For the Love of Cookbooks
Somehow my mother, working full-time and single parenting two children (who were particularly high on the pain-in-the-ass scale), managed to make the love of food and home-cooked meals a staple in our house. We would make crepes for Saturday morning cartoons and on Sunday we would bake bread and she would let me bake my own tiny loaf in a little ramekin. She had well-used copies of The Joy of Cooking and The Moosewood Cookbook (as any Cambridge mom of that era did).
The cookbook genre has been steadily growing since I was a kid and to my delight, in the past decade or so it has become a borderline fetish. You can find gazillions of beautiful cookbooks with amazing stories and recipes from faraway lands. Since I’ve been asked on more than one occasion about my love of cookbooks I thought I’d share…
WHere I put them
After years of having many cookbooks tucked away in various corners of my kitchen, I invested in floating shelves to display my favorites of the moment and it’s been a game-changer. Every time anyone walks into my kitchen they walk past a wall of colorful books and friends and family are often compelled to take one down and open it up. When I can see them, I use them much more often - they’re inspiring even when I’m whipping something up quickly. Kiddos love to take them off the shelf and open them up on the floor.
HOw I use them
Surprisingly, for someone who loves cooking and cookbooks, I’m not much of a “follow the recipe” person. A number of the cookbooks I have are about ratios, flavors, science, and spices. These are hugely helpful in narrowing down ideas and avoiding serious cooking mishaps. If I see something that looks or sounds amazing, I might follow the recipe the first couple of times, remember the flavor profile and wing it after that. Most of the time, I’m looking for rough ideas, like combinations that I wouldn’t have thought of, and then I go from there. The rest of the time, I'll start with an ingredient that I’m hoping to cook with and start looking it up in various cookbooks to find fun ideas.
For easy inspiration, my favorite cookbook is Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix. You can look up an ingredient and find a pile of really cool ideas that you may not have thought of. For learning about food and cooking, I love Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat (it’s also been made into an amazing Netflix show). The Flavor Matrix is awesome for understanding the science of flavor and contains a lot of unexpected flavor pairings. For impressing guests, I’d definitely go with Made in India by Meera Sodha. Every dish I’ve made from that book has been scrumptious. The recipes are somewhat involved but easy to follow.
I’m always on the hunt for new cookbooks. What are your favorite cookbooks?