Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Eating Season

The NY Times Best Cookbooks of the Year

The above article just came out, and I defy you to read it and not get hungry. I love books, and cooking, and so, I love cookbooks. Or books about cooking, or food, or eating. Or books about writing cookbooks. I heard the author, Harold McGee, interviewed on Fresh Air, and bought his new book, Keys to Good Cooking, for the library. In it, he will explain why your brisket gets more tender the longer you cook it. 

I think this is because eating, and food, is so closely related to our upbringing, to our families, to how we feel about our selves, our bodies, our lives. Flavors can evoke strong memories, tied to powerful feelings. Sometimes we have strong attachment or aversion to a particular flavor--I know people who can't stand the tiniest bit of cilantro in a dish. When a company changes a formula, or discontinues a product, it can create an uproar amongst its consumers--anyone remember New Coke? Many people started stockpiling Postum when it was discontinued, and there are fan clubs for candies that are no longer made. (Please, someone, bring back the Choc-O-Lite!)

The "Holiday" Season used to start with Thanksgiving, but now it more or less kicks into gear with Halloween. I think of the period from Halloween through Valentine's Day, as the Eating Season. I'm sure this is no mistake--everyone eats, so it's in the interest of food producers to get us to associate  lots of kinds of food with as many holidays as possible. I'm not complaining, just stating a fact. I enjoy trying new ways of cooking old favorites--I do believe that the brined turkey won out in the moistness competition over the deep-fried turkey this year, although both were delicious. I do have a hankering for the Thanksgiving Cake.
Here are some of my favorite cooking/foodie books:

Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl. She was the last editor of Gourmet magazine, and a former food critic for the New York Times. This is the first in her series of memoirs, and my favorite of the bunch.

My Life in France, by Julia Child. Re-issued after the movie Julie and Julia came out, this is the charming story of how Julia Child learned to cook, and co-wrote a cookbook, while living in France.

The Emperors of Chocolate, by Joel Glenn Brenner, tells the fascinating histories of the Mars and Hershey companies.There's a lot you don't know, and will like hearing about. Trust me.

For books with recipes, you can check out:

Dirty Sugar Cookies, by Ayun Halliday. She's a fun, funny writer, whether she takes on child rearing, or world travel. Here's her other books.

Anything by Madhur Jaffrey. She is a writer and actor, and while opinions vary, I find that her recipes come out well.  If you like Indian/Asian/vegetarian dishes, check it out.

Extending the Table: a World Community Cookbook, by Joetta Handrich Schlabach. This compilation of recipes was collected by Mennonites living all over the world. It includes poignant anecdotes of their experiences, and the recipes, while they may not be the most authentic you will ever find, are well tested and delicious, plus they are made from readily available ingredients.