I love to cook, but sometimes preparing food for family of four gets a little stale. I enjoy looking through cookbooks for ideas, but you can only spend so much time standing in the bookstore reading recipes! And you can't take a book home to try it out. Well, did you know that the San Mateo County Library has over 8000 cookbooks in its collection? I've checked out a sampling of new cookbooks -- there are many more available, all for free! Here's my two cents.
Artisanal foods, CSA's and Farmers Markets
If you've been paying attention, you know that locavorism is a hot topic in the foodie world. Eating Local by Janet Fletcher is a lovely book, with inventive recipes interspersed with portraits of CSA farms in different states. Harvest to Heat by Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer is also a beautifully illustrated book, pairing chefs with artisans and farmers. The recipes are not terribly practical, however (e.g. Pearl Onions and Fiddlehead Ferns with Vanilla Jelly and Onion Sorbet -- hmm), so I don't recommend it for home cooks. A better choice is Mark Bittman's The Food Matters Cookbook. In this companion to his previous book Food Matters: a Guide to Conscious Eating, Bittman offers simple recipes for a sustainable lifestyle.
All-purpose Recipe Books
Sometimes what you want is a good general cookbook. I couldn't put down The Sunset Cookbook. Topping out at 816 pages, it offers page after page of yummy soups, salads, main courses, and of course, outdoor cooking and baked goods. Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? is another great find, with quick but elegant recipes for family and entertaining. La Cuisine: Everyday French Home Cooking by Françoise Bernard is an odd duck. While it’s a good source for classic French cuisine, some recipes are just strange, like Asparagus Soup, which calls for no asparagus, just asparagus cooking water.
Waiter, There's a Joke in My Soup
If you are a baby boomer, you might remember Peg Bracken's I Hate to Cook Book, a humorous sort of cookbook and sort of manifesto of anti-domesticity. Amazingly, it's still in print -- in a 50th anniversary edition. For the 21st century, Jessica Harper has written The Crabby Cook Cookbook, with a similar combination of quick recipes and wry wit, aimed at household targets.
Photo credit: by Webb Zahn
Lucinda Abbott is an MLIS candidate doing a reference internship at Atherton Library and lives in Palo Alto with her husband, two teenage daughters, and a boxer. In a previous life, she trained as a professional chef and did stints at Victoria Emmons Catering, Draeger's Markets, and as a private chef to an Atherton family.