B. For the more literate person, there are the histories , "memoirs" and humour of writers, chefs,
and wine people. Some have called these memoirs "creative non-fiction", many with
embellishments and gilding. And most – not all -- of them suffer from a lack of indexing, which
makes it difficult to find what the writer said about another person or subject. But this
also avoids the potential for lawsuits and disjointed noses. Nevertheless, they are
rewarding to read. Who cares about poetic license? Here then are some that stood out
from last year's run, and any of them would make great gifts for the reader. Here we go,
in no particular order…
--MEET PARIS OYSTER (Grand Central Life & Style, 2014, 149 pages, $22 CAN hard covers) is by Mireille Guillano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat. It is a stylish book, meant for the oyster lover, and endorsed by Daniel Boulud himself. This is the culture of the oyster lover in Paris; it begins with Huitrerie Regis, probably the best oyster bar in Paris. She chats with Regis, and then moves on to purveyors in Marennes-Oleron and winemakers in Sancerre. Along the way she writes of the health benefits of oysters, and then shares her fave oyster recipes and wine pairings. A book to give to oyster lovers.
--THE BREAD EXCHANGE (Chronicle Books, 2014, 240 pages, $40 hard covers) is by Malin Elmlid. She launched the Bread Exchange in 2008 when was a fashion-industry professional with an obsession for making her own bread. She started offering her breads to others in return (exchange) for recipes, handmade goods, and services. Her bok is the story of how managed it all, including traveling (she's from Sweden) to Berlin, Bavaria, Warsaw, Kabul, Antwerp, California, London and New York. There are more than 50 recipes here for naturally leavened breads and her exchange foods. Lovely photos.
--THE TEMPORARY BRIDE (Little, Brown, 2014, 240 pages, $22.99 CAN soft covers) is by Canadian-born Jennifer Klinec, who now runs a cooking school in London UK. Its subtitle is "a memoir of love and food in Iran" so it is part romance and part foodie. She searches for ancient recipes in offbeat places, and ends up in Iran helping a woman with her cooking and learning from her. This is a relationship venture as well since Klinec gets involved with the woman's son. He gives her a food tour of Iran, including a camel slaughterhouse. Good reading, great for discussion about Persian food and love.
--INVENTING BABY FOOD (University of California Press, 2014, 236 pages, $39.44 CAN soft covers) is by Amy Bentley, a public health professor at New York University who has also published other food cultural history books. Her subtitle is "taste, health, and the industrialization of the American diet" . She shows how the invention of commercial baby food shaped American notions of infancy and influenced the evolution of parental and pediatric care. By the 1950s, babies were eating a lot of the wrong ESSES: sugar, salt and starch. It's well-researched with extensive endnotes and a bibliography, plus index and some black and white illustrations.
--SOUS CHEF (Ballantine Books, 2014, 214 pages, $29.95 hard covers) is from the executive sous-chef at Tavern on the Green in NYC, Michael Gibney. It is about 24 hours on the line, with nuts and bolts about the restaurant industry and its insanity, spread over a full day. Gibney is descriptive of jobs and duties. It comes complete with a kitchen floor plan and a kitchen chain-of-command chart; it is told in second person narrative. Well worth a read.
--MASTERING THE ART OF SOVIET COOKING (Crown, 2013, 2014, 352 pages, $18 CAN paper covers) is a paperback reissue of food writer Anya von Bremzen's now classic memoir of food and longing. She's the winner of three Beard Awards and the author of five cookbooks. It's her story of life in the USSR, the privation of 18 families sharing one kitchen. She and her family eat their way through the decades, from the 1910s and the Czar to Lenin, Stalin, Glasnost and Putin on the Ritz. Along the way there are some non-indexed USSR recipes as well as sharp writing.
--COOK YOUR DATE INTO BED (Dog 'n' Bone, 2014, 128 pages, $19.95 CAN hard covers) is Helen Graves's look at the relationship between food and romance: eating out, sharing recipes, and how to make all foods delicious (she's got some preps like boozy Mexican hot chocolate, snacks, cocktails, and saucy breakfasts for apres. Plus some aphrodisiacs.
--HOW TO DRINK AND NOT LOOK LIKE AN IDIOT (Dog 'n' Bone, 2014, 128 pages, $19.95 CAN hard covers) is a guide to distinguishing quality booze from cheap rubbish. When you want something sophisticated, reach for this book. Emily Miles has the tips, tricks and tools for high-end restaurant or cocktail bar drinking. This is food and wine matching, sipping single malts, preparing a home liquor cabinet, and more. Deftly illustrated.
--THE PERFECT KEG (Greystone Books, 2014, 210 pages, $19.95 CAN paper) is by Ian Coutts who has written many articles and books about beer in Canada. Here, he looks to make the perfect keg of beer, from the beginnings of sowing, scything, malting and brewing up his best-ever pint of beer. It ia the record of a year long journey. He grew everything and made it all himself. It was part of his 100-mile-diet approach. The barley and hops came from the Ottawa Valley; the yeast he captured himself. Of course, it was not easy – but read it for yourself. He's also got 10 recipes for making different beer styles.
--WE MAKE BEER (St. Martin's Press, 2014, 213 pages, $28.99 CAN hard covers) is by Sean Lewis, former columnist for BeerAdvocate. It is all about a variety of American craft brewers and their artisanal workmanship. 31 breweries are covered, including such well-known names in Canada as Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada. Personalities, inventiveness, and hard work is covered in this community of brewers.
--A BOWL OF OLIVES (Workman Publishing, 2014, 128 pages, $23.95 CAN) is by Sara Midda, a UK illustrator , principally of food (she's done In and Out of the Garden and South of France; a sketchbook).. Her watercolour paintings here celebrate food and memory (a salad from the garden, a picnic on the beach, podding peas. There are even a few recipes amongst the excellent illustrations. A treasure for holiday gifting!
--THE PORTLANDIA COOKBOOK; cook like a local (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 176 pages, $28.95 CAN hard covers) is by an assortment of people. According to the verso, it is copyrighted by Broadway Video Entertainment Inc., with Library of Congress authorship attributed to Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein from the TV show, and photos by Evan Sung. Near the bottom, it says the text is by Alice Mathias and the recipes by Grace Parisi. The book is a collection of preps from all over Portland, from chefs to home cooks (although the photos look suspiciously like TV celebrities). The recipes look pretty good, divided into small plates, desserts, brunch, main courses, and drinks. But it is hard to figure out if food trucks are involved. Anyway, the recipes come from Grace Parisi, and include Brussels sprouts with bacon, grilled cheese nests, basket salads, lavender shortbread, Sichuan chicken wings, and other stuff that young people eat. Background on the restaurants is humourous and may be spurious, as is the show itself.
--DIRTY FOOD (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 160 pages, $31.95 CAN hard covers) is by Carol Hilker. She promises us it is "the best worst food you will ever eat" – ribs, burgers, fried chicken, sassy sandwiches, bbq, grilled foods. Stuff like the grilled steak ranchero burrito or maple-cured bacon and tomato sandwich. She manages, quite easily, to lift the fat and sugar content of everything. But essentially, these are "gourmet" versions of fast finger-licking food.
--FOOD; a love story (Crown Archetype, 2014, 341 pages, $31 CAN hard covers) is by food comedian Jim Gaffigan. It is a hilarious follow-up to his first too, Dad Is Fat. It is full of memories, opinions, and fantasies, and it is also heavily illustrated with black and white pix. These are worth a 1000 words each since the text is chopped into 62 chapters dealing with buffets, gravy, BBQ, Mexican food, wine, coffee, donuts, bagels, hot dogs, corned beef – and lots more. Fun over the holidays!
--THE CALL OF THE FARM (The Experiment, 2014, 273 pages, $19.95 CAN paper covers) is by Rochelle Bilow, now a staff writer at Bon Appetit, formerly a line cook and farmer. It is about an unexpected year of getting dirty, home cooking, and finding herself. With a broken heart, she moved from the city to a New York state CSA farm, ostensibly to write a short profile of a sustainable food venture. There she learned about food in the rough, and stayed – and found another romance. A great read for the holidays, complete with a few recipes.
…and some worthwhile novels include –
--A TABLE BY THE WINDOW (WaterBrook Press, 2014, 306 pages, $17.99 CAN soft covers) is by Hillary Manton Lodge. It is a novel of family secrets with heirloom recipes. The youngest heir to a French-Italian restaurtant dynasty is also a food writer, and this is the story of her moving through life. Chick lit and romance, but it does not beat Stanwyck's The Mad Miss Manton....
--DELICIOUS (Appetite by Random House, 2014, 383 pages, $29.95 CAN hard covers) is a justly acclaimed novel by triple threat (food reviews, memoirs, fiction) Ruth Reichl, who now has more time on her hands since Gourmet folded. It is all about Billie Breslin who leaves Cali for NYC and a job at a food mag. In the mag's library, she finds letters from Lulu in Ohio to James Beard from over 50 years ago. There's a love story here plus a family tragedy and some detective work. It is literature.
C. Family values Christmas gift cook books would have to include:
--IN HER KITCHEN (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 248 pages, $35 CAN hard covers) has been pulled together by Gabriele Calimberti, a photographer and storyteller. Nothing says family more than grandmothers who cook, and Calimberti gives us profiles of some 58 grandmothers from around the world. Each has a story, a recipe, a portrait, and a plated dish photo. It is one Nana/Nonna/Murmor/etc per country, such as Kathy O'Donovan in Whitehorse (bison casserole under the midnight sun) or Melanie Hill in Utah (chocolate toffee trifle). There's the common (tiramisu from Tuscany) and the uncommon (lok lak from Cambodia). The profiles of the villagers are marvellous, and the recipes scrumptious. I do wish I knew some of these cooks.
--BEST OF THE BEST; the best recipes from the 25 best cookbooks of the year (Food & Wine Books, 2014, 272 pages, is from "Food and Wine Magazine" in the US. This is the latest -- there were 15 or so earlier ones, with different books of course. The editorial team has selected 110 recipes from 25 cookbooks published in 2013, and has kitchen-tested them. Some titles: Vegetarian Literacy (Deborah Madison), One Good Dish (David Tanis), Root to Stalk Cooking (Tara Duggan), River Cottage Veg (High Fearnley-Whittingstall), and Smoke & Pickles (Edward Lee). Some preps are unique to this book, having been contributed by the selected cookbook authors: scallops with orange sauce, orange and fennel gravlax, chocolate caramels, eight-layer nachos, blood orange panna cotta parfaits, et al. The selection of recipes definitely emphasizes the home cook, with easy to do cakes, bagnat, dumplings. Still, a basic level of cooking expertise is expected. The index is by principal ingredient and course -- so you can put together a whole meal from the different cookbooks.
--THE KITCHEN TABLE COOKBOOK (Whitecap, 2014, 290 pages, $29.95 CAN paper covers) is by Moira Sanders of the Harrow Fair Cookbook, who presents some family-friendly preps for a 365 eating pattern. "I generally focus on eating local, seasonal an real food, and moderation is the umbrella that everything falls under". Amen to that. Her 150 dishes include Dagwood sandwich with homemade mayonnaise, rhubarb vanilla soda, lamb burgers, and more.
--ONE POT (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 256 pages, $31 CAN paperback) covers the range of Dutch ovens (beef stew, baked risotto), slow cooker (pulled pork, pot roast), skillet sautes (poached cod, stir-fried chicken), roasting pan (rib-eye with root veggies, Tuscan pork roast), pressure cooker (short ribs, chickpea curry), stockpot (soups), and desserts. It is "From the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living", so it is reliable and user friendly.
--THE POLLAN FAMILY TABLE (Scribner, 2014, 334 pages, $36 CAN) is by, well, the Pollan family – touted by the publisher as "the best recipes and kitchen wisdom for delicious healthy family meals". This has been seconded by log rollers Ina Garten, Alice Waters, Michael J. Fox, and Mario Batali. Oh, yes the Pollan family authors are mother Corky plus sisters Lori, Dana and Tracy. The 100 preps are well-illustrated with family photos in addition to the plated dishes. Lots of tips and advice, but minus any metric measurements or equivalents. There is a foreward by Michael Pollan. One of my fave recipes is penne alla sherry with shiitake mushrooms and spinach.
--COMFORT FOOD (The Old Farmer's Almanac, 2014, 288 pages, $23 CAN) is by Hen Haedrich and the Almanac editors. Indeed, nothing says family more than the Old Farmer's Almanac. Every course is covered, and there is an index by tips as well as by ingredient, Typical are bacon baked beans, avocado cream, deviled eggs, cherry tea cake, pumpkin burgers, butterscotch pudding – plus many variations.
--DELICIOUSLY VINTAGE (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 144 pages, $24.95 CAN hard covers) is Victoria Glass' charting of the range of fave classics in the area of cakes and bakes, concentrating on family preps passed down from generation to generation. It's Brit based since she has a bespoke celebration cake business in London. Traditional scones, rock cakes, lamingtons, cinnamon buns, sachertorte, eclairs – about 60 vintage recipes in all.
--THE SKINNYTASTE COOKBOOK (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 320 pages, $35 CAN) is by www.skinnytaste.com owner and blogger Gina Homolka. Her response to WeightWatchers (which she actually liked but was not tempted by the recipes) was to simply re-use her favourite flavoured recipes for herself and family. She worked them out all over again so that they retained a maximum amount of flavour while reducing calories, fat, and sugar. So here are her 150 top recipes, which include flank steak salad, lemon sole, lamb chops, apple spiced oatmeal, French onion soup (hold the bread), and potato and kale sausage frittata. She's done all the work for you by reducing what she could but still retain flavours. There's nutritional information and photos, plus the "skinny" (i.e., tip). And there are more recipes at the website.
--BEST OF BRIDGE HOLIDAY CLASSICS (Robert Rose, 2014, 303 pages, $29.95 CAN spiral bound) is by the Bridge Ladies. This is the first time they have collected holiday recipes from amongst their vast collection of preps. There are also two chapters devoted to Leftovers and Food Gifts: using up the food not consumed at holidays, and making gifts for friends and hosts. Typical here are eggnog supreme, cheddar rabbit, Christmas marmalade, fruit and nut shortbread, and the inevitable roasts.
--THE FAMILY COOKS (Rodale, 2014, 278 pages, $29.99 CAN) has more than 100 recipes to spice up regular meals at home. Kirstin Uhrenholdt did the recipes, and Laurie David did the text. There are preps for basic food such as scrambled eggs, with thoughts and variations on how to play with it and make frittatas.
--THE AMERICAN COOKBOOK (DK Books, 2014, 256 pages, $26 CAN hard covers) means American classics, and nothing says "family food " as well as American cuisine. It is arranged by course with side trips to the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest. Some preps have a classic presentation with contemporary variations. The 150 comfort food recipes include apple pie, burgers, french fries, and salads, and explore the Spanish, Italian, Asian, and African influences.
--THE REALLY HUNGRY VEGETARIAN STUDENT COOKBOOK (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 144 pages, $21.95 CAN) is a publisher's package with recipe credits going to Chloe Coker, Jan Montgomery, Laura Washburn, and 14 others. These are preps that vegetarian students would enjoy, plus tips on how to eat well on a budget. These are also quick and easy, beginning with breakfast boosters, lunchboxes with carbs, and a pot luck section for quick items such as bean chili, lentil curry, or tofu stir-fry. The healthy snacks here are basically popcorn-based, and they are really inexpensive. Sweets can be a problem; I would simply go back to popcorn and add caramel.....yummy. But then that's me.
--HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING FAST (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 1056 pages, $45 CAN) continues Mark Bittman's How to Cook series with new ways on how to do it quickly. He gets the preps that consider cooking time, and speeds it up, such as wonton soup in 30 minutes, cheddar waffles, charred Brussels sprouts, or fruit crisp on the stovetop, and others. It is mainly a game plan (time management) book that deals with over 2000 main dishes and sides. It means you work harder by prepping one dish while cooking another or two. Apart from the time element, the theme here is flexibility.
SUBSET FOR FAMILY: Your HEALTH –
--150 BEST INDIAN, ASIAN, CARIBBEAN DIABETES RECIPES (Robert Rose, 2014, 256 pages, $24.95 CAN paper covers) is by Sobia Khan, a nutrition prof at George Brown College in Toronto. She's also an RD speacializing in areas relating to the prevention and management of diabetes. The text is very appealing: it deals with alternative food for Indian, Asian and Caribbean people suffering from diabetes, and it offers some adventurous food eating for others. So it is win-win. All of the preps have crafted and tested by George Brown College, and most of them can be made in under 20 minutes. Each has a complete nutritional analysis and handy tips. The organization is by region, with Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka followed by Sichuan, Hakka, Cantonese, Latin America, Spain, Antigua, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad. It is an important too for its multiple diversity, with vegetable and cheese curry, bora beans, Caribbean pumpkin soup, Cantonese scallop fry, and others.
--NOURISHING BROTH (Grand Central Life & Style, 2014, 338 pages, $25 CAN paperback) is by Sally Fallon Morell who proposes that you can treat the symptoms of autoimmune disorders, infectious disease, digestive problems, and other chronic ailments with broths (seasoned stocks). These are made from bone stocks, so there are no veggie stocks here. It is a good premise that seems to work, as with psoriasis or eczema. The section on broth recipes also comes with a variety of soups, aspics, stews and stir-fries.
--THE GRAIN BRAIN COOKBOOK (Little, Brown, 2014, 339 pages, $33 CAN) is a New York Times best-selling too already. Here are more than 150 gluten-free recipes that purport to transform your health, written by Dr. David Perlmutter who also authored Grain Brain. He makes the case for a wheat-free approach, but also includes sugars and carbs. Basically, if you eat the right foods, you can reduce your chances of getting Alzheimer's, ADHD, depression, epilepsy, headaches, insomnia, etc. It is arranged by course, and once you've gone through it, you can find other recipes on your own. Just stay away from wheat, remembering that barley and rye also have gluten.
--THE PH BALANCE HEALTH & DIET GUIDE FOR GERD, IBS & IBD (Robert Rose, 2014, 408 pages, $24.95 CAN paperback) offers practical solutions, diet management and 175 recipes – from naturopath Fraser Smith, Susan Hannah (researcher) and Daniel Richardson, PhD. These experts in nutrition attempt to restore the body's acid-alkaline balance which is a key to good health: highly processed foods and meat-dairy-sugar acidify the body. Get the balance back through a 28-day meal plan, and you will be a happy camper. Good quality recipes from about 21 authors in the Rose stable of cookbook writers.