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Wanted: A Cookbook To Curl Up With [Moved from Home Cooking board]

Does anyone have a good suggestion for a cookbook that is not only filled with great pictures and recipes, but is also good to read from cover to cover? I'm interested in finding a cookbook that I could read from beginning to end the same way I would a novel.

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  1. Nigella Lawson's How To Eat doesn't have pictures, but reads like a book - though it is very English. Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries, has lots of photos, but again, is English. Tessa Kiros's Falling Cloudberries is novel-like with travels to her mother's Finland, father's Cyprus and a childhood in South Africa, lots of photos and recipes. Laurie Colwin' Home Cooking and More Home cooking are both delightful (but no pics). Not exactly a cookbook, but M.F.K. Fisher's books are pretty terrific and there are some recipes.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Athena

      Second these. Nigella Lawson's Feast is also a good read, and has gorgeous pictures.

      I have a stunning cookbook I picked up in Scotland from the Three Chimneys restaurant on the Isle of Skye - the story of the restaurant, plus absolutely fantastic pictures.

      1. re: Amuse Bouches

        So glad to see Nigella's name come up here first -- and she would be delighted too. If you enjoyed "Feast" be sure to read her latest -- "Nigella Express". Gorgeous pictures, delicious recipes. Also a good bedside read, but not exactly cookbooks, are Anthony Bourdain's "A Cook's Tour" and "The Nasty Bits". He's irreverent, witty and seems to love what he's doing (and eating!)

        1. re: Amuse Bouches

          Absolutely How to Eat. She is a fantastic writer and I have read it like a book- the only cookbook that I have read in that manner out of the 200 or so I own. No pictures, though- but there are other places for that. Actually, Kylie Kwong's Heart and Soul has excellent photos, stories and recipes. A very good read.

        2. re: Athena

          Laurie Colwin's book was my first thought, also really enjoy both Nigella and MFK. I also like the Sterns' Square Meals (which has an intro by MFK), most particularly the nursery food chapter. And I also second the Ruth Reischl suggestion--Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples--her serial memoir is fantastic (and includes recipes, but more importantly, much about food that will make you swoon).

        3. I love to read cookbooks like novels, but generally the books I choose don't offer much in the way of pictures.
          Ones that stand out for me are:
          Barbara Tropps Chines Cooking book, she offers a lot of personal history, which makes it very interesting, and I think she was a really good person, doing something unique for her time.
          Morning Food by Margaret Fox. Fox is hysterical, and the sidebar stories are priceless. Good recipes too. Evening Food was a collaboration with her then-husband, not nearly as entertaining.
          Any of the Diana Kennedy cookbooks, these often have photos and I like to live vicariously when reading these, without messing up my kitchen.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rabaja

            I've been reading Diana Kennedy's My Mexico like that - not huge on the pictures, but great if you're loving Mexico.
            It totally depends on what your interests are. Zuni Cafe Cookbook is also a good read.

            1. re: rabaja

              rabaja, I love Barbara Tropp's cookbook as well.

              Did you go to China Moon? I'm on a quest for their house blend tea.

            2. Nancy Verdi Barr's "We Called It Macaroni" is a favorite of mine as I grew up in Providence and learned to love Italian food in high school. It has a lot of interesting Italian American experiences told first hand and wonderful recipes.

              1. Jean Anderson's brand-new "A Love Affair with Southern Cooking."

                1 Reply
                1. re: pikawicca

                  I am seconding this recommendation, I picked this up at the library today and will buy it. I am entranced. Lee Bros. will probably be donated to the Red Cross Book Sale. I don't care if it got a Beard award, errors and just plain poor info turned me off.

                2. Though they don't have lots of pretty pictures, I find Rick Bayless' books make for some good reading--he includes a good deal of interesting information about ingredients and some thoughtful commentary on the differences between American and Mexican habits of eating.

                  I just picked up Joyce Goldstein's "Sephardic Flavors" off of the remainder pile at a local bookshop ($6.99 for a hardcover edition!). She provides a historical overview of role of Jews and Jewish culture on the Iberian peninsula as well as an overview of Kosher dietary regulations. Then come the pretty pictures of food! Many of the recipes are introduced with little mini-histories of the dish.

                  Goldstein's "Saffron Shores" is also lovely, but doesn't have as much historical information in the main body of the book. FWIW, Saffron Shores was also on the remainder pile.

                  Finally, a book that has a lot of cultural information, and no pretty pictures is "Catalan Cuisine" by Colman Andrews. This book does much to show how the cuisine of Catalan lands is at once connected to, but distinctive from, those of other regions of the Mediterranean and of Spain itself.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: hohokam

                    I second this! We were able to attend his Catalan dinner at the Philadelphia Art Museum during the "Book and the Cook" series a couple years ago. Sharing the wines, recipes, and stories makes it come alive.

                  2. Hot Sour Sweet Salty a culinary journey through southeast Asia by Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid
                    Beautiful pictures, lovely stories and best of all great recipes!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: GIAD

                      Good idea - Mangoes & Curry Leaves by the same authors would also be a good one.

                      1. re: GIAD

                        I'll third this one. It's food porn! I've made a ton of recipes from this one as well and everything has been great.

                        I also like to read The French Laundry Cookbook. I rarely make anything from it, but it's just so fun to read all the techniques and intricacies.

                      2. I love Biba's Italy as well as Lydia's Itlay. Both are awesome cookbooks that have wonderful stories, as well as give the reader a heart felt tour through the birth place of both of these Italian-American chefs.

                        1. For sheer laughter, try Amy Sedaris' I Like You-Hospitality Under the Influence
                          I passed my copy to a gf and haven't seen it in months!
                          Photos are a hoot!


                          4 Replies
                          1. re: HillJ

                            Great book and good laughs. Perfect if you entertain a lot or not at all. Despite the humor she has some good ideas.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              I also really enjoyed this book. She has a lot of great ideas for parties for all occasions. Plus she is funny, funny, funny. All the things you can do with pantyhose, who knew?

                              1. re: cookiebaker

                                cb, the audio vers. is unbeliev. funny
                                which reminds me, don't forget audio vers. of these books, it's a whole 'nother kind of treat!

                              2. re: HillJ

                                Picked this one up at the flea market this weekend for $5. Hilarious! Great pictures too... a deal. Thanx!

                              3. You might have to go to the library for this one, but The Cooking of Provincial France (MFK Fisher) is one of my favorite "curl up in bed with coffee" cookbooks. It's one of the old Time-Life international cooking books (I think they had an entire collection). Pictures, quality writing, recipes, plus it's from the late 1960s, so it has a wonderfully nostalgic quality to it. For something a little more contemporary, I've been reading Super Natural Cooking, by Heidi Swanson. Yes, it "errs" on the side of healthy, but the photography is stunning. Another current "curl up" fave (and certainly educational, for ne) is What to Drink with What You Eat. Pictures, too.

                                But I think any one of the recommendations on these posts will provide you with some pleasurable down time!

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: nofunlatte

                                  This book doesn't have photos, but is a truly wonderful read:


                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    That is a fantastic book! Thanks for reminding me, I need to pull it off the shelf this coming rainy season for .

                                    1. re: rabaja

                                      I made a tomato soup from the book once - incredibly labour intensive, but wonderful.

                                  2. re: nofunlatte

                                    Totally agree- I indulged in most of last Sunday with that volume. Actually any of the series is a similar good read and totally takes you into the culture along with having food porn pics. I see them all the time at used bookstores, thrift shops and library sales.

                                  3. For beautiful pictures and strong text, I like Italy: The Beautiful Cookbook. It's more of a coffeetable book, though, so you won't be able to read it in the bus or anything.

                                    I like reading Martha Rose Shulman's Feasts and FĂȘtes, because it talks about her fantabulous Sunday night dinners. Some pics, too.

                                    I hear the book written by Shauna of Gluten-Free Girl is a great narrative read, too.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: piccola

                                      I have several books from The Beautiful Cookbook series and I love them all. They discuss the region's culture and history and their effect on the local cuisine.

                                    2. I think these two might qualify:

                                      When French Women Cook: A Gastronomic Memoir by Madeleine Kamman

                                      La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio: Gangivecchio's Sicilian Kitchen by Wanda Tornabene

                                      1. My current cookbook addition is Daisy Cooks by Daisy Martinez, the recipe descriptions and other entries are very personal.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                          With the addition of MFK Fisher we've left the realm of traditional cookooks with pictures, so I'd like to add all of Ruth Reichl's books (former food editor of the NYTimes) which have recipes at chapter ends and are great reads, and also Jeffrey Steingarten's books: The Man Who Ate Everything and It Must've Been Something I Ate--- both are collections of fascinating essays on food which were originally newspaper columns, and all have recipes at the ends.

                                          1. re: sherrylr

                                            And now that we're out of the realm of cookbooks with photos, hurry up and find a copy of A. J. Lieblieng's Between Meals. A brilliant writer for The New Yorker, he discovered the food of Paris as a student in the 1920s and although he's at least as well known for his reports from France during WWII, he never missed an opportunity to describe a meal. Great, not to be missed, writing about food.

                                            1. re: sherrylr

                                              oh, and "alice, let's eat" by calvin trillin is another personal fave. no recipes, but the man has a love affair with food, and it's a joy to read about it :)

                                          2. A couple that come to mind are Zarela Martinez' "Food From My Heart," and Rebecca Charles' "Lobster Rolls and Blueberry Pie." Both are memoir/cookbooks from NYC chefs; Martinez' book tells the story of her growing up in Mexico and opening her restaurant (no pictures, though). Charles' (of Pearl Oyster Bar fame) book tells of her upbringing in New England as a foundation for Pearl Oyster Bar (this one has pictures). Both were enjoyable reads for the recipes as well as the stories.

                                            Others have already mentioned M.F.K. Fisher. I would have to say my favorite by her is the "Alphabet for Gourmets" (which contains her fabulous essay on "Peas") and "How to Cook a Wolf," which is fascinating for its historical perspective (about how people cooked during World War II food shortages). I read M.F.K. Fisher's "The Way to Cook," which contains both of the above books plus several other essay collections, every night before going to bed for a full month the first time I read it -- it was so extraordinarily good, I'd only allow myself a few chapters, in order to make it last. No pictures, but it doesn't need it -- her writing is evocative enough :-)

                                            Judy Rodgers' "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook," is notable in this area as well. In addition to having amazing recipes, there are lovely pictures and lots of exposition on how she came to open Zuni Cafe and on her cooking style. It's a perfect Sunday afternoon read, with great recipes and gorgeous pictures.

                                            Another one I'd suggest based on the pictures alone (but which has great text and recipes, too) is Patricia Quintana's "The Taste of Mexico," -- it really makes you want to run away to Mexico for a four month cooking class, like yesterday ;-)

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: DanaB

                                              Have you ever read The Gardener and the Cook? It is both a cookbook and a gardening book, but really it reads like a novel. You probably would like it even if you never end up cooking out of it. Same is true for a little known book called The Year I Ate My Garden by Tony Kinitz. Tony landscaped my kitchen garden and is a truely remarkable person. Another favorite I curl up with for an escape or for inspiration is The Splendid Table. Verdura and Vegetables in the French Style are also wonderful reads.

                                              1. re: kennedy

                                                I love love LOVED The Year I Ate My Yard (I believe it's Yard, not Garden.) Such a magical book! Such a nice counterpoint to standard gardening books.

                                            2. The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley

                                              Not a cheesy one for sure, more a biography with recipes. Very well researched and heartfelt, with interviews from his cooks. One of my favorites.



                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Oh Robin

                                                Thanks for this suggestion. I'm not a big Elvis fan, but my mom is CRAZY about him. I just ordered this for her for Christmas.

                                                1. re: glacier206

                                                  It's great, she'll love it. Another good "stories and recipes" one is "Cooking with Memories" by Lora Brody. From childhood to today, a "feel good" cookbook.



                                              2. A book that's an actual cookbook but amazing fun to read is "The Cuisine of Normandy" by Princess Marie-Blanche De Broglie

                                                (out of print but used copied widely available


                                                It doesn't have any pictures, but each chapter has a wonderful introduction with food-related stories about growing up as a French aristocrat. Plus the menus have names like "Luncheon for friends on the way to Deauville."

                                                1. Ina's original (1st) cookbook published 1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook !

                                                  1. Here's one that meets your specifications: "filled with great pictures and recipes, but is also good to read from cover to cover." I'm on my second reading now and am still amazed at how wonderful it is; I read it after climbing into bed at night and I have the most delightful food-and-cooking dreams! The book is "The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater" and it was published by Gotham Books in October of 2006. Ahhhhhhh.

                                                    1. How "foodie" do you wanna get? Not always with pictures, here are a few of my faves:

                                                      MRS. BEETON'S BOOK OF HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT
                                                      I have the 1869 print but absolutely have to pick up a modern copy to preserve my poor decrepit original! Fascinating reading! If you've ever wondered how the duties of a footman differ from those of an upstairs maid, or wanted authentic recipes for Yorkshire pudding and plum pudding, this is the book for you! Also makes you really grateful for Kitchenaid and Cuisinart, not to mention an electric rottisserie!

                                                      A CONCISE HISTORY OF GASTRONOMY by Andre L. Simon
                                                      I'm pretty sure it is out of print, but worth looking for in used book stores. A classic. This one has no pictures (my copy of Mrs. Beeton has hand tinted prints!), but if you want to know about anything and everything that's edible, this is a great reference book and a truly fun read! For example, it taught that the ancient Greeks prized dog as a food and Hippocrates recommended it, and during the 1870 siege of Paris, Lebouchere rated "spaniel, like lamb; Poodle far the best; Bulldog course and tasteless." Hey, you never know when you'll need this kind of information.

                                                      LAROUSSE GASTRONOMIQUE
                                                      Pictures! And THE great chef's reference book of the 20th century! Great browsing, great reading, great recipes.

                                                      CHINESE SNACKS, WEI CHUAN COOKING BOOK
                                                      Unbelievably mouth watering pictures! On every page! And really terrific well presented and easy to follow step by step recipes. Before you know it, you'll be making food fit for an emperor. Or at least reading about it. Fun!

                                                      And not exactly about cooking, but where would eating be without dishes?

                                                      TABLE SETTINGS, ENTERTAINING, AND ETIQUETTE by P.E. Roberts
                                                      Everything you ever thought you wanted to know and more about the dishes, glassware and flatware we take for granted. A gorgeously illustrated book!

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                        I just picked up a copy of Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Managment, after becoming totally curious after watching a PBS miniseries on her. The book's in the mail, as we speak.

                                                        The Les Halles cookbook by Anthony Bourdain is great, and I enjoyed it for both recipies and his other commentaries/writings. Out-of-print, the old Time-Life "Foods of the World" have been some of my favorite reads. Tons of history, plus good recipies and how to put them into context with other varities of cuisine have me allways re-reading them.

                                                        1. re: Honeychan

                                                          Also interesting is the book about Beeton on which the PBS Series was based.

                                                        2. re: Caroline1

                                                          Caroline - I forgot all about P. E. Roberts ettiquette book. If I recall correctly it's from the 60's. My mother has it somewhere; I'll have to dig it up. Thank you.

                                                        3. Diana Kennedy's My Mexico is very well written... the chapters fly by.

                                                          1. The Glory of Southern Cooking by James Villas. Reads like a novel, has good recipes and photos.

                                                            1. I've got a copy of Vincent and Mary Price's A Treasury of Great Recipes next to my nightstand. Long out of print but readily available on abebooks.com. Great pictures of dishes, recipes, and menus from restaurants from around the world; some still around (Sardis, Antoine's) some long gone (Luchows). Suprisingly good writing and a curious time capsule of cuisine in the 1960s. A big read, too, at around 500 pages.

                                                              Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail Eating is also a hoot, but it's more of a novella rather than a full-blown novel.

                                                              1. Doesn't quite fit your criteria, but "The Turmeric Trail: Recipes and Memories from an Indian Childhood" by Raghavan Iyer is a lovely read, and delicious recipes.

                                                                1. James Beards American Cookery. It's not written like a regular cookbook. You get lots of background that reads like a history book and the next thing you know you're into a recipe. I also love it because there is a surprising amount of information on some of the most common things (makes it still very relevant).

                                                                  1. If you can find it, "A Feast Made for Laughter" by Craig Claiborne 1982 Doubleday. Claiborne, a Mississippi boy, was the food editor for the New York Times for over 25 years. A great read, with some good recipes, and interesting photos.

                                                                    1. Two ideas that I think haven't been mentioned:
                                                                      Local Flavors (Deborah Madison)
                                                                      Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings (Ed Brown)

                                                                      I haven't read either one from cover to cover myself, mind you.

                                                                      1. one of the best food reads ever--Elizabeth David's "An Omelette and a Glass of Wine", a collection of her mazazine essays. Of course Calvin Trillin's "Alice Let's Eat"--no recipes, no pix, but his devotion to good eats is all encompassing.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: annabana

                                                                          Just the name of it makes me feel good - there's nothing better than a lump backfin crabmeat omelette & a glass of Riefle' Gran Cru Steinart !

                                                                        2. I read Keller's "The French Laundry" like a novel.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: melly

                                                                            Another great book not yet mentioned here is Cooking in Southwest France by Paula Wolfert. Absolute comfort food-in-the-bed-reading material. Lovely pics, and intriguing insights into the cuisine of the region.

                                                                            I'm a big fan of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry" by Kathleen Flinn about attending Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Nicely paced, well written, lots of insght into the school and French training - plus recipes. Along with this, "Le Cordon Bleu at Home" is a good combination. Beautiful photos, plenty of text and you feel like you're progressing through the school.

                                                                            I also would recommend Judith Jones' new book, "The Tenth Muse." I'm about halfway through it. A woman with an interesting life and love of food -- also has recipes.

                                                                            "The Cook and The Gardener" as someone else mentioned is also worthy of a read. It's by Amanda Hesser of the NY Times.

                                                                            All French, I realize. I'm so transparent.

                                                                          2. The Casa Moro cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark. Everything about this book - from the design layout, to the narrative and photos and most importantly, the recipes - is great. In my opinion, an underrated book.

                                                                            1. I love Frank Stitt's Southern Table - so comforting and reads like a novel

                                                                              1. It's not a cookbook, but for me Ruth Reichl's memoir Tender at the Bone satisfies that urge to read a cookbook. She includes recipes at the end of each chapter, and much of the chapter is the story of the recipe. She wrote three of these memoirs, but I like the first one the best. It's about her childhood and young adulthood, about how she learned to cook and to love food.

                                                                                1. I'm sure it's out of print, but if you can get a copy of "The Gold & Fizdale Cookbook," you'll love it. This couple cooked with Balenchine and tell great stories about their friends. The recipes are terrific as well.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Claire

                                                                                    Feasts for all Seasons ROY ANDRIES DE GROOT -- wonderful descriptions of making meals for company and family. He was mostly blind but so meticulous his recipes are a joy to cook as well as to read. Probably out of print but worth picking up a copy of you see it.

                                                                                  2. Any of the Frugal Gourmet cookbooks are a good history lesson. A Well Seasoned Appetite by Molly O'Neill was a terrific used bookstore find. Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichel is marevelous as is Phillip Stephen Schulz' As American As Apple Pie. Rebecca Charles' Lobster Roll and Blueberry Pie made me wish I had grown up in Maine.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: KristieB

                                                                                      Also by Molly O'Neill "New York Cookbook: From Pelham Bay to Park Avenue, Firehouses to Four-Star Restaurants, Neighborhood Gourmets and the Great Chefs", great for bedtime reading, lots of pictures and good recipes.

                                                                                    2. Dorothy Hartley's "Food in England." Covers everything from early Medieval cuisine (and dinner settings) through the Victorian era up until the 1940s. Recipes for old dishes like cockaleekie, potted hough, and cock ale.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                        Yes, it's a fabulous read. I had no idea that she'd written about aspects of English history other than food.

                                                                                      2. The Essential Mediterranean: How Regional Cooks Transform Key Ingredients into the World's Favorite Cuisines, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins, isn't full of pictures, but is a great read. It has chapters titled Salt, Olives and Olive Oil, Wheat, Pasta and Couscous, Wine, The Oldest Legumes, Peppers and Tomatoes, The Family Pig, The Sea, and From the Pasture. Each begins with a long essay talking about the history of the ingredient in the region, how people used and use it, its characteristics, and so on, followed by recipes. Very interesting reading.

                                                                                        1. I didn't see it mentioned (although I may have missed it) but a friend of mine sent me a copy of a book called 'Apples for Jam: Recipes for Life' by Tessa Kiros. In all honesty I wasn't a huge fan of it (too warm and fuzzy for my tastes. I tend to enjoy more Bourdain-style writing.) but it might be what you are looking for.

                                                                                          [edit] I just looked it up on Amazon - the U.S. version seems to be called 'Apples for Jam: A Colorful Cookbook'. The copy I have was sent to me by a friend in Montreal, different subtitle, but both versions look the same.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: blackoak

                                                                                            Her "Falling Cloudberries" is also good for this purpose. Beautiful photography, and the recipes I've tried have been excellent. Definitely on the warm and fuzzy side though.

                                                                                          2. I just realized this is a very old thread - but my favorite food read this year was Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking by Joseph Dabney. All about food in Appalachia. It is clearly a series of writing that was strung together in a book - it repeats itself from chapter to chapter. But it's an amazingly comprehensive read.