Time for a snack and a book

The holiday season this year has been a compressed blur, with Thanksgiving segueing instantly into Hanukkah into Christmas. I bet you haven’t had a chance to do much more than crack your cookbooks to the right page as you dash from one festive culinary ordeal to the next. Forget about browsing through new books in an armchair!

But in the week before New Year’s, there always seems to be a bit of a lull. The office is deserted, the kids are home from school, the cookies are just sitting there. Isn’t it time for a snack and a book?

If you agree, you might have a look at some of this year’s biggest books. And by big, I mean physically big–the ones that hurt your toe if you drop them. Most of them have about a thousand recipes.

What to Cook

What to Cook and How to Cook It: Jane Hornby’s love letter to new cooks, showing in full color every step in recipes ranging roast chicken to cheese onion tart.

The Illustrated Step-by-Step Cook: A slightly less illustrated, more sophisticated version of the same, if you’re not afraid of trying the show-off foods of many countries and if you like, say, terrines.

Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home has all the recipes you ever bought high-end cookware for–souffl├ęs (ramekins), tartlets (false bottom pans), sorbets (ice cream maker), citrus curd (whisk, zester).

New York Times

The New York Times Essential Cookbook has a dizzy, multiethnic collection of recipes collected over the years; juxtaposes the dated-but-charming with the trendy-and-urbane.

The Sunset Cookbook, from Sunset Magazine. Just-folks, large-scale recipes (typically serving 8 to 10) with photographs pretty enough to go in a magazine–oh, that’s right.

Forgotten Skills

Forgotten Skills of Cooking: Can you field-dress a guinea hen? Dry your own beef jerky? Make your own butter? Darina Allen can. If you want to too, this is the book you want.

Any one of these books will leave you feeling empowered to cook just about anything that is edible to humans, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral (OK, not a lot of mineral, but there’s always salt). Or you can just stretch out, reach for a takeout menu and the phone, and grab another book. All of us deserve to feel a little “Let’s not and say we did!” from time to time. After all, we can always resolve to be more industrious on January 1.


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