On this holiday of breaking bread and giving thanks, I'd like to recognize a few books that have provided some wonderful ideas for meals over the years. I believe a good cookbook, like any beloved book, should be broken-in and lovingly crinkled from over-use. Butter stains on the cover, red wine spilled on the pages of a favorite recipe, smudges of brown sugar catching pages together at the corners so you have to snap them apart each time you open them. Here are a few of my favorite books:
This book, which I just discovered, belongs to a friend of mine. This past week, he cooked the recipe, Boiled Beef in a Fiery Sauce, and the steam from the chili peppers made the air in the house so spicy we had to open all the doors just to stop our eyes from watering.
This is the same cookbook from above turned on its side. If all the recipes in this book are as good as the Boiled Beef, I'm looking forward to a really tasty winter!
This cookbook, The Vegetarian Gothic, has been in my mom's kitchen since the 1970's. It's beautifully illustrated and promotes a simpler way of living by cooking with natural ingredients. Today, her copy of The Vegetarian Gothic is bound by a rubber band, it's fraying at the spine and the pages are turning a crispy yellowish-brown. Just holding this book in your hands makes you feel like you are about to embark on something special.
The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters, has been around for a few years, but I just discovered it this year. Try the Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, and Steamed Broccoli with Garlic, Butter and Lemon. I think this book will begin to show many signs of love over the years to come.
Saving the best for last, this was the cookbook I grew up with as a child. Many a snow-day was spent making Teddy Bear Pancakes and Chunky Chocolate-Chip Bear cookies.
I know there are lots of people who prefer to cook without a recipe, but I'd be lost without my cookbooks.
In my debut novel, The Selkie Spell, my main character has to step unexpectedly into the role of chef in an Irish pub, but she doesn't know how to cook and is terrible at it. It was pretty easy to relate to her in this. :)
In all of my books, the characters tend to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Conversations flow easier in the kitchen. Everyone has something to do with their hands. There's always something simmering, a binger buzzing, or a dish to prep. It creates an easy environment to describe and a comfortable one to spend time in.
What about you? Do you have a favorite cookbook? If you're a writer, does the kitchen, cooking, or food in general, play a large part in your stories?