OK, so Caroline didn't quite tag me for this, but she certainly laid down a little challenge. So I'm taking on last summer's cookbook meme, because, well, I can.
Total Cookbooks I Own: 42. Clearly I'm a slacker. (115, Caroline? And without unpacking them all?) I do also have half a shelf full of old Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, and Food & Wine magazines that I haven't thrown away, and an overstuffed binder of epicurious printouts and various recipes ripped from magazines or the backs of boxes and bags.
Last cookbook I bought: I try not to buy them much, though I welcome them as gifts. So I have to confess that the last one I bought was at least two years ago, and it was the South Beach Diet Cookbook. I actually made things out of it, too. The last one I received was either Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone or Nigella Lawson's Feast; I'm not quite sure which was first.
The last food book I read: I've read it before, but I just re-read Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, which I love. I don't know if I'll ever make one of the recipes, but she just says such sensible things, like this: "When people enter the kitchen, they often drag their childhood in with them. I was brought up on English children's books, in which teatime and cottage life play an important role. These formed my earliest idea of comfort: a tea table in a cozy cottage." While I can't myself recall a tea table in a cozy cottage in any of the books I love from childhood--Alice's mad tea party is more like it--I do know what she means about childhood, food, and literature being intertwined. One of my favorite food books, after all, is Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy.
Five cookbooks that mean a lot to me:
Peg Bracken, The I Hate to Cook Book. This was the first cookbook I ever cooked something from. It was crazy cake, and it went rather badly (I used Nestle's Quik instead of unsweetened cocoa, and may have subsituted salt for the sugar as well), but I went back and did it again and it came out fine. Peg Bracken makes me laugh while I cook, which is always a good thing.
Suzanne Dunaway, No Need to Knead. This one taught me that I could bake bread. And there is nothing so satisfying as being able to serve home-baked bread at a dinner party or potluck.
The Art of Cooking for Two. This is a tattered old paperback that my father gave me the first Christmas or birthday after I graduated from college (along with another cookbook, Sweets for Saints and Sinners, by Janice Feuer--both are now out of print). I suspect both came in some kind of QPB special. The Art of Cooking for Two was great for me starting out, as the recipes really did work, they tasted good, and you didn't have to keep eating them for days on end. I love leftovers now, but when you're living on your own they do get old fast. I still make banana bread out of this cookbook, though not much else.
New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant. I didn't have the classic first Moosewood cookbook until it was out in a 10th anniversary edition, but I had this white one years ago. My copy has tape along the spine, stains on many of the pages, and is the source for more than one of my Friday food contributions. (For example, something like this, something like this, and I think also this one, which in their version has cauliflower and tomatoes, not tuna and peas.) I alter the recipes recklessly because they are the kind of basic rule-of-thumb recipes that one can alter and still succeed with. Everyone needs a cookbook like this.
The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and The Joy of Cooking. Peg Bracken refers to "your big encyclopedic cookbook" throughout The I Hate to Cook Book, and she usually means one of these two. Most families seem to prefer one or the other; as far as I know, we were a Joy of Cooking family--that's the cookbook Mom kept the lists of Christmas cookies in, that's the one Caroline has in three editions, etc. But someone gave me a Fannie Farmer paperback soon after I got my first apartment, and I cooked from it until it fell apart. I think it's still on the shelf in all its tattered glory, but I now have a hardcover as well. I use them both, usually consulting both on various basics (pie crust, buttermilk biscuits, crisps and crumbles, how to boil an egg) until I have a sense of the parameters, then I improvise.