There’s something undeniably attention-grabbing about a “Best of” list. 2022 is ending and, people want to know about the noteworthy cookbooks. This year I’m going to try something a little different – not quite a gift guide, yet not a “Best of” list either. Where I want to go with this post is simple – help home cooks find a little joy in their kitchens. Joy is what moves me forward and, it’s never steered me wrong when I’m talking about cookbooks (it was one of the favourite parts of my conversation I had with Lindsay Cameron Wilson on her The Food Podcast this year (link here). However, my joy may not necessarily be someone else’s joy because we all have our own personal set of criteria concerning joyful kitchen experiences. So, through the next 8 sections, I’ll briefly discuss some of the books that stood out to me this year. For any books that I’ve already reviewed, I’ll add a link so that you can visit that review for more information. There will be books I haven’t reviewed yet but still deserve a mention.
Since the pandemic lockdowns, baking has been trending strong through the past several years. Baking is the ultimate when talking about joy – it’s a special act that you can share with the people around you. If you bake with love, people can taste it! One of my favourite baking books of the year is Jessie Sheehan’s Snackable Bakes (review here) because it’s full of easy baking recipes and, I found my family would request repeat bakes from this book – just ask my mom about the Raspberry Pie! Another book I baked quite a bit from is Benjamina Ebuehi’s A Good Day to Bake (review here). Early in the pandemic I invested in a bunch of cardboard bakery boxes so that I could gift baking without worrying about getting containers back. And, if you ask around my neighbourhood, I think some of the favourite bakes came from Nickey Miller and Josie Rudderham’s Cake & Loaf book (review here) – their gummy bear cookies are such a fun treat to bake! I also appreciate single-themed baking books like Chris Taylor and Paul Arguin’s Fabulous Modern Cookies (review here) because when it comes to cookies, there are so many excellent recipes! Since I am still a novice baker, I love books like the new King Arthur Baking Company’s Baking School – if you can’t take classes at King Arthur, then this book offers the next best learning experience. (An honorable mention here to a baking book I reviewed and enjoyed this year, yet it was published last year – Rebecca Firth’s The Cake Book. My daughter’s favourite birthday cake came from her book!)
Cookbooks that explore and highlight ingredients are crucial to home cooks because they provide an expanded outlook at what can be made within a particular oeuvre of ingredients. As home cooks, we are all familiar with grains and flours but with Emma Zimmerman’s The Miller’s Daughter (review here), you’re exposed to all types of heritage grains and, what to do with them. Then in Brian Levy’s Good & Sweet (review here), he explores baking with fruit in various forms (juice, puree, freeze-dried) to find a different kind of sweetness. And, in Claire Thomson’s Tomato (review here), she shows home cooks how versatile and wonderful this ingredient is!
For some home cooks, using more produce throughout the week has become an environmental choice, for some, it’s just a dietary choice. Whatever the reasons, there were many excellent vegan, vegetarian, or veg-focused cookbooks this year. I know my Australian readers were keen when I was sent a copy of Alice Zaslavsky’s In Praise of Veg (review here)! Full of veg-forward recipes, this book offers inspiration to any home cooks looking to incorporate more produce into their diets. Since I’m always looking for great vegetarian recipes to make for my vegetarian family, I found that Joe Woodhouse’s Your Daily Veg (review here) really resonated with us. And, then there’s Green Kitchen: Quick and Slow (review here) from David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl. The Green Kitchen books have become a go-to for me since my daughter was born because they share the delicious recipes that their vegetarian kids enjoy. The Two Spoons Cookbook (review here) by Hannah Sunderani is a vegan book full of classic vegan fare – my sister really enjoyed this book. Lukas Volger’s Snacks for Dinner (review here) is an unfussy offering of easy and casual vegetarian recipes. And Georgina Hayden’s Nistisima offers a delicious book full of Mediterranean-inspired vegan recipes.
As a writer living in Canada, I always enjoy sharing books by Canadian authors. One of my absolute favourites came from Toronto-based food writer and recipe developer Aviva Wittenberg. Her book, Lunchbox (review here) brought me and my family so much enjoyment. Then More Mandy’s (review here) by Mandy Woolfe, Rebecca Woolfe, and Meredith Erikson is the second delicious cookbook highlighting all the best that the Montreal restaurant chain – Mandy’s – has to offer. After a long cookbook hiatus, Bonnie Stern, along with her daughter, Anna Rupert, came out with a new book this year! Don’t Worry, Just Cook (review here) is such a warm and inviting book. From one of my favourite provinces – Deirdre Buryk’s Peak Season (review here) celebrates Ontario’s best and freshest produce through many wonderful recipes.
Food is such a personal thing, and I find it fascinating how food is woven through personal stories and, how these stories connect us. Adrian Forte’s Yawd: Modern Afro-Caribbean Recipes tells Forte’s story – food that connects him to his past and family, food that inspires him, and all the things he enjoys eating. Suzanne Barr’s debut book, My Ackee Tree, shares her journey and challenges to becoming a chef interwoven with family stories, memories, and recipes. Barr’s book is written in a traditional memoir format, with a small section of recipes at the end. Andrea Pons’ Mamacita is full of recipes that celebrate her homeland – Mexico. It also gives her story about her family’s struggles with US immigration after immigrating from Mexico decades earlier. Originally self-published, the funds from this cookbook have gone towards her family’s legal fees. And then, My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings edited by Zosia Mamet offers readers a wide variety of food stories from celebrities, actors, musicians, and food writers alike. The book is a combination of essays and recipes – not all the essays have a corresponding recipe. There is also the touching cookbook, The Year of Miracles by Ella Risbridger, exploring the time of grief after the passing of her partner and how food kept her going. If you’re looking for a different format than either a cookbook or memoir, then picking up a current issue of Peddler Journal may be what you’re looking for. Full of personal stories this multicultural recipe-driven food magazine is a real treasure (I’m very grateful to be a Peddler contributor)!
There are some authors where their books go so well together that if you’re buying one book, I’d recommend buying two. Take Vicky Bennison’s Pasta Grannies and Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking – books that can be considered as volumes. These books came from her YouTube channel which features women (and men) Bennison films making pasta, to preserve the “old” ways of doing things. Documenting a dying domestic art form, important skills, and knowledge the nonna’s are passing down through video. Another set of books that I consider as a group are Aran (review here) and Supper by Flora Shedden. Both visually similar, with photographs from Laura Edwards, these books offer a glimpse into the shop/homelife of Shedden.
I’ve said it before – the pandemic lockdowns strengthened the trend towards home cooking. It’s about finding joy cooking delicious, interesting meals for yourself and loved ones. These books are inviting and homey, giving us recipes that are comforting. A book I bought for myself this year and use often is Kristen Miglore’s Food 52’s Simply Genius. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and this book is joy personified. She’s brought together the “genius recipes” she’s found in print, on the internet, by word of mouth and put them all into one convenient book. Deb Perelman’s third book, Smitten Kitchen Keepers, is also a joy to cook from – I’m almost a dozen recipes in and I love it. She uses pantry staples and basic ingredients that most home cooks will have, the recipes are not complicated or difficult, and most of all, it’s delicious! I really appreciate books that show how food connects us to each other. I first encountered this when I reviewed Hetty McKinnon’s Family (review here) – while she shared her own stories and recipes, she gave space to others to likewise, share their stories and recipes. So, when I received a copy of Olia Hercules’ newest book, Home Food, I was excited to see that she followed suit by featuring her own recipes alongside those of her friends. With the last few years, there has been a shift in the way Yotam Ottolenghi writes his books (review for OTK Shelf Love here). Along with Noor Murad, he, and his test kitchen focus on recipes to pump up the home cook’s arsenal. OTK Extra Good Things is full of flavourful “vegetable-forward recipes” and recipes for flavour-boosters like sauces and condiments. I also appreciate cookbooks that showcase a more casual approach to making and serving dinner. Yasmin Fahr’s Boards and Spreads (review here) is a wonderful collection of meal and snack boards. When talking about home cooking, we can also look beyond the walls of our dwellings to the great outdoors. Gill Meller’s latest cookbook, Outside (review here), is a useful guide to not only enjoying more time in nature but also how and what to cook when you get there.
What I’ve learned about myself over the past few years is that I’m a homebody through and through. When asked about the cookbooks that offer the best that vicarious travel has to offer, Irina Georgescu’s Carpathia (review here) comes to mind. This year, her latest book, Tava, offers us another journey. Georgescu shares the stories and documents the beautiful Romanian baking recipes she carefully gathered from its many regions. Another author whose books I admire for this reason, are the ones written by Emiko Davies (Tortellini at Midnight review here; Torta della Nonna review here). Her newest book, Cinnamon and Salt, guides home cooks through Venice, Italy with beautiful photographs and delicious recipes. And, finally, Pierogi (review here) by Zuza Zak, tells the story of Poland through their iconic dumplings: the pierogi. I loved how Zak’s book recipes highlights both traditional and modern doughs and fillings.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the authors, publicists, and publishers (Penguin Random House Canada, Appetite by Random House, Penguin Canada, Avery Books, Raincoast Books, Hardie Grant USA, Quadrille, Interlink Publishing, Bloomsbury Publishing, Manda Group and Page Street Publishing, Countryman Press, Princeton Architectural Press, and Harper Wave / Harper Collins Publishers) for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. Any links provided are intended purely for informational purposes.