The James Beard Foundation released a recommended list of must-have cookbooks a few years ago. I was part of the committee that devised the list, and I argued against "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" (which still made it on the list) for the same reason I don't recommend it today for the average home cook. (The book has become a bestseller because of the movie "Julie & Julia.") "Mastering" may be a classic, but many of its recipes don't reflect how we eat today -- way too much butter and cream, dishes that don't appeal to American palates -- such as aspic or brains -- and methods more time-consuming than most cooks find necessary. And then there are the frozen green beans. (The availability of fresh ingredients has changed dramatically over the years.) But if you have time and energy to spend in the kitchen, the book (and its successor, Volume Two) offers a serious lesson in French cuisine. Here are the choices from the James Beard Foundation.

Must-have cookbooks

"American Cookery," by James Beard (BBS Publishing Corporation, 1996)

"Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From the Heart of Mexico," by Rick Bayless (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2007)

"Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook" (Better Homes and Gardens, 2004)

"Classic Indian Cooking," by Julie Sahni (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1980)

"Complete Techniques," by Jacques Pépin and Léon Pererr (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2001)

"Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking," by Marcella Hazan (Macmillan, 1995)

"How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food," by Mark Bittman (Wiley, 2006)

"The Joy of Cooking," by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (Scribner, 2006)

"The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook" (Countryman Press, 2003)

"Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts," by Maida Heatter (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1999)

"Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook," by Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, 1999)

"Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume One," Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck (Knopf, 1961)

"The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking: Techniques and Recipes," by Barbara Tropp (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1996)

"The New Food Lover's Companion," by Sharon Tyler Herbst (Barron's Educational Series, 2007)

"The Oxford Companion to Wine," by Jancis Robinson (Oxford University Press, 2007)

"Rick Stein's Complete Seafood," by Rick Stein (Ten Speed Press, 2004

"The Silver Palate Cookbook," by Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso (Workman Publishing Company, 2007)

"The Thrill of the Grill: Techniques, Recipes, and Down-Home Barbecue," Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2002)

"Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone," by Deborah Madison (Broadway, 2007)

"The Way to Cook," by Julia Child (Knopf, 1993)