeffrey Alfrod and Naomi Duquid - It is thanks to this book that I fell in love with homemade pita: baked, grilled, or dry-fried on the griddle. Before reading it, I didn't even know it was possible to make pita at home, much less tortillas, rice wrappers, lavash, and all the rest. This book opened up a whole new world of baking for me.

5. King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion - This was the first cookbook I ever bought for myself. I devoured it, one recipe at a time. And never has any of those recipes let me down.

What are cookbooks have become your constant companions?

Related: Late Night Reading: Do You Read Cookbooks in Bed?

(Image: Emma Christensen)