It’s shocking to think that I restarted my journey with Eating Normal almost a year ago. With it, I’ve skipped a few months worth of Cookbooks, but the fact remains: I am obligated to share with you those that I believe are of both the best value and best tasting of the books I got to this year. I’ve never trusted a cookbook to guide my cooking as much as I have this year, and I feel that I have learned a lot just by cooking along with these authors.
Let’s begin from the bottom:
January 2018: 200 One Pot Meals
There were some problems with this book that promised a lot of easy cooking. Number one, the equipment barrier was too much for me to overcome when I was unemployed at the time. Immersion blenders, cast iron dutch ovens, and the like, were much beyond my purchasing power when I started this journey. I think I managed maybe two recipes out of it that I was genuinely interested in before moving on.
May: Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a Fuck
I’m not Vegan, and that’s probably a good portion of why the Thug Kitchen official cookbook lands toward the bottom of my list. I found a lot of useful information in it to help me understand vegan cooking, but I couldn’t get behind most of the recipes. I could barely get my husband to eat them. I was thankful when the month was over.
From this point forward, there are no real losers, only smaller winners. Soul was a type of cookbook I had never opened up on my counter before. That is to say, I would never consider some of its staple ingredients for use. Collard greens, corn meal, and so on that are staples of southern cooking had no place in my kitchen up until that point. I welcomed the change.
The only thing that sometimes bothered me was that there were recipes inside of recipes that often caused me to forget an ingredient when I went out to shop. If a recipe called for garlic aioli on the side, I had to flip three hundred pages back for that aioli recipe. On one hand, I get it. There’s no place for a garlic aioli recipe tied into a salmon cake recipe. On the other, I just wish it was easier to keep together with the recipe I was intent on tackling.
December: Salt Fat Acid Heat
You’ll notice that I am once more not writing a full review of a book I should have dedicated an entire month toward cooking from. Let me tell you, December has been a mixed bag. I did, however, put a lot of reading into the first few passages of Samin Nosrat’s acclaimed cookbook, and I have this to say:
It’s a wealth of information. She has a lot to say about these basic elements of cooking that are certainly educational, but I didn’t learn a whole lot I did not think I already knew. She covered some techniques, especially regarding salting your food, that did make a difference when I employed them in my regular rotation of recipes. I never got to the actual recipes. There may be a time where I track backwards on the position of this acclaimed book amongst those I referenced this year, but it isn’t today.
September: Flour Water Salt Yeast
I loved this book, genuinely. If it weren’t such a niche product, it would be higher up on my list. It covers nothing but the baking of bread, and for that reason, I couldn’t justify it higher on the list amongst cookbooks that do so much more. It is, however, a font of information for any budding bread baker that I could not recommend more. Ever since I started employing the Saturday Morning Bread Recipe on any Saturday morning that I could give, I have never had a bad loaf.
Bread is such a huge part of the American diet that I found a lot of pleasure in being able to have my own at the table when my husband and I sat down for any meal. Whether we used it for egg in a basket, garlic bread, or sandwiches, it didn’t matter. We enjoyed it, and we knew where it came from.
June: Six Seasons
Thank god for this book. Six Seasons came from a chef whose name I didn’t know but whose credentials I respected, and I was very glad when I opened it up. As the name suggests, it’s broken up into six seasons. Growing seasons, specifically. He focused on getting the most of seasonal produce which was especially important to me at the time, considering the farmer’s market had only just returned. I refer back to this bad boy on many occasions. He has an amazing corn fritter recipe that absolutely blew my husband’s mind.
It gave me the courage to bring still more products into my kitchen that normally never landed on my cutting board. Fennel, fresh artichokes, huge bundles of asparagus. Though I sometimes had some difficulty finding what I needed, Six Seasons taught me experimentation with produce that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
October: Lucky Peach
These last two could honestly be switched. I struggled for a long time to decide which cookbook was number one and which was number two. Lucky Peach could easily be number one, but let’s discuss what’s so good about this: it breaks down the barriers between the home cook and Asian cuisine that we can sometimes struggle to understand. I didn’t know shit about rice balls or pho, much less some of the sauces they teach you to make.
There was a period of two months where I made their slowcooker pho recipe almost every weekend. It was warming, and I didn’t have to put in too much effort to get it done. Yes, the recipes are inauthentic. It doesn’t pretend to be a truly authentic book, and I believe that’s part of what makes it accessible.
NUMBER ONE: July: Dining In by Allison Roman
I was prepared to be resentful of this book. Alison Roman lives the life I want, writing for Bon Appetit all the goddamn time and making a life writing about food anywhere she wants. But, I took the leap after listening to her discuss the book on the Bon Appetit podcast, and I am very thankful that I did. I turn to this book every week when I am looking for a recipe to add to the meal plan.
She has such accessible and easy recipes that I could easily recommend this book to cooks of most skill levels. I make her anchovy butter roast chicken every other week to have a good amount of chicken for all sorts of other uses, and I never hear a single complaint. Most of her chicken recipes have landed with high praise from my husband, much less anything else I make from her.
I’ll tell you, though, I failed on the famous chocolate chip cookies the first time I tried. Maybe I’ll go back in time and give it a whirl again.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
Pledge monthly to our patreon!
Or, you know, support the mission with caffeine! Buy me a coffee through Ko-Fi.