Right now the whole world feels like it is upside down and I’m just waiting for Hopper to come rescue us with Eleven and the Stranger Things gang. While being cooped up in my apartment has been frustrating, I take solace in my cookbook collection. In those pages there is an order to each recipe that calms my nerves and at the end of cooking I’ll be eating something warm and inviting. During this upside down time, I’ve decided to dive into several books about food as well as cookbooks to read about how food brings us together. Here is my quaran-time food reading list.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat
If you are new to cooking and want to know the science behind cooking food, this is the book for you. The first part of this book reads like a friend just walking you through each element of good cooking and the second part is more of a regular cookbook. I’m in the middle of rereading the “Heat” section, but my favorite recipe here is the Caesar Salad recipe, which includes a mayonnaise recipe that is also in the book. Don’t miss out on her intro paragraphs to each recipe, which tend to include what else to pair with the dish. Nosrat also did a Netflix special of the same name, which I highly suggest watching as her excitement for cooking and food is contagious. (I wrote this with the miniseries on in the background!)
Eat What You Watch by Andrew Rea
The YouTube “Binging with Babish” star created this book that dives into some of your favorite food from movies. Rea dives into the Il Timpano for Big Night and the Prison Gravy from Goodfellas. I am bookmarking the Ratatouille recipe for when I have some access to better vegetables, but with my pantry pasta I will be diving headfirst into the Chef inspired Pasta Aglio e Olio recipe. I’m even going a step further and will be making the dish and then eating it while watching the movie on my couch! Now if I could find some fresh pineapple I might attempt the Hawaiian Burgers from Pulp Fiction…
Mixtape Potluck by Questlove
If you have talked to me within the last two months, you would have heard me wax poetic about this cookbook. The concept behind this book is just genius. Questlove, the drummer of the band The Roots, would hold dinner parties of his own and invite guests to bring a dish. The twist is that he would also assign them a song that is meant to inspire the dish. While I currently don’t have the ingredients to make Missy Robbins’ Braised Osso Buco with Fennel Soffritto, I will be diving straight into my canned tomatoes for Stanley Tucci’s Eggs in Purgatory and my canned chickpeas for Padma Lakshmi’s Chickpea and Spinach Tapas.
South by Sean Brock
Sean Brock came to the 2019 Festival and I was so excited to snag a copy of his cookbook. Brock has a deep love for Southern cooking and he spent a lot of time reading old Southern cookbooks before making this cookbook. While it doesn’t have the easiest dishes, his book does give you some good aspirations to challenge yourself. I’ll be diving into his fermented vegetables section, particularly to try my hand at some ramp sauerkraut and preserved lemons. And once I get some good koji, I’ll be starting to work on Boiled Peanut Miso and Hot Sauce.
You and I Eat the Same by Chris Ying
If you have been following the Austin360 Book Club powered by Texas Book Fest on Facebook this is already in your “read” pile, but I implore you to take a look at it again when you are feeling a little blue about what is going on. This book was a 2018 Festival pick and it helps remind you that we are all the same when you boil it down. These times have been scary and it can be easy to put blame on one another, but when you read how many different cultures use the same ingredients just in a different way it can be comforting- like how sesame seed can be used on bagels, hamburger buns, scallion pancakes, and in tahini sauce, to name a few. My personal favorite chapters are “Fried Chicken is Common Ground” and “Coffee Saves Lives”. Everything might feel uncertain right now, but remember that we are all in this together, just like that song from High School Musical.