6 Cookbooks That Read Like Novels
For serious and armchair cooks alike
Between services like Seamless and the Whole Foods salad bar it has never been easier not to cook. And yet cookbooks have never been more popular.
We totally get it: A good cookbook is so much more than lists of ingredients. Here are some of our favorite armchair cookbooks--worth picking up for the read whether you throw a dinner party every weekend or you use your oven for shoe storage.
Chef Gabrielle Hamilton has an MFA in creative writing and changed the food-memoir game with her masterpiece, Blood, Bones & Butter. So it’s no surprise that her first cookbook is a solid read. But don’t expect any flowery prefaces or personal stories. The book is structured like a kitchen notebook, and she talks to readers like line cooks, to hilarious effect. (“If the health department walks in, take the Serrano off the carving stand and throw in the oven.”)
Chef and restaurateur Andy Ricker has built an empire on authentic, delicious Thai food (those wings!). But before he served a single dish, he spent years living in Chiang Mai, and his book reads like a travelogue of the homes, restaurants and street markets he encountered there. We were pretty much buying a plane ticket by the last page.
“The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”
It has been our favorite food blog for the past eight years--a place for eminently Instagrammable recipes that also taste great and don’t require 12 trips to specialty stores for Himalayan sea salt. But we especially love Deb Perelman’s warm, loving stories about family and friends and life in New York’s East Village. The cookbook carries on this cozy vibe.
SPONSORED: Building a Business in the Kitchen
Cookbooks may be the holy grail for some, but for Maryann of Rome, New York, it’s just one chocolate-chip cookie recipe. (One really good chocolate-chip cookie recipe.) It’s the recipe Maryann’s mother passed down to her, and it also happens to be the cornerstone of the business Maryann runs out of her kitchen. Watch this video from GE’s Our American Kitchen film series to see the touching story of the little cookie that could.
Sean Brock won the 2015 James Beard Foundation Award for this stunner of a book (and his restaurants Husk and McCrady’s are certainly nothing to sneeze at, either). More than just a recipe collection, though, it’s a passionate manifesto on American culinary history, sustainable agriculture and the preservation of important flavors and traditions. If that sounds stuffy, don’t worry--Brock is anything but. Reading this is like a long afternoon chat on a sunny porch, with a big mason jar of sweet tea in hand.
Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi both grew up in Jerusalem, but on different sides--Yotam is Jewish, and Sami is Arab. But this is no Middle Eastern West Side Story. The pair met in London and partnered on a group of popular delis and restaurants, and their cookbooks are a celebration of their vibrant city.
“From My Mother's Kitchen”
An oldie but goodie. Longtime New York Times restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton was one of the first to truly merge the cookbook and memoir genres. With this 1979 classic, she imbues her Jewish-American recipes (think perfect latkes and sour-cream coffee cake) with childhood stories. We guarantee that her chapter on chicken soup will make you want to go out and catch a cold.