A good, well-used cookbook is a relic of more tangible times. Here are a few hippie-approved favorites from my collection.
ReBar: Modern Food Cookbook, by Audrey Alsterberg and Wanda Urbanowicz. From the restaurant in Victoria, B.C. by the same name, this cookbook offers a Southwestern-style take on healthy eating. Everything I’ve made from here so far has been rewarding and unique, but some of my favorites include their Smoky Sweet Potato Soup and Calypso Roti.
The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving, by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. From homemade ketchup to onion jam, this book is full of remarkably simple jams, spreads, and pickles. The best part is, the recipes make just enough to enjoy for a few weeks, without having to delve into the full canning experience.
The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz. As a devotee of DIY kombucha, kefir, and kimchi, I can’t believe it took me so long to finally purchase this book. I’ve been a follower of Katz’s old-school website for some time, but it was Mark who finally snatched up the book just a month or so ago. If you want to ferment at home, this is the most comprehensive guide out there. Katz presents the concepts and processes behind fermentation in ways that are simple enough for those of us with Ironman brain to understand, guiding beginners through sauerkraut and yogurt, but providing instruction as well for more experienced practitioners. Ever wanted to ferment a starchy tuber? How about make your own mead? This guide covers the full range of turning stuff bad…for the better.
Moosewood Restaurant New Classics, by the Moosewood Collective. This is my first (of hopefully many more!) cookbooks from the venerable vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, NY. Chock full of gourmet vegetarian options from stews and sauces to light lunches and brunches, this cookbook also features many useful tips on ingredients and going organic. It’s visually pleasing and conversational.
More-With-Less Cookbook, by Doris Janzen Longacre. This is a staple of every Mennonite’s kitchen, and though I am not Mennonite, I’ve had the pleasure of living with many of them. I eventually bought my own copy of this book, with information about ethical consumption as good as it’s recipes. It’s full of globally-influenced foods that are affordable, healthy, and easy to prepare. Cooks from all over the world offer their stories and tips throughout the book, making it read like a conversation around a harvest table. The recipes aren’t gourmet, but they are simple and delicious. Besides, any book that taught me the granola basics deserves representation here!
Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, by Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlman. The ultimate meat-lovers project book, this is more my husband’s deal-io, but it’s a pretty one to have on the shelf. If you think it’s all about doing delicious things with fat, this book will surprise you with its numerous recipes for fresh, lean, homemade sausages.
How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. This is a great resource for when you want to know what to do with fresh peas from the garden. Bittman has a chatty, cheerful style that makes working with food a joy. He also offers convenient menus in the back, such as “lazy weekend brunch for four” as well as ideas for special occasions and holidays.
Books on Food
Real Food: What to Eat and Why, by Nina Planck. This book really challenged me to think differently about all the industrialized food out there. The daughter of farmers, Nina continued her legacy by starting up the urban green markets London, England. She often takes unpopular and unconventional positions, defending butter, eggs, and whole, unpasteurized milk. Whether or not you follow her wacky, “back to the 1800s” way of eating, her book is an entertaining and informative read for those willing to be challenged on the notion that our food is progressing along with our technology. Includes great sections on fat, Omega-3s, and cooking oils.
Women Who Eat: A New Generation on the Glory of Food, edited by Leslie Miller. This book is the best collection of food writing I’ve read in a long time. All the contributors are contemporary female writers, editors, and authors, and this is their collective manifesto on the joys of being a woman and savoring the edible world. Working to dismiss the notion that all women are on a diet, the voices of these women rise to sing the praises of nostalgic childhood meals, cooking for the men they love, and even “being food” for the children they birth. This book is divided into essays, which makes it great indulgent bedtime reading. I would highly recommend it for female “foodie” friends. Although peppered with the occasional recipe, the strength of this book lies in the writing: gorgeous, evocative, and vulnerable as it reflects the passions of feeding ourselves and our loved ones.
Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, Edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler. Who knew that reflections on eating and dining alone could be so entertaining? I love this collection of pieces by writers and foodies I admire, including Nora Ephron, Ann Patchett, and M.F.K. Fisher. Where else can you read about asparagus-scented urine and learn how to make “Single girl salmon” all in one place?
Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally, by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, is subtitled “a raucous year of eating locally.” The Vancouver-based couple decided over breakfast one spring morning that they wanted to understand their world better through food. Their tale of giving up pasta, sandwiches, ice cream and Cheerios is a joyful trip into the world of those who do food more seriously than most of us. I was inspired, after reading it, to be even more mindful of where my food comes from. Not, however, to give up chocolate, coffee, or salt!
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan. A classic of our time following the dubious development of the corn industry in the U.S., including his now well-known (and oft-criticized) diatribe on farm-to-table eating.
A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman. Ackerman writes poetically of the world we encounter every day through the five channels of our senses. She brings philosophy, history and psychology to the table, making this book an educational as well as sensual escapade. Always wondered where the word avocado came from? You might not want to know!