List | Coveted cookbooks in 2021

My head spins at the number of cookbooks that come out every season, and for a while my reaction was to hide in the sand and stop purchasing any. I was missing out, of course. And as I started to feel my cooking running in circles, last year, I also found real pleasure and solace in delving into cookbooks again. I’ve bought quite a pile over the past months, and there are a few more that I covet.

I began perusing lists. There are many lists of cookbooks to buy in 2021. Each one has one or two or a few that whisper out to me, but no compendium was entirely satisfactory. I am creating my own.

More than individual recipes, I look for books with a distinct wholeness, which might permeate from the story, the voice, to the photographs, the design, — the paper! One of my top favourites in that respect is Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem. In all those senses it is practically perfect. It transports immediately, before the beautiful cloth cover has even been opened, and from there the journey continues.

Once I have looked at, felt, and opened a book, the next test is to leaf through the recipes. If the rest holds true, a couple, or even one great recipe can be enough to convince me that the book is worth having.

Leaning on these criteria here is a subjective, very personal (wish)list of cookbooks published in the past two years. As Thomas pointedly remarked ‘Oh, so this is basically your Christmas list.’ Well, in fact, yes! In alphabetical order.

Advent / by Anja Dunk

I am cheating already as I actually bought this book as soon as it came out. I love Anja’s previous books, her charcoal drawings and linocuts, her food. I met Anja a few years ago at the most memorable Christmas cookie baking adventure, at (the now closed) FEEST in Stoke Newington, during a biblical downpour which infiltrated the café in every corner. We spent a large part of the afternoon lugging huge pans of water to contain to flood! The true reason is, the book is perfect. The organisation in 24 chapters for the 24 days of Advent, the linocut illustrations by Anja, and the sheer abundance of recipes, which is sure to complicate my Christmas preparations… So many (more) things I would like to bake! Were there to be just one book this year it would have to be Advent. It already is.

Baking with Fortitude / by Dee Rettali

I haven’t yet been to Fortitude bakehouse but a good friend knows it well and I trust her judgment completely. Having learned more about the Fortitude story, and held and leafed through the book, I know I will love it and bake from it. All made with sourdough!

Black Food / edited by Bryant Terry

Described as ‘genre defying,’ this book is a collection of essays, stories, art, and recipes. It is one of a kind and not to be missed.

The Flavour Equation / by Nik Sharma (also Season, 2018)

I am not sure how either of Nik Sharma’s books have eluded me so far, perhaps the fact that I have a pernicious habit of buying cookbooks in their original edition, and I haven’t been in the US for a few years…

Getaway / by Renee Erickson with Sara Dickerman

An exception here as I haven’t seen this book but I love the premise of food as a means of travelling, not to just one place, as is often the case, but as many mini escapades through the palate. And I’ve have heard such good things!

In Bibi’s Kitchen / Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen

Here is another book I haven’t held, but again the idea is excellent. As described in the subtitle, it captures: ‘The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean.’

Taste / by Stanley Tucci

Because of Big Night, one of the best food films of all time. And also, I admit, everyone seems to be reading and talking about it!

Towpath / by Lori de Mori and Laura Jackson

I was a bit late to the party, but the renowned canal-side café has become my favourite coffee/breakfast/brunch/walk/or/cycle pit-stop. It really is unique, and the book captures this singularity, in all the best ways.

And here are a few other recent books I do own that I would recommend:

A to Z of pasta / by Rachel Roddy

A delicious book for all lovers of pasta. Rachel Roddy’s stories and recipes are always delectable.

Falastin / by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley

The essential complement to Jerusalem (see above!)

Red Sands / by Caroline Eden

Transporting vicarious travel, in a time when we couldn’t really.

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