Here's the deal... Every year at this time (shared birthday) a colleague and I exchange books as gifts. We each get to pick the book we want. This year I want a cookbook, and I want to find one that is not only excellent, but is so good it's the one I'll want to be buried with. In other words, the one you can't be without--ever.
I am what I would describe as a fearless intermediate cook. E.g., after seeing "Julie & Julia", I decided to work my way through Escoffier instead. So I am unafraid to tackle elaborate or difficult preparations. But I do favor simple, traditional, exquisite, time-efficient dishes unless avant garde/long/hard actually gets me somewhere. I prefer to dine in Brasseries and Trattoria rather than more formal venues.
Cuisine-wise, I favor French and Italian, but I am not dogmatic. I have next to zero experience with most Asian cuisines, although I love to eat Asian food.
Also, I should say that I really don't care whether the book is full of photos. This one will be kept in my kitchen (and casket), not on my coffeetable.
So what would you recommend?