Sunday, December 20, 2009

if you're not giving cookies

A friend of mine asked me this morning, and rightly so, "Where is the holiday baking around here?" Well, the week has just begun, and although Hanukkah is over, we have a few more holidays left. But I did have a few answers for her, and I'll give them to you too.

The first is that I have a very emotional and gluten free almost seven year old tyrant stomping up and down the hall. I have, as you know, chosen not to become the master of gluten free baking (I leave that to others more capable), especially because, in exactly 11 days, the doctor has given us permission to try out the wheatiness again and see how the girl takes it. But in the mean time, sweets that the tyrant can't eat are met with tyrannical tantrums, and really who can blame her.

Of course there are many other sweets to create. For days I have been planning a repeat of last years treats in little white take-out boxes, a layer of these, and a layer of these, of which I was so very proud. And there's also this, which I dream of sending out in little mason jars. If you receive a little package from me, that is what it will contain, and the surprise is really whether I'll get it together to do it, and my sense from the two kids whining into either ear at the moment is...
maybe, possibly, no.
But perhaps I should do a January treats mailing this year. Don't you all have enough sweets coming to you now? Maybe we'll give it a few weeks, and then you will have deprived yourself of sugar because you went on overload, but now you're just about ready. We shall see, we shall see.

We all know that handmade gifts are the best, right? I'm sure you're all filling your tins as we speak, and hooray for you. But for those of you who, like me, are failing in the homemade department (shame!), I thought I would offer a second option- cookbooks.

I only bring this up because the Thanksgiving Hot line seems to have been replaced by the holiday gift cookbook hot line around here. I have given so many cookbook suggestions, I am confident in saying that the food publishing business is doing fine this year, as long as it's not in magazine form.

Cookbooks are a pretty fabulous gift to give. Beautiful, instructional, sometimes life changing, cookbooks are something most people covet, but refuse to buy themselves. So for you, I offer a brief list of cookbooks for all of your loved ones.

Before we start, I must make a heartfelt plea for your local independent bookstore. There are other options, I know, that cost less, but right now if we don't support our local independent bookstores they will be gone, and fast. So if you are buying books, buy them from your local bookstore, or if yours is gone already, feel free to support mine. It is quite lovely.

Let's get back to it then.

I Know How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot

I just mentioned this book, because it arrived on my doorstep on my birthday. My friend Alice thought it would make me happy, and she was so right. This is the French equivalent to The Joy of Cooking, a basic primer in French Cooking. It is huge, and satisfying, and it stays open to the page that you want. It also has the most oddly hip illustrations in this new printing.

Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

Yes, I've told you about the caramels, the tangy lemon bars, the bittersweet citrus tart with jasmine cream and the sour cream ice cream. But I wish I could show you how beautiful this book is. Just the titles of the desserts read like poetry, and as you read through them one by one, I promise that you will commit to making the entire book.

The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall

I don't own this book, but I get it out of the library every few months, and one of these days I'm going to stop paying late fees and put that money into buying the book for my very own. For anyone who is interested in sustainably produced meat, or just good tasting meat in general, this is a fabulous gift. It goes through every cut of every animal, tells you what it is, and how to cook it. Although the cover is not kidding around, the interior of the book is filled with lovely photographs, and the thing reads like a novel.

Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin
I know, that meat book ain't cheap. But here's a good ten dollar paperback for you. If you've been around here this past fall, you've been a voyeur to my love affair with Laurie Colwin, and maybe you've had one with her too. These are the very best food essays peppered with with the very best recipes. And if you'd like to spring for them both, there's also,

More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin
You don't want the first book to end, and so it doesn't have to. And this is the one with the gingerbread recipe.

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
I have sold every copy of this book off the shelves of my local bookstore. Whenever I'm there, drooling over the cookbooks, there is always someone asking the counter person for a good general gift cookbook. Usually they are led to The Joy of Cooking, or perhaps The Gourmet Cookbook. I have an endless amount of respect for the people who work at the bookstore, but usually I can't but add my own little tidbit (those of you who know me know that this is a bit of a habit for me, and I have to actually hold my mouth shut if I want to keep my two sense out of the conversation), and when the counter person walks away from the cookbook buyer, I say, "Have you seen this one?" I can't help but gush over it. It is just so beautiful, philosophical without being dogmatic, and the recipes are perfect. Last time I was at the bookstore, both copies were sold in my presence, and a third was ordered. If you know someone who doesn't have it, this is the one.

Well, there are a few for you. If you need more, give me a direction- you know I love a challenge. And I'm sure there will be some cookies around here too- they always seem to happen somehow. I'll let you know how it all comes out.


  1. I was in such a painful state of self-flagellation last night, over my failure to produce handmade gifts, which is, apparently, de rigeur for any self-respecting mother. Slumped over the kitchen table, despondent, I dropped by your blog for a distraction, and was very much cheered to read this post. Thanks, man.

  2. thanks for the link to the GF blog!