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All Baking Coverage

With home cooking on the rise, has there ever been a better time to switch up the energy with a new cookbook?

★ In Bibi’s Kitchen

Perhaps the freshest cookbook of the season is In Bibi’s Kitchen, even though “this is an old-fashioned cookbook that has nothing to do with trends or newness,” as editors Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen write in their introduction. The book features recipes and stories from grandmothers (bibis) from eight African countries, all introduced through Q&A interviews. Each chapter shares basic information about one of the featured countries, all of which touch the Indian Ocean (two are islands), and “offers a range of perspectives that clearly illustrate how food changes when it travels and how it can also help to keep a connection to home.” Don’t feel the least bit wary of recipes featuring hard-to-find ingredients. Almost all the spices called for are readily available in American supermarkets, and many of the condiments included here (like Somali cilantro and green chile pepper sauce) can be used on nearly anything. A beautiful example of how food is culture, history and one of the most powerful forms of connection we have, In Bibi’s Kitchen feels at once deeply famil- iar and powerfully eye-opening.

Tequila & Tacos

Do I love Tequila & Tacos because it’s compact and bold in color, or do I love it because it’s all about tacos? Yes. Katherine Cobbs’ latest in the Spirited Pairings series is an irresistible tour de U.S. taco joints in points north, south, east and west. Each location reveals the recipe for one signature taco and cocktail, from cauliflower tacos with fennel and ramps (Salazar in Los Angeles) to a Monte Cristo taco (Velvet Taco in Atlanta) to a lamb carnitas taco (Quiote in Chicago), and on and on the delicious armchair exploring goes. You might feel a twinge of grief right now, thinking about all these beautiful restaurants and their brilliant creations—but then you get to make the tacos and agave-spirit libations at home, and you’re sure to feel happier after that.

Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple

Even if you’re not a foodie, you’ve probably heard the name Jacques Pépin. The renowned French chef and TV personality has a wonderful smile, and as such, I take great joy in the many photographs of him sprinkled throughout Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple, which has a pleasingly retro feel thanks to its cheerful illustrations, vintage typeface and decidedly unfussy recipes. These really are quick and simple dishes with common ingredients and instructions that rarely extend past a paragraph or two. In fact, “mix all the ingredients together” is a common refrain. There are even lots of shortcuts, such as brown-and- serve French bread (!) or pre-made pizza dough and puff pastry. If a famous French chef tells you to do it, it’s totally OK, right? Packed with more than 200 recipes, this book would make a great resource for busy young people who are just beginning their kitchen adventures.

The Good Book of Southern Baking

Kelly Fields brings 20 years of pastry chef know-how to the pages of The Good Book of Southern Baking. She developed these recipes in restaurants, including her own New Orleans joint Willa Jean, and her thorough overview of baking ingredients—11 pages’ worth!—signals that honed expertise. But it’s her South Carolina upbringing that provides the bedrock for this sumptuous collection of sweet treats. Fields’ baking is deeply rooted in childhood experience, and she invokes her mama regularly in her treatment of classics like banana bread, haystack cookies and warm chocolate pudding. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a traditional Southern dessert not covered here, and you’ll want to devour every single one. (I’m especially drawn to the bourbon-butterscotch pudding, a twist on one of my own mama’s favorites, and Grandma Mac’s apple cake.) This is the perfect gift for the dessert person in your life. 

The Kosmic Kitchen Cookbook

The Kosmic Kitchen Cookbook cozies up at the three-way intersection of herbalism, ayurveda and seasonality, making it a fascinating, not to mention beautifully designed, guide for thinking about how to support your health holistically. Herbalists and pals Sarah Kate Benjamin and Summer Singletary ground the book in elemental theory, the idea that the five elements—ether, air, water, fire, earth—must be balanced in our bodies. They connect this theory to the four seasons, helping the reader to identify how the elements are at play, inside and out. A section on herbal preps, such as herb-infused ghee, honey and turmeric tahini dressing, begins the culinary exploration, followed by seasonal recipes like lemon balm gazpacho and spiced mulled wine with hawthorn berries. If you’re new to herbalism, it may seem like a lot to take in, but Benjamin and Singletary are wonderful guides, and the book also provides a link to their free online minicourse on the subject.

With home cooking on the rise, has there ever been a better time to switch up the energy with a new cookbook? Here are five that breathe fresh life into kitchen duty.

Many gourmands are restless from hunkering down these past several months, and the added cold weather is enough to make anyone a bit stir-crazy. But never fear—we’ve rounded up five books that are sure to warm hearts as well as ovens.

Bread Therapy

Bread Therapy: The Mindful Art of Baking Bread couldn’t have come at a better time. Ever since quarantine renewed people’s interest in making home-cooked food for themselves and their loved ones, baking supplies have been flying off the shelves. Yeast is a rare and precious commodity. Sourdough starters are the stars of Instagram. As a university counselor, Pauline Beaumont understands the therapeutic qualities of baking, which takes people out of their comfort zones and allows them to make mistakes. This book’s seven chapters highlight these ideals, intertwining words of wisdom with some interesting bread recipes, such as spinach flatbread and dill and beet bread. As much a self-help book as a cookbook, Bread Therapy is a welcome instructional guide to practicing self-acceptance, staying grounded and making something delicious.

A Field Guide to Cheese 

And what better to top your bread with than cheese? A Field Guide to Cheese: How to Select, Enjoy, and Pair the World’s Best Cheeses is a cheese lover’s dream, educating aficionados through gorgeous pictures and fun, colorful graphics. Cheese expert and journalist Tristan Sicard lays out the book nicely, starting off with “A Quick Chronology of Cheese” that spans from 5000 B.C. to the present day. This is followed by a diagram of dairy breeds—not only cow but also goat, sheep and even buffalo. The 11 families of cheese are also outlined, including information about color, texture, recommended serving tools and emblematic varieties. Finally, each cheese gets its own entry, with over 400 individual profiles in all, including the dairy breed, region of origin, an enticing illustration and a brief description. Further information is given about pairing, preparing and serving cheese, and there’s even a section about how to properly wrap cheese for storage. 

Very Merry Cocktails

Although cheese is usually paired with wine, a creative connoisseur might enjoy a slice with some of the fun drinks featured in Very Merry Cocktails: 50+ Festive Drinks for the Holiday Season. Food writer Jessica Strand (Cooking for Two) provides several helpful cocktail hints, including a list of useful bar tools (stocking stuffer ideas, anyone?), syrup and garnish recipes and tips on how to rim a glass with sugar or salt. Five chapters of holiday cocktail recipes follow, including champagne sippers, holiday party punches and nonalcoholic libations. The recipes are innovative and easy to follow, such as Christmas in July, a tropical-inspired drink featuring crème de coconut, pineapple juice and rum for “when you’re craving warm summer days.” There are also festive twists on old favorites, such as the Moscow Reindeer, a riff on the gingery Moscow Mule. All are complemented by stylish midcentury-inspired photos that capture the season’s celebratory sparkle. 

Hungry Games

Perhaps the most unique spin on a cookbook for this holiday season is Hungry Games: A Delicious Book of Recipe Repairs, Word Searches & Crosswords for the Food Lover, essentially a cookbook of 50 recipes that each contain 10 mistakes for the reader to find. These “puzzles” are ranked in difficulty from easy (such as an apple crumble pie that instructs the baker to toss the apples with pears) to hard (a peach galette that says to mix water with red wine vinegar to make the dough, when it should actually be white distilled vinegar). Luckily there’s an answer key to check your culinary skill, as well as lots of food-themed crosswords and word searches. The result is an unusual and fun gift for the foodie who has everything.

The Best American Food Writing 2020

The 25 short essays in The Best American Food Writing 2020 were actually written in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t make them any less thoughtful or relevant. This year’s editor, the chef and author J. Kenji López-Alt (The Food Lab), writes that although he’s afraid “the book will read like a time capsule,” the pieces he’s selected are still significant to the future of food writing. Topics from substance abuse in restaurant kitchens and the burgeoning global market for baby food, to Jamie Oliver’s eccentric stardom and how spring water is bottled are tackled with humor and consequence, as well as a bit of history mixed in to provide a touchstone between the past and present. All of these wide-ranging pieces were originally published in sources typically known for provocative food writing, such as Eater, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Having them all in one place is a boon for the Epicurean reader.

If you’re looking for the perfect holiday gift for the gastronome in your life, these books will keep them engaged long after the table’s been cleared.

In this month's roundup of new lifestyles books, witchy recipes, spooky treats and meat-eating plants provide the seasonal escapism we all crave.


★ A Kitchen Witch’s Guide to Recipes for Love & Romance

Food gives us energy; food is energy. This framing of cooking as a blend of mindful practice and energy work, right alongside reiki and acupuncture, is at the root of Dawn Aurora Hunt’s A Kitchen Witch’s Guide to Recipes for Love & Romance. Adding witchcraft to the mix—think candles, smudge sticks, essential oils, mantras—takes things from healthy and delicious to sensual sorcery. Bow tie pasta with lemon and artichokes, when paired with the practice of “creating a sacred space for enriching love and togetherness,” becomes a way to rekindle the flame and honor a season of new beginnings. Peaches and cream? Way sexier with a sigil carved into the peach flesh. Grab your wooden spoons, some white sage and a box of matches, and make some kitchen magic for—and with—your partner.

The Wicked Baker

The Wicked Baker is Helena Garcia’s celebration of all treats spooky and strange. If you take even the eensiest dram of pleasure from Halloween, you’ll enjoy every page. A Cousin Itt made of shredded phyllo wears round green spectacles of gingerbread dough. A cake resembling a black candle drips blood-red “wax” icing. Many of these complex creations are not for the faint of heart. But hey, the Brain Cinnamon Rolls sound manageable, and I’m game to whip up the pale green Slime Pudding that’s little more than Greek yogurt, condensed milk and citrus. This book brings the holiday escapism we all crave.

Killer Plants

Killer Plants is your go-to for carnivorous cultivars like bladderworts, pitcher plants and Venus’ flytraps. “The plants in this book present a bit of a challenge to their keepers,” author Molly Williams tells us upfront. That is, they’re pretty persnickety when it comes to care—they insist upon distilled water and special potting mix, for starters—but are possibly worth it for the weird-and-rare factor if you’re a plant-hound. Williams even goes a step further in a section on “Rare Carnivorous Plants You May Never Find,” which reads like an episode of “Nature.” Niche though these plants may be, entire shops and societies around the world are devoted to them. A list of contacts rounds out the book, so you can go forth and find your fellow killer-plant people.

In this month's roundup of new lifestyles books, witchy recipes, spooky treats and meat-eating plants provide the seasonal escapism we all crave. ★ A Kitchen Witch’s Guide to Recipes for Love & Romance Food gives us energy; food is energy. This framing of cooking as a blend of mindful practice and energy work, right alongside reiki […]

Three books invite you to bake delicious, vegan treats; learn to walk more lightly on the planet and travel by tent with children in tow.

★ Perfectly Golden

Angela Garbacz makes her cookbook debut with Perfectly Golden, a trove of treats from her popular bakery, Goldenrod Pastries in Lincoln, Nebraska. Garbacz became devoted to dietary-­inclusive baking after developing a dairy sensitivity, and her bakery uses nondairy milks exclusively (almond is her go-to). Here she reveals her top tricks for delicious sweets that are also gluten free and vegan, including decadent buns, cakes, cookies and more. (You can make any of the recipes in the traditional way, too, using cow’s milk and eggs.) While this bright and cheerful cookbook is decidedly contemporary in its methods, Garbacz bakes from a strong family tradition, and she includes tweaked versions of old favorites, such as her mom’s turtle cookies: cooked in a waffle iron and dolloped with peanut butter frosting. It’s truly a guide to sweets for all tastes and preferences.

An Almost Zero Waste Life

You probably think that a zero-waste life sounds appealing. You may also think it sounds exhausting to achieve. I’m with you on both counts, but after exploring the solutions offered by Megean Weldon in An Almost Zero Waste Life, I’m newly enthusiastic about my family’s ability to slash our trash. Weldon is practical in her guidance, and she urges readers to use up their disposables before replacing them with sustainable alternatives. After that, small changes start to add up: Snip old T-shirts into rags, start composting and cook more homemade food. I especially like Weldon’s weekly menu examples, designed to cut vegetable waste, and her section on holidays, which includes a list of 101 zero-waste gift ideas.

See You at the Campground

Though See You at the Campground was published earlier this spring, I think it deserves a shout-out now as we enter prime camping season. Parents and podcasters Stephanie and Jeremy Puglisi lay out the pros and cons of vacationing via tent, RV or cabin and are forthcoming about their missteps as they learned to navigate the great outdoors with their three sons. Now seasoned experts, they share packing lists, choice campgrounds, campfire grub, campground etiquette and advice for exploring national parks. Armed with this book, even the most avid camper will be better prepared for the next adventure with children in tow.

Three books invite you to bake delicious, vegan treats; learn to walk more lightly on the planet and travel by tent with children in tow. ★ Perfectly Golden Angela Garbacz makes her cookbook debut with Perfectly Golden, a trove of treats from her popular bakery, Goldenrod Pastries in Lincoln, Nebraska. Garbacz became devoted to dietary-­inclusive baking […]

Whether you want to be educated, inspired or deliciously distracted, these releases can help.


★ Earth Almanac

The internet’s useful and all, but have you picked up an almanac lately? Ken Keffer’s Earth Almanac is a fine specimen, focused on phenology, the interconnection of living things through seasonal change. Each of its 365 entries explores a particular natural creature, phenomenon or feature; on the day of this writing, Keffer looks closely at the “twittering flights of the American woodcock,” aka bog sucker, mud bat or brush snipe. Beautifully illustrated, Earth Almanac makes a delightful daily read-aloud with family. Keffer’s generalist approach offers encouragement to budding naturalists, inviting us to action as field data collectors and advocates for the earth. “People are more likely to protect what they are familiar with and what they care about,” he writes.

How to Be an Artist

In 2018, Jerry Saltz, senior art critic for New York magazine, wrote a piece on how to live more creatively, featuring 33 “nodes and nubs of advice.” It proved wildly popular, so Saltz kept going, thinking more deeply about how to make art a part of one’s life—and what is art, anyway? The result is the trim, brilliant How to Be an Artist, which combines color reproductions of famous works with inspiring directives, pep talks and juicy reflections on art-making and sustainable creative practice. Whether you’re a proud amateur or a frustrated expert, these are words worth taking to heart. Saltz’s knowledge veins run deep, and his voice is crisp, frank, intimate and urgent. 

Procrastibaking

As I polish off this column a day past my deadline, you can bet that I’m loving a new cookbook with chapter headings like “Better-Late-Than-Never Brownies and Bars,” “Late-for-Everything Loaf Cakes” and “Sorry-for-the-Delayed-Response Savory Bakes.” This is Erin Gardner’s Procrastibaking, and it is giving me life. Never mind that I absolutely want to try every delicious-sounding recipe, of which there are more than 100, and most of which are making a successful appeal to my sweet tooth. I also want to nail the word search, mazes and other games that are sprinkled throughout the book like finishing sugar. But first I must finish this column . . . or must I ? After all, the majority of these treats can be turned out in under 50 minutes, I’m told.

Whether you want to be educated, inspired or deliciously distracted, these releases can help. ★ Earth Almanac The internet’s useful and all, but have you picked up an almanac lately? Ken Keffer’s Earth Almanac is a fine specimen, focused on phenology, the interconnection of living things through seasonal change. Each of its 365 entries explores a particular […]

Three new lifestyles books to help you vent, treat yourself and get in touch with nature.


★ Rage Baking

Indeed it is a cookbook, but Kathy Gunst and Katherine Alford’s Rage Baking is also a genius idea—the very text that we, an army of citizen bakers, have been waiting for. Among more than 40 contributors to this feisty and inspiring collection of recipes, essays and interviews are luminaries Ruth Reichl, Ani DiFranco, Dorie Greenspan and Rebecca Traister. There are recipes like “Power Muffs” and “No More Sheet Cake.” The recipes, like the women behind them, represent diverse culinary traditions, from cornbread to bulgur flatbread to challah to focaccia. But they all share one ingredient: “I am anger wrapped in hopelessness wrapped in despair wrapped in more anger,” writes Tess Rafferty. “And when I can’t stand it anymore, I cook.”

$9 Therapy

I’ve seen many a self-care book, but this one struck me as fresh. First, there’s the catchy title: $9 Therapy. But the subtitle is the clincher: “Semi-Capitalist Solutions to Your Emotional Problems.” What do co-authors Megan Reid and Nick Greene mean by that? First, what it’s not: “a guide to getting your shit together.” What it is: funny at every turn and packed with small, practical hacks and crafts—DIY sheet spray! DIY makeup brush cleaner!—that will cumulatively make you a more functional human being. A book that perfectly, humorously captures a corner of the zeitgeist is always a win—even if, alas, it doesn’t retail for $9. Buy it anyway, along with a gallon of white vinegar. 

Close to Birds

Truly one of the most breathtaking titles I’ve explored in a long time, Close to Birds, first published in Sweden, achieves the delicate balance of jaw-dropping photographs and thought-provoking text. Authors Mats and Åsa Ottosson didn’t set out to create a traditional bird-watching book, a guide for seekers of the most elusive specimens. Instead, among the birds featured in stunning color against white backgrounds are an ordinary mallard, a common sandpiper, a Eurasian sparrow and a common starling. “Being receptive to birds is both much simpler and much bigger than [determining species],” the authors write. “It’s not a hobby; rather it can be seen as a loving receptivity to the larger we to which humans are lucky to belong.” You’ll learn, gasp and see birds anew.

Susannah Felts is a Nashville-based writer and co-founder of  The Porch, a literary arts organization. She enjoys anything paper-related and, increasingly, plant-related.

Three new lifestyles books to help you vent, treat yourself and get in touch with nature. ★ Rage Baking Indeed it is a cookbook, but Kathy Gunst and Katherine Alford’s Rage Baking is also a genius idea—the very text that we, an army of citizen bakers, have been waiting for. Among more than 40 contributors to this […]

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