The Art of Eating, No. 79: Ed Behr's Most Essential Cookbooks

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Ed Behr, editor for one of our favorite food quarterlies The Art of Eating, has attempted something few of us are brave enough to do: he has voluntarily whittled his cookbook collection down to the nine most essential. Find out what made Behr's list and tell us what would make yours after the jump...Behr's list shouldn't be misinterpreted as his recommendation for must-have cookbooks for all home cooks, as many other lists are doing this time of year. Instead, his list intensely personal and reflects Behr's own history, tastes, and interests as a cook. He went through his collection asking, "Which would speak to me most directly and personally - would inspire, provide variety, even some surprises?"

And here they are:

1. French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David
2. Vieilles Recettes de cuisine provencale, by C. Chanot-Bullier
3. When French Women Cook by Madeleine Kamman
4. La Cuisine alsacienne by Pierre Gaertner and Robert Frederick
5. Honey from a Weed by Patience Gray
6. Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
7. Giuliano Bugialli's Foods of Naples and Campania by Giuliano Bugialli
8. Cooking by Hand by Paul Bertolli
9. Provence the Beautiful Cookbook by Richard Olney

By his own admission, Behr is biased toward French and Italian cooking, particularly the kind found upon leaving the major cities and making friends with the locals. Behr's love for each of the cookbooks listed above and the foods contained within them is evident in his lengthy description of each book - descriptions that read less like dust jackets and more like a toast at a best friend's wedding.

Why nine cookbooks? Behr says he wanted to include only seven, but just couldn't do it. Even as it is, Behr says "the list leaves me feeling exposed; I might rethink."

If you had to narrow your cookbook collection down to just a few, which would you be sure to keep?

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Related: Store Review: Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks

(Image: Flickr member smallestbones licensed under Creative Commons)

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