Heidi’s Book Vice (Cookbooks)

Cookbook shelf

I never buy books anymore. There are several reasons for this. Why buy a book when there are thousands outside my office door that are FREE? Also, it would get really, really expensive, as every week I go through about the first twenty pages of usually around five books before I settle on one that I read all the way through. (That’s 20 books a month!)

The one exception to this rule is cookbooks. I am addicted! They are my book vice. I will buy one or two cookbooks a month, vow to cook through the entire book, and usually only make two or three recipes from each before succumbing to the urge to buy some other shiny new cookbook I read about online.

There are, however, a few times when I come across a cookbook that I’m so obsessed with, I’ll read it cover to cover, cook the majority of the recipes inside, and even make notes on the pages. These belong to the heavy use rotation. I like to think of these as similar to musicians in an orchestra or symphony — first chair, second chair and so on. The best of the best that occasionally rotate when one seems to outperform the others.

DALSRight now, first chair (the one that is closest to my stove) is Dinner: A Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach (who operates the blog with the same name). I love this cookbook because it has all the characteristics of what makes a great cookbook:

  • Part memoir/anecdotal: Jenny is a wonderful writer who has worked for Real Simple, Cookie Magazine, and The New York Times, and this book is just as much a memoir of her family life and cooking education as it is a recipe book. She’s funny, warm and unpretentious. I like that.
  • Technique/instruction: the book provides tips, tricks and advice on everything from the best way to pound meat to what pans and knives are truly essential for a home cook to the best ways to get your kids to eat flounder.
  • Recipe Context: Jenny gives you intros for all the recipes that tell you what type of meal they are best for (weeknight family meal, entertaining, vacation grilling, etc.) and how long they will take.
  • Unfussy: These recipes are simple but sophisticated. Jenny refers to them as “comfort food with a twist.” No long ingredients lists and not too many things you will need to shop for at a specialty food store.
  • Nice photos and design: Always a bonus. Let’s face it, when you use a cookbook this much, you want it to look pretty.
  • The food! The food is delicious but relatively healthy, despite not being a diet cookbook.

Some of my other rotating favourites (many pictured in the photo above), that also include these characteristics are:

What are your favourite cookbooks, and why?


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