Our Well-Loved Cookbooks: Five Roses

There was a point in time about fifteen years ago when I would have told you that the best way to make pancakes was to follow the directions on the box.

And see, everyone who dabbles in more advanced cooking techniques than as-per-manufacturers-instructions likely has a story of that one recipe that upon discovering it made you think… yeah, I can probably make this.

For me that recipe was the pancake recipe in Five Roses: A Guide to Good Cooking.

I have no idea where this book came from.

For the longest time it was one of a half dozen eclectic recipe books on our shelf that had appeared in our lives sometime during that phase of moving out, getting married, and building a home. It may have been a gift or shown up in a care package from a relative or … I honestly don’t know.

Perhaps you’re wondering if maybe we had received it as a promotional deal from the manufacturers of Five Roses flour products? Alas no, I don’t recall ever having used Five Roses flour, know where I would buy Five Roses flour, nor even if Five Roses flour is still in production. (Well, it is …I just Googled it.) I’m sure it’s a fine baking ingredient, but our store shelves are ubiquitously stocked with Robin Hood flour. Even so, I don’t have a Robin Hood Guide to Good Cooking, just this one.

And though the photo doesn’t necessarily make it clear, that recipe book is now dog-eared and full of notes and adjustments and splotches of splattered recipe results.

Every weekend on Saturday morning I make pancakes for my family. Every weekend I craft a bowl of batter from flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, vanilla, oil, and milk. Every weekend I pull a crusty recipe from the hard-coded memories stored in the deepest part of my brain and turn it into breakfast.

That recipe originated in this book, a now well-loved cookbook in our home.

Note: this is a piece of gear that I have purchased privately and that I’ve owned for long enough to offer an opinion about. This post is not an endorsement (at least, it’s not a paid one.)

Our Well-Loved Cookbooks: How to Cook Everything

Had I realized how often over the last fifteen years I would be referencing Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything I would have splurged for the hardcover edition.

As it stands, our trusty copy of this loaf of paper filled with basic recipes rarely makes it back onto the bookshelf, and is so tattered and splattered, I’ll likely be lamenting it’s numbered days before it stops being useful.

I’ve started a small series of cookbook posts here on castironguy.ca because despite adding to my collection almost monthly, I find that most cookbooks are only useful or interesting in a limited way. Sure, you can learn a great recipe from almost any book out there, and half the fun is picking something that looks like a challenge or a tasty goal, and seeing how well your skills match with the intended product. That said, there are perhaps only a dozen cookbooks on our shelf that would make a cull if I was forced to simplify my library… and these are them.

The best analogy I have for this book is that it’s like my paperback edition of Google.

You know those times you are standing there in your kitchen, hands covered in flour, thinking about how you are actually supposed to be cooking something, say a roast or a whole spaghetti squash or maybe a pie crust.

How long at what temperature?

How much water was I supposed to add?

Should I be covering this?

Today I might Google it, or ask my digital assistant. Hey, Alexa, how do I… ?

But even still, and especially back when I bought this, it was and still is that one reference book that gives solid, simple advice on the nuances of basic food prep.

Sure, there are a few fancy recipes hiding in it’s pages, and lots of ideas about stuff like how to make your waffles more interesting, or how to spice a whole chicken, or variations on making your own salad dressings. But the core function of this book is basically aimed at people like me who mostly know enough to get started, have the ingredients in their hands, but are stumped on locking down the process. The how-to. The what was that one crucial step or ingredient that is going to change the outcome if I get it wrong. A reference guide.

This might not be the exact title for you, but there are a few big reference cookbooks out there with a similar purpose and you should generally keep one on your shelf. I do.

Note: this is a piece of gear that I have purchased privately and that I’ve owned for long enough to offer an opinion about. This post is not an endorsement (at least, it’s not a paid one.)