This year's cookbooks keep coming in great variety, although many are more expensive than last year. Beautiful, extravagant photography is what ups the price, but fortunately there are many softcovers at more moderate cost, so choose accordingly from the tremendous numbers on the bookshelves.
Whether as gifts for bedside reading or coffeetable display, there are cookbooks for browsing, for research and reference, humor and hilarity, and many for just plain cooking.
Most of the hardcovers sell for around $15, but many are priced in the $20 to
Giuliano Bugialli's Foods of Italy (Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, $45) is probably the most spectacular. It is this year's high-priced showstopper guaranteed to provide a feast for the eyes as well as table.
Regional recipes are as exciting as the photography, and the colorful history and background make it useful, but this is a cookbook to be well protected if allowed in the kitchen at all.
Ginger East to West: A Cook's Tour With Recipes, Techniques, and Lore, by Bruce Cost, illustrated by Amy Pertschuk (Aris Books, $9.95, softcover).
This book includes fascinating material on its single subject, with just the right amount of historic background on the several types of ginger.
Recipes come from countries where the spice is an important ingredient in national cuisine, with uses for dried and candied ginger as well as fresh. It's used ilkn main dishes and desserts - ginger ice cream is one delicious example - and there's a whole chapter on variations of gingerbread.
Alice B. Toklas Cookbook (Harper & Row, $14.95).
Literary friends and armchair gardeners will enjoy reading about Alice B. Toklas picking French beans from poles so high she stood on three boxes stacked in her French country garden.
Included are amusing stories about foods she cooked for Gertrude Stein. She tells of traveling on lecture tours where only oysters and melon were served for dinner. There are also descriptions of the food cooked for the famous Paris salon gatherings.
Among the 350 recipes is one for her famous fudge, or brownies, plus other unusual and extravagant recipes such as lobster and black truffle salad or garlic ice cream.
Pierre Franey's Low-Calorie Gourmet, with Richard Flaste (Times Books, $14.95 ).
''I have changed my mind,'' says Pierre Franey, speaking about his classic French cooking. In so doing his French techniques have turned out lighter, well-seasoned dishes - not a dietetic collection of recipes - without using special tricks.
''There's no cream or flour-based sauces, little butter - and in accordance with modern sensibilities, only a touch of salt,'' he says. Oranges, curry, ginger, coriander, olives, anchovies, and sweet red peppers are flavors that work well with fish and chicken for this well-known chef.
His recipes tell how to cook salmon like pepper steak, chicken with an orange sauce, and duck salad with green beans. Most are in the 60-minute format.
Chez Panisse Pasta, Pizza, and Calzone, by Alice Waters (Random House, 7.95). The same creative dash shown in Alice Waters's restaurant menus with classical and traditional dishes now elevates down-to-earth pizza and pasta to greater heights.
Full of brilliant and easy short recipes, the book is arranged by season so fresh herbs can complement the fresh fish and other good foods that go on the pizza or pasta. A nice gift book that's attractive and small.
New Classic Cuisine, by Albert and Michel Roux (Barron's, $24.95).
These brothers have done much to elevate the standard of restaurant food in Great Britain in serving food with the highest possible standards of French cuisine, along with prices to match.
Roux Restaurants earned five of the coveted Michelin stars and five Egon Ronay stars, but these master chefs had refused to write a cookbook until this one, which appeared last year in England (Macdonald Publishers).
Their philosophies of cookery are presented here, with original recipes from their first two restaurants, Le Gavroche and Waterside Inn.
The Sauce Book, by Pepita Aris (McGraw Hill, $15.95 ).
Chinese dipping sauces, bilberries for a Vermont pudding, marinades from India, wonderful herb sauces, and foamy, fruit toppings, are all found in this neat cookbook.
Basic instruction is included along with the classic hot and cold sauces from famous chefs and well-known restaurants. Recipes are concise but easy to follow.
You've Got It Made, by Marian Burros (Times Books, $13.95).
Marian Burros proves that after a long day at the office, it is still possible to provide something that actually tastes like a meal you've been cooking all day.
Three-dish menus that can be made in 30 minutes and frozen appear in the first pages of this cookbook. They are followed by recipes and ideas for entertaining in the traditional manner or for cooking good family meals from scratch.
The author tells how to give a cooperative dinner party in a new version of a covered dish supper. Her time-saving techniques do not sacrifice quality for speed.
Italian Fast and Fresh, by Julie Dannenbaum (Harper & Row, $15.95).
Just about every page backs up the title of this book. These recipes are quick.
After teaching summer classes at the Gritti Palace in Venice, Julie Dannenbaum has accumulated ideas from special guests who are well-known Italian chefs.
One chef from Genoa comes with bushels of fresh basil; another from Sicily brings his own special sweet lemons. Wonderful cheeses, wild mushrooms, fresh seafood, all are included in quick, easy dishes.
''I'm not a purist cook,'' the author writes. ''I cook because cooking is fun and cooking is creative.''
On Food and Cooking, the Science and Lore of the Kitchen, by Harold McGee (Charles Scribner's Sons, $29.95).
This book includes valuable material on the origin and science of food. This is information that isn't in my own expansive food library and is probably not available elsewhere except from food scientists.
In language nonscientists can read and enjoy, the book covers such subjects as crystallization control, additives from the good old days, the anatomy of a grape, and the aging of eggs.