Do I have to answer that question? One hundred and five, yes, 105 cookbooks, give or take a few that have been borrowed and are out on permanent or temporary leave, fill the shelves in my humble kitchen. But there is always room for one more. It fills me with great happiness to acquire or receive new cookbooks and share their recipes and recommendations with friends. I also like to balance these cookbooks with culinary readings from some of the preeminent food writers such as MFK Fischer who never fails to fill our souls with sensual pleasures from the table or food critic Calvin Trillin who provides creative insights and comic relief.
There is much to be learned from these sage food writers that have taught me not to be afraid and to let myself, my voice, and my life, come through in my writing about the pleasures of preparing and eating food. Because for me, just as it is for so many of the well known food writers and bloggers these days, food is not just about what’s on the plate, but also about the context, who you were with, and the intimate experience associated with preparing and sharing food at the table with friends.
A quote from MFK Fisher sums up many of my emotions regarding food,
It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it…and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied…and it is all one.
Every cookbook has a story or an association doesn’t it? Maybe you ate in the restaurant while traveling, or you follow a particular chef and have waited for what seems like a lifetime for the book to be released with these coveted recipes. A friend of yours who is a trusted and reliable cook, swears by these quick and easy recipes and gifts you with her newest favorite cookbook as a surprise.
There is nothing like quiet time alone with a new cookbook. It is like spending quality time with a best friend. Yoga, meditation and long quiet walks have their place in my life, but they can’t touch cozying up with a new cookbook, being drawn in to a new world of exotic tastes and flavors and dreaming of my next meal or dinner party.
A real gourmet has no fear and throws all caution to the wind. I challenge you to do the same in your kitchen. Approach the gastronomical frontier with complete abandon in your pursuit of cooking and tasting and learning. Hunt for those hard to find obscure ingredients, travel the area to the local farmer’s markets, buy 5 new spices, herbs or ingredients that you have never heard of or used. Invite them into your pantry and your kitchen and start cooking. Use recipes at first and then once they become familiar to you perhaps you will find a way to include these new friends in old dishes and breathe new life into a traditional family recipe. The worst that can happen is that you fail and the best part is that you get to try again and sample the results again.
Here is a brief summary of a few of my new favorite cook books.
Over the next few months, I will select and experiment with some of the recipes from each book and share some of my successes! Don’t forget that the goal is to have fun, make new discoveries and allow these recipes and cooking experiences to become your own.
by Amanda Cohen and Ryan Dunlavey
Described as “flavor forward food from the upstart New York City vegetarian restaurant” by the same name. This cookbook is written in a graphic novel style which makes it an adventure as well as a fun read. Lots of fun salads with introductions to new cooking techniques and food preparations that you may have not experimented with before such as celery pesto, smoked maple butternut squash, kimchi donuts, and broccoli carpaccio.
Everything I Want to Eat
by Jessica Koslow from the restaurant Sqirl and the new California cooking
Jessica Koslow never fails to engage all of our senses as she surprises us with her refreshing and creative new interpretations of her inspired cuisine. Her cookbook is divided into categories such as “Eggs and Toast, ” “Grains and Beans,” and “Jams.” There is even a take on her avocado toast, with a garlic cream twist of course. So many cookbooks provide sensual photographs of food. Jessica’s book fulfills the food porn experience as well as the experience of fresh, mostly vegetarian, real food representing global food cultures.
by Eric Werner and Mya Henry
Hartwood, the restaurant, is at the edge of the jungle as it reaches out to touch the Caribbean Sea in Tulum, Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula. Werner and his wife have carved a food destination from an overgrown bit of the jungle and create extraordinarily unique cuisine from the bounties of the sea and the regional riches of the ancient Mayan land. They are known for their ceviches, grilled prawns, fresh fish and pickled vegetables, and exotic mezcal and fruit cocktails. The kitchen at Hartwood is open and all cooking takes place over a grill and a wood burning oven. The cookbook had adapted the recipes for your home kitchen or your outdoor grill.
Milk Street Tuesday Nights
by Christopher Kimball
The best part of this book in my opinion is not only the well tested no fail recipes but also the way the contents of the book are organized. Chapters are titled, “Fast,” “Faster,” and “Fastest,” “Easy Additions” and “One Pot.” As Christopher Kimball, the author and chef states, fast food does not have to mean bad food. If you have the right ingredients, including a pantry with the right herbs and spices, you will learn how easy it is to be not just a good cook but a great one, inspiring others with your eclectic cuisine.
The Real Taste of Spain, Recipes Inspired by the Markets of Spain
by Jenny Chandler
When I travel and visit new cities, the first thing I seek out are the markets. The markets teach you so much about the culture of an area and their food traditions. A couple of years ago, I walked the Camino do Santiago in northwestern Spain in the region of Galicia. The standard menu items were limited but usually consisted of some type of seafood such as “pulpo,” tender octopus immersed in olive oil, garlic and paprika, hearty stews such as “Caldo Gallego” and the delicate, Tarta de Santiago, a lovely light almond cakey tart. I explored the San Miguel Market in Madrid taking time to taste local wines and vermouths paired with tasty tapas. In Barcelona, I visited La Bouqueria for breakfast and shopping for fragrant golden saffron to take home as gifts and for the essential ingredient for paella.This book will take you on an adventure through many of these markets in different regions of Spain and introduce you to regional foods so that you can produce authentic Spanish cuisine in your home kitchen.
Cindy’s Supper Club, Meals from Around the World to Share with Family and Friends
by Cindy Pawlcyn
This book is a great resource because of the way that it is organized. Not only do the recipes combine her food and travel experiences using food as a cultural metaphor, but the recipes are from specific food destinations. Choose a country for your next dinner party, or choose selections from multiple countries. Do you want your guests to travel with you to Norway, France, Greece, Mexico or Lebanon? Host your own supper club and travel the world from your kitchen.
Look for my favorite recipes from these cookbooks coming soon.