Cookbooks for Cooks and Foodies


15 Dec Cookbooks for Cooks and Foodies

This is the second part of the Cookbook post I promised. Unlike Cookbooks by People I Know and Like, I’m not friends with the authors of these books. Some I’ve never met, others I’ve chatted with at events or interviewed for articles, but we don’t hang out (online or in coffee shops). I’m sure they’re all lovely people, but I can’t give you a personal anecdote to illustrate their charms. The bias of these reviews lies in my palate, not my social nature.

With this in mind, here is a short list of food-oriented books. While I’ve tried to provide a range of approaches, the list is by no means definitive. Oh yes, and the order is completely random thanks to my disorganized bookcase.

Before I begin, are there any must-have cookbooks on your shelf? Feel free to recommend a title and tell us what you love about it.

For the Adventuresome Cook

theflavorbibleThe Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs
by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg

This culinary reference guide isn’t for beginners. The authors  assume you know your way around the kitchen, and in doing so, provide extensive lists of ingredient combinations intended to jump start your culinary imagination.

If you expect detailed recipes, you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re looking for inspiration, the dish ideas, flavor pairings, chef cooking tips and handy charts will keep the creative juices flowing long after the holiday adrenaline has left your system.

How good is this book? It’s won the 2009 James Beard Award for Reference and Scholarship.

Posts this book inspired: My soon-to-be-famous Concord Grape Sorbet.

For Cooks Who Never Keep the Pantry Stocked

FoodSubstitutionsBibleThe Food Substitution Bible: More than 5,000 Substitutions for Ingredients, Equipment & Techniques
By David Joachim

I turn to this book more often than I care to admit. Yes, this book has been around since 2005, but it earns its shelf space time and again. It offers substitutions for almost every food imaginable and tells you the changes to flavour and texture the change might make. With this on hand, you’ll never again be stuck when someone uses the last of the milk, asparagus is out of season, your pastry bag breaks or you learn your dinner guest is allergic to garlic.

Although it’s an IACP Cookbook Award winner, I think The Food Substitution Bible deserves a Scout’s merit badge for Culinary Emergency Preparedness.

Posts this book inspired: I wrote a full review if you want more details.

For People Who Love Spice But Have Little Time

EverydayIndianEveryday Indian: 100 Fast, Fresh and Healthy Recipes
by Bal Arneson

Arneson’s use of spicing is exceptional. Not too spicy. Not too bland. While you’ll find the expected classic Indian ingredients, Arneson throws in some non-traditional dried cranberries, tofu and — I kid you not — chocolate chips.

The recipes are delicious, easy-to-make and ready in 25 minutes or less. Thanks to Arneson’s Garam Masala recipe I’m never buying store bought mixes again.

With vegetarian, meat, seafood, poultry dishes, and desserts there’s something for everyone.

Posts this book inspired: The spicing from Bal’s No-Butter Chicken formed the base for my Matar Paneer recipe, which is my single most popular post to date. Her Cauliflower with Yams recipe inspired my Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup.

For Anyone Who Loves Canada

Taste-of-CanadaA Taste of Canada: A Culinary Journey
By Rose Murray

I’ve met Rose Murray a couple of times at the Canadian Culinary Book Awards. She’s charming and sincere, but since we don’t hug on meeting and haven’t had coffee together, I think our relationship still falls into the “professional” category.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t have a strong emotional bond to her book. As I said in the recent giveaway, this is one of my all-time favourite cookbooks.

With landscape photos and enough history / geography to give context to this expansive country, Murray offers an extensive selection of cuisine. Her recipes always turn out as intended, and her twist on classics are unusual enough to inspire, yet familiar enough to keep the traditionalists happy.

Posts this book inspired: Curried Chicken Pot Pie, with coconut milk and a hint of Thai curry, and my father’s favourite — Cheddar Apple Soup.

For Quirky Cooks with a Sense of Humour

Kitchenscraps_coverKitchen Scraps: A Humorous Illustrated Cookbook
by Pierre A. Lamielle

No food porn here. Just demented illustrations, great recipes and delicious fun. Lamielle’s story telling convinced me to try Brussels sprouts and the Universe awarded me for my efforts. The post in which I flambed baby cabbage landed me a nod from Saveur’s Best of the Web. Thanks Pierre. I owe you and Mr B. Russel Sprout one.

Without a doubt, Kitchen Scraps is the most unique cookbook on my shelf, and I am far too selfish to feature it as a giveaway. It’s mine. All mine. Want one? Buy your own.

Posts this book inspired: Brandied Brussels Sprouts. Yes, I made Brussels sprouts. And they were good.

  • Katerina
    Posted at 13:04h, 15 December Reply

    I love it! I wrote a very similar post today but with totally different recommendations, I don’t have any of these. I will need to look into them.

  • Amanda S.
    Posted at 13:48h, 15 December Reply

    I think next time someone asks me what I want this season, I’m just going to send them a link to this list! (And I can’t believe that I’ve never heard of the Food Substitution Bible.)

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 15:30h, 15 December Reply

      Please do! Pass the link along. I’m sure the authors would appreciate it.

      And I found The Food Substitution Bible by chance at a book sale. Not sure how this winner has gone under the radar for so long. I find it very handy!

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 15:02h, 15 December Reply

    Another great list, Charmian! I’m adding both the Flavor Bible and the Food Substitutions Bible to my wish-list right this minute!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 15:31h, 15 December Reply

      Glad to oblige, Diva. Just don’t tell your husband it was me who’s behind it all.

  • Cheryl@5secondrule
    Posted at 15:52h, 15 December Reply

    I use The Flavor Bible all the time. I have two of the authors’ prior books also, but that one is my favorite by far.

    I’ve got to get my hands on Kitchen Scraps. I haven’t seen it in the bookstores around me, but perhaps I’m just not looking hard enough.

  • Dana McCauley
    Posted at 09:48h, 16 December Reply

    Nice selection of picks! I really like that you didn’t just choose the most recent books by the best known names.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:36h, 16 December Reply

      I just let my bookcase guide me. Unfortunately, I missed a couple of titles due to the impending office upheaval. Oh well, they won’t go bad.

  • Stephanie - Wasabimon
    Posted at 13:26h, 16 December Reply

    A Canadian cookbook? I’m intrigued. Sounds like something I must have.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:31h, 17 December Reply

      There are lots of Canadian cookbooks but this is one of my favourites. Rose Murray’s recipes are bullet-proof and soooo good.

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 10:07h, 17 December Reply

    I’ve got Kitchen Scraps on my wish list. Pierre is a fantastically funny guy and the dude can cook!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:32h, 17 December Reply

      Thanks for the endorsement of my choice. I really love this book. The illustrations and quirky stories alone sold me. The fact the recipes work is a total bonus (and believe me, I’ve never written a sentence like that before! I’m usually all about the food.)

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