Cookbooks

Kat’s Fall 2016 Picks

While I’m not quite ready to admit that Fall is actually on the horizon, I’m more than happy to start thinking about what I’ll read during the season. And I’m sure I’ll be ready for some serious reading time once this  foolish attempt to ride my bike up to Whistler is finished on Saturday. So here’s what I’ll be reading while I’m taking a break from my bicycle and letting my poor muscles recover!

September

survivingloganSurviving Logan, by Erik Bjarnason and Cathi Shaw

At 5,959m elevation, Mt. Logan is Canada’s highest peak. In 2005 North Shore Rescue put together a team of experienced mountaineers and search-and-rescue personnel to tackle the summit. The expedition started out with good weather, but it quickly took a dangerous downturn, trapping three members of the team on the mountain. This true story recounts their efforts to survive the storm as conditions turned from bad to worse, to near tragic. There are many great mountaineering books out there with amazing stories of survival, but I’m really looking forward to reading one featuring local figures.

summerlongSummerlong, by Peter S. Beagle

In his first novel since 1999, the author of the beloved The Last Unicorn tells the story of a longtime couple who take in a young waitress, who in turn begins to inspire development and change in the both of them. This book is being described as mythical fantasy, and even has a Pacific Northwest setting to boot, so this is probably the book I’m most looking forward to this season.

nutshellNutshell, by Ian McEwan

A tale of deceit and murder, told from the point of view of a 9-month-old unborn child. It’s a mix of psychological thriller, mystery comedy, and tragedy, but the narration alone sounds too odd and interesting to pass up!

 

 

October

numberofthingsA Number of Things, by Jane Urquhart

Inspired by Canada’s upcoming sesquicentennial (I did not know that was a word until now… 150 years, for those of you in the same boat as me), Canadian author Jane Urquhart tells the stories behind 50 Canadian objects, including a particular cherry tree, an artist’s shoe, a tea doll, and a royal cowcatcher. I had to look up what several of the items actually were (including the cow catcher… apparently my train-knowledge is lacking), so this promises to be an informative read made poetic by Urquhart’s always beautiful prose.

cyclistoutinthecoldThe Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold, by Tim Moore

Travel writer Tim Moore has previously attempted to cycle the Giro d’Italia route on a period bike while in a period costume, and the Tour de France route complete with the requisite cheating and excessive wine-drinking. Continuing to display a complete lack of self-preservation, he has most recently spent three months cycling the 9,000 km route of the old Iron Curtain on a two-geared East German shopping bike. Moore’s books are always worth a read, and are a great mix of travelogue, history, and amusement at someone else’s self-inflicted pain.

appetitesAppetites, by Anthony Bourdain

In chef and travel writer Anthony Bourdain’s latest, he offers a collection of his personal favourites, both from home and from his travelling years of sampling food from all over the world. It contains recipes that Bourdain thinks everyone should know how to cook,  but also promises to “terrify your guests”… apparently that’s “with your culinary efficiency”, but I’m choosing to take it out of context. Especially since the cover itself is a bit on the terrifying side.

crosstalkCrosstalk, by Connie Willis

In Crosstalk, Science Fiction writer Connie Willis takes social media and communication to an extreme with a near-future world where couples can actually get a procedure increase empathy between them. The procedure is designed to help with emotional connection and communication, because nothing could possibly go wrong with that, right?

 

November

fateofthetearlingThe Fate of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen

This is the conclusion of the Tearling Trilogy. Its first volume (The Queen of the Tearlingwas fairly standard fantasy, but in a surprising move the second volume (The Invasion of the Tearling) began crossing over into dystopian sci-fi, and after that I can’t wait to see how Johansen is going to tie it all together. But the real strength of this series has always been the wholly believable development of Kelsea’s character, from awkward, insecure teenager to strong monarch determined to save her people, so I would definitely recommend checking out the series – it’s unique, with a steady, engaging plot that gives equal weight to its characters and its action.

willfulchildWillful Child: The Wrath of Betty, by Steven Erikson

I’m always looking for new books to add to my funny sci-fi & fantasy list (which is still a work in progress), and I’m definitely on the Trekkie-spectrum, so I have high hopes for enjoyable silliness on this series. This is the sequel to 2015’s Willful Child, a spoof on the whole exploring the galaxy Star Trek type genre, which sold me with the tagline “Bravely going where they really shouldn’t”. I’ll be saving this one for a really rainy day when I need a laugh.

 

What are you reading this season? You know, when it arrives. Which definitely isn’t quite yet.

– Kat

Patricia’s Picks for Stress-Free School Lunches

After two glorious months of summer the Labour Day weekend has somehow once again managed to sneak up on my and my family.  We find ourselves utterly unprepared for the looming cycle of up early, pack lunches, rush to school and work, lessons, lessons, lessons, homework, bed, and repeat.  If you’re anything like me, all of the above is a chaotic labour of love with the exception of packing lunches.  Lunches do me in.  (Seriously in September alone there are 19 packed lunch days x3 kids…. That’s nearly 60 kid lunches!?!)  Here’s where I’ll seek inspiration this September:

LunchWhat’s for Lunch: How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World by Andrea Curtis

Why I really like this book is because it offers children a way into a deeper understanding about food.  My children are incredibly lucky to always have enough to eat, and this book allows them to lock into an appreciation of that fact, while piquing their curiosity about how children eat in other countries.

ellaDeliciously Ella Everyday:  Quick and Easy Recipes for Gluten-free Snacks, Packed Lunches, and Simple Meals by Ella Woodword

Any packed lunch cookbook with the words “quick,” “easy,” and “simple” in the title is all right by me, but Ella Woodword’s ambitions don’t end there.  She also aims to help eaters eat less sugar, meat, and dairy without intensive labour.  Best of all, the recipes contained within are suitable for adult lunches too.

workmanThe Mom 100 Cookbook: 100 Recipes Every Mom Needs in her Back Pocket by Katie Workman

Parents, Katie Workman gets us.  She’s organized her cookbook both by meals and by dilemmas parents face, covering everything from potlucks to getting your little ones to eat more veggies.  (My one complaint is that I wish she’d given a shout out to the dads in the title — They cook too.)

harrycookbookThe Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Buchotz

I’m fully intending to leverage the Harry Potter connection here to amp up the my kids’ enthusiasm for lunchtime.  There’s way too much sugar in this cookbook for it to be a reliable standby in my kitchen, but I’m relying on a little slight of hand with this one.  If I make a Delciously Ella recipe with the Harry Potter Cookbook on the table… Well let’s just say the associations they make aren’t my fault and leave it there, shall we?

Here’s wishing you a magical 500+ packed lunches ’til summer!

-Patricia

Gong Hey Fat Choy

February 8th is Chinese New Year – so Happy New Year! Here are a few reading selections to help expand your understanding of this fascinating culture.

Nonfiction:

AgeOfAmbitionAge of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos

Looking at the clash between individual aspiration and authoritarian control in the new China, New Yorker staff writer, Evan Osnos, delivers a vivid portrait told through the stories of everyday people. With great narrative flair, the author explores the themes of economic change, censorship, and personal values. Winner of the 2014 National Book Award in Non-fiction.

MasteringChineseCookingMastering the Art of Chinese Cooking, by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

So what’s not to love about Chinese food? This cookbook provides skill-building lessons, brush drawn illustrations of step-by-step techniques, and great photographs of finished dishes, ingredients, and landscapes. This beautiful book is a great way into the ancient cuisine of China, and is a delight to leaf through as well.

CountryDrivingCountry Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory, by Peter Hessler

Road Trip! Acquiring his Chinese driver’s license, Hessler sets out to track how the automobile and improved roads are transforming China. He follows the Great Wall, and then moves to a small farming village which dramatically alters before his eyes. Finally he ends up in a city where he witnesses the shift from agriculture to industry. Along the way, Hessler writes movingly about the average people who are reshaping the nation.

Fiction:

frogMo Yan – Frog

You might know Mo Yan as the 2012 Nobel prize winner for literature.  Mo sheds light on the far-reaching implications of China’s one-child policy in Frog.  Tadpole is a playwright writing a play about his aunt Gugu, a midwife and steadfast Communist who performs abortions to demonstrate her loyalty to the party.

 

threebodyCixin Liu – The Three-Body Problem

2015’s Hugo Award Winner was this hard science fiction Chinese novel in translation. The Three-Body Problem attempts to answer an age-old SF question: What happens when humans and aliens make first contact? The book is the first in an anticipated trilogy; volume 2 is due out later this year.

americanbornchineseGene Luen Yang – American Born Chinese

Yang made news earlier this year when he was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in the US.  If you haven’t already, I urge you to read his graphic novels starting with American Born Chinese. It tells three intertwined stories about characters longing to fit in.

You can read his inspiring inaugural speech online; his powerful closing sentiments echo our own,

Let me end by encouraging you to read without walls. Find a book with someone on the cover who doesn’t look like you or live like you. Find a book about a topic that you don’t know much about. Find a book that’s in a format you’ve never tried before: a graphic novel, a words-only novel, or a novel in verse.

Read without walls and see what happens.

I bet it’ll be something amazing.

恭禧發財!

-Michael and Patricia

Christmas Gift Suggestions: Cookbooks

A beautiful cookbook makes a terrific gift. Who doesn’t love to leaf through the options and look at the photos of creative and lovely meals? Here are my top picks from 2015.

PioneerWomanDinnerThe Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime, by Ree Drummond

Blogger Ree Drummond, who writes about her life on a ranch, has knocked it out of the park (again) with her new cookbook. This one focuses on comfort food dinners, and is great for cooks at all levels. It ranges from super-quick meals, to pasta, sides, and make-ahead freezer items. Lots of pictures show the way, and the text includes the family stories behind the food. A terrific gift for any cook.

The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook, by America’s Test KitchenCompleteVegetarian

Eat your vegetables! This practical and comprehensive cookbook produced by America’s Test Kitchen is wide-ranging and really useful. Icons are used throughout the book to indicate if the recipe is gluten-free, vegan, etc., and there are tons of colour photos to illustrate key steps and tricky techniques. Put a bow on this one for the vegetarians on your Christmas list (while you scarf down another helping of turkey).

GeniusRecipesFood52 Genius Recipes, by Kristen Miglore

Not for the beginner, this cookbook is a compilation of favourite recipes that the author (a food blogger on Food52) considers game-changers. That is, they involve new techniques, use an ingredient in a new way, or debunk a kitchen myth. Beautifully illustrated, this book will make a great gift for the dedicated foodie on your list.

Deliciously Ella, by Ella WoodwardDeliciouslyElla

Popular blogger, Ella Woodward, was bed-ridden and in chronic pain. When conventional medicine failed her, she tried a change in diet – and has been blogging about plant-based, gluten-free cooking ever since. Sweet-potato brownies anyone? Roasted butternut squash risotto? This is the perfect gift for the health-conscious and for people interested in going gluten-free.

VeganRichaVegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen, by Richa Hingle

Who could resist a recipe book containing items like Mango Curry Tofu and Avocado Naan? Richa Hingle delivers the secrets of Indian spices and cooking, and provides workflow tips to incorporate modern appliances and techniques. Plus it’s vegan and has many gluten-free options. An ideal gift for the health-focused and adventurous cooks on your list.

You’re running out of time. Give the gift of yum.

Vacation Holds Haul

VacationHoldsHaulSometimes, the perfect holds haul comes in at the perfect time. This happened to me today. RIGHT BEFORE I GO ON VACATION. This is a magical and rare occurrence, and I feel so, so lucky.

I got three novels I am dying to read, that are incidentally also perfect vacation books (substantial enough to not be embarrassed seen reading them, but still gripping and/or entertaining enough to be be perfect for the beach). I got two project-y cook books, and a running guide.

Here’s the haul:

The Vacationers, by Emma Straub is being called the smart beach read of the season. (See my Summer Picks description). Yay!

Land of Love and Drowning, by Tiphanie Yanique is a novel that follows three generations of one family living through the modern history of the Virgin Islands territory. It has been getting great reviews.

An Untamed State, by Roxanne Gay is a debut novel about a Haitian-American woman’s kidnapping is being called “riveting” in its many glowing reviews.

Preserving by the Pint, by Marisa McClellan: Because I have a very small kitchen, but still want to try my hand at urban homesteading.

Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauces Making, by James Peterson: Apparently, this is the Bible of sauce-making.

Complete Book of Women’s Running, by Dagny Scott Barrios: I just finished my first 5k and want to progress. Vacation running! It’s a thing.

What are you reading on vacation this Summer?

-Heidi

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?

-Heidi