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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Giving the Gift of Good Food

Clouded Leopard at the Houston Zoo ready for Thanksgiving with her very own pumpkin--by Terry Spear (who doesn't have any fancy recipes to share for the holidays!)

If you've read my first book, Reservations for Two, then you have a fair idea of how much I like to cook. I have large cookbook collection that I have to actively work to keep its current size or it doesn't fit in my house. Since I'm a public librarian, it should also come as no surprise to people that I often give books as gifts--and often I give cookbooks. As some major gift giving are coming up here in the States (and around the world), I wanted to share with you some cookbooks that I think would make nice gifts.

If you have a baker friend, Southern Pies by Nancie McDermott would make a lovely gift. She also has one Southern Cakes, but I'm partial to pies myself. Everything I've made from this cookbook has been delicious and most of them are simple. There's a pineapple-coconut pie that is scrumptious and a vinegar pie that will surprise you. And make sure you try the bean pie.


My favorite cookbook of the year has been Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop. There aren't really enough words in the English language to discuss my love of this cookbook, but I will try. This is Chinese home cooking, so it's fairly simple. Flavors range from plain to spicy to pickled to sweet and there is an emphasis on vegetables, with meat used mostly for flavoring rather than as a centerpiece. This is a good cookbook for people trying to cut down on their meat consumption and also for people who are gluten-free (so long as they can use tamari soy sauce). I love the tomatoes and eggs dish and the celery with macadamia nut stir-fry. I've made food from this cookbook pretty much every week since I got it, often making extra rice so I can have fried rice for a couple days.

Lastly, an old favorite--Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. This cookbook is a must own (or must give) for vegetarians and carnivores alike. With bean soups, breads, vegetable dishes, stews, pastas, and egg dishes from around the world, there is a recipe to please everyone in here. She has a baked lima bean dish (dried, not frozen or canned beans) that I find heavenly in the winter and a fried, green onion bread that I could gorge on and still want more the next day. Not all of it is appropriate for a weeknight dinner, but all of it is delicious.



So, what cookbooks would you recommend to me and other Lady Scribes readers? Do you have a favorite cookbook author?

16 comments:

  1. Hi Jennifer!

    I have some avid cooks in my family and among my friends and I've actually gone a different route and given them some very old cookbooks as gifts in the past. You know, copies of actual cookbooks from the colonial or Regency period. It's a gift that never fails to delight a chef or really productive cook. They marvel over the (nonexistent or unrecognizable) measurements and the exotic ingredients and the descriptions of cooking over a fireplace or wood stove.

    I've also given Amish cookbooks to some friends who love to visit the Amish country.

    Looking forward to seeing everyone's suggestions...



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    1. Deb,
      That's a really fun idea to give old cookbooks. :)

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    2. Deb,
      That's a great idea. I have some old cookbooks that I've been given by my mom and they're always fun to look at. It's a different era, but have you seen Mid-Century Menu (http://www.midcenturymenu.com/) where she cooks from mid-century recipes?

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  2. I have three favorite cookbooks that I never even considered giving as gifts. (Forehead slap) But what a perfect idea for our family gift exchange. We have a lot of cooks in the family.

    I'm not much of a baker, so when I received The Bake Sale Cookbook: Quintessential American Desserts, I thought I would never use it. Wrong! Everything I've made has turned out perfectly. Our favorites are Snickerdoodles and rhubarb bars that are so simple and delicious, it's unreal.

    My second favorite cookbook is one I recently purchased. Meatless: More than 200 of the Very Best Vegetarian Recipes. I'm working my way through the book and everything has been great.

    My all time favorite cookbook is Sheila Lukins All Around the World Cookbook. I haven't made tons of the recipes, but it documents her travels with her daughter all around the world to discover new tastes and recipes. There are pictures from her travels and antidotes. I love it! And my family's favorite breakfast came from that cookbook, banana pancakes.

    Now I'm excited about Christmas shopping. :)

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    1. I'll have to check out Meatless. I'm not 100% vegetarian, but I'm about 95% of the way there and I do like to find new vegetarian recipes.

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  3. I loved your post but I am a terrible cook. I try. I really do. But it's just not in my wheelhouse. I've got a few standard dishes that are edible but that's it. I've tried all kinds of cookbooks but no matter what I do, I kind of muck it up. I envy people who can cook and cook well. It's a true art form.

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  4. Hey Jennifer!

    Well, it's not a secret that I'm not a very good cook. It won't take a lot for my son's future wife (whoever she'll be) to outshine me. She'll never have to hear "Well, the way my mom makes hers..." unless he's saying something unflattering. ;)

    But I loved looking at the picture of the southern pies cookbook you posted. Now I want someone to make me some southern pies. :)

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    1. Sara and Ava,

      Sorry about the bad cooking. It's one of my favorite things to do--however, I understand the frustration. I've always wanted to be able to draw and even my stick figures are pretty terrible. LOL.

      Ava--your son's future wife comments reminds me of a story my mom tells about getting on a boyfriend's mother's shit list. Apparently one of my mom's boyfriends said, "[My mom's] gravy doesn't have lumps like yours!" and any hope for a positive relationship between my mom and the bf's mother was gone for good.

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  5. Great post, Jennifer!! I actually love the idea of cooking, but I'm not terribly good at it. Like Sara, I have a handful of dishes I can do well, but I tend to shy away from recipes that have too many ingredients or too many steps...maybe I'm just lazy! But I'm really intrigued by the Every Grain of Rice book -- I love Asian food!! Oh, and I love to bake, but that's pretty easy, in my opinion...throw it all together, throw it in the oven, and VOILA!

    Oh, and as for my favorite cookbook...Pinterest!! LOL! I've found tons and tons of great recipes there, so I can't justify having paperback cookbooks anymore :)

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    1. Every Grain of Rice is such a good cookbook. Some of the measurements are a little wonky, but a little extra bok choy doesn't really matte and the recipes are generally so simple. While some of the recipes have unusual ingredients, you can do most of them without access to an Asian market.

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  6. I was going to feel bad posting the truth, until I saw Jerrica's response : ) but I am not very talented in the kitchen. I'm doubtful of my own cooking abilities...plus, my husband is an amazing cook who loves to work in the kitchen. He's very creative and likes to create original dishes. However, one Christmas, I purchased him a book from Disney World, that contained recipes from the different parks and restaurants. So, so awesome!

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    1. Having a spouse who loves to cook is great too!

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  7. I love reading through cookbooks. If I don’t grab a recipe right away, I get ideas for combining recipes or adding other ingredients in place of others for a different take.

    Cookbooks do make a great gift for your friends that love to cook like I do. I can’t say I have a particular favorite cookbook author because I am intrigued by all of them.

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    1. Cookbooks are also so nice just to flip through for the pictures. Because I work at a public library, I see and take home lots of cookbooks. It probably seems a bit like overkill, but I love to look through them while I eat.

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  8. I love to cook and my son is a great foodie and chef. My favorite cookbooks is one by Jacques Pepin. Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pepin It is simple and easy, despite the French overtones.

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    1. I love Jacques Pepin! Did you ever watch his cooking show with Julia Child? Every time he turned his back, she would add more butter and then they would fight about it. It was like watching an old married couple cook--very funny! Pepin has a recipe for hard-boiled egg gratin from Fast Food My Way that I love! Lots of onions and tomatoes and gruyere cheese.

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