Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday gift ideas part 2 - Cookbooks: Peggy's Top Ten

Introduction and disclaimer
I don't smoke or gamble.  I drink alcohol in moderation and hardly spend any time watching TV or playing around with social media.  I eat lots of vegetables but I also believe in the pleasures of butter, cream and lard.  I am not into flashy cars or clothes.  I believe that moderation in all things is a very good rule to live by.......

Except when it comes to cookbooks.  I love cookbooks.  I covet cookbooks.  I like to read them and to own them.  I can't seem to get enough.  They are my friends and comfort in times of trouble or confusion.  They inspire and challenge and entertain me.  They can frustrate and depress me, too. (so many recipes-so little time). 

A cookbook or even one recipe can change your life and lives of those you love if you let it.  It is not magic - you will have to do some work. You will have to spend some time learning what you like and how to pull it off.  Do not expect overnight success.  As I have said many times on this blog, learning how to cook is the work of a lifetime.

Peggy's Top Ten for 2010
This morning I surveyed "best cook book" lists for 2010 from reliable sources such as:  The New York Times, Epicurious, Bon Appetit, the Washington Post, Amazon, Jessica's Biscuit (a cookbook website),  Publisher's Weekly, NPR and the Food 52 website.  If you want to do this yourself, go to the Best Cookbooks article in the Huffington Post, where most of these sources are aggregated.  It will take you a long time.

I also have surveyed some of my personal lists and favorites.  And I have come up with my own Top Ten list of gift cookbooks for 2010 - either gifts for yourself or someone you love.

These are NOT necessarily all purpose workhorse cookbooks.  (For a discussion of one of my favorite classics, go to this earlier blog post -

Some of the books on this list are probably destined to become classics -- but we won't know that for a while since these are all new in 2010.    I think you will love them, or some of them.  Many of these books have been recommended by various food editors and "experts".  They are not necessarily books that have been most purchased by the general public.  If you want mass market popular books you can easily find those on Amazon or other book sites.  The word "easy" is quite common in popular cook book titles.  Also "skinny" and "fast" and "comfort".

I am not opposed to fast or easy cooking.  But I believe that the more you cook with great quality cookbooks, the faster you will get and the easier cooking will be for you. 

My List
I have calculated that the total cost of this list is around $250 if purchased on line.  Several of the books on this list can be had for only $20. 

These books are listed in no special order.  You can share this link with some foodie friends who might be looking for gift ideas.  You can add these titles to your Amazon wish list.  You could do all your holiday shopping without setting foot in a mall.  Or take this list to your favorite bookstore and spend an afternoon browsing and buying.  Pretty civilized if you ask me.

I decided not to choose a link for each book.  Just google to find links or go to your favorite bookstore or book website.

1.  One Big Table - 600 recipes from the nation's best home cooks, farmers, fishermen, pit-masters, and chefs by Molly O 'Neill
This book is on many best of 2010 lists.  It weighs 15 pounds and according to the reviews on Amazon - it is weighty in content as well.  An excerpt from one review:  It's easy to forget how diverse America truly is when reading traditional American cookbooks. This book, however, gives us a glimpse inside the menus of real Americans of various backgrounds and their families. We see local and regional culture reflected, as well as immigrant culture and how immigrants have evolved their menus to reflect their surroundings. I own many cookbooks (somewhere over 400 or so), but this is probably the best one that I have read recently. Every page draws me in and reminds of the America I know and love.

2.  The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser
A lot of good history as well as recipes.  Probably destined to become a classic.  I love my 1961 New York Times cookbook by Craig Claiborne but have to admit it is getting a bit dated.   Remember rumaki?

3.  Around My French Table: More than 300 recipes from my house to yours by Dorie Greenspan
This book is on a lot of critics' lists.  Probably not for beginners.

4.  The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living by Mark Bittman
This is a "political" cookbook - in a good way.  We vote with our forks.  Might as well think more about what we are voting for or against.  Plus great recipes which we have come to expect from Bittman.

5.   Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best - Over 700 Recipes Show You Why by Darina Allen
Ms. Allen hails from the famous Ballymalloe Cooking School in Ireland.  I can't wait to try some of the recipes in this book.  

6. Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi
This is probably the least practical book on this list.  It might be more an art book than a cookbook.  I hope you find it inspirational.  The author Rene Redzepi is THE hot new international chef and is a serious locavore.  His restaurant in Copenhagen has become very famous.   Any Minnesotan who claims a deep interest in food should at least be aware of this book if not own it.

7. Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen by Amy Pennington
My kind of cook -- waste not want not.

8. Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce, Quentin Bacon, Nancy Silverton, and Amy Scattergood
I just had to include one baking book on this list. 

9. The Very Best Of Recipes for Health: 250 Recipes and More from the Popular Feature on by Martha Rose Shulman
I link to Ms. Shulman's recipes on the Featherstone Farm facebook page all the time.  She has written many many books - I think this is the most recent.  Very practical and tasty recipes and excellent for CSA members who need to cope with lots of veggies.

10. What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio
I chose this because I think good cooks need to be very aware of food cultures around the world.  America is a melting pot - culinarily and otherwise.  We are the better for it.

1 comment:

  1. I heard an interview with the author of Around my French Table and really, really wanted to buy the book. Since then I've read about it in about 5 "best of" lists-one from a cook I trust, no less. Now I really, really, really, want it. Thankfully, it's at my local library so I can take a peak at the recipes before I decide to invest.