The cookbook canon is a list of books that have made the greatest impact on the world of cooking and food. The canon should include books that are the “best of the best” on the subject of cooking and cookery. The cookbooks that are accepted into the canon are the most significant and the most worthy of study.
Canons are useful because it can guide our selection process as we develop our personal cookbook libraries. The best way to start building your collection is to acquire a broad base of fundamental books. My personal cookbook library is in a constant state of disarray. This is partially because I didn’t start with a basic list of which to build on.
The cookbook canon is controversial for several reasons. First, we don’t have an “official” panel of experts creating such a list. Second, it would be very hard to obtain a consensus on the items that are accepted or rejected into the canon. There has been many attempts to create a cookbook cannon, however, many have fallen flat. Usually the effort is dicey at best due to the wide variety of cuisines, cultures, and motivations.
Where does this leave us? My advice is to create your own personal cookbook canon. Your canon can serve as your “ultimate wish list” from which you can build your cookbook library over time. The titles that you include in your cookbook canon are ones that are important, influential, or fundamental to you. This way, your cookbook library will grow and mature along with you as a cook. The cookbook canon is whatever you want it to be.
My cookbook collection reflects my upbringing. It is largely American Regional. The following are lists of cookbooks that have become essential parts of my personal cookbook library: