Cookbooks You Need When Moving Abroad

by Jimmie

If you live in a developing nation, you need cookbooks with recipes for cooking from scratch, directions for dealing with cuts of meats and fish, and tips for cooking new foods.

I lived abroad (in China) for over eight years. During that time I learned how to cook a lot of foods from scratch because if I wanted to eat them, that was the only way I would get them. I learned that your own stomach is a great motivator in the kitchen!

When I would come to America to visit, I was disappointed to find that most of the cookbooks really wouldn't work abroad especially in a developing nation such as China. Why? Because in developing nations, there are few prepackaged and convenience foods. Most foods are whole foods -- grains, fruits, vegetables, meats. (Take a look at the Chinese wet markets where I shopped.) Overseas, the cook has a much greater burden in food preparation.

But over the years, I discovered three cookbooks that became favorites. If you are living abroad or moving abroad and still want to eat like you did at home, you will need these cookbooks.

How to Cook Everything

From Scratch with Real Foods
How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food (How to Cook Everything Series, 1)

Harvest  / $19.02  $18.0

View on Amazon

1. How to Cook Everything

Your Expat Kitchen Needs This One Cookbook

If you have to choose just one cookbook, I recommend How to Cook Everything.

How to Cook Everything stands up to it's grandiose name. This cookbook is comprehensive. It is a very thick paperback book (there is a hardback version as well), but I first read this on my Kindle ebook reader. 

kindle in kitchen in zip top bag

[Every expat needs a Kindle! The diagrams come out nicely in the Kindle version, and there are links throughout the book for easy navigation. I highly recommend this book. Download it to your Kindle and save the weight in your trunks for something else. To the right you can see this very cookbook on my Kindle in my Chinese kitchen. I put my Kindle in a ziptop bag to protect it from spills and splashes.]

How to Cook Everything shows you how to cut up a chicken and prepare other meats and vegetables. The best thing about this cookbook is that it is all cooking from scratch. You will not find any prepackaged mixes in the ingredient lists. Everything is real, whole food. This meshes perfectly with life abroad where simple things like barbeque sauce or salad dressings must all be made from scratch.

2. More With Less

Wholesome Foods Cooked Without Convenience Foods

Written from a Mennonite perspective, More With Less is another must have. This cookbook taught me how to make homemade bagels, English muffins, granola, and curry among other foods. 

Unfortunately I had to leave it behind in China. But as soon as possible, I replaced my copy. It is an essential in my kitchen. Again, the recipes use whole ingredients -- soy beans, oats, fruits, meats, spices, and vegetables. I found recipes for unsual vegetables that I never saw in my native America but that were sold in China. More With Less gave me the confidence to try and master new recipes.

More With Less espouses limiting our consumption of meats not for dietary reasons but for political ones. But the cookbook still has plenty of meat recipes. So if you don't agree with that perspective, just ignore it. 

More With Less

Used by Expats All Over the World for Many Years
More-with-Less Cookbook: Recipes and suggestions by Mennonites on h...
Herald Press
Only $11.49

3. Betty Crocker -- a Classic

Homemade Recipes for "Normal" Food

Another expat was leaving China and passed on her spiral bound Betty Crocker cookbook. I was so thankful after I realized what a treasure trove of cooking from scratch it had inside. I especially liked all the cake, pie, and cookie recipes. Without a cake mix or frozen pie crust, you've got to learn how to make these desserts the old fashioned way.

Betty Crocker has all the classic recipes plus some interesting ethnic dishes as well. I often turned to it for macaroni and cheese, fajita marinade, desserts, pizza dough, and breads.

Betty Crocker Cookbook

A Classic Cooking Manual
Betty Crocker Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today, ...
Betty Crocker
$7.09  $35.0
The Cookbooks You Need
The Cookbooks You Need
photo by Jimmie

Cooking From Scratch Will Change You

I am now back in America and have access to packaged foods and convenience mixes. But I have become accustomed to making my own foods from scratch. And more importantly, I have come to love the flavors and health of using whole foods instead of processed "foods." I don't think I would ever want to buy a cake mix or a package of taco seasoning mix. My homemade foods taste better and are far healthier!

So these three cookbooks are still in use on a daily basis in my American kitchen.

Updated: 02/27/2012, Jimmie
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Lauren on 10/01/2011

Thank you soo much I will download the cookbooks - if all three are available on my Nook! I am in Cambodia and there are plenty of great restaurant options for eating out but I want to learn how to cook without the convenience of the American grocery store. Scratch that I need to learn. But I find this quite a daunting task and will surely start with vegetarian options before I brave my way into preparing some chicken the old fashioned way. All the while trying to be healthy!

Meagan on 07/04/2011

Wow, thanks for this great article! This is a topic close to my heart! I live in rural Cambodia and love the challenge of trying to cook different things with only the fresh ingredients at the local market and a gas burner. (Ok, so I eventually caved on that front and built a solar oven). I've always been into cooking from scratch but still have so much to learn. These books sound great - and the More With Less philosophy sounds right up my alley.

AJ on 06/02/2011

I love cooking but cannot imagine what it must be like to move to a country like China - it must be like learning to cook all over again!

tandemonimom on 06/01/2011

I've learned a lot of from-scratch cookery from Joy of Cooking (older versions, not recent ones). Welcome back stateside!

Dianne on 06/01/2011

Thanks for these recommendations. Cooking from scratch really is better.

pkmcr on 05/31/2011

What a great idea for a page which addresses a real problem that I know friends who have gone to live abroad. Really well done!

Deb on 05/30/2011

Great recommendations! I love Bittner's cookbook. The 1997 version of The Joy of Cooking has a lot of good scratch-cooking info, too, but they went away from that in the subsequent editions.

nightbear on 05/30/2011

What an interesting problem you have over come. If anyone would know about this subject I'm sure it is you.

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