From Book to Table: Cookbook Musings from Edward (October 2021 Edition)

Welcome to October! If you’re like me, this is a great month to give the oven and slow cooker a workout. Lots of cakes, breads and stews to try. It’s a good time to add a few apple and pumpkin recipes to the repertoire. October is also when the majority of fall’s biggest cookbooks arrive to stores. No other month on the calendar features as many new cookbooks. The breadth of selection increases dramatically and that variety is what I’ll be focusing on in this month’s blog. No tricks; only treats.

Dorie Greenspan is beloved for her baking and for her French cooking. (Around My French Table is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks.) When Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced Baking With Dorie, I nearly jumped for joy. Yes! Nothing could be better than Dorie Greenspan writing about baking. I think this is one of her most personal cookbooks as it celebrates a milestone: 30 years of cookbook writing! She has included every imaginable cake, cookie, pie and tart. There are savories to go along with the sweets. What I love about this book — her 14th cookbook(!!) — is that she identifies her “sweetheart” recipes which are her and her family’s favorites on frequent rotation at home. If you’re making her Peanut-Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, Paris Style for the first time, chances are, Dorie has made them recently. I have always loved her cookies, but her Swirled, Spiced Sour Cream Bundt Cake is what you should be baking right now! Ready for the taking on October 19th.

 

I’m a big Bryant Terry fan. I’ve watched with admiration Terry’s career as he moved through multiple vegan cookbooks which highlighted the foods and cultural influences of African American and Caribbean people. His point of view felt fresh and inviting and I thought he was slowly preparing for the career-defining book in which his publishing history could really take flight. I very much enjoyed Vegetable Kingdom which came out last year. And then came this: Black Food published by 4 Color Books, Terry’s very own imprint at Ten Speed Press. There is so much in this book, much of it about food with recipes and beautiful photography. But there’s transformative, emotional content using food as a guide to delve into topics of the Black American and African diasporic experience. There’s poetry, art, memoir, history and more, all providing flavors to a stew of ideas in which Terry is the executive assembler. I was especially moved by contributions from Dara Cooper, Lazarus Lynch and Zoe Adjonyoh. It’s a special book and will make a great gift. At your local B&N on October 19th.

 

How does a Michelin-star celebrity chef cook at home? Very imprecisely, as David Chang tells us in the engaging and visually interesting cookbook, Cooking At Home from Clarkson Potter/Publishers. David Chang, like a lot of star chefs, makes his living being precise in cooking, technique and presentation of food. But what Chang talks about in his new book is nothing short of audacious. He distills cooking in very basic terms that allows for creativity, while keeping performance anxiety at bay. To Chang, our senses tell us everything we need to know about the flavor of a dish, its readiness to be eaten and how it should be presented. What I really love about this book is the co-writer, Priya Krishna, plays an upfront role debating concepts with Chang and expressing skepticism over some of his ideas. In the end, it IS a cookbook and there are so many recipes to try from dumplings to burgers to chicken pot pie. What’s special about all of them is Chang’s voice which is jocular and casual. Take it home on October 26th.

 

You’re staring at a reissue of a reissue of a remarkable book and story. If there ever was a cookbook and author with an air of mystery, Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook by Pamela Strobel is it. Published in conjunction with Matt and Ted Lee, the famous Charleston, S.C. food-writing brothers, this soul food cookbook, originally published in 1969 and re-published in 2017 by Rizzoli, has seen the light of day once again. Princess Pamela ran a tiny restaurant in NYC lauded for its authentic Southern cuisine and speakeasy-like atmosphere. It was THE place for soul food in NYC. After many decades it mysteriously closed. Then Princess Pamela disappeared. Few knew why. What I do know is that this book is a treasure. It’s not just South Carolina cuisine or Southern cooking here. It’s not just soul food or Black American heritage cuisine. It is a history book filled with recipes, stories and poems of the African American experience and the Great Migration. Many recipes appear so simple to the point of being revelatory. Adding sliced lemons and “catsup” on top of Smothered Pork Chops to cook for 1-½ hours is a great idea. I would’ve never thought of deveining but leaving the shells on steamed shrimp.Treasures await on October 5th.

Hugh Johnson has been writing about wine for over 60 years. Let that sink in. He is widely regarded as the preeminent writer on wine. Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2022, published by Mitchell Beazley is the only guidebook on wine you really need. I absolutely love it and look forward to each new one. If you’re keeping score, this is its 45th year of publication. I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to this book highlighting wines I’ve tried. I’m not saying you should do that but I have fun comparing notes with Hugh. My absolute favorite part of the book is his “quick reference vintage charts” listed in the front endpaper.It’s indispensable. Ready to open on October 12th.

 

I’ll admit, I’d never heard of Zoe Adjonyoh, who is of Ghanaian and Irish descent living in the U.K. (She actually appears in Bryant Terry’s new cookbook, Black Food.) Her new cookbook, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen from Voracious, was a pleasant surprise. I don’t know a heck of a lot about West African cuisine but I AM a fan of chilies which are part of Adjonyoh’s “holy trinity” of ingredients. This almost feels like a beautifully produced travelogue of Ghana, showing us the markets, towns and people of this beautiful country. What I love about this cookbook is Zoe’s voice. She is so engaging in the headnotes at the top of the page and how she describes her recipes. There are other clever ideas throughout: labeled photos describing key ingredients and certain dishes which, for a book that may have items that are unfamiliar, is a very good idea; helpful tips at the bottom of many recipes that anticipate potential challenges with easy solutions; and just for fun, a couple of playlists that Adjonyoh cooks and eats to featuring Ghanaian music! Back to the chilies. I made her Ghana-fied Caesar Salad and wow, her Shito Mayo is out of this world. Explore this book on October 19th.

Coming in November, you’ll be thankful for the great new cookbooks that will be landing in stores. Until then, Edward / eash-milby@bn.com

 

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