Getting the Holidays Cooking

Committee member Steve Rich suggests cookbooks for the holiday season, for yourself or for a loved one.

There is no shortage of cookbooks and other tomes on the subject of food available in stores for the holidays. And with so many notable chefs and writers living in The Bay Area, there is a lengthy list of worthy choices authored by local residents. My apologies in advance to the numerous others worthy of mention here, but here is a short list of my favorites – the ones I personally refer to most frequently.

To me, great cookbooks are considerably more than a collection of recipes. The best ones teach about ingredients, techniques, flavor combinations and so much more. We’re not limited to learning a particular dish but instead are offered the opportunity to improve our culinary skills. In addition, the books most frequently laying open on my counter feature recipes which have been well tested for the home kitchen. The most crucial component is that the recipes work – not just in a professional kitchen, but in yours and mine.

Two (among many) local cookbooks that consistently succeed on all levels described above are “A16 Food+Wine” by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren and “The Zuni Café Cookbook” by Judy Rogers.

There are few books about cooking more comprehensive and informative than Madeleine Kamman’s “The New Making of a Cook”.

The release of Michael Pollan’s “The Omivore’s Dilemna” catapulted the author to the forefront of the local/sustainable/seasonal food movement – and for good reason; he has a thorough knowledge of his subject matter and is a gifted communicator. Highly recommended.

Finally, there is no food-related book that I refer to more often or with more
unabashed joy than Patricia Unterman’s “San Francisco Food Lover’s Guide”. Not the Pocket Guide – the big 4th Edition, featuring lengthy and extremely knowledgeable entries on many of the best restaurants, cafes, bars, markets, bakeries and other sources for incredible food throughout the area. Sadly, the full sized edition is currently out of print and extremely difficult to find. But isn’t that what great gift giving is all about – finding that elusive yet spectacularly perfect present for someone special? Happy hunting.

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