A “cookbook” is described by Oxford Dictionaries as a “book containing recipes and other information about the preparation and cooking of food.” But the best cookbooks always seem to be so much more.
Cookbooks can open doors to new cultures, traditions, tastes and perspectives for the reader. Even if one never actually follows a book recipe, it’s easy to feel transported by the mouthwatering descriptions and visuals. Personally, a good cookbook can be as exciting for me to devour as a suspense thriller.
October is National Cookbook Month (#NationalCookbookMonth). This makes it an appropriate time for dragging out your favorite cookbooks and cooking from scratch. If you’re looking for ideas, here are three delicious books that combine nature, culture, history and science to make you think differently about the foods you eat.
Cooking Wild: More than 150 Recipes for Eating Close to Nature by John Ash and James O. Fraioli
Chef John Ash is a two-time James Beard Award winning author, educator and restaurateur who is considered the “Father of Wine Country Cuisine.” But what many might not know about Chef Ash is that he’s rather wild about wild foods.
“My grandmother taught me how to forage wild plants such as lamb’s-quarter…, wild asparagus, purslane, and huckleberries, and to catch trout with my hands,” he writes in his new book Cooking Wild co-authored with James O. Fraioli.
This original and delightful cookbook offers more than 158 recipes for eating closer to nature with wild foods. Readers will find serving ideas for ingredients such as purslane, fiddlehead ferns, wild geese, sea urchins and pine needles. There are recipes for Cattail Pollen Pancakes, White Beans with Amaranth Leaves, Slow-Roasted Leg of Boar, Pawpaw Sorbet and even Live Fire Grasshopper Guacamole. Surprisingly, many of these odd ingredients are as close as your grocery store or local market.
Learn more about Chef Ash and “ethical eating” in our interview. Don’t miss his two recipes for TAGLIARINI WITH RICOTTA AND NETTLE PESTO as well as SPATCHCOCKED PINE CHICKEN.
Decolonize Your Diet: Plant-Based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing by Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel
When Luz Calvo, Professor of Ethnic Studies at Cal State East Bay, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, her research led to some rather interesting discoveries. She learned that Mexican women have some of the world’s lowest breast cancer rates. She also learned that immigrant Latinas had lower breast cancer rates than non-immigrant Latinas.
Luz began researching early Mexican foods extensively with her partner Catriona Rueda Esquibel, associate professor in Race and Resistance Studies at San Francisco State University.
Together, they have written this “love letter” to all the abuelas (grandmothers) out there, who have kept alive these culinary traditions for thousands of years. Their cookbook combines ancient wisdom with modern-day conveniences, using lesser-known ingredients such as jicama, nopales and chayotes in creative ways. You may never look at Mexican food the same way again.
Learn more about their fascinating research and how Mexican food has evolved over the ages. Don’t miss the recipe for their energy-packed Alegría Power Bar. These treats date back before the Conquest.
Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love by Simran Sethi
Okay, this isn’t really a cookbook. However, it’s a well-researched book that all cooks and eaters should read. There is a slow and steady loss in the genetic diversity of foods we eat, and an estimated 95% of the world’s calories now come from about thirty species.
Sustainability hero/journalist Simran Sethi journeyed to six continents to find “delicious and endangered tastes.” She investigates and reports on the loss of biodiversity and shares the stories of those who are working hard to save (or bring back) foods that we love – such as bread, wine, chocolate, coffee, beer and even octopus. Each chapter has a lesson in tasting…and it includes lovely colored tasting guides, including flavor wheels.
Our editor found the book delightful in this interview with the author. Don’t miss it!
You might also like:
The Level Teaspoon, a new podcast by national food writer and commentator T. Susan Chang. Each week, she features several cookbooks to consider. Check it out and get cooking!