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Friday, December 19, 2008

A Year in . . . Cookbooks

For months I've been reading that publishers expect to do big business selling cookbooks this holiday season. On the one hand, this seems difficult to believe. Who needs another cookbook when the internet provides a treasure trove of recipes and cooking information?

On the other hand, folks who enjoy cooking also enjoy reading and collecting books about it. A good book or two is always welcome, especially when venturing into new areas of cooking. This year I started experimenting with Indian cooking and bought two excellent books by Madhur Jaffrey: Quick and Easy Indian Cooking and From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail.

If cookbooks are on your reading list, or holiday shopping list, check out the Washington Post which recently published a collection of some of the best cookbooks from 2008. Two of the books on its list are also in my own 'to read' file.

The first is BakeWise by biochemist Shirley O. Corriher. Ms. Corriher's previous book, CookWise, won a James Beard Foundation award. She has appeared on Alton Brown's Food Network program, Good Eats, and also with Lynn Rossetto Kasper on NPR's Splendid Table. When listening to Ms. Corriher I've always learned something interesting about the science behind food preparation, which makes BakeWise very intriguing.

A second book that looks interesting is Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages by Anne Mendelson. This book was mentioned in a previous post about book cover designs. It was recommended by Lynn Rosetto Kasper on The Splendid Table. For me, thinking about the history of milk brings to mind old news reel footage of dairy farmers spilling milk on the road because of concerns over the price. Also, my parents both grew-up on dairy farms. As a kid visiting grandma's farm, I developed a fondness for cows. (Chickens? Not so much.) In any event, Milk also sounds like an interesting read.

A third cookbook, which is not on the Washington Post's list but one I want to get a look at, is Cooking Up a Storm by Judy Walker, Food editor at the New Orleans Times-Picayune. When folks in New Orleans lost their possessions in Hurricane Katrina, they also lost their recipe collections. After the storm, the Times-Picayune began getting contacted by people looking to find copies of old recipes, many of which had been published by the paper as far back as the 1940s and 1950s. This book is the result of a project to help people recover their food and their culture.

It's the weekend. It's the holidays. Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler and T.G.I.F.