Time to turn over a new leaf for your cookbook reading…
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Can you ever really get tired of cookbooks? There can only be one answer…NEVER! The stay-at-home pandemic, greater influx of ingredients available from around the world, and blossoming and more adventurous foodies have encouraged a whole new crop of wonderful creative cookbooks.  

The best cookbooks encourage you to eat with your eyes first, so the photography needs to be tempting. I can’t help but mention the best named food photographer, Quentin Bacon. What other job could he possibly do? You’ll see his award-winning photos in many of the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten works like her Modern Comfort Food. Eggplants, lemons, chickpeas, and other simple earthy Meze ingredients never looked so devouringly delish than in the Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: a cookbook. Every page with every picture was pure delight in Beautiful Boards: 50 amazing snack boards for any occasion by Maegan Brown, a must-read for every foodie out there.

Follow that chef- there are lots of famous chefs to charm you. If you have not discovered the energetic Brit Jamie Oliver’s 5 ingredients: quick and easy food or the classic Jacques Pepin’s Quick + simple, then you are missing simple recipes to charm any guest at a dinner party. Focusing on good quality pantry ingredients to make yummy quick bites and meals motivates you to keep trying new tastes. I learned a lot of basic but modern updates from some hot new chefs too. Salt, fat, acid, heat: mastering the elements of good cooking by Samin Nosrat and Cook This Book by Molly Baz and Alison Roman’s cookbooks were fun and hip to flip through.

One of my longtime favorite cookbook writers, Mollie Katzen has a new entry called The Heart of the Plate: vegetarian recipes for a new generation. Known for her vegetarian-focused Moosewood cookbooks, she shares the spotlight with some other worthy titles to help you change-up your diet. I really learned lots of flavor combinations from Mark Bittman’s Dinner for Everyone: 100 iconic dishes made 3 ways- easy, vegan, or perfect for company. You will not be able to resist anything from Eric Ripert’s Vegetable Simple or Jose Andres’ Vegetables Unleashed, and that includes the Brussels, beets, (gulp) kale.  

I’ll give a shout-out to the best named cookbook- Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: recipes from my three favorite food groups (and then some). John Currence compiles luscious tastes so you can smell the smoke from page one. And I encourage you to crack open his Big Bad Breakfast: the most important book of the day, which has caused an upgrade to my Sunday brunch Instagram posts.

As you start thinking about holiday cooking, you can include the Savor the South cookbook series for your plans. Each cookbook is dedicated to a southern ingredient like crab, rice, sweet potato, and barbeque. The one that drove me “nuts”- Pecans. Its blue-cheese pecan spread is now in standard rotation during my tailgates.  Did you know Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner was from New Bern? Make sure you look for his Atlantic Beach Pie recipe in his Seasoned in the South, which is probably right next to Mama Dip’s Kitchen. Our North Carolina collection feature lots of community and church cookbooks that may include a “lost” old-fashioned dish.

I became a pandemic baker this past year. I decided to bake all my breads and sweets from scratch, so I fell in love with Dorie Greenspan’s beautiful cookbooks, Baking chez moi: recipes from my Paris home to your home anywhere and Dorie’s Cookies. They filled me with dreams of French-style cookies served alongside a cold glass of champagne. Here’s a real fact: reading baking cookbooks does not add calories or extra sugar to your diet! Read these titles and prove it to yourself- BraveTart by Stella Parks; Bakerita: 100+ no-fusss gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free recipes for the modern baker by Rachel Conners; Happiness Is Baking by the queen of cakes, Maida Heatter; Pastry Love: a baker’s journal of favorite recipes: a baker’s journal of favorite recipes by Joanne Chang.

Another avenue to explore food is through memoirs as well. Some great chefs and cooks have written terrific stories about their lives, travels, and food careers. You must start with the big names like Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, and Ruth Reichl, but some newly discovered talents contribute diverse experiences. A great example is Kwame Onwuachi’s Notes from a Young Black Chef, which combines his young big talent to his aspiring story of opening a Michelin star restaurant in D.C. I also recommend John Birdsall’s biography on James Beard, The Man Who Ate Too Much.

Eating too much can be a bad thing, but reading too much can only enrich and nourish yourself. Eat, drink, and read up and be merry this season!

by Amy Tattersall , New Bern-Craven County Public Library