29 August 2020

Weekend Cooking: 9 Books for Food & Drink Lovers

Hello friends! It’s been a hot minute since I connected with my very favorite blogging group—all of you at Weekend Cooking. Part my absence was just needing a break and part is my lack of desire to learn the new Blogger interface. (And at this point I’m not really interested in paying someone to move everything over to WordPress.)

I’ll get the hang of it and all will be fine again.

Today’s post is a round-up of 9 food and cooking books I’ve been exploring since the beginning of the summer. Hope you find something you like here. All these books should be available at your local independent bookstore or library; note that publishing dates are from Edelweiss+ and may not be accurate.

9 Books for Food & Drink Lovers
  • Modern Cast Iron by Ashley L. Jones (Red Lighting Books; Aug. 18): This book lives up to its subtitle; it is indeed a “complete guide” to cast iron and includes good information on how to buy pans, season and clean them, and even how to turn that crusty flea market find into something you’ll be happy to use. Jones includes a handful of recipes that will take you from breakfast through to dinner (we made the chocolate chip cookie skillet cake--see my Instagram for a photo). The recipes are easy and doable, but the worth of this book is in the excellent advice for incorporating cast iron into your modern kitchen.
  • Dirt by Bill Buford (Knopf; May 5): I’ve been a fan of Buford’s since I first listened to his book Heat in 2006. In his newest cooking memoir he shares his journey to learn all there is to know about French cooking; never mind that he didn't really speak the language. His self-directed humor and conversational tone mixed with a natural talent for storytelling, makes Dirt a don’t-miss read. A six-month stay in Lyon, with his wife and toddler twin boys, turned into a years-long learning opportunity. You’ll be craving all things wonderful on your plate, even as you discover the strict rules and techniques that are de rigueur for French chefs.
  • The Truth about Baked Beans by Meg Muckenhoupt (NYU Press, Aug. 25): This well-researched look into the culinary world of New England dissects the myths and reveals the truths of the region’s signature dishes. From Native Americans to the Pilgrims and through every wave of immigrants thereafter, every group has made its mark on household New England cooking, and—spoiler alert—most of those dishes are different from those that have gained legendary status. Firsthand accounts reveal the cultural biases, fear of the unfamiliar, and more that shaped the region’s culinary reputation. Well worth your time.
9 Books for Food & Drink Lovers
  • Beautiful Booze by Natalie Migliarini and James Stevenson (Countryman Press; Aug. 25): I’m usually a wine (and sometimes beer) kind of woman, but other times I’m all about the cocktail. In these days of self-isolation, there’s something fun about coming up with the perfect afternoon, evening, or weekend drink to brighten your day and make you dream about a future when you can invite your friends and family into your house again. The “beautiful” part of the title of this cocktail recipe book isn’t a lie: the photos and the drinks themselves are simply gorgeous. I’m not kidding. The book includes all the expected information about stocking your bar, picking glassware, learning mixing techniques, and making homemade syrups. The drinks look heavenly.
  • Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden with Martha Holmberg (Artisan; May 2): This wonderful vegetable-forward cookbook is just what you want to guide you through your year of veggies. I can’t wait until I can go to the farmer’s market again and explore all the freshest produce of the season; when that day happens, this is the cookbook I want by my side. In the meantime, I can use the recipes to make the most of grocery store curbside pickup. Although the recipes are centered on seasonal vegetables, this is not a fully vegetarian cookbook, so if you don’t eat meat, you’ll want to look through this before you buy it. Wondering about the six seasons? Summer is divided up into early, mid, and late harvests.
  • The Ultimate Pasta Machine Cookbook by Lucy Vaserfirer (Harvard Common Press; Aug 4): I’m inspired by this down-to-earth, easy-to-follow guide to making homemade noodles. The techniques sections cover all kinds of pasta makers, from sheeters to cutters to extruders, including stand-alone electric machines, hand-cranked machines, and attachments to a mixer. The recipes look easy and fun, and Vaserfirer provides directions for gluten-free pasta too. I’m waiting for cooler weather to give these recipes a try, although now that I think about it, quarantine is the perfect time to perfect your pasta-making skills. Great photos and clear directions throughout.
9 Books for Food & Drink Lovers
  • Unvarnished by Eric Alperin and Deborah Stoll (Harper Wave; June 23): This memoir has been billed as the Kitchen Confidential of the bartending world. That alone would get me to read this, but the book has also won tons of praise for its candid perspective of life on the other side of the bar. Alperin extolls the professional side of his chosen career, dispelling the notion that a good mixologist is somehow in limbo waiting for his or her "real" job opportunities to appear. I haven’t read this yet, but it’s currently at the top of my fall reading stack.
  • Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table by Carole Bumpus (She Writes Press; Aug. 18): In this second travelogue, food adventure, memoir mashup, Bumpus takes us to Normandy, Brittany, Loire, and Auvergne, where she met local families, learning about their foods, recipes, and traditions while cooking and talking at the kitchen table. If you’re interested in authentic French foods and wines, have a love of travel, and understand the importance of family, you’ll love Bumpus’s books. I’m reading this slowly, savoring every (tasty) word.
  • Women in the Kitchen by Anne Willan (Scribner; Aug. 11): Willan’s books have a permanent place in my personal cookbook collection. Her latest is a look at a dozen women who lived and cooked at some point during the last 300 years and who (as the subtitle suggests) had a major influence on the way we eat and cook. I just received my review copy of this book (as in yesterday!), and I can’t wait to dive in. The book consists of short biographies and then a sampling of each woman’s recipes. I might not make Hannah Woolley’s seventeenth-century recipes, but I’ve already cooked from books written by Edna Lewis, Irma Rombauer, and many of the others. I’m looking forward to learning more!

Thanks to the publishers for providing review copies of these titles. Fuller reviews will be available on Goodreads or Instagram sometime during the following weeks.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)


rhapsodyinbooks 8/29/20, 6:45 AM  

Unvarnished and Women in the Kitchen sound very interesting to me. I'm looking forward to hearing what you think!

Marg 8/29/20, 6:52 AM  

Glad to see a post from you! I am still using the old interface because I am avoiding changing as long as I can.

I love the sound of the French book....of course!

gluten Free A_Z Blog 8/29/20, 7:28 AM  

Your reviews are always helpful - thanks I think that I would enjoy Dirt and I am intrigued that he took his family to France to do research for his adventure!

Ilse Berg (SnowshineCottage.com) 8/29/20, 9:21 AM  

I always enjoy your book reviews, and have requested several of these from my library!

Mae Travels 8/29/20, 10:15 AM  

Looks as if more new books than ever will be in my area of interest. I didn't know Willan had a new book, must check it out. And the Boston food history is very intriguing.

Good to see you returning to food blogging!

be well... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Karen White 8/29/20, 10:29 AM  

The cast iron cookbook and Beautiful Booze will both be great gifts for people I know. Thanks for the recommendations! Also, ever since you posted about finding cast iron pans at a garage sale (I think?) years ago, I'm always on the lookout. I've found some great ones at second hand stores, including a beautiful, if rusty Le Creuset that I bought for my daughter.

Vicki 8/29/20, 2:28 PM  

I'm interested in Modern Cast Iron and Women In The Kitchen.

Jackie McGuinness 8/29/20, 3:32 PM  

New Blogger isn't too bad. I do have some pet peeves with it though, especially when it comes to labels. I do find it extremely slow however.

Les in Oregon 8/30/20, 2:52 PM  

I think I have finally gotten the hang of the new interface, but some aspects of it are annoying. Selecting several labels/tags isn't quite as easy as before, but it is possible. I am just happy they are allowing bloggers to select the size of their photos. That's very important to me! I did learn, however, that if you go back to an older post (I did simply to add a label), the new interface deletes all the paragraph breaks. This was very frustrating to discover, but I won't make that mistake again. I can add labels from the dashboard rather than the old post itself. Anyhow...

Women in the Kitchen sounds like something I'd enjoy, as does the pasta cookbook, although my husband was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, so I doubt we'll be eating very much pasta anymore. :(

Have a good week!

Sue Jackson 8/31/20, 5:54 PM  

Oooh...these all look so good!

I am especially interested in the cast iron cookbook - would love to make even more use of my husband's Grandma's cast iron skillet.

I am also trying to work with the new Blogger - ugh! I am finding it quite glitchy. While my laptop was in the shop, I had to switch back to the old one (very old laptop with old system doesn't work with newer software), and I haven't switched back to the new version again yet - too many problems! Also, many of my comments aren't coming through one one of my blogs (the other - the book blog - works fine), so I am very frustrated with Blogger these days and especially with the lack of support. But, like you, the thought of transferring 13+ years of 2 blogs (plus many years of a third one) to Wordpress is not enticing!

Hoping they work out some of the bugs -


Book By Book

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