I might not like to cook a lot but it hasn’t put a damper on my long standing love for reading and collecting cookbooks. Come to think of it, there is no reason why the two seemingly contradicting aspects can’t coexist in one person.
(For instance – even with the tremendous respect and love I hold for Julia Child and owing a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking for years and years, I have never ever cooked from it, but read it cover to cover.)
My favorite cookbooks are those I’ve amassed from second hand bookstores with pictures untouched by Photoshop and food stylers. Where the recipes itself lend to time traveling to an era where everything seemed so different in terms of nutrition, trends, ingredients, dinner traditions, women’s roles in society, entertaining tricks, cookware styles, and on and on.
These days, it feels like everyone is writing a cookbook (nothing wrong with that); with themes that are pretty specific and not just the broad veg and non-veg of yester years (nothing against this either). Add to that the food videos and blogs with constant recipe updates and I often wonder if it is even worth buying cookbooks anymore.
So today, I was wondering, how do you make a decision when to purchase a new cookbook?
Something I have started doing to help me make decide is to use my public library. Every haul of books from the library for me includes 1 or 2 or 5 cookbooks. Often picked at random out of curiosity for the theme or because the cover looked good, or because I like the chef/author from their previous work/show.
99% of what I get don’t make the cut to be an investment. The reasons for this are personal of course. I don’t cook red meat or pork so that obviously reduces a lot of options. Sometimes the recipes just aren’t that interesting or different enough. Other times I will try a couple of things and they don’t turn out as well as promised.
Having said that, here are the two cookbooks that have made the cut for me recently – Meera Sodha’s FRESH INDIA, and Vivian Howard’s THIS WILL MAKE IT TASTE GOOD.
Sodha’s cookbook speaks to my love for Gujarati home cooking. I can relate to her stories. Her spins on things I grew up eating are ingenious and something I will actually trying cooking once I am in my new kitchen. Gujarati cookbooks are hard to find in general, so I am really happy with this purchase.
Moving on to Howard’s This Will Make It Taste Good, it’s just beyond good! Not only does it show how to elevate ones cooking with simple sauces, dressings, and techniques – something I can apply to my mostly vegetarian cooking as well – but it is also reads like a memoir. I had the amazing chance to meet Howard as a photographer for Creative Mornings January 2020 talk on ROOTS. Since then I have fallen hard for her storytelling as much as her food. My 38th birthday was celebrated at her restaurant in Kinston, NC. So yeah, lots of reasons why this one made the cut!
So tell me, what cookbooks have made it to your home library recently? What are some of your all time favorites?
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