The holidays approach. That dangerous time of year when you gain at least 5 pounds from mediocre cookies, and you’re expected to buy gifts for 15 people you see once a year. Kill two birds with one stone and buy a useful gift that might increase the caliber of the calories around you: a cookbook! There are approximately 7 kazillion options out there, but here are three of my favorites for beginner cooks:
1. The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Alice Waters is a food icon, and this may be her most accessible book. As a recent self-taught cook, I deeply appreciated the in-depth but straightforward background in cooking technique, such as how to make an omelette or when to add salt to beans. Recipes follow each chapter.
2. How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
A classic, and one with many variations. You can buy the How to Cook Everything: The Basics version, or one adapted for vegetarians. As a longtime New York Times columnist, Bittman knows what he’s talking about. Have plenty of wrapping paper on hand; this book earns its name, and is a hefty present.
3. The Earthbound Cook by Myra Goodman
Unlike Waters’s and Bittman’s books, you probably won’t see this book on every “best of” list. But if you know a budding cook who also cares about the environmental footprint of her food, I recommend The Earthbound Cook. Experienced cooks might not need ideas for good salad combinations, or instructions for roasted broccoli, but for a new cook, these recipes are unintimidating and easily absorbed into a growing know-it-by-heart repertoire. The book’s margins feature tips on conscientious food choices, from the importance of organic produce to the hierarchy of sustainable fish. I’ve heard that The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook is a similarly good choice.
Be a good elf, and order from your local bookstore! Share your favorite recipe sources here or on Facebook!