Marcella Hazan, The Classic Italian Cookbook
Marcella Hazan is the reigning authority on la cucina italiana. Although the book is full of historical tid-bits, you don’t actually have to read them. Pick up a copy, choose a recipe and regale your dinner guests with made-up stories about how you learned to cook during the two years you lived in the hills of Tuscany.
Mollie Katzen, The Moosewood Cookbook
I am forever cooking dinner for vegetarians. This wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t hate vegetarian food. Nothing tickles my gag reflex like a slab of Tofurkey. Luckily, Mollie Katzen’s classic hippie cookbook is full of meatless recipes that don’t attempt to mimic poultry. As far as I can remember, it’s also free of historical context, unless you count the trippy illustrations.
Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything
Nigella Lawson, How to Be a Domestic Goddess
Don’t let the unfairly gendered title of this cookbook fool you — it works for anyone who’s interested in baking anything. No history in this one either — just easy to follow recipes with photographs so lush they look a little pornographic (and that’s saying nothing of the pictures of Ms. Lawson herself). What was that about cookbooks reflecting cultural fantasies…