Older but Still Popular: Cookbooks

September 28, 2021 | M. Elwood

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There are 100 libraries in Toronto and each branch has its own character, collection and community. Cookbooks are popular in most of the branches, even with the advent of online sources for recipes.
Some older books have withstood the test of time being borrowed over and over, and in a way, handed from one reader to another. They've also survived physically, with many wearing their scars (and splatter marks) proudly. Below are some of our highest circulating, well-loved and well-used, cookbooks from across Toronto. Each of the books is at least 5 years old.


BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes by Shirley O. Corriher

Shirley Corriher and her husband opened a boys' school in 1959. She was responsible for cooking 3 meals a day for between 30-140 students. In 1970, her marriage ended and Corriher began cooking professionally. Bakewise includes her favourite recipes and explains the scientific principles behind successful baking techniques.

More Older but Still Popular baking books:


The bread bible

The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, 2003

At 640 pages this could be the only bread cookbook you ever need. Beranbaum includes detailed instructions for each recipe. There is also scientific information about how specific techniques work. The Bread Bible won the 2003 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Bread Book.

Other Older but Still Popular bread cookbooks:


Essentials of classic italian cooking

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

When Marcella Hazan moved to New York in 1955, she was a young newlywed who didn't know how to cook. She didn't like the food served in American Italian restaurants and wanted to cook the food she had as a child. Hazan taught herself to cook using a few Italian cookbooks and a great memory of the food she loved. Later she became an influential culinary teacher and taught others how Italian food should be made.

This volume contains two of Hazan's influential cookbooks: The Classic Italian Cookbook, first published in 1973 and More Classic Italian Cooking from 1978. 


French laundry cookbook

The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller with Susie Heller and Michael Ruhlman with photographs by Deborah Jones

A review of this 1999 cookbook in the Washington Post said it was "notorious for including some of the most laborious recipes in print" while Restaurants & Institutions said it was "too esoteric for home cooks". Even so, it remains one of Toronto Public Library's most borrowed "older" cookbooks. It contains 150 recipes from Thomas Keller's legendary restaurant, French Laundry. 

Another famous restaurant on our Older but Still Popular list:

  • Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan


Joy of cooking

The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer

Of course this classic cookbook would be on our list. It all began in 1930 when Irma Rombauer was widowed and destitute. Her children Marion and Edgar encouraged her to compile her recipes as a way of coping with her grief. She created a book with recipes and anecdotes and called it The Joy of Cooking. The book was self-published in 1931 by a company that manufactured labels for shoe boxes. After 3000 copies were sold Rombauer began looking for an actual publisher. A second edition was released in 1936 by the Bobbs-Merrill Company. The cookbook has been in print since 1936 with 9 editions and has sold 18 million copies.


Julia and jacques cooking at home

Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin

The two famed chefs share their recipes, techniques and expertise. The longtime friends enjoy cooking together even though they sometimes use different methods. A clear message of the book is that there are many different ways to create a delicious meal.


Madhur jaffrey's world vegetarian

Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey

This huge tribute to meatless diets was published in 1999. In the book, Madhur Jaffrey takes inspiration from vegetarian traditions around the world. She also demonstrates how meat dishes can be adapted for vegetarians.  Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian won the 2000 James Beard for International Cookbooks.

Other Madhur Jaffrey Cookbooks on the list of Older but Still Popular cookbooks:



Fresh: New Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes from the Award-Winning Fresh Restaurants by Jennifer Houston and Ruth Tal

Ruth Tal and Jennifer Houston share recipes from Fresh, the popular plant-based restaurant chain. Whether you're already vegan or vegetarian or are just curious about a meatless diet, this book provides wholesome and nutritious recipes to try. 

Other Older but Still Popular vegan and vegetarian books:

If older cookbooks don't interest you, check out these blog posts:

Please take a look at the other posts in our Older but Still Popular series