It’s true that most of us turn to the internet these days to find recipes. So then, who needs a cookbook anymore? And why is the competition for old cookbooks so fierce? My simple answer is this: Good food books are, and always will be, one of life’s great pleasures. Food is fundamental. We are always thinking about our next meal. And even if we don’t automatically turn to a cookbook to find a recipe for dinner, there is something inspirational, comforting and immensely practical about a good cookbook collection.
My favourite cookbooks are old, splattered, annotated with cryptic notes in the margins, and often have clippings and other assorted bits of paper stuck between the pages. In my mother’s incredibly weathered All New Purity Cookbook, she made check marks by the recipes she used, crossed out ingredients that she clearly didn’t think belonged there, and scrawled notes such as “Guild Pot Luck” beside the Salmon Delight recipe, and by the Batter for Deep Frying she wrote: “Use half this batter for fish frying.” I only wish she had written more. The notes are such a poignant connection to the past — a way for me to remember my mother.
More and more we are looking for the stories connected to food. Food stories are, after all, the real stories of our lives.
These are a few favourite new food books — a little something for everybody on your gift buying list.
The Scent of Pomegranates and Rose Water by Habeeb Salloum, Leila Salloum Elias, and Muna Salloum.
Full of beautiful photographs, this charming and beautifully written gem of a book, by Syrian born Canadian Habeeb and his daughters, Leila and Muna, is a terrific crash course in Syrian cooking. Partial proceeds from book sales will benefit the Syrian Cultural Centre in Montreal. Look for the great traditions of Syrian cooking, including Baba Ghanoush, Pomegranate Hummus, Spicy Sausage Rolls, Hearty Chicken and Chickpea Soup, Fattoush (fried bread and fresh vegetable salad), Baklava, and Syrian Shortbread made with almonds and orange blossom water. Published by Arsenal Pulp Press, 2018.
Cooking in Colour by Adrian Harris and Jeremy Inglett.
With an element of irrepressible joy that seems to leap from the pages of this book by Adrian and Jeremy, the Vancouver-based duo behind the food blog The Food Gays, whose followers include Gwyneth Paltrow and Nigella Lawson, this is a practical and tempting cookbook with gorgeous photographs for every recipe. From Cranberry Coconut Breakfast Power Bars, Mac and Cheese Eggs Benny, Serrano Pepper and Cheddar Bagels, Miso Maple Salmon, Butternut Squash Pizza, to No-Bake Boozy Blueberry Cheesecake, this is a book that is both fun and easy to use. Published by HarperCollins, 2018.
A Taste of Prince Edward County by Chris Johns.
For all Prince Edward County enthusiasts – this is the book! Covering the farms and farm stands; history; beaches, conservation areas and parks; hotels, boutiques, shops, galleries, and markets; tastemakers, characters, and chefs; restaurants, wineries, breweries, and cideries; and recipes of Prince Edward County. Full of photographs and insiders tips. Published by Penguin Random House, 2018.
Set for the Holidays: Recipes to Bring Comfort and Joy, by Anna Olson.
With stacks of photographs, this is an absolutely classic, comprehensive guide to holiday entertaining, cooking and baking — complete with menus and meals for both the holidays and every day. Look for Montebello Baked Maple Buckwheat Crepes; Blue Cheese, Walnut and Dried Apricot Shortbreads; Mini Tourtieres; Buttery Soft Dinner Rolls; Belgian Beef Carbonnade; Plum Pudding; and Earl Gray Tiramisu Trifle.
Published by Penguin Random House Canada, 2018.
Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi.
This is the latest in Israeli-born British chef and food writer Ottolenghi’s repertoire. Known for his unique fusion of traditional western and Middle Eastern food, Simple is big, bold and beautiful with photographs that will leave you salivating. Though there are some surprisingly long ingredient lists for a book entitled Simple, the recipes I tried came together easily and were packed with flavour. Don’t miss Oven Fries with Oregano and Feta, Chicken Marbella, Harissa and Manchego Omelettes, Iranian Herb Fritters, and No-Churn Raspberry Ice Cream. Published by Penguin Random House, 2018.
And finally, for a chance to win a copy of Out of Old Ontario Kitchens, send a photograph of your favourite old recipe and a line or two about where the recipe comes from to: firstname.lastname@example.org. All replies will be entered in a draw and a winner will be chosen at random and announced in an upcoming column.
Lindy Mechefske is the author of Out of Old Ontario Kitchens (2018), award-winning Sir John’s Table, and A Taste of Wintergreen. Contact her at lindymechefske.com.