I enjoy reading books on food and cooking for two reasons. One, it’s a surefire way to whet my appetite to try out new flavours and cuisines. Two, writing a book on food or cooking isn’t as easy as it seems. So, when I come across a book with beautiful words unfolding on the page, integrating recipes with tender memories and personal anecdotes, I’m hooked.
I’ve listed my top three favourites. Each one has revisited ancient recipes, re-examined roots and captured homegrown habits. While the world is galloping forward, it’s sometimes good to trot by the past in terms of the culinary treats it offered. With thoughtful instructions, appealing imagery and lovely recipes, these books perfectly capture the joy of daily meals and exotic preparations.
3 Best Cook Books to Read in 2020
#1 Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady
I’ve been a fan of Tara O’Brady’s blog Seven Spoons for as long as I can remember. So, when I heard, a book was on the way, I was thrilled. The book is a food memoir cum cook book and it does very well on both fronts. It is beautifully designed with lovely minimalist photography and contains chapters dedicated to various types of meals (for eg. breads & breakfast, lunches, soups & starters etc.).
The recipes are preceded by long stories that I found a pleasurable and engaging read. Most of them make use of everyday ingredients and her comments on the recipes are quite insightful. Mouth-watering delights like the roasted peaches with glazed sesame oats and the basic, great chocolate chip cookies are crowd-pleasers and highly satisfying to make and eat. It must be said that Tara relies more on pure instinct than on precise instructions and it works in her favour. From the book, it’s clear that Tara is the mistress of her kitchen and her warm prose and eclectic recipes are sure to win your heart and your palate.
#2 Meals, Music and Muses by Alexander Smalls and Veronica Chambers
From an illustrious run as an opera star to a bright career as a chef and restauranteur, Alexander Smalls has had quite a journey. The book is a cheerful mix of both his passions : food and music. It makes for a compelling read with stories and recipes from his early days in the South, spiced with his musical heritage. Each chapter is conceptualised around a genre of music and has recipes like Hoppin’ John Cakes , Okra Skewers and Frogmore Stew that he has reimagined so wonderfully.
Meals, Music and Muses is a lip-smacking symphony of finely tuned words, sounds and haute cuisine that reflect a life well lived through recipes passed down the generations, musical forms studied, instructions from friends and the meals shared along the way. Read the book and take a seat at his table that lays out lyrical culinary magic on a plate.
#3 Everything is under Control by Phyllis Grant
Though written fairly early in life, Phyllis Grant’s memoir makes it clear that she has been through a lot. It’s all laid down in stark detail as she recounts seminal memories from her early youth through taut vignettes. The book traces her journey from a young dance student at Juilliard, her weight insecurities and unwanted advances at work to acute post-partum depression, the joy of discovering her life’s purpose and her subsequent disenchantment with it.
Her love for food is underscored throughout the book. As a child, as she witnesses her grandmother cooking and then recounts her days in Juilliard where she indulges in New York’s culinary treats. Finally, she takes the leap and begins working in restaurants as a pastry chef and garde-manger. But that doesn’t last long and she ultimately takes pleasure in cooking for her husband and children. In the final section, Grant offers a plethora of her favourite recipes stitching in personal memories, precise instructions and impeccable advice, confirming her talent as a professional chef and food writer. With recipes ranging from avocado bowls to caramelized onion tart with anchovies and olives and hazelnut butter cookies, here’s all that you would love to find – both in a book and a meal.