I walked into Book City in Toronto last week, looking for a little gift for my mom, and ran right into a cookbook display that was built by someone who is clearly stalking my brain and has been for at least a year. I don’t want every single cookbook that comes out–in fact, I can be a little snobby about them. I glance at many with obviously thoughtless recipe instructions and images blown out to the point of being confusing. I am choosy about which ones I buy and have returned some that upon closer inspection, I decide are neither practical nor inspiring. But there are a few I’ve had my eye on, that have passed my tests or that I’m drawn toward for personal reasons*. How the merchandiser of this display managed to get almost all of them into one single display, I’ll never know. I think they have great taste and have started to imagine this mystery person. Are they an avid cook or did they just make this list from some independent best seller’s list? Do they like gin-based cocktails like me? Do they live close by and do we share the same sweater size…?
Jerusalem: I’m no stranger to Ottelenghi recipes. I wasn’t sure I needed another source of his great ideas. And then I flipped through the book and saw this striking picture and simple recipe and wanted to run home to make that crispy couscous immediately. Sold on yet another of his ideas, so fine, I guess I do need me some more Yotam.
Edible Selby: Again, didn’t think I needed any more Selby but then I listened to this podcast one day about how he really went for a cross-section of people in this book, and just allowed them to be who they were…blah blah–all the things you expect someone to say except it’s true and great that he really featured these cooks. Besides, how can you resist a foray into real people’s real kitchens?
Homemade Winter: It seems many food bloggers have books these days–the ones that have been around a long time–but Yvette’s site and her books are a little different. She’s a recipe-writer, of course, but also an illustrator, and flipping through her new book, Homemade, I really loved the restrained way she used her drawings to punctuate images and words. Plus all of her food has always looked and sounded so inviting.
Burma: Well this one was just a given. Of course I’m buying Naomi’s book–why would I stop now. If you’re unfamiliar with her (and her former partner, Jeffery’s) books, and you’re at all interested in learning how to cook, just go out and buy them all now. The one on flatbreads, on rice, with very authentic recipes especially from a certain part of Asia, and if you want to demystify ingredients. Her latest book on the food of Burma is a cookbook and I’m certain, as much an anthropology as the others.
True Blood: I see you True Blood cookbook! Haha! I love that show*. Seriously, who made this display?
Gran Cucina Latina: I’ve never heard of this cookbook. I must want it if it’s part of this display.
Art of the Restauranteur: Never heard of it but HAD to pick it up based on the beautiful spine. I don’t know that I’m at all interested in owning this book but I flipped through it for 5 whole minutes before I could put it down. The cover and illustrations are charming. I was charmed. Quite.
Take Away: Another one that is all about looks but one I totally have wanted to pick up since I first laid eyes on it months ago. It’s a book of people eating “take away” food from around the world, by a wonderfully talented photographer. Just look at some of these images.
Canal House Cooks Everyday: Since I go to their website every.single.day. for inspiration for everyday meals, I think Canal’s House latest, “Everyday” is probably made for me. Literally.
You too can find your soul-mate at the bookstore, especially the intimate ones where people generally care about what they’re doing–and it shows. Support your independent bookstore–just like I know you support your independent cheese-monger, baker and coffee shop–because who doesn’t want them to thrive in their neighbourhood for a long, long time? Seriously.
If you live in Toronto, here are a few you can pick up any of these awesome cookbooks at–let me know if you do!