A couple of years ago, Better Homes and Gardens published the 16th edition of the New Cook Book. It’s just come out on March 1 in a smaller, spiral bound version and it is again worthwhile considering how the 16th edition varies from the past.
There are over 1200 recipes with a 1000 color photographs. It’s a bright, happy book. There have been changes since the 15th edition. It’s not a total rewrite, but it is a significant one with many of the recipes touched one way or another.
The 16th edition is about evolution.
Of course some things cannot and should not change. That wonderful red and white checkerboard cover of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book is instantly recognizable. It’s a constant reference for me — especially me. My wife Suzen is a talented cook, as good as you can get without going through the CIA. Me? I need help. Lots of help. Hundreds of pages of help. Plenty of pictures help. Plenty of tips help. So, this book is a standby in the kitchen for me, something I often grab off my bookshelf with a sigh and smile of relief. The BH&G tome is one we can all trust. And all use.
The previous edition, the 15th, was published fairly recently, in 2010. So two questions arise: what is different and should I add this book to my shelf. Briefly, there are distinct changes — more shifts really — in the content that make this book really “new.” It’s such an instant classic that I am happy to put the 16th next to the 15th and plan to use both. It’s not a matter of “one for the other” but rather “adding a new child” to the family.
This book is not a rewrite from scratch. Most of the old recipes are there, but there are additions and clarifications. This edition reflects the changes and shifting trends in home cooking:
The inside cover has a new table for substitutions that includes Cajun and Fajita
Smoothies appear with multiple recipes
The pasta recipes are more contemporary and a whole section is devoted to homemade pasta; so Cheese Filled Tortellini and the Meat Filled Ravioli are gone, to be replaced by Potato Gnocchi.
Desserts are updated; for example, the old Sweet Potato Pie is gone, replaced by Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie; here the old ½ cup of white sugar is displaced by a full 1 cup of brown.
One new chapter appears, Holiday Favorites, which is sure to be one you dive into during this year’s holiday season
The Tips appearing each chapter have been greatly expanded to help people like, well, me
This new edition is about the same length as the old one. It’s hard to quantify the content change, something on the order of 10%. If you add something, and want to keep the book length the same, then sadly some recipes must go away. So, we get smoothies, but the mint brownies are gone. That’s a reason to both add the 16th yet keep the 15th.
Old recipes are mostly untouched, but there are some significant boosts. Ever tried to make classic hash brown using grated potatoes? I have and I created one mass of black stuff.
“Don’t blog that,” was Suzen’s comment. I did anyway, but made heavy use of salt, pepper, lighting and Photoshop. The hash browns recipe in the 16th has been greatly expanded with instructions to guide you to perfect, dreamily hash browns. Not hash blacks.
So the 16th is heavily about refinements, clarifications, and reorganizations. The onion rings are still there but shifted from the Appetizers chapter to Vegetables. Many of the recipe titles have been changed to give you an immediate idea of what the flavor will be: the Asparagus Deviled Egg recipe is now titled Asparagus and Ham. The net effect is to make the book more immediately clear and give you an easier path to recipe selection.
An interesting new feature is the “8 Way With …” concept. Here a basic recipe can be changed with some simple changes and additions. It lets you turn chicken breasts into something beyond chicken, an act that may draw applause from your children. Or from you.
The 16th edition makes the BH&G standard a contemporary, very friendly and very wise addition to your kitchen library. Your old copy of BH&G, like my 15th, probably has a collection of dog-eared pages. After you get your copy of the 16th, you’ll find many favorites — both old and new. The 16th is big, helpful, and immensely enjoyable.
And, if you think this book is just "American" food then consider the photo below: Greek Lamb Soup with Cucumber Yogurt Topping. This is a cookbook with international flavors.