Great Books to Cook By

It is almost Thanksgiving, which can only mean one thing: ‘tis the season for overeating! As a lover of food—although not a full-fledged “foodie,” I must admit—Thanksgiving is one of the times I greatly look forward to. It is an opportunity not only to eat great food, but to learn how to make great food. So, in the spirit of kitchen adventure, I set out to find some of the best online and print resources for all your Thanksgiving needs.

First off, one of the long-established traditions in my house is Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s radio show, The Splendid Table. Each year, she stays in the studio on Thanksgiving to put on the “Turkey Confidential,” where callers from around the country can talk about their last-minute Thanksgiving disasters and get expert advice from Kasper and others. She has also written numerous award-winning cookbooks with recipes from her Italian heritage and beyond. For last-minute advice, be sure to tune in to Minnesota Public Radio (or your local National Public Radio station) to get your Thanksgiving prayers answered.

Second, another staple of my household is The Joy of Cooking. This is one of the basic cookbooks that are great to have on hand, just in case you are as forgetful as me. It has been in print for over 75 years, so there are countless recipes and techniques to be found. It’s also great for the beginning cook, since the recipes are nothing fancy or intricate, but the food is still wonderful. I have learned to cook several new dishes out of this cookbook, and I intend to use it as a basic cooking bible into the future.

Third, for the slightly more experienced cook, we can get into fancier fare. For my favorite meal of the day—dessert—we can look to Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my home to yours, David Lebovitz’ Ready for Dessert, and Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s The Cake Bible. For the rest of the meal, you can satisfy your vegetarians with Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, serve up appetizers with the self-named Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook, and dig into a traditional main course with Diane Morgan’s The New Thanksgiving Table: An American Celebration of Family, Friends, and Food. For a more unique Thanksgiving, throw in some Nordic dishes out of Darra Goldstein’s Fire and Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking or even Julia Child’s classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1.

Finally, don’t forget to use your relatives! Hunt for that family heirloom of Great Grandma Pearle’s krumkaka recipe or your second cousin’s new favorite variety of bread. Talk to your local church basement ladies or community center regulars for the wonderful dish they served at last year’s fundraiser, and ask for tips in feeding a crowd of people all at once. Use this time with family and community to connect over food, whether through eating, making, or discussing it, and make sure to preserve those classic handwritten recipe cards for the generations to come. And above all, happy Thanksgiving!