Saturday, Dec 16, 2017
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Mary Bilyeu

COMMENTARY

October is for cookbook lovers

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October is National Cookbook Month. Whether you cook from them, read them, or merely flip through them as you drool, wishing someone else would make some of the dishes for you, this is a fabulous opportunity to celebrate — well — cookbooks of course.

There are general cookbooks, such as The Joy of Cooking, a timeless classic. Great for beginners, these offer breadth, a general overview of the basics. Single subject ones — like Mary-Frances Heck’s Sweet Potatoes: Roasted, Loaded, Fried, and Made Into Pie — can provide depth into an ingredient or, at least, lots of options for cooking creatively with it.

Cookbooks can be designed specifically for children’s tastes, abilities, small hands, and patience (or lack thereof), such as Lisa Huff’s Kid Chef Bakes. Jacques Pépin’s A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey, his granddaughter, falls into this category and also into the ever-popular “celebrity chef” one (with Mr. Pépin having achieved fame for his exceptional talent rather than, for example, his game show prowess on the Food Network).

Books catering to special dietary regimens — Paleo, vegan, and clean eating, among them — can always be counted on to earn at least 15 minutes of fame and a moment in the spotlight. (Some warrant much more attention, while others are just flashes in the proverbial pan.) There are also serious works addressing health issues, such as diabetes or celiac disease.

Immensely popular are those books that answer the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” while simultaneously limiting the whines of, “I’m starving!” These can practically make the cook do a Snoopy-worthy happy dance, with recipes requiring only a few ingredients or a brief investment of time. (Southern Living’s new Quick-Fix Dinners: 100+ Simple Recipes Ready in 10, 20 or 30 Minutes has best-seller potential in this category.)

International cookbooks are among my personal favorites; I was practically giddy last week when I received a copy of Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey by Robyn Eckhardt.

Community fund-raiser cookbooks are a nice way to get tried-and-true recipes and also support a good cause.

Books dedicated to a single utensil are for devotees or for those who’ve been given a new toy to play with. The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook by Coco Morante is one of the newest I’ve received in this category, after a flurry of works jumping on the spiralizer bandwagon. And there seems to be renewed interest in slow cookers, as I’ve seen four new books specifically offering recipes for them despite their being the antithesis of the quick-cooking fad.

The first holiday-themed book — Gizzi’s Season’s Eatings: Feasts and Celebrations from Halloween to Happy New Year by Gizzi Erskine — arrived last week, ushering in a giddy whirlwind of fun foods and a looming book bonanza. (Of course, after this batch will be the austere, ascetic diet books of January, which are just disappointing drudgery.)

In honor of National Cookbook Month, perhaps it would be fun to set a challenge to use our cookbooks more often, or to branch out and try ones in categories we might not ordinarily use.

According to Foodimentary.com — a site devoted to food holidays — this is also National Apple, Applejack, Caramel, Cookie, Dessert, Pasta, Pickled Peppers, Pizza, Popcorn, Pork, Pumpkin, and Seafood month.

It’d be fun to incorporate all of these celebrations into the cooking venture, too, wouldn’t it?

Contact Mary Bilyeu at mbilyeu@theblade.com, and follow her at facebook.com/thebladefoodpage, bladefoodpage on Instagram, or @BladeFoodPage on Twitter.

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