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Woman of Taste By Cara Sure, I enjoy reading as much as the next library rat. But after a long, hard day of shushing people and fussing over index cards, I don’t really feel like flopping down with War and Peace. You know? I do want to read something edifying, but with my limited free time, I need it to really speak to me. Something both practical and soul-satisfying. What I want to read is… cookbooks.
To some, reading cookbooks might sound about as enjoyable as filing taxes. But now the ailing economy is prompting more people to refrain from eating out and to revisit the world of home cookery. Perhaps if armed with the right texts, they will find it less of a chore and more of a fulfilling pastime. The difference between a merely serviceable cookbook and a great one is akin to the difference between a slice of commercial white bread and a thick, crusty, chewy, yeasty slice of oven-fresh artisan bread. There is potential to lend art to any type of writing, and when the subject is an aesthetic practice such as cooking, it can be rich art indeed.
A really good cookbook will pull you in with vivid, sensuous descriptions of food you find yourself aching to prepare; and anecdotes of leisurely, handcrafted meals so infused with love and communion that you wonder how we as a society have managed to forget this great daily pleasure. It also helps if the cook has a good sense of humor. It also helps if the cook is a great cook.
Based on these criteria, here are a handful of spectacular cookbooks-as-books. Great recipes, sumptuous writing, and often pretty to look at as well:
Julia''s Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking by Julia Child “You don''t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients,” Julia says. What else is there to say?
Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon
Her writing is so alive and playful; you won’t be surprised to learn that she’s also penned several books for children.
The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen Readers of Ms. Katzen’s many cookbooks are treated to sunny watercolor images of inviting breakfast tables and studied line drawings of vegetable cross-sections. Her recipes are simply laid out in friendly, unassuming instructions.
Desserts that Have Killed Better Men than Me by Jeremy Jackson
A novelist-slash-cookbook author, and can’t you tell? Even the title is fun to read.
Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Vegan recipes are often the most flavorful and creative on the block. But unlike many vegan writers, Ms. Moskowitz is flippant and fun without being preachy.
Those are a few of my favorites. Now, go find some cookbooks that call out to you. And remember what Julia says: “If you''re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who''s going to know?”