If you haven’t already heard, Mead Library assembled a 2021 reading challenge in bingo form. We think it’s a fun way to push past your reading comfort zone while working towards a goal. Bookish Bingo Challenge bingo cards can be picked up in-house at the first floor desk, or click HERE to download and print at home. If you are interested in more community while working through the challenges, consider joining our Goodreads group HERE.
Check in on Mead’s blog periodically throughout the year for reading suggestions that focus on a particular square. I’m getting things rolling today with my personal favorite square, Make a new recipe from a cookbook. I LOVE cookbooks. Like, I’ll just read em like a magazine. What’s not appealing about the big, colorful photos, the possibilities, the kitchen anecdotes, the food history. Love it. Below, I list my recent favorite cookbooks and what it was like to cook a new (to me) recipe from each of them.
Jerusalem: a Cookbook (2012) by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Yotam Ottolenghi might not be a household name in every home, but it should be. He and his business/cooking partner Sami Tamimi have been producing gorgeous cookbooks since 2008. The books tend to stick with a similar format but shift in focus. Jerusalem, for instance, explores the food eaten by the authors growing up as an Israeli and Palestinian, respectively, in the city of Jerusalem. Each recipe features a color photo of the dish as well as a diary-like entry contextualizing the food in relation to the authors’ memories.
I chose to make Mejadra which is considered comfort food in the Middle East. The recipe called for a ton of crispy crunchy onions which are then mixed with lentils, rice, and warming spices that have been bloomed in oil. It was deceptively simple and called for such humble ingredients that it verged on shocking how delicious it turned out. Simple ingredients can yield fabulous results. This is the versatile kind of recipe I could make for a week’s worth of lunches, or serve to a group along with dinner.
Well Fed, Flat Broke (2015) by Emily Wight
This delightful cookbook first passed through my hands back when I was a library page. One of the many perks of the job was seeing new material come through the building. I would usually have a little stack to take home with me at the end of shift, and Well Fed, Flat Broke caught my attention thusly. I liked the pretty photography of the finished recipes. I liked the chatty, familiar way blogger Emily Wight wrote introductions to chapters and recipes. I liked the concept of cooking great food with inexpensive ingredients. It just grabbed me, you know? I’m still not cool with some of Wight’s staple ingredients, such as SPAM. I just can’t do it. I just can’t. My apologies to the SPAM-stans among us, but it is a bridge too far.
The recipe I decided to try was the underwhelming-sounding “Breakfast Beans”. I am a bean enthusiast. Beans are cheap, plentiful, tasty, versatile, and shelf-stable. Basically, I had to saute diced celery with garlic before adding a can of white beans, some rosemary, and the surprise ingredient of the day, fish sauce. After adding in a few more things, the whole concoction is served over toast and topped with a fried egg. And brother, I got to tell you, one sure-fire way to get me to eat a thing is just put a fried egg on top. The dish turned out great and I know I have another go-to recipe under my belt for when I don’t want to eat a fried egg all by itself.
The Enchilada Queen Cookbook (2016) by Sylvia Casares
Mexican food, or more accurately Tex-Mex, is my favorite food to cook. I love the big, bold flavor that comes from chilis and cumin and garlic. I love that the ingredients in Tex-Mex cooking tend to be inexpensive and readily at hand, which is a running theme in my cookbook consumption. I also love the family aspect of Tex-Mex cooking, since most recipes yield quantities meant to feed a crowd.
In the before-times, I would spend all day, literal hours, making elaborate trays of enchiladas from scratch to feed my loved ones around a big table. While a communal meal is off the (dinner) table for the time being, I found that during Safer-At-Home, cooking huge quantities of food was soothing, and hey, it freezes pretty well, too. The enchiladas in this cookbook are the best I’ve ever made, but I was also pleased to find the non-enchilada recipes to be more than solid. I made Sopa de Fideo, or vermicelli soup for the first time back in the depths of April 2020. It’s basically Tex-Mex Spaghettios but actually good to eat. It’s a really forgiving recipe and does not require the rigor that some of the other recipes call for. Sylvia Caseres’ The Enchilada Queen Cookbook helped take my cooking from tentative to confident, which is what any cookbook worth its salt and seasoning should do.
Here are some additional popular and beautiful cookbooks to get your culinary juices flowing:
- Momofuku (2009) by David Chang
- The Taste of Country Cooking (1976; 2006 reissue) by Edna Lewis
- Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (2017) by Samin Nosrat
- Land of Fish and Rice (2016) by Fuchsia Dunlop
- Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook (2018) by Dorie Greenspan
- In Bibi’s Kitchen (2020) by Hawa Hassan
- Make the Bread, Buy the Butter (2012) by Jennifer Reese
- Fresh India (2018) by Meera Sodha
- Jubilee (2019) by Toni Tipton-Martin
- Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto (2015) by Aaron Franklin
- Modern Comfort Food (2020) by Ina Garten
- Carla Hall’s Soul Food (2018) by Carla Hall
The cookbooks listed above are all available in the Monarch catalog, often in multiple formats. If none of the selected titles are making your brain spark, please note Mead Library and the broader Monarch library system have access to literally THOUSANDS of cookbooks. We can help find the right cookbook for anyone based on regional cuisine, dietary needs, and complexity. As always, we are here to help connect people to the library materials they need, cookbook or not. Never hesitate to reach out for recommendations and troubleshooting, and enjoy your Bookish Bingo odyssey all of 2021.