Go Inside Martha's Incredible New Cookbook Library
Although there are many sites online where you can find delicious recipes (including ours, of course), I believe that having a wide range of cookbooks is essential, both for inspiration and as an invaluable and practical resource.
While I do keep duplicates of my most referenced books on shelves in my main kitchen, I recently decided to create a bright and beautiful library for my volumes, in the dining room of the Maple Avenue house on my farm in Bedford. This is my place to dream up new dishes and flip through old favorites, like my 1961 first edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle (which can now fetch upwards of $700); South Wind Through the Kitchen, by the famous English food writer Elizabeth David; The Art of Fine Baking, by Paula Peck; and the venerable Larousse Gastronomique.
With the help of a designer from California Closets, I designated areas for simple adjustable shelves, which are handy for oversize books. Then I organized titles by type of cuisine: I have a section devoted to Italian food, for instance, while my pastry books fill another.
I furnished the space like a formal, well-lit reading room in an old public library. A large dining table for hosting lunches and dinners doubles as a work surface where I can spread out multiple books, papers, and photos. Standing lamps provide ample illumination, and an antique mirror over the fireplace helps reflect more light when day fades into evening. Translucent window shades protect the books from dire sun exposure. I also added several begonias and topiaries to bring life into the room; they seem to love the north and east light.
I'm delighted with the results. Being surrounded by all these recipes just might inspire me to get started on another cookbook. Stay tuned for what it will be!
The Inspired Chef
Martha loves to try recipes and techniques from new cookbooks; here she leafs through Baking at République, by Margarita Manzke. "I cherish my oldest cookbooks. They have provided so many unforgettable meals for my family and me."
Martha worked with California Closets to design floor-to-ceiling shelves in a black finish. To warm up the room, Martha decorated the mantel with vintage pottery and placed a jade plant on an antique wooden pedestal.
The new library brims with hundreds of books.
A Well-Loved Treasure
Held together with tape, Martha's well-loved copy of the classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking contains handwritten recipes she's tucked inside over the years.
An inscription inside her copy of The Gourmet Cookbook.