What began with all the best of intentions has me looking at the calendar wondering where the time went and what the heck happened with my gift guide? (Not only this, I can hardly believe we’re rolling into a new decade and my blog is going into it’s fifth year). So, I can tell you what happened with the gift guide — too much choice!
Each year that I’ve written a gift guide (2017, 2018) I’ve chosen books that I’ve reviewed from that year. When I started to make my list from 2019, I jotted numbers one through ten on my paper but then kept adding numbers until my list was almost 3 times longer! I asked myself: Do I make hard cuts to keep the list small? Will readers be annoyed with a gargantuan list? Does a long list look well-chosen or indecisive? Not wanting to abandon this endeavor all together, I decided to talk about 2019 — the cookbooks I cooked from and trends I saw emerging.
At the beginning of the year I told my husband: this year will be slow for cookbooks. It was something I honestly believed, and I didn’t think I could write more reviews than I wrote the previous year (just shy of 30). At the end of 2018 I felt burnt-out and in need of a break. January is usually a quite month on my blog, so I didn’t mind I had two cookbooks leftover from 2018 to try recipes from and write reviews for. And, when everyone else was firmly on the train to Resolutionville, I was jumping head-first into two of the best baking books I would try this year: Suqar by Lucy and Greg Malouf and Holiday and Celebration Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois. (As an aside, I enjoyed Hertzberg and Francois’ book so much that I bought their Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in 5 Minutes a Day).
The spillover of cookbooks from 2018 (I posted a review for Christina Tosi’s All About Cake in the spring) showed me one of the enduring trends of the year — baking is a thing. In March, I was sent a copy of The Little Island Bakeshop by Jana Roerick, which is a lovely book that really spoke to the nostalgic feelings I have about baking. And, by the end of the year, I was baking from enticing copies of Tartine Revisited, Pastry Love, Poilane, and Duchess at Home (those last three books on this list will have reviews posted on my site in 2020). I also received many baking books as gifts: Odette Williams’ Simple Cake, Baking at Republique by Margarita Manzke, Happiness is Baking by Maida Heatter, Just Desserts by Charlotte Ree, and Martha Stewart’s Cookie Perfection. There are baking books for every type of baker from the novice to the most practised.
While baking was a trend in 2019, another, equally pervasive trend was simple home cooking — from weeknight meals, lunches, cooking with kids, to effortless entertaining — there were cookbooks for all of it. Listen, I get it, everyone is leading busy lives and all of the processed food out there is not making us feel any better so, what the publishers have been offering is a way to get people back into the kitchen with meals that can be easily made without any fuss. From luscious salads to sheet tray meals, the cookbooks I reviewed really focused on how to bring flavourful meals to the table without complicated ingredient lists or instructions. Hetty McKinnon had not one, but two cookbooks released this year: Family and a newly revised edition of her Australian classic, Community. Her books promote strengthening familial bonds around a good meal. I really appreciate how McKinnon uses fresh ingredients to create inspired meals. Another couple of cookbooks which offered recipes for all things plant-y were Abra Berens’ Ruffage and The Complete Vegan Cookbook— these books epitomize what is best about farm-to-table or plant-focused cooking. It definitely had me looking at my fresh market finds in a whole new way.
There were so many other books that I enjoyed cooking weeknight meals from: Diana Henry’s From the Oven to the Table, Rosie Daykin’s Let Me Feed You, 365 by Meike Peters, Indian(-ish) by Priya Krishna, Sabrina Ghayour’s Bazaar, Abbie Cornish and Jacqueline King Schiller’s Pescan, Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer’s Fraiche Food, Full Hearts, and Amy Rosen’s Kosher Style. Food in Jars Kitchen by Marisa McClellan was the book that had me seeing all those jars of pickles and jams in a whole new light. Books like The Huckle and Goose Cookbook (this was the most read review this year!) presented seasonal meal planning with delicious recipes and, Every Day is Saturday by Sarah Copeland gave home cooks a way to cook like it’s the weekend every day of the week. All these books were created from very personal places and each author offered insight into how they feed their own families. This was especially true for Aran Goyoaga’s Cannelle et Vanille — beautiful and precise, her photographs and recipes give us a way to swoon over a weeknight meal.
One of the cookbooks that became my most gifted was Jan Scott’s Oven to Table. I received her book back in February when I was entertaining a house full of guests for my daughter’s birthday. My mom and dad loved the recipes I cooked for them from this book — so much so that I gave a copy to my mom. I even sent a copy to my Auntie Mary because I was sure that this book would give her some tasty ideas.
It’s not just about dinnertime either! 2019 also saw a rise of books geared towards eliminating sad lunches. Cookbooks like Allison Day’s Modern Lunch and Sara Kiyo Popowa’s Bento Power gave me so many strategies and ideas on what to pack for my daughter as she started her first year of school. It’s no fun to pack a lunch your child will only bring home so if you’re in need of ideas then these books are two solid choices.
Much of what happens in my kitchen is because of my daughter. My passion for cooking keeps me in a perpetual search for what it means to be a modern vegetarian family which is why I was so ecstatic over the latest cookbook from David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl’s Little Green Kitchen. I love getting my daughter involved in prepping and cooking, so I really appreciated seeing how Frenkiel and Vindahl involved their children when making meals. Another book geared towards getting kids into the kitchen is Pierre Lamielle’s The Munchy Munchy Cookbook for Kids — he offers fun ways to engage kids through hilarious illustrations and tasty recipes.
I was pleased to also see that publishers were giving home cooks books about how easy it can be to entertain family and friends using simple strategies and accessible recipes. Mary Berg’s Kitchen Party cookbook is an ode to putting all your love into what you serve your loved ones (her effervescent personality glows off each page). Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman (look for my review in 2020) is another cookbook which offers delicious recipes that will let you cook and enjoy your party at the same time.
Trends come and go but the personal stories and passion projects are forever. There were a few books this year that really captivated me. I think I might speak for many people when I say that Ruth Reichl’s memoir, Save Me the Plums, was fascinating. I also found Emiko Davies cookbook/memoir about her husband’s family, Tortellini at Midnight, was just as good in the kitchen as it was when I curled up with it in my favourite reading chair. With Artur Cisar-Erlach’s Flavor of Wood, I learned much of the importance of wood in culinary terms. I’m still looking forward to really getting cooking with Pasta Grannies by Vicki Bennison (another review to look forward to!).
If you made it this far, I’d like to thank you! Such a big list of books (somehow I’m at the end of this roundup and I still haven’t mentioned two other personal favs from this year Claire Tansey’s Uncomplicated and The Cherry Bombe Cookbook!) — and, I’d like to say that any of these would be wonderful to add to your kitchen library! While this year was one of the busiest yet here at Shipshape Eatworthy, I really appreciated how much support you’ve given me, dear reader. I’d love to know what the standout cookbooks of 2019 were for you? Leave me a comment with your favourites! Wishing you all the best. — Kris
While some of the titles mentioned were given to me as gifts by my friends and family or personal purchases, I’d like to give warm thanks to Raincoast Books, Penguin Random House Canada, Manda Books, Prestel USA, Harper Wave, Appetite for Random House for providing me with free, review copies of the books I wrote reviews for in 2019. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.