I have 8 cookbooks sitting in my virtual shopping cart right now and I’m sitting on my hands. I don’t know if I told you here, but I’m relocating with my business, myself, my dog, and my handsome butch to western Massachusetts in February so adding heavy (beautiful) cookbooks to my collection at this time isn’t going to work. Shopping for them works, though, and I’ll tell you what I discovered: although I have a pension for always wanting more of them, I still believe you can do wonderful things in a kitchen with a skillet, an oven pan, a sauce pan, a soup pot and one little cookbook. You may love fancy gadgets, but you don’t NEED them to succeed with your food. Just like I LOVE collecting cookbooks, but really, you can just begin with one. And don’t forget your local library! Take them out and audition a few before purchasing. That shit is FREE. So in chorus with this sentiment, I am continuing on with Part 2 of my favorites list for your enjoyment. I’ll begin with my personal bible which I’ve spoken of maybe, like, a billion times.
6. The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters – I know you’re sick of hearing about this book from me by now but what can I say? It continues to bat 1000 from the plate. Since reading it, I have never again purchased salad dressing, mayonnaise or creme fraiche. I have a completely grounded understanding abut how to build my personal pantry of foods for the way I like to cook making whipping things up so much easier. The book not only taught me how to cook things but it helped me feel empowered to cook things. Ms. Waters clearly loves food and she has a more refines taster than I do, but she gives me a sense that as I move along, I too will develop into a person that detects the subtle taste and texture differences in the way a shallot might work vs. a red onion. Or why a lady might choose which oil to drizzle on a soup. Her care and yet simplicity is a combination I come back to over and over because it provides me with a kind of faith I can build in myself as a person who uses food to nurture my life and cooking to arrive as a place or creative expression. Plus, it’s a beautiful book, which I’m a sucker for every time.
7. Tender by Nigel Slater - Speaking of beautiful books, I almost cried when this thing arrived on my doorstep. I’d been fondling it lovingly at one of the best places in America, Omnivore Books, and then while I was on vacation one time, I just couldn’t hold off and bought the thing online. British food writer Nigel Slater invites you into his garden and talks not just of cooking but of growing the food you cook and what it likes to do. Like Bryant Terry’s Inspired Vegan, this is also a tremendously personal offering. Mr. Slater is a wonderful writer and his attention to detail is actually emotional.When you sit down with him in his vegetable patch you feel encouraged to not only cook, but to go ahead and make a mess on your way. He’s all about the process of food, how things take attempt before they find their pinnacle and the pinnacle isn’t so much the point, but the journey there.The way he writes about pod peas made me want to kind of date them.
8. The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte and photographed by Hugh Forte - This is a whole foods book built around vegetables. Sure there’s a scallop here and there plus plenty of desserts, but the heart of the book is about vegetables and Ms. Forte clearly loves them. Her experience on the organic farm comes through in bright recipes that take beauty into account as an intrinsic part of the enjoyment of food alongside the taste. The photographs by her husband Hugh are fantastic and she makes it easy to go along with her. This is a fantastic place to start for beginner cooks or people who’ve felt intimidated in the kitchen. The introduction sets the scene, demystifies technique and invites you along for a gorgeous ride. The food is robust and healthy with fantastic pangs of flavor that punch each seasonal note. I think the beauty of this book as an object is a reflection of how this couple came together for the project. Something about their collaboration comes through and serves not just the recipes, but the readers beholding them as well.
9. The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley - I got this book a few years back when I embarked on my first cleanse. I picked it in a haphazard way just because it had a fat gold James Beard Award medal on the front. I didn’t know Mr. Berley’s background as either the former chef of Angelica Kitchen in NYC or as a cooking teacher of many years. But his way with writing is telling of his teacher’s background. He speaks to both beginners and experienced cook at once somehow using his knowledge of technique and his experience to encourage his readers. It’s a really supportive book. It’s surprising to me I went with a book that’s got black and white photographs of food as I’m usually so easily seduced by the pictures in books, but this one was perfect for me. I found his work with whole grains in particular incredibly useful and come back to that over and over. Plus the drawings are wonderful.
10. Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson - I’ve been reading Ms. Swanson’s blog, 101 Cookbooks forever. It’s been one of the best free resources my kitchen has ever had. I have to say, it’s maybe a little alienating to me in this way that has to do with money and what my friend Silas likes to call The Sheen of the Well-Off, and some days I can’t quite rise to the task of peeking in at what appears to be a perfect photograph of perfect food arranged in a perfect dish in a perfect kitchen in a perfect life. Now I’m not proud to say that reveals much more about me than it does about Ms. Swanson, but I like to level with you all. But I’ll tell you what, this lady knows her way around a vegetable. I have never made a recipe from this book I didn’t love. And I use it all the time. She makes food with great flavor, has no fear of richness, and takes you around the globe with her inspirations. (This is because she is often traveling around the globe.) This is her second book and it’s been out for a bit. Her first is just as lovely. In fact, most of the authors in Parts 1 & 2 have numerous books to check out so don’t be shy.
There you have it…. My top ten. I bet if I did it again in a month there would be some moving around, but I feel great about these.