Cookbook Fiend: Episode 1

I love books. I love the feel of a matte cover, the heft of a hardback and the class of a hand-bound letterpress number. I love the feeling of my eyes skimming, my fingers running down a color plate of an image and knowing the weight in my backpack is a private metropolis of nirvana. I love books the way DJs love vinyl, the way photographers love a Holga, the way poets cling to their typewriters. While I understand the incredible convenience of digital technology, the ability to bring a billion books on vacation in one snappy device, I still continue to accumulate tomes in paper, mostly used so not feeling TOO bad about the trees. I like to hold them. And I like to cook from them. People have asked me a lot what my favorites are and since it is impossible to list them all at once, I am going to take a cue from one of my favorites, Heidi Swanson, and tell you few in my list every coupla weeks or something. Let’s start with two indispensable ones.

1. The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters This book is irreplaceable in my kitchen. I love it the way I love seeing an old friend. Time never passed, everything feels always confortable. The book itself is beautiful with its fat red cloth spine and Patricia Curtan’s elegant illustrations, so it’s a pleasure to pull it out and crack it open over and over. With easy to learn ideas about everything from stocking your kitchen to create a system to pairing flavors, Ms. Waters’ passion for the simplicity of food the way it really is changed everything about how I approached the kitchen. She really helped me change it from a heavy industrial chore reserved only for undertakings of parties or company to a simple act of creativity to support not only my health but also art. That word isn’t in the title by accident. The dishes turn out colorful, vibrant and gorgeous and her passion for the respect of natural cooking only enhances the information she passes on with this iconic work. I would tote it to my island.

2. super natural every day by Heidi Swanson
As readers of this page you already know I am CONSTANTLY being inspired by Ms. Swanson. Not only is she a wonderful cook and a beautiful photographer, but she is incredibly generous with her talent. Her blog, 101 Cookbooks, has HUNDREDS of free gorgeous recipe offerings with the same sublime work as her books. Every recipe I’ve tried from her works out just fine, her instructions are clear and easy and her ideas for endless alternatives to continue to transform the same recipes over and over support my idea that we just never have to get bored with food. Never. Her work is vegetarian with some vegan options but frankly, even as a person who still occasionally eats meat, I find that’s not the point. The point is the taste and the beauty in the work. This book gives you a sense that you can fix yourself a bowl of steel cut oats so uncommonly lovely that your whole day will feel like a few minutes at a quiet table, maybe penning a letter to an old friend while a bird sings a city song with traffic outside and only the fresh air reaches you and your pretty pen. 

I’ll be back with more later, but these two are so dog-eared and well-loved, I thought they’d be a good place to start. Now, I’m off to roast a portobello cap.


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